Globally, the most preferred choice of fruit by many is the banana. In Tamil, mere utterance of the word ‘pazham’, meaning fruit, implies banana. That is the extent of our love for the fruit and the place the fruit enjoys in our heart.
It is the most preferred fruit by many because it also contains various medicinal properties with it. It not only helps many to have a healthy living but also the farmers who cultivate it economically grow. That’s the reason most of the farmers who have access to better water and soil resources opt for banana cultivation.
Though there are many varieties of it, like Rasthali, Poovan, Karpooravalli, Sevvazhai and Malaivazhai, the fruit that enjoys uniqueness in its taste and shape is only Nendhran variety. Even if its skin becomes entirely black the fruit will retain its taste. Also, it has the ability to be stable even after it is fully ripe for about five days. The Keralites love to have this variety of banana than any other.
Further, the unripe banana is the source of chips that also remains as one of the most preferred snacks. With all these qualities and utilities there is a reasonable demand for it in the market. Having understood the market need Mr. Jeyasekaran from Tuticorin district, has been gaining considerable returns from cultivating the variety organically.
His farm lies in Vallivilai village which remains at a distance of eight kilometers from Kurumbur village of Thiruchendur Taluk. He was busy harvesting the produce of his farm when we approached him. When we informed him about the purpose of our visit he was happy to welcome us and share his experience with us.
“I was born and brought up in this village. Farming has been our profession. My father used to cultivate paddy and banana. Even during my college days, I used to extend my help in the farm activities like weeding, cutting the banana bunches from the tree, transporting them to the market and so on. We had used chemical fertilizers for banana cultivation then. But gradually the yield dipped down. There was also the shortage of water resources. It made us cultivate some crops only when there is water. The land remains fallow at other times. That was when ‘Pasumai Vikatan’ got published. I started reading it without fail.
In due course, there was an announcement about a training programme on ‘zero budget’. It was held in Dindigul and I too participated in the programme. I learned from Mr. Subhash Palekar that the reason for my land had lost its fertility was due to excessive use of chemical fertilizers. Not only the reason for it but I could also get many answers to my question in relation to crop cultivation organically.
When I shared all the details I gathered from the training programme with my father he discouragingly said, ‘Natural farming practices will not suit us’. Therefore we continued to use chemical inputs for cultivation. But within me, I believed that ‘we can succeed in agriculture only through organic farming”.
I attended the next training programme on zero budget held in Erode. But I could not convince my father even then and therefore could not immediately implement zero budget method at our farm. Having been persistent about implementing it my father finally allotted a small piece of land in 2011 to try with the idea. I cultivated Redlady papaya by zero budget method in an acre of land given to me. Though I could get a good yield my father was not convinced about it.
Then I planted Nadan, Nendhran and Rasthali in 1½ acre of land. As I could get an excellent yield of banana varieties by zero budget my father eventually gained full confidence in the idea of natural farming. Since then we have been cultivating banana varieties organically.
Nendhran cultivation in an acre – Income and Expenditure shared by Jeyachandran (Rs)
We have been cultivating Nendhran organically by zero budget techniques along with natural means of inputs like fish amino acid and microbial fertilizers. The organically grown Nendhran varieties are increasingly tastier”. He offered a rightly ripe banana to us and continued his conversation.
“It is totally a spread of five acres of land. It is alluvial in nature. In two acres there are Nadan varieties, Rasthali in one acre and Yelaiki in another acre ready for harvesting. There is also Nendhran in an acre ready to be harvested. As soon as Nendhran was planted cow pea and maize were also introduced as intercrops. Within two months 105 kg of cow pea and within three months 302 kg of maize were harvested. I have retained them for domestic use.
Only after switching to organic farming we could conduct agriculture with complete satisfaction. Yield is also very good. We could get a better price as the product is organically grown. As the quality of Nendhran is good, shoppers from Nagarkoil and Kerala directly reach the farm and buy the bananas after weighing them. Hence there is no transport cost and commission given to intermediaries but only harvesting cost. This eventuates into to furthering the profit”. He then shared the details of income with us.
“There are totally 1,200 trees standing on the farm. There will be wastage of 100 – 200 banana bunches due to improper sizes and cracked ones, which cannot be sold. Only about 1000 bunches will be true of good quality that could be marketable. So, from 1200 trees about 1080 kg of banana bunches, ranging from 10 – 17 kg each, were harvested. With 1080 bunches the total weight of bananas harvested was 13,520 kg. And a kg of Nendhran banana was sold at a minimum of Rs 25 and at a maximum of Rs 42.
Therefore, by selling 13,520 kg of banana the earning is Rs 3,99,600. From ploughing till harvest the expenditure amounted to Rs 94,800 and hence the total profit is Rs 3,04,800”. With that, he happily concluded.
This is the way to cultivate
Here is the lesson towards cultivating Nendhran variety in an acre of land as described by Jeyasekaran.
Aadi (Aug-Sep) month is suitable for Nendhran planting. A month before planting the chosen land should be ploughed using tiller and allowed to air dry for a week. This should be followed by ploughing with rotavator and allowing to dry. This practice of drying will help controlling weed growth and pestilence. Then drip irrigation unit can be commissioned followed by digging pits of 1¾ feet for planting the banana tubers. There should be a gap of 6 feet between the pits and therefore in an acre, there could be 1,200 pits. After air-drying the pits for three days the tubers can be planted.
Quality tubers should be chosen with a weight range of 1½ - 2 kg each. Similarly, the leaves sprouting out of the tuber should remain like a spear. The tubers should be immersed in Bijamirtham mix and allowed to dry for 15 minutes on a palm mat. Then the tubers can be planted in respective pits and irrigated. On the third day of planting, the pits should be irrigated according to their moisture content. As intercropping short-term crops like cow pea and maize can be sown, where cow peas fix nitrogen in the soil from the atmosphere and maize support the plant absorb phosphate through its roots, with the help of a specific microorganism. And both of them can serve as mulch helping in retaining soil moisture and also help controlling weed growth. After harvesting the intercrops the place should be weeded based on the extent of weed growth.
Twenty-one days after planting, 200 liters of Jeevamirtham should be supplied to the plants through irrigation water for every ten days. From day 30, 1-liter Jeevamirtham mixed in 10 liters of water should be sprayed with a hand sprayer, every month. Four months after planting, 100 ml of fish amino acid in 10 liters of water should be sprayed using hand sprayer for every 15 days. Schedule it in such a way that after a gap of one week of spraying Jeevamirtham, Bijamirtham can be sprayed on the plants. From 5th month, Navadhaniya formulation can be sprayed every 15 days. As banana bunches will emerge from 6th month, it is better to spray buttermilk mix. In order to support the trees from leaning down due to the heaviness of the growing banana bunches, a wooden support should be provided to each tree. If various nutrient formulations are continuously provided to the plants, harvesting can be initiated from 9th month.
Keep a cement tank under a shade and add to it 50 liters of urine from country cattle, 40 kg of cow dung, 1 kg of calcium powder, a handful of soil from the farm and 200 liters of water and stir it clockwise.
Stirring should be continued for a whole day, morning, afternoon and evening. Now it is ready. If plant roots are treated with Bijamirtham root diseases and threadworm attack can be averted.
To a 200-liter capacity plastic container add 10 kg of cow dung, 8 liters of cow urine 2 kg of country sugar, 2 kg of cow pea powder and a handful of farm soil. Fill the container till its brim with water and stir it clockwise. Continue stirring for two days thrice daily and Jeevamirtham is ready.
Boil 20 liters of milk and inoculate it so as to get 12 liters of curd. Churn it to make buttermilk, adding water to it to make it 24 liters. Then allow it to further ferment for a week. Mix one liter of sour buttermilk in 10 liters of water and spray it on the plant using hand sprayer.
Be cautious about stem borer
At the time of bunching out of bananas stem borers can attack the stem of the plant. When wholes are found on the stem with gummy ooze out it could be due to stem borer attack.
To 10 liters of water, add 1 kg of neem seed powder and half a kg of asafetida, mix them together and allow them to soak for a day. With a ratio of 1 liter of this mix with 10 liters of water, it can be sprayed on the plant at the time of bunching out, three times with a gap of 5 days in between so as to avoid stem borer attack.
Take 100 g each of green gram, urad, chickpea, bean seed, horse gram, pearl millet, sesame, cow pea and wheat. Allow all of them to sprout together, except sesame, which needs to be kept separately for sprouting. It is because seasame will require an additional day to sprout so it should be made to sprout one day ahead of others.
After sprouting of all of grains, in the evening, grind them to make them as gruel. Mix the gruel in 190 liters of water ad 10 liters of cow urine and allow them soaked overnight and the formulation is now ready. Filter it and spray it on the plant using hand sprayer in the evening when the sun is cool.
Fish amino acid
To a plastic container add 1 kg of fish waste and mix it with a kg of country sugar. Lid it air tight and keep it undisturbed for 35 days. On opening if it smells like fruit it’s assured that the formulation is proper in its preparation.
Psedomonas against wilt disease
Three months after planting if the leaves turn yellow and the young plants look shrunk it means the plant is afflicted by wilt disease. The afflicted young plant might wither away and die. During 3rd, 4th and 5th month activated Pseudomonas can be mixed with irrigation water to avoid the disease.
To a 200-liter capacity plastic drum, add 200 liters of water with one kg of Pseudomonas and one kg of country sugar and allow it undisturbed for a day, activated Pseudomonas is ready. It should also be stirred thrice in a day.
(This article written in Tamil by Karthikeyan for Pasumai Vikatan magazine has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)