Scarcity of water resource is the biggest challenge for the farmers currently. Most of the water bodies have dried up and the water table have gone to the abysmal level due to lack of rains. Hence the deep bore wells of the cultivable lands have also deepened the crisis making agriculture a herculean task. In this situation there are a few farmers who invested on crops that required lesser water supplies have witnessed considerable profit. One among them is Mr Jeyaratchagan, an organic farmer from Virudunagar district.
He has been profiting from cultivating natural guava with less water and low maintenance cost. His grove is situated in Akkanapuram, 11 km from Vathirayiruppu of Virudunagar district. We met Jeyaratchagan at his grove in one of the mornings.
“We have been doing farming since my grandfather’s time. We cultivate corn, paddy, groundnut and sugarcane. My father was the first in our village to plant sugarcane. I could not continue my schooling after eight standard due to health issues and joined my father in cultivation when I was seventeen and continue it till now.
At the beginning we used only the agriculture wastes from the farms. Ever since the green revolution we started using chemical fertilizers, following others. I continued what my father was doing. Expenditure soared high on using excess amount of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. At one point of time the yield was drastically low.
In 1970 I participated in one of the meetings conducted by Chidambara Swamy in Vallanad, Tuticorin district. He advised us ‘not to use fertilizers at all as they will make the soil sterile. It is enough to add cow dung as a base fertilizer. To control pestilence use cow urine mixed with the leaf extract of Siriyanangai plant and spraying it with water is sufficient’. When I tested the method in my farm the result was significant. But I could not change to natural farming immediately as the soil was degraded with the prolonged use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Ten years ago, on behalf of the Lion’s club we invited Nammazhvar Ayya, an organic farming scientist, and conducted a meeting on organic farming. He said, ‘Poison should not be grown and should not be sold. Future will be very much challenging if we don’t switch to organic farming now. The pioneering farmers like you should practice organic cultivation so that other farmers will also switch to the practice’. Then only I decided to go for organic farming.
I started providing the guava trees with farm yard manure, neem cake and ground nut cake instead of chemical fertilizers. As the yield was significant I started cultivating paddy and coconut by organic farming methods”. With this preamble Jeyaratchagan took us around the grove.
“Totally there are 20 acres of land. Coconut is present in 15 acres. It is 25 years now since we planted them. They need more water now as they were used to chemical fertilizers at the beginning. But I am unable to provide them with more water and therefore the yield is lesser. Sapota plants are there in half an acre. They are one and half years old and yet to attain maturity to yield. In two acres of land teak and casuarinas trees are present. Based on the availability of water, in an acre of land, I cultivate Karuppukavuni and Kullakarnu, some of the traditional varieties of paddy. There are guavas (Lucknow-49) in another one and half acre of land.
As of now, only guava has been proving profitable, especially after switching over to organic methods. With less supply of water even during summer they provide good yield. Therefore guava has become my favorite crop now”. He then started sharing the details about the yield and profit of guava cultivation.
“As I am getting old I’m not able to go to market to sell my produce. My children are in far off towns. So I sell all my yield to Muthulakshmi who is a fruit vendor. After harvesting I weigh the guavas at my farm and outsiders buy them for Rs 27 per kg. I get the money immediately after harvesting. There are 180 guava trees in one and half acres of my land. In a year I could harvest a minimum of 90 kg of guava from a tree. With this calculation I would be getting 16,200 kgs guavas from 180 trees. With the price of Rs 27 per kg, the total income is Rs 4,37,400. The expenditure includes inputs and labor charges for harvesting, amounting to Rs 60,000 and remaining is the profit.
“In this testing time of water scarcity, a farmer can survive only with the crops that required less water with less maintenance cost. The crop should also fetch attractive price in the market. That is very important. Based on these criteria my favorite crop is guava. There is continuous demand for guavas in the market and therefore there is no problem for selling them. Through organic cultivation there is less water requirement with high profit”. Thus he bid farewell to us.
Method of guava cultivation
Below is the lesson shared by Jeyaratchagan about the cultivation of guava organically.
Lucknow-49 variety of guava can be planted anytime except during summer, especially during March-May. In my experience, months such as August-October and January-February are conducive for planting. These months help the plants grow well as there will be adequate water. All types of soil having good draining are appropriate for guava planting.
After ploughing the soil, dig pits with 18 feet spacing and 2x2 feet dimension. With this spacing there will be 130 pits in an acre of land. Allow the pits to air dry for a month. In the meantime the layout for drip irrigation can be established with the drip point near each pit. After a month, to each pit add a basket of black soil from canal, a basket of cow dung compost and small amount of land soil and irrigate the pits.
Plant a guava sapling in each pit, the next day, and fill it with the soil around the pit and irrigate them. Till 10-12 days after planting, irrigate them in such a way that there is considerable moisture all the time in the soil. But ensure that there is no stagnation of water in the land.
Till five months after planting, it is enough to supply only water to the saplings. No other nutrients are required. On sixth month, weeding can be done, followed by scrambling the soil around each plant after adding cow dung compost. This should be added every six months continuously. If the plants are found to be dull then provide to each plant a mix of 2 kg of azospirillum to one tractor of manure and 2 liters of EM formulation retained for a week.
After planting, during 7, 8, 9 and 10th months, spray a mixture of 300 ml Amudhakaraisal, 150 ml Panchakavya and 50 ml EM formulation disolved in 10 liters of water. After a year of planting, spray the same twice a month. After two month of planting, spray the same along with providing 50 kg of groundnut cake and 10 kg of neem cake, on all the plants. During summer, there will be flour insects at the tip of and underneath the leaves. If it happens, spray 300 ml of Panchakavya in 10 liters of water, in such a way that the whole plant is soaked with the spray.
Till two years after planting, the flowers and buds should be removed and only then they can be allowed to mature. Guava can be harvested three months after flowering. Flowering could be delayed if there is high temperature. Guava can be harvested when they grow pale green from dark green or grow pale yellow.
There is a possibility that they are damaged by fruit flies, squirrels and birds if they are allowed to ripen on the tree. So it is not beneficial to allow them to ripen on the tree. If the plants are maintained organically they can stand till fifteen years and fetch better yield.
Take 2 kg leaves each of veppilai (neem), Nochi (Vitex), Aadu theendapaalai, vellai arugu and oomathai (Datura) and grind them separately. Then mix them together with 10 liters of cow urine, soaked for a week. Filter the liquid and the mixture is ready.
Spray the mixture using a hand spray, with a ratio of 300 ml in 10 liters of water. The mixture will kill the germs, especially on the pruned tips of the plant. It is also a growth promoter facilitating more flowers to grow.
Pruning once in a year
Each plant should be pruned annually before monsoon rains in order to avoid bracing of plants with each other and also to facilitate more sun light and air circulation to the whole plants. This will help grow more buds and eventually more fruits.
Water should not be provided to the plants immediately after pruning. They can be allowed to wilt for a week and then irrigated so as to enable them grow fast. Within five days after pruning five-leaf mixture should be provided to the whole plants. It can be sprayed thrice with a gap of one week.
More price due to organic cultivation
We spoke to Ms Muthulakshmi, the fruit vendor who buys guava from Jayaratchagan. “I have my fruit shop at Perayur. I regularly buy guava from the grove of Jayaratchagan Ayya. It is usual to procure guava for Rs 25 only. But I buy them for Rs 27 from his grove. Four years ago when I went to his farm to procure guavas he informed me that they are grown organically and therefore little more to be added to the price.
But I declined his proposal and bought them for Rs 25 only. The fruits from his grove are found to be fertile and plump. Taste and shelf life are also appreciably good. I started selling them highlighting their organic origin to my customers.
Those who tasted them started coming to me asking for the same kind of guavas. Hence I started buying them from him regularly. I gave Rs 2 additionally as requested by him while procuring the guavas from him. Now I could sell them with conviction that they are tastier than any other guava as they are organically grown”.
Ginger-Garlic mixture against leaf charring
If leaf thickening or leaf charring is found, take ¼ kg of ginger, garlic and green chilies and grind them in a mortar. Soak it in 5 liters of cow urine for 7 days, filter it and take 300 ml of it mixed with 10 liters of water and spray them on the affected leaves. Spray it weekly once till they disappear.
(This article written by E Karthikeyan in Tamil for Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 10th Aug 2017 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)