Chettiar Thottam is in Kethanur village, Tiruppur district and the farm owner is a couple, Selvaraj and Thavamani, actively engaged in the cultivation of striped snake gourd under organic method with the facility of limited bore well water irrigation only. They do not have any other alternative irrigation means except for monsoon. They have 5 bore wells from which they are able to get water for irrigation for just ½ an hour every day. With that they are fortunate enough to reap a good profit from the cultivation of snake gourds, thanks to their innovative thinking and action.
Their farm is like an oasis in a vast dry land wherein they have put up a pandal (shelter)for protecting the small snake gourds.
Protected pandal cultivation:-
Three factors only motivated the couple to stay back in this farm – a) vegetation pandal with good returns; b) drip irrigation facility and c) organic farm practice. Otherwise, like most of the other villagers, this couple would have also disposed of their land for wind energy companies and shifted. Twenty years ago, they had good rain which had helped them to grow chillies, onion, cotton, Indian corn etc. For the past ten years with the failure of monsoon, it was very discouraging for them to continue their agricultural operations. Now that the snake gourd has been assuring them of good returns, they are still here.
When they were wondering how to manage with limited water supply, they were guided by their neighbour Kethanur Palanisamy to lay the pandal type vegetables and they are now cultivating snake gourd, bitter gourd etc. Though they were under chemical farming, they have shifted to organic method since 5 years now.
They have totally 5 bore wells only and the water drawn from these is poured into the well for irrigation. Basically, this land is made up of black cotton soil and hence in one acre they have put red soil and started cultivating ‘Stripe’ type of snake gourd which does not demand any particular period for seeding or cultivation. They say when they put up this stone pandal they had to spend around Rs.60,000/- only whereas the cost now is easily double the amount.
- The land meant for this should be ploughed firmly until the sand is fully powdered and allowed to dry for two weeks
- 10 tons farm yard manure should be spread and again ploughed
- Put up the stone pandal with a space of 12 ft.between the rows
- Water channel bed should be made length-wise with 1 ½ ft. breadth for laying the drip irrigation channel
- Put up pits of 1 cubic feet in the beds and put in 2 tonne farm yard manure and 1 ½ kg.each of acospirillam and pseudomonas evenly in all pits and irrigate.
- When the moisture is there in the pits, the snake gourd seeds must be dipped in panchakavya and sown – 2 in each pit
- 700 seeds would be required per acre
- On the 10th day the seeds will start sprouting
- 30 mts. watering daily is adequate
- On the 20th day weeding must be done
- 20 kg.groundnut cake and cotton seed nuts should be soaked in water for 4 days and 300 ml. of this substance should be poured after weeding in to each pit once a week until the period of harvest
Similarly, once in 15 days, panchakavya of ¾ lt per plant should be poured in the root part
This process is rather important for the growing plants
Effect of side shoots:-
- On the 30th day the creepers will start spreading
- To keep them under control, we must plant a firm stick near each pit
- We must tie a handloom thread or jute twine at one end on the sticks and the other one on the stone pandal
- The creepers should be interlinked to the thread
- The side shoots should be cut at the edge just with our nails in order to prevent them from spreading sideways
- The nutrients will reach the flowers properly
At the time of flowering, 300 ml.arappu buttermilk(Fermented buttermilk+tender coconut+arappu powder) should be mixed with 10 lt.water and sprinkled on the plants so that it will increase the flowering as well as control the fungal disease
How to control beetles?
On the outer surface of the snake gourds, a thorn-like structure will form which is natural and will protect the plants against the attack of various insects. However, besides the normal insects the red beetles might attempt to attack the shoots. These beetles can be controlled with the installation of beetle-attracting traps with 4 buckets in an acre.
Statement of Income & Expenditure as given by Selvaraj:-
(This is for the cultivation of ‘stripe’ type snake gourd in an acre)
(Amount in Rupees)
Particulars Expenses Income
Farm yard manure & labour 10,000
Sticks, thread & labour 2,400
Cutting operation of side shoots 2,400
Tying the creepers 2,400
Inputs sprinkling 5,800
Groundnut cake pouring 4,800
Harvest expenses 25,000
Income through sale 2,25,000
Total amount 57,600
Net Profit 1,67,400
Note: Cost of pandal, drip water irrigation installation per acre amounting to Rs.1,40,000/- is not included in the above since it is a capital expenditure.
Harvesting can be undertaken from the 60th day onwards and continued till 180th day
The moment harvest is begun, 2 tonne farm yard manure and 1.5 kg.each of acospirallam and pseudomonas should be mixed and poured in all pits, followed by proper irrigation
On the whole, it will be possible for us to reap 15 tonne output in one acre
One part of the harvested snake gourds is being sold at Tiruppur uzhavar shandy and the balance are sold directly in the farm itself to the usual vendors
1 kg.snake gourd is sold @ Rs.12/- to 20/- and on an average it is sold @ Rs.15/-
Total sale works out to Rs.2,25,000/- (15 tonne x Rs.15/- per kilo)
The net profit comes to Rs.1,67,000/- after deducting all expenses
Mrs.Selvaraj shares her experience that they are able to get water just for ½ an hour on a daily basis and they are able to not only survive but also thrive in their farm successfully. All that it requires is to start thinking differently with what is available.
Repeat Seeding Operation:-
Selvaraj is so innovative that he has found out a method of creating repeat seeding operation from the existing ones themselves as they are of country type. He says that he will set apart 75 good snake gourds to completely ripe and will soak them in a bucket of water. They can further be crushed to take out the seeds separately which can be preserved up to one year for repeat sowing.
Innovation always pays rich dividends. Selvaraj is a unique example of this technique in his farm.
(This article written in Tamil by G Palanisamy for Pasumai Vikatan magazine in July 2014 has been reproduced in English by P.S.Ramamurthy)