Be it a natural farming or a chemical based farming, adding some improved techniques along with the existing cultivation practices will lead to a massive change in the yield. Many farmers have practically proved that it is possible. Duraipandian from Dindigul is one among those farmers who continues to cultivate about 98% with natural way of farming.
His mango orchard is situated about 19 kilometers on Dindigul-Siluvathur road, in the village, Kambaliyampatti. While the neighboring farms could not even support grasses to grow and look dry due to drought his orchard looks green and fertile. On the properly pruned mango trees hang bunches of mangoes luxuriantly. Among four mango trees stands a coconut tree. Each coconut tree is surrounded by banana plantation. In the sweltering heat we ensconced coolly under a shed covered by the orchards.
High price for Imam pasand variety
“Lorry transport is my primary business. I have a marriage hall at Dindigul. I am able to manage both the businesses along with farming. This place was once filled with stones and therefore stood barren. Thirty years ago I decided to plant mango trees. When I shared the idea with my relative, Baskaran, he encouraged my idea. Immediately, I went to Jitikumba in Andhra Pradesh and brought different varieties of mango seedlings, Kallaamai, Sendhooram, Bengalura and Imam pasand and planted in the land. When the plants matured and started giving yield there were only four Imam pasand trees in my orchard. But I was able to sell them at higher prices and therefore decided to go completely for Imam pasand variety. When searched for more information about the cultivation of the variety, along with Baskaran, we were able to get useful information about it”.
Graft variety yields for full year
“A professor of horticulture from Andhra Pradesh informed us that it’s usual that Imam pasand variety will give better yield only in alternate years. But with a small tweaking in cultivation technique the plant can yield continuously for the whole year. If grafting is made with Feena variety (that’s the way Neelam variety is called in Andhra Pradesh) as root plant and Imam pasand variety as mother plant, high quality Imam pasand variety can be generated with increased yield all through the year. He bought us the Feena variety plants and also arranged technicians for grafting. Fruits of Feena variety are bigger and very tasty. As soon as the grafted saplings were ready we felled other varieties of mango trees in the orchard and planted only Imam pasand variety. Currently, there are 800 Imam pasand trees in 21 acres of land. To facilitate pollination varieties of Salem, Bengalura, Sendhooram were also planted, about 250 trees in total”, continued Duraipandian.
All the trees planted have been giving better yield every year. Four of the mother trees planted at the beginning also yielding good. We are going to graft from them once again and choose dense planting in 20 acres. The farm is getting well irrigation. The well is two kilometers away and we bring water from the well and provide to the trees through drip irrigation. Only through drip irrigation we will be able to prevent the trees from drying especially during severe drought”, briefed Duraipandian, continuing to explain about the cultivation methods.
No need to plough
Mango saplings can be planted anytime except April and May. In every row, 30 feet gap between the plants should be maintained. Dig a pit of 2 x 2 feet and keep the pit as such (usually, for dense planting 15 feet gap is adequate but he has provided 30 feet instead). Keep the grafted sapling in the middle of the pit and fill it with soil, allowing the grafted part to be half a foot deep in the pit. The pit can be covered with layers of soil, dry leaves, and agriculture waste. Provide water to the saplings by drip irrigation and ensure that there is precise watering, neither in excess nor inadequate. First five months after planting there is no need to provide the plants with any fertilizers. On the sixth month, provide each plant with 3 kg of farm yard manure. After six month of planting, plough the soil for once and then there is no need for it for its lifetime.
Cautious to prune!
Pruning should be carried out while the plants grow. By eighth month the tree will grow up to 2 meters. Till then prune the branches coming out of the main stem on the sides. After reaching 2 meters, ensure there are two to three viable branches on the stem. At the time of one and half a year, ensure there are only six quality branches on the tree.
If you prune them appropriately, the plants will grow rapidly. Farmers do not prune the trees thinking that they will yield more only when the branches are dense. This will only affect the yield and sure the yield will only go down. Therefore proper pruning and allowing more space around the trees facilitating better air circulation and sun light will increase the yield. There will be bunches of fruits especially on the pruned areas and the pestilence attack also will be minimum.
Weeds are essential
Like pruning, mulching too is a wonderful technique. The dense foliages of weeds growing in the farm can be cut up to half a foot, using rotavator. The cut foliages can be used for mulching around each plant. After some time the half a foot weeds would dry up and during the next rain the dead weeds will facilitate rain water percolating deep into the soil, and getting stored. By this method the weeds can themselves be utilized as manure and medium for rain water harvesting.
Bunds that prevent soil erosion
Ensure that the top soil of the farm is not eroded and taken away to neighboring lands. Therefore keep a bund for every ten trees. Take out the soil from the low area and raise the bund. By this method, the top soil is prevented from getting washed away and at the same time the water will get contained in the low area. These three strategies are essential for mango cultivation. Yield can be high by strictly following these methods.
From the second year of planting, in order to facilitate rapid growth provide 10 gram Pseudomonas, Trichoderma viride, Phospho bacteria, Azospirillum, VAM and farm yard manure for each tree every three months. Pests also will not attack the plants. If these practices are carried out promptly there will be yield throughout the year with regard to Imam pasand.
Pruning when there are no fruits
The trees will start yielding mangoes from third year. The yield of 10-20 mangoes per year will gradually increase year by year, giving 50 kg in a span of ten years. The prime time to harvest the mangoes is when there is a dip happening in the area of shoot connecting the fruit and drying of the shoot. After harvesting, irrigate the trees profusely and stop irrigating the trees once the foliages are luxuriant. Then continue only with drip irrigation providing precise amount of water to the trees. Pruning can be initiated when there are no fruits in the trees, and spray them with 20 ml chlorphyriphos, 40 ml neem oil, 1 liter cow urine mixed together in 20 liters of water. By doing this the pest eggs on the trees and leaves will be killed.
After completing his lecture on cultivation methods Duraipandian continued about the yield. “From the trees in 21 acres of land usually we can get 35-40 tons of yield. But because of severe drought and absence of rain on them we might get only 30 tons. One kg of mango will be sold for 100- 140 INR. In spite of severe drought considerable profit can be made only because of these minor changes introduced to the cultivation techniques”, concluded with a cheering smile.
Banana, giving life to coconut by sacrificing its own life!
In this grove, in the middle of four mango trees, there is a coconut surrounded by banana as intercropping. Baskaran explained about it, “We believe technologies more to manage severe droughts. There is adequate space among the four mango trees where we planted a coconut tree. But coconut requires plenty of water and whatever amount of water available in the farm is not even adequate for mango trees. That is when we were wise enough to think of planting banana as intercropping”.
It’s a kind of dwarf cum tall variety. These coconut trees are brought from Mandiya, Karnataka district. There are 1250 coconut trees in total. But we do not irrigate water to them directly. There are four banana plants around each coconut tree, which are drip irrigated. The coconut trees absorb moisture from the banana plants for their growth. We have planted Karpooravalli and Sevvaazhai varieties only. As soon as the plants yield banana, they are harvested and the plants are felled to provide mulch to coconut trees. We protect coconut trees through their branching shoots and we get income through banana as well.
Neem that enhances taste
In mango cultivation, Duraipandian uses Chlorphyriphos, a chemical pesticide, to control pestilence. When enquired about this practice to N. Selvam, an Entomologist, he replied to us with his recommendations, “Chlorpyriphos is basically a chemical. There is no problem in using it on mango trees when done after harvesting and there are no fruits. Instead of that, we can spray 100 ml neem extract mixed with 10 liters of water on the trees. This is better than chemical pesticide and also this will make the fruits tastier”.
(This article originally written in Tamil by R Kumaresan has been reproduced in English by Amalan Stanley)