Surprisingly, agriculture is still on inside the city of Chennai. Many people would be prompted to associate only big and prominent buildings like the Secretariat, Marina beach and other busy junctions with the city of Chennai. One location where agriculture is going on is called ‘Kavul Bazar’ which is just behind Meenambakkam airport. It is 5 km from Pallavaram. Rajendran of this area has been growing Mullai flowers (Jasminum sambac) in his farm (behind airport compound) and markets the same in the Pallavaram market. Sometimes the vendors themselves approach him for direct purchase.
Rajendran states that earlier he was doing complete agriculture in his land. However, due to lack of manpower, he cultivates jasmine, mullai, and little bit of vegetables, chilli and keerai (spinach)varieties with the available well water in his land.
Rajendran’s 2-acre land was totally devastated in the flood that occurred in 2015. Now he is doing his mullai flower cultivation in about 40 cents for his livelihood. Rajendran brought the mullai flower seedlings from Vellore and planted in his portion of land. He was informed that mullai would grow even during drought and hence he had opted for mullai flowers. In fact, it was only the jasmine flower that was cultivated in his land earlier but now, mullai, Arai keerai(Amaranthus aritis), manathakali keerai (Black night shade / Solanum Nigrum), chilli and drumstick (Moringa) etc. are being grown in his farm.
Rajendran is confident that mullai would normally start giving flowers from the 6th month and would continue to give for 20 years.
As regards income from it, Rajendran confirms that he gets around 10 kgs.of flowers daily and if it is rainy season, he will be able to get from 50 to 80 kgs.daily. Currently he is able to sell @ Rs.150/- per kilo and get minimum of Rs.1,500/- per day. As of now, he is adopting only chemical farming method spending 50% of his earnings on chemical manure, labour, insecticide etc. His wife also works with him in plucking the flowers. Following the footsteps of his forefathers, he has been in agriculture and he has educated his children out of the earnings from this only. But at the same time, he is apprehensive that his children may not turn up to agriculture because there is a strong rumour that his area would be occupied by the Government when the airport expands. But as far as Rajendran is concerned, he is fully content with agriculture.
Information on organic farming practice:-
To create awareness in the mind of Rajendran, he was asked to contact Harikrishnan of Tiruvellore over the phone regarding the organic farm method that could successfully be followed in the cultivation of flowers. Harikrishnan, being, otherwise a pioneer in this method in his area, confirmed that he has been cultivating jasmine, mullai and Rose flowers under organic farm method only, yielding more profit. Appreciably, Harikrishnan has successfully educated his son abroad in medicine out of his earnings from this. He has further confirmed that the expenses on inputs under organic farm method would be meagre and the demand for the flowers will be more. He further confirms that the input of urea would not increase the output which is rather only a myth. It will get the flowers in different sizes. It will give room for insects as well.
Harikrishnan further gave him some more tips on the organic farm method as under:-
1. Instead of chemical manures, panchakavya, amudhakaraisal etc. may be used
2. In case of non-availability of these, one can resort to bio-based stimulants
3. Herbal insecticides can be used in place of chemical ones
4. Neem-based cakes can also be used to control the root worms
Rajendran, having been encouraged by the inputs shared by Harikrishnan, has confirmed that he would start with the natural inputs in his small farm and if it is viable and beneficial, he would shift to organic farm practice completely.
Cultivation process in a portion of 40 cents:-
1. Ideal month is Purattasi (September-October)
2. All kinds of soil are applicable
3. In the portion of 40 cents, one time ploughing must be done first
4. 3 tonne farm manure must be poured on the land and again ploughing should be done twice
5. 2 ft, width bed is required to be created
6. With 4 ft. distance the mullai plant is to be sown
7. For the first 15 days, water irrigation should be continuously provided
8. Depending on the moisture, irrigation may be continued, if necessary
9. Once a month, the weeding operation may be taken up, followed by laying the chemical manures
10. Those who follow organic method should use amudhakarisal, jeevamirdham, panchakavya etc. – the natural manures can be poured
11. Necessary insecticides must also be adopted
12. From the 120th day, the flowering will occur
13. After 180 days, full yield can be procured
Rajendran’s experience has thus revealed the simple process of cultivation of mullai flower with lucrative returns, in effect.
(This article written in Tamil by Durai Nagarajan for Pasumai Vikatan 10th June issue has been reproduced in English by P.S.Ramamurthy)