It is a known fact that the vegetable 'Vendai' (ladies finger) is one of the most common vegetables which is used as a side dish, curry, chips, kootu, tamarind kuzhambu, sambar and vattral. Besides this, it contains some medicinal benefits also and hence it is used by majority of the people. Subramaniam Selvam, an organic farmer from Kattupudur in Kanyakumari district, makes full and best use of this opportunity by growing the ‘anaikomban’ variety of ladies finger in his farm and sells directly in the market, thus earning maximum returns.
Subramaniam’s father was growing paddy and sweet potatos when he was a small boy. Subsequently, when others shifted to the cultivation of nendran plantain, Subramaniam’s father also followed suit. After the X standard, Subramanaim started working in rice mandi and was helping his father in agriculture as and when he got time. However, for the past five years Subramaniam has been focussing on his own cultivation under organic system.
Subramaniam developed a keen interest in learning about the organic farming from his relative, Selvam who was doing plantain cultivation under zero budget farming and Dass who was the head of organic farm association in Kanyakumari. He learnt from Dass the practice of jeevamirdham and multi grain seeding etc. and started implementing the same with more faith in the organic farming. He saw for himself the cultivation of Red plantain and anaikomban ladies finger in Dass’s farming.
Subramaniam had the perseverance to try and succeed in his organic farm. He earmarked ½ an acre for anaikomban vendai and an acre for Nendran variety of plantain. However, in the beginning, it was not that productive and fruitful. He used the same inputs more vigorously and later on, it started giving him good returns.
Subramaniam says he had the opportunity to visit Gujarat under the Atma project where he learnt fungicide application and vermicide process. He further says that out of his available 3 acres of land, 50 cents has been utilized for anaikomban ladies finger cultivation and one acre for nendran variety of plantain . Now it is seven months old and he is preparing the remaining land for cultivating other vegetables.
On anaikomban, he gives additional information.The front portion will appear to be like the tusk of an elephant and this type of ladies finger will be long and big in size also. Hence the weight will be considerably more. This will be devoid of viscosity and it will not shrink when cooked.
In the beginning, Subramaniam was able to sell only at a less price in the wholesale market ; however, when he observed that they were trying to make more profit from him, he started selling in the market directly.
Subramaniam explains the selling process that he directly went to Kadukkarai, Azhagiya Pandyapuram, Therisanankoppu, Putheri, Susindram and other neighbouring villages where he started his marketing directly through his relatives and friends. Now he is selling directly in about 200 households. He does not use kilo measurement as the yardstick but on bunch basis wherein he will increase or decrease the quantity according to the prevailing price.
Subramaniam adds that he has been able to pluck the ladies finger from the 60th day and up to the 90th day the plucking has been very encouraging. Afterwards it has got reduced and hence he does not go to the market to sell them now for want of sufficient quantity; rather, he uses them for his own purpose. He prepares the okra and sells them too. He has obtained Rs.80,820/- from the sale of 1,224 kg.in about 92 days; besides this, he has earned Rs3,000/- from the sale of 12 kg.okra, thus earning a total sum of Rs.83,820/-. Deducting the amount spent by him, i.e. Rs.23,000/- from the total collection of Rs.83,820/-, he has received a profit of Rs.60,820/-.
Income & Expenditure Statement – Ladies finger cultivation in 50 cents
Particulars Expense (Rs.) Receipt (Rs.)
For digging pits 2,500
Organic manure 2,000
Inputs spread 2,000
Harvest expenses 6,000
Transport expenses 5,500
Receipt from sale of vegetables 80,820
Receipt from sale of okra 3,000
Total 23,000 83,820
Net profit earned by Subramaniam 60,820
Subramaniam concludes that his ability to earn this much of profit is only due to direct marketing coupled with value addition that he has been doing whenever necessary. A little bit of value addition by means of introducing okra sale has paid him rich dividends. He has been able to avoid the total price reduction caused in the market by resorting to direct sale. He is happy that his buyers are also equally benefitted and happy. He feels other farmers can comfortably follow this practice in order to minimise the loss and maximise the earnings.
Cultivation of Anaikomban variety of ladies finger in 50 cents:-
Subramaniam explains the process as under:-
Vaikasi(May-June) month is ideal for this variety
First plough in the earmarked land should be done in the month of Ani(June). After 10 days, it must be again ploughed
Pits must be created with 6 ft. distance in between and the pit should be 1 cubic foot. Must be allowed to dry for two days. In 50 cents, 600 such pits can be dug
In each pit, ½ kg. dried cowdung and 1 kg. tank sand must be spread. Next day, 2 seeds per 1 pit should be planted and water to be poured in. Depending upon the moisture necessary water must be poured. In general, ¼ kg. seeds would be required in 50 cents land portion
After 5 days the seeds will sprout. From the 30th day, once in 20 days, 200 lt. jeevamirdham should be mixed in irrigation water. On the 35th day, 1 lt. jeevamirdham should be mixed in 10 lt. water and sprinkled with the help of hand sprinkler.
On the 40th day, a handful of neem leaves with sand must be pasted around roots
After 40 days they will start flowering and 50 days the tender ladies finger ones will appear
After 60th day, plucking can be resorted to
Seeds are in-built:-
Full-fledged ladies finger must be allowed to dry further so that they will start bursting. At that time, they must be plucked and threaded and further dried for 3 days in the light rays of sun so that they will not go waste. If they are not tied with the thread, they will burst completely. Now the thread can be slowly removed and the seeds can be collected. On the seeding day, these seeds can be put in water and only the immersed seeds should be used for planting.
Caution against insects:-
During the time of flowering, red beetles and red ants will attack the vegetables. Insect repellent must be sprinkled. 3 Kg neem nuts, ½ kg. each of garlic, ginger and green chillies must be pounded separately. They must then be accumulated and tied in a cloth to be further filtered in 5 lt. cow’s urine after two days of soaking. Besides this, 100 gm.khadi soap is to be diluted in 1 lt. water. Then 300 ml. nemm nut karaisal, 50 ml. khadi soap karaisal must be put in 10 lt.water and the essence must be sprinkled on the plants with the help of the hand sprinkler.
Leaf curl worms may also attack the grown up ladies fingers. This can be removed with the help of 10 leaves such as neem, pungan, seethe, amanakku, oomathai, basil, papaya, adathodai, guava and vilvam. Each 2 kgs. must be taken and cut in small pieces.
Then, in a plastic container of 200 lt.capacity, 150 lt.water with the cut leaves, 5 kg. cowdung, 10 lt.cow’s urine and 100 gm turmeric powder must be added and soaked for 25 days. Every day – both in the morning and evening, it must be stirred with the help of neem stick. ½ lt. essence in 10 lt. water can be mixed and sprinkled on the plants. This can be preserved and used for 6 months in cool place.
Dried Ladies finger okra:
Ladies finger vegetable is to be cut into smaller pieces and soaked in salt-mixed butter milk for a day. Then they must be spread over the mat for further drying in the hot sun for six days. Okra is ready for consumption.
Subramaniam further points out that 1 ½ lt. buttermilk and 50 gm. salt would be required for a kilo of ladies finger and 150 gm. okra would be receivable from a kilo of ladies finger. 1 Kg okra is sold at Rs.250/- in the market. What Subramaniam ultimately concludes is that when ladies finger is not fetching decent returns during a particular season, we should plan and arrange to sell them in okra form in order to get reasonable returns and compensation for the investment that we make. The value addition concept will become handy in the case of okra.
(This article written in Tamil by E Karthikeyan for Pasumai Vikatan magazine has been reproduced in English by P S Ramamurthy)