There is an adage in the village that only the rich can cultivate banana and the poor can cultivate only the sesame on account of cost factor. Obviously banana cultivation requires more finance than the sesame. However, practical experience enables Subramanian to say that the poor can still cultivate karpuravalli banana with less cost and more returns. Subramanian belongs to Chinnakallipattu village in the district of Villupuram.
The banana arch on both sides seems to extend a warm welcome for the visitors to Subramanian’s banana garden. Subramanian proudly narrates his personal experience.
A Brief of Subramanian’s Initial Phase:-
Though Subramanian has had nearly 35 years of solid experience in agriculture he has seen many ups and downs in the field. Soon after completion of his SSLC he joined his father in the agricultural operations. Initially, he was cultivating paddy, Ragi, brinjal, ladyfinger, sugarcane, banana etc.; but all that was not that profitable. He had incurred lot of loans and whatever yield he used to get was used only for settling the private and jewel loans he had raised for this purpose. On a second thought, he thought he could resort to milk production for some permanent income. Accordingly, he sold his indigenous cows and bought hybrid cows. That too was not lucrative as he had to spend equal amount for the cattle fodder itself.
Subramanian’s untiring efforts need to be appreciated. He was least dejected. Rather, he started looking at other alternatives for which he underwent training in organic farming conducted by the great legend, Nammazhwar. He came across a lot of related books and information and one such was ‘Pasumai Vikatan’. Subramanian tried the tips he found in Pasumai Vikatan and he was able to see favourable results practically. This encouraged him to continue his activities in agriculture itself.
‘Zero Budget’ – A Great Fillip:-
Subsequently, Subramanian attended Subash Palekar’s ‘Zero Budget’ training session and it was a real turning point for him. He completely switched over to organic farming. He experimented Ponni Paddy cultivation in one acre but he was able to get 12 bags only (each 75 kg). Moreover, the colour of the paddy was little pale due to poor inputs and hence he could hardly sell it in the market. He had to convert it into rice and dispose of the same which was otherwise successful.
Then Subramanian went in search of quality and traditional types of seeds and was able to get Mappilai Samba, Poongar paddy varieties. He sincerely planted them and added Jeevamridha substance and other related inputs. This time, he was able to reap 25 bags per acre.
Good Yield even after Thane Storm:
During the same period, Subramanian started cultivating Karpuravalli banana in one acre along with which he introduced intercropping also. He was able to meet the harvesting expenses from the intercropping yield itself. The trees did not require any supporting trees because they were stronger themselves. Unfortunately, all the trees were felled down during the thane storm and hence he had to cut most of the broken trees. Still he had an advantage that he was able to get the harvest at different intervals – he has been still able to get 10 to 15 tars once in fifteen days which means his return from the banana cultivation is almost throughout the year.
Subramanian proudly declares that with one acre exclusively for banana cultivation, 70 cents for Mappillai Samba, 70 cents for Illuppai Poo Samba, 70 cents for Seeraga Samba and 20 cents for Cattle Fodder have been allocated. He has a plan to try introducing millet cultivation in about 70 cents.
Subramanian gives below the various steps in cultivating the Karpagavalli banana:-
1000 Bananas per Acre:-
The life span of Karpuravalli banana is 12 months only
It will accept any kind of soil with good irrigation facility
Planting can be done from December to January in a year
Manure should be spread in the ratio of 8 cart load per acre and the land should be ploughed evenly until the soil becomes consistent
Bar must be put up with 2 ft. distance with the help of cart ploughing
Pits must be created between two plants with ½ foot depth. The distance between the two plants should be 8 ft. and the pits must be put within a distance of 5 ft.
Intercropping can be implemented between the bars
Pits must be left untouched for 4 days before planting 1 month old banana with the mixture of beejamirdham substance. Planting should be properly done
Approximately 1000 banana plants can be planted per acre
Between the banana plants, gram, brinjal, tomoto, ladyfinger, chillies can be planted as intercropping seeds
Separate cropping should ideally be planted in each bar
Water should be liberally used for irrigation
On the third day bio water should be used
Thereafter based on moisture, water can be poured
Up to the day of harvesting, 200 lt. jeevamirdha substance should be mixed with irrigation water once in 15 days
From the 25th day from the day of planting, both jeevamirdham and panchakavya substances should be alternatively poured; the prescribed quantity is 5 lt.jeevamirdham in 100 lt.water and 3 lt.panchakavya in 100 lt.water respectively should be used
On the 3rd, 6th and 9th months, approximately half a kilo vermi compost manure should be spread for each tree and the same should be neatly covered on all sides
Normally, under organic farming, the insect infection attack is less. In case it is noticed, it can effectively be controlled by herbicides
As regards the inter crops, we can do the harvesting between 2nd and 3rd months
The harvested plants can be comfortably folded and retained as they will serve as manure
During the 6th month the banana plants will give rise to the offspring on the sides.
Leaving the best one only, the rest can be cut and used for mulching
New sprouts will emerge on the 9th month
Once in two months or so, the unwanted side plants and dried leaves should be taken out and used for mulching
Within 3 months from the sprouting, i.e. after 12 months from the beginning, the banana tar will be ready for harvest which can be completed within one month
We must take out only the banana tar leaving the parent trees as they are so that the side plants will continue to grow strongly and subsequently
With continued organic manures and irrigation, the same cycle can be continued and on the 9th month we can expect the successive harvest
Subramanian does a precise calculation as under:-
Each tar contains 7 to 13 bunches
Each bunch consists of 15 to 22 bananas
If we plant 1000 banana trees in one acre, a minimum of 900 tars can be obtained after eliminating the damages
A karpuravalli tar is disposable at minimum Rs.80/- up to maximum Rs.150/-
Even if we assume that it fetches only Rs.100/- on an average, 900 tars will get us Rs.90,000/-
If we deduct the total estimated expenditure amounting to Rs.20,000/-, the net profit will be Rs.70,000/-.
Needless to add that Subramanian was on cloud nine when he completed lecturing his personal experiences in this regard.
This article originally published in Pasumai Vikatan in Tamil has been reproduced in English by P S Ramamurthy)