It is a drought resistant plant found to grow all parts of Tamil Nadu. Cultivation of Murungai (Moringa oleifera) is a friend to farmers as it enjoys significant market opportunity. Though there are small plant and tree varieties that could be chosen based on the irrigation facility, the cultivation techniques are the same.
The details about Murungai cultivation techniques shared by Professor Sendhurkumaran, Head, KVK, TANUVAS, kUNDRAKUDI are documented hereunder.
“The native of Murngai is India. It grows from 10 to 12 meters. It can grow in highlands from 1500 to 2000 meters from the sea level. It is cultivated widely in India, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Thailand. Its pod, seed and leaves are the parts used. Though there are many varieties of Murungai, significant are PKM 1, PKM 2 and KKM 1, produced by Tamil Nadu Agriculture University.
It is found that there are thirteen Murungai varieties that are cultivable. Among them, there are short term and long term varieties popularized and are widely cultivated in most part of Tamil Nadu. All three varieties of Tamil Nadu Agriculture University are annual varieties. Long term tree varieties are Yazhpanam Murungai and Valayapatti Murungai”. Professor Sendhurkumaran described the cultivation techniques of Murungai.
“Murungai can grow in any type of soil. But it should have proper draining facility. Yield will not be good in clay and water stagnant soils. Long term tree varieties of Murungai will bloom throughout the year. Annual short term Murungai varieties will bloom twice annually. They can be planted from August to September.
Murungai can be planted through seeds or its stems. The annual short varieties should be planted only by seeds. It can be sown directly on the land or as a sapling. Long term tree Murungai can be planted by stem cuttings or saplings grown by stem cuttings.
To plant Murungai, it should have 1.5 square feet x 1.5 sf deep pits. Fill each pit with 2 parts of red soil, 2 parts of sand and one-part farm yard manure, each 100 grams of Azospirillum, Phosphobacteria, neem oil cake, 50 grams of VEM, one kg of vermicompost. Don’t fill the pit back with the soil dug out from the pit.
To plant the annual short variety of Murungai in one hectare, about 625 grams of seeds are required. While sowing, keep three seeds in triangle on each pit, with a shallow dip to hold the seeds. There should be 5 cm distance between the seeds in triangle. After sowing, irrigate the pit just to ensure there is enough moisture. Ensure there is no water stagnating the pit. Plants will sprout ten or 12 days after sowing. When they reach about 15 cm height, leave the one with good growth and pluck out the remaining two from the pit. This is to allow the best plant to grow without competition. If one feels this method wastes the plants, then one can choose planting saplings.
Be it a sown seed or a sapling, on the third day, life supporting irrigation should be given to the plants. There is no need to irrigate it every day as they are drought resistant. Based on the water holding capacity of the soil, irrigation can be provided from 7 to 10 days gap. Roots may rot if water stagnates in the pit. In case there is rain after planting or sowing, sprinkle 15 to 20 gram of Pseudomonas or Trichogramma viridi on each pit on the third day when life supporting water is supplied so that it will take care of root rotting.
The saplings will grow up to three feet within two months. When they reach thIS height, allow 2.5 feet above the ground, and prune the top portion of each plant. This will facilitate more branching and tip pruning is a key factor in Murungai cultivation. Many fail to follow the practice. Some farmers prune them after 90 days. This too is wrong. Pruning should be carried out between 60 and 70 days. Pruning facilitates more leaf growth and more flowers so that there will be more pods. There will be flowering five to six months after planting. Harvest can be done after 7th month. There will be yield continuously for another six months, from the month of March till August. The trees will take rest after that period and therefore the yield will go down. Then again the plants will flower and provide pods.
After completing one year of sowing or planting, cut the top portion of the tree allowing one meter of its stem from the ground. By doing this there will be more branches growing from it, providing more pods and therefore more yield in the coming year. This can be continued for three years, allowing the plant to regrow again and again. But there should be manuring every year. Coming to long term tree varieties, Professor Sendhurkumaran said, “Long term tree varieties can either be planted as stem cutting or saplings. The stem cuttings should be derived from fully grown trees standing for more than three years. The cuttings should have a diameter of 4 to 16 inches. Cuttings should be taken from the mother plant where there is no green shade, and the stem is fully grown and mature.
The stem cuttings can be from 1.5 to 6 feet tall. The chosen stems should be planted with a distance of 2 meters from each plant and 3-meter gap between the rows. The pits should be made similar to what is described for short term varieties. Manure management is same for both short term and long term varieties. Provide each pit with 10 kg of farm yard manure, 5 kg of vermicompost, each 2 kg of Azospirillum and Phosphobacteria, twice in a year. Manuring can be done between August-September and December-January. With short term annual variety, manuring can be done after harvesting and pruning the top portion of the plants. They should also be provided with the above manuring plan but 10 kg more vermicompost.
Manuring should be done around the plant and not over the plant, especially where the root tips are grown and irrigate them. The plants will flower between 5th and 6th month. If they do not flower at that particular period Panchakavya should be sprayed. After the 5th day of its spraying, Thaymore (buttermilk) formulation should be provided. By doing this the plants will flower within a month”.
Be alert about flower bud worms - Innovative Techniques for an Impressive Yield from Murungai
According to Prof.Sendhurkumaran,“There are many pest organisms, like flower bud worm, flower bud borer, leaf cutting worm, caterpillars, bark and stem border and grey beetles, that affect Murungai plants. There will be about 78% loss if one is not careful in controlling flower bud worms. This is due to the impact of Lepidopteran moth. It lays its eggs in the flower bud. A female moth will lay about 250 eggs in its lifetime. The worm that comes out of the eggs will be light brown in colour. Four days after egg laying, worms will come out and enter into the flowers. There will be one to five eggs in a flower. Whatever the number of eggs, even one egg is laid inside the flower,it will die. As soon as there are buds seen on the plant, spray 5% herbal insect repellent formulation to avoid the impact of these worms. It is recommended to spray it in the morning after the fog gets cleared. Light traps can also be laid in the land to control the moths.
Leaves will be affected in excess by leaf cutting worms and caterpillars. They grow in bunches. In order to control the worms, keep bird stands in the farm sporadically. Also keep pheromone traps and yellow stick pad to keep the pests under control.
One of the key problems in Murungai is discolouration of the pods into gradual yellowing. The green pods will gradually become brownish. The reason for discoloration is the flies which lay eggs along the grooves of the pods. A female fly can lay 200 to 250 eggs in its lifetime. And about 20 to 30 eggs will hatch out on the fourth day of laying eggs. It is ideal to spray 5% neem solution when the pods are very young, not having grown the grooves on them. The flies will reach pods only when the pods form grooves on them. So, when there is smell of neem on the pods the flies are repelled. With ten days gap the neem solution can be sprayed twice. When the pods become mature the flies will not reach them.
The mother of pod flies is the lepidopteran moth that lives on the soil. The moths come up from the soil, reach the pods when they are growing grooves on them. The moths live 15 cm below the soil. Therefore, when the farm is ploughed often the moths will get destroyed by coming out of the soil and being predated by the birds around.
Leaf dots and root decay are the important diseases that afflict the Murungai plants. Take 20 gram of Pseudomonas and trichogramma viridi, each and mix them with 10 litres of water. Spray the liquid on the soil and leaves so as to control those diseases. Yellowing of the leaves is due to lack of nutrients. Adequate nutrition should be provided to the plants once in every six months. For Murungai cultivation and value addition of its products one can contact Kundrakkudi KVK.
Sendhurkumaran, Professor and Head, Kundrakkudi KVK,TANUVAS, Sivagangai district
Phone: 04577 264288
Mobile: 94438 69408
Murungai is Suitable for Honeybee Culture
Farmers who are involved in honey breeding can choose Murungai farm as a suitable option. The fact is that there are more amount of pollen found in the flowers of Murungai. Research has proved that there are about 7400 pollen grains found in a Murungai flower. One should not grow brinjal or maize as intercrops in the Murungai farm. The root worms of brinjal plants can affect the Murungai plants as well.
Every part of Murungai can be commercialized
Farmers who are into Murungai cultivation are keen only on the yield of its pods. But there is market readily available for its all other parts, such as its leaf, gum and bark. The price also considerably good for them. Currently, the number of farmers who are growing Murungai for its leaves is growing high. There are wholesalers who are procuring all the parts of Murungai, particularly in the regions of Theni district, Andipatti and Virudhunagar. One kg of green leaf of Murungai is sold for Rs 6/- and a kg of dry leaf is sold for Rs 70 to 90/- and it can fetch up to Rs 300 per kg if the dry leaves are powdered and sold. The price will vary based on its quality.
If the pods are not getting good returns, they are allowed to get matured fully in the plant itself and the seeds can then be removed and sold. A kg of seed can be sold for Rs 600 to 1000. About 200 kg of pods can be harvested from an acre of land, annually. Not keen to sell the pods, one can gather the seeds and sell them in the market, so that from an acre of land rupees two lakhs can be gained as income annually.
There are training programs on value addition of produces from Murngai plants, being conducted especially by the Agriculture Centres of all districts and Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology, Tanjore and also providing guidance for the seekers. It is recommended to generate marketing related information about the products from the Murungai plant before venturing into value addition.
Long term Murungai varieties
Yazhpanam Murungai: It is widely cultivated in the southern regions of Tamil Nadu, including Tuticorin. It has the capacity to provide more pods. There will be an average yield of about 600 pods per year from a single plant. Each pod will be from 60 to 70 cm long. It will weigh about 80 grams, on an average. It will provide pods throughout the year.
Semmurungai: The pods will be slightly reddish. The plant will provide pods throughout the year. There will be an average yield of about 240 pods per year from a single plant. Each pod will be from 60 to 70 cm long and weigh about 120 grams.
Valayapatti Murungai: This variety is widely grown in Theni, Usilampatti and Aandipatti regions. It grows very well at the foothills. It provides pod throughout the year and the pods are rich in taste. A pod will grow up to 65 cm long, weighing 120 grams. From a single tree about 1200 pods can be harvested.
Moolanur Murungai: This is widely grown in Karur, Tharapuram and Thiruppur regions. A pod will grow between 45 to 50 cm long, weighing 120 grams. From a single tree about 2000 pods can be harvested. It provides pods throughout the year. The trees can be maintained up to 15 years.
Kodikkal Murungai: It is widely cultivated in the regions of Tiruchi. The pods will be shorter. Each pod will be 20 to 25 cm long. Each plant will provide up to 250 pods in a year. And the weight of each pod will be 80 grams, on average.
Pal Murungai: The pods will have more pulp. It is good for children. It is cultivated more in the regions of Thirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Thiruvananthapuram. From a plant, there will be 350 to 450 pods that can be harvested in a year.
Palamedu Murungai: This type of Murungai variety is grown in the regions of Madurai, especially in Alanganallur, Palamedu and Dindugul areas. The length of each pod will be 60 cm. From each plant about 95 to 100 kg of pods can be harvested in a year.
Karumbu Murungai: It is grown in Oddanchatram and Idayakudi regions. This variety has very good market value. The length of a pod will be 120 cm.
Distance Based on the Usage
Murngai is grown for the purpose of pod, leaf and fodder. The distance between the plants will vary depending upon the purpose of the cultivation. For the purpose of pod, there should be 2 meter gap between the plant and 3 meter gap between each rows. For the purpose of leaf, there should be 2 meter gap between the plant and 3.5 meter gap between each rows. The increase in the gap is aimed to facilitate more leaf growth and pod yield.
For the purpose of fodder, there should be 1 meter gap between the plant and 2 meter gap between each rows. For fodder, the plant need not be allowed to flower as the aim is to have more leaves.
Those who sell Murungai as leaves, this is the best method. When the leaves are harvested to be powdered, then young and tender leaves should not be collected as they do not have much chlorophyll content. Therefore, it is wise to have the mature leaves harvested.
Short Term Annual Varieties
PKM 1: This is a Periyakulam variety. It will grow up to 4 to 6 meters tall. The pods will be 75 cm long and will weigh 75 grams on an average. About 220 pods can be harvested from a single plant in a year. If they are properly maintained, an average of about 52 tons of yield can be achieved from one hectare of land in a year.
PKM 2: This is an improvised version of PKM 1 variety. The pods will be 126 cm long and will weigh 280 grams on an average. About 220 pods can be harvested from a single plant in a year. An average of about 98 tons of yield can be achieved from one hectare of land in a year.
These varieties will flower 5 to 6 months after planting and will be ready by 7 to 8 months for harvesting. Though these are annual crops, they will continue to benefit for three years continuously.
(This article written in Tamil by R Kumaresan for Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 10th and 25th April 2018 has veen reproduced in English by V amalan Stanley)