“Intercropping will always fetch benefits. There is no doubt about it” emphatically says one of the organic farmers, Deivam Varadarajan, Tharkadu of Kolathur, Salem district. He is growing banana as intercrop at his coconut grove.
Pasumai Vikatan showing the path
We met him one of the early mornings at his farm and he started describing about his venture with enthusiasm. “Kolathur is my native. After completing my degree in English literature I entered into agriculture. It is almost thirty years now. In between coconut trees I have been growing banana as intercropping for the past 18 years. I am relying on well irrigation during summer and lake irrigation during winter. At the beginning, I was following chemical agriculture only. Three fourth of my earnings was spent on manure. Besides, the rate was also not reasonable.
While I was thinking the ways to minimize expenditure, Pasumai Vikatan showed me an alternative way of farming. I was allured by the natural farming methods articled in the magazine. I continued to attend ‘Zero budget’ and ‘Iniellaam Iyarkaye’ (natural henceforth) training programmes organized by Pasumai Vikatan and learnt fully about natural farming and then only I turned into an organic farmer. For the past three years I have been following zero budget methods of cultivation. In ten acres of coconut grove, there are seven different banana varieties grown as intercrops in 8 acres. Because of that, production cost has tremendously reduced” with this preamble he continued further.
Intercropping only where sun is available
“In the grove, there are 700 coconut trees with a gap of 25 feet in between. They are 30-40 years old. There is adequate sunlight in the grove as the trees have grown taller and therefore it is intercropped with banana. As an exclusive crop, 1000-1200 bananas can be planted in an acre but as intercrop it can only be half of it. It can be grown only where there is sunlight. I have planted one banana in between two coconut trees.
There are about 4800 banana trees, with seven varieties, Poovan (1000), Thenvaazhai (1000), Sevvazhai (500), Rasthali (500), Mondhan (500), Nendhran (500) and G-9 (800) available in my farm. I have not ploughed the land for the past three years. By growing cow pea all over the farm weeds are contained and also at the same time ensuring nitrogen supply to the soil through the leguminous peas. Thread worms are controlled by growing marigold plants sparsely. I continue to irrigate them with Jeevamirtham mixed water. Diseases are rare as it is based on the principles of natural farming.
It is the third cycle for banana. There will be many secondary roots from the mother plant. After two months of their growth, allow only one root to continue, cutting out other branches. Within the two months of branches outgrowing from the mother plant, the leaves can be harvested and sold, getting a secondary income as well. As the secondary outgrowths keep growing, the harvested mother plant will become fully ripe and fall down. It can be cut down and spread on the ground as manure.
A single bunch of banana can be sold for INR 100. Based on that calculation, INR 4,80,000 can be gained as income from 4800 bunches, in a year. From leaves, INR 48000 can be profited. For the labour and inputs, 75,000 will be spent in a year. At the beginning, I spent INR 15 per plant for ploughing and digging. There is no harvesting cost as the shoppers themselves harvest the fruits. Without considering coconut, I am able to get a profit of 4 lakhs from eight acres of banana plant as intercrop”.
“Only after approaching zero budget method I have gained confidence in agriculture. I am able to get a reasonable price as well. Yield has increased. The taste of the naturally grown banana is great and their shelf life is also longer, therefore fetching additional profit through organic farming,” he happily concluded.
For contact, Deivam Varadarajan 97875-41748
(This article written in Tamil by G Palanisamy has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)