Murungai (Moringa oleifera, common name, drumstick) is one of the primarily and very commonly used vegetables for preparing stew or braise or casseroles such as tomato, coconut and onion. That is the reason there is so much demand for it in the local market. That too during special occasions of festival or days of betrothal or auspicious days its price will soar up considerably. There are many farmers who are able to capitalize its market potential and one among them is Aravindan, Saathankulam, Tuticorin district.
Moringa farmer never go empty handed!
“If a farmer counts every paise in what is cultivated not even a handful would be profited thus says a proverb. But it could be attributed to other type of crops but not to Moringa. Locally, it’s a common saying that a farmer who invested in Moringa will never go empty handed. Therefore, almost all of us in the vicinity have been cultivating it” speaks Aravindan, with a prelude.
It is true that wherever one turns up it is full of Moringa plant. While most of the farmers use chemical inputs in growing it Aravindan stands alone by cultivating it on zero budget, an add on advantage.
Jeevamirtham providing life
“We own a well in four acres of land. It is a land of red soil. There are 500 tall and short Moringa plant varieties such as, Jaffna, Krush, Saagavacheri, PKM 1 standing in the 2.5 acres of land, once planted by my father. There is banana in the remaining 1.5 acres. The Moringa plants are 18 years old. I used only chemical inputs at the beginning of my entry into farming. Two years ago I happened to read ‘Pasumai Vikatan’ that inspired me to go deep into natural farming and I switched over to zero budget farming.
I wanted to try what it is all about and so bought a traditional strain of cow. I collected its dung and urine, prepared Jeevamirtham and used it on banana and Moringa. Within two time supply of it I could witness a fertile and exuberant growth of both the plants. I dropped using chemical inputs since then and continuous use of Jeevamirtham significantly reduced pestilence attack. Neighboring farmers are surprised to witness the plants without pest or disease attack in my farm.
What I started playfully has now been fetching me abundant profit. I did not plant any Moringa afresh. I took out the stem cutting of the existing plants and planted them in my farm,” Aravindan continued explaining about the cultivation process.
Spacing differs for each variety
Red soil is suitable for a tree variety of Moringa. The stem cutting of the plant will decay when it is planted during winter. Therefore it is advisable to plant it during summer, preferably in March. Profuse irrigation is not needed for the plant and therefore better opt for drip irrigation. Take out a stem cutting of 2.5 feet length from a robust parent tree for planting. With tree varieties of Moringa the spacing between the plants will vary according to its strain.
Jaffna and PKM 1 require a gap of 15 feet whereas it is 20 feet for Krush and 25 feet for Saagavacheri. In general 15 feet gap facilitates appreciable growth and production. Like difference in gap, production will also vary according to the type of varieties. It is not a problem to reduce the number of trees in a row by increasing the distance between the plants as it will be compensated by increased production if the gap is wide. Once the gap is decided dig a pit of one cubit foot, plant the stem cutting in the middle of the pit, fill the pit tightly with the soil around and irrigate it.
Excess water is risky
Plant the stem cutting in such a way that one foot length of it is into the soil and the remaining one and half a foot is above the ground. Irrigate it once in a week. Water should be precise as excess of it will lead the stem to decaying. There will not be much expenditure as it’s based on a zero budget concept.
With irrigation water add half a liter of Jeevamirtham formulation every ten days. It is not a problem even it is added in excess. Every six months, dig a small whole at the base of each plant and fill it up with farm yard manure and cover it with the soil around. Every year, prune the branches at its sides and it could be carried out during Jan-Feb as there are no drumsticks growing during that period.
Thread worm infestation is common in Moringa. These worms eat up the leaves, flowers and tender stems of Moringa. Similarly there is a root insect that attacks the root of the plant, destroying the whole plant completely. Another dangerous pest is tea insects that swarm the plant, eating away the entire leaves of the plant. They can be controlled by spraying insect repellents. In zero budget cultivation there will not be pestilence to that extent.
60 tons of annual production
“Four months after planting drumsticks will grow. But it will grow significantly only during the second year. Drumsticks will grow for eight months in a year. They don’t grow well during winter.
In 2.5 acres of land we can harvest about 60 tons of drumsticks. If they are appropriately pruned and maintained they will continue to give drumsticks for long years. If the plant grows old and fetches lesser number of drumsticks it is better remove it and plant a stem afresh. After explaining about the cultivation methods well contented Aravindan started describing the returns.
Income and expenditure - Moringa cultivation in 2.5 acres as per Aravindan’s calculation
Pit digging and planting
Moringa stem cutting
Labour for harvesting
Farm yard manure
Income through 50 tons of Moringa
In Saathankulam, there are many shops in Polayarpuram area that would buy drumsticks aplenty. Every day, farmers carry bundles of drumsticks on two wheelers and auto-rickshaws to those shops. It is also exported from those shops. But I sell it only at Thirunelveli market. To my knowledge, it has never been sold below eight rupees per kg. During its season it could reach up to INR 50-60 per kg. On an average, if you fix a minimum rate of eight rupees per kg for an annual production of 50 tons of drumsticks we can get a profit of 4 lakhs. Deducting the expenditure surely we can get above 3 lakhs of profit” he shared happily and continued.
“Compared to the extent of expenditure while cultivating through chemical inputs, it has come down to INR 30,000 by following this method. At the same time, harvest has been increasing gradually by this method and the drumsticks are more robust, therefore wastage is also at the minimum.
I am planning to mulch the entire farm with agriculture wastes and replace drip irrigation with sprinkler irrigation. Similarly I am trying to facilitate the trees grow drumsticks during winter season by supplying increased amount of Jeevamirtham. If I could make that I expect more harvest hereafter,” thus he concluded.
(This article originally appeared in Pasumai Vikatan is now reproduced in English by Amalan Stanley)