Farmers of Tamilnadu have been severely affected by the prevailing drought. There is no water flowing in the rivers due to lack of rain. There is no water in the wells and deep bore wells due to descending water table in many parts of the state. With this challenging situation of drought the recommendations of the experts of Water Management are ‘to limit the cultivation space according to the available water resources; otherwise, switch to crops that need lesser water supply’. Compelled by the testing circumstances many farmers have begun to follow the recommendations and one among them is Mr. Sivaprasad from Tuticorin district.
Using less amount of water, Sivaprasad has been cultivating ‘Redlady’ variety of papaya. His papaya grove is situated in Kandasamipuram village, three kilometers from Kaanam of Tuticorin district. We met him while papaya harvesting was in progress at his grove. After self-introduction he greeted us happily, sharing with us the cut papaya and started describing his venture.
“Professionally we belong to a farming community. Paddy and banana are the important crops of this place. We cultivate Robusta and Nendhran varieties. We also cultivate hybrid paddy variety based on the seasons. From the beginning, we used only chemical fertilizers. Even during school days, I used to work at the farm during holidays. I was very much involved in weeding, laying bunds and other related activities. I desired to get fully into farming after completing my graduation. In the first year, I ventured into banana cultivation but without much returns. So I dropped the idea and went to Mumbai, founding an Idly shop. That too was not remunerative and therefore returned to my native.
I again decided to opt for farming. At that time I happened to read an article about natural farming in a daily newspaper. Though I could not understand it fully then, it was clear to me that there is a possibility to do organic farming without adding chemical fertilizers and also prevent the soil from being sterile. At that time the soil of my land remained on a concrete floor due to persistent use of chemical fertilizers. I continued to gather information about organic farming. And that was when “Pasumai Vikatan’ was introduced to me.
There was an article by Subhash Palekar about ‘Zero budget’ farming method. There was also an announcement in it about the training on the subject. Immediately I registered for the four-day course on zero budget. I fully learned about the expenditure-free natural farming methods by attending the course.
At once I completed the course I tried out Nedhran cultivation in an acre of land based on the zero budget method. The return was moderate. But my objective was to make the soil fertile. I could earn reasonably in the second year”. He continued to share his experience of switching to the organic method of farming.
“Consecutively I tried out traditional varieties of paddy, banana, and papaya by zero budge method. It is nearly nine years now after switching to organic farming. It’s totally 6 acres with sandy red soil. Now I have increased the cultivation of papaya as paddy and banana require more water. Redlady variety of papaya is on the verge of yielding in an acre of land. Rasthali is available in 1 ½ acre and Poolanchendu banana variety in another acre of land. It will be four or five months for the banana to yield. Three months ago I planted Redlady papaya in 1 ½ acre and the remaining one acre is ready for cultivation after ploughing.
Cowpea and onion remain as intercrops for papaya. Both of them grew considerably with the supply of nutrients to papaya. They are meant for household consumption. After harvesting the cowpea I allowed it to remain on the farm so that it became mulch for the existing papaya and gradually transformed into compost, fertilizing the soil.
I don’t plant papaya as saplings. I buy them as seeds and raise them as saplings on my own. We could get quality saplings when they are raised in the soil where they are going to be transplanted”. After this, Sivaprasad started sharing the details of income and expenditure with us.
“I used to sell the harvest to the shoppers in Kanam, Arumuganeri and Thiruchendur. The farmers of these areas cultivate both banana and papaya considerably. Therefore, there is no additional price for the organically grown papaya. However, customers are keen to buy the papaya from my farm as they are grown organically, tastier than regular fruits and also have longer shelf life.
Currently, papaya cultivated on one acre of land has started yielding. I have been harvesting it for the past nine months ever since it started yielding. There are totally 860 trees planted tally of which 40 had failed to grow. Fruits are harvested from the remaining trees. During the first two months, I harvested papaya once in five days. Next, it is once in four days now. So far I have harvested about 15,582 kg of papaya and I sell it for Rs 17 per kg. So, with 15,582 kg of papaya, I earned totally Rs 2,64,894. Deducting Rs 76,000 towards ploughing, seed procurement, planting, input cost and harvest charges I could earn a profit of Rs 1,88,894. Drip irrigation charges are not included as expenditure here as it is considered as a permanent asset.
Papaya can still be harvested for another five months. But I expect it to continue only for four months due to water scarcity. It will fetch another 8000 kg of papaya and there is a chance to have an income of Rs 1,36,000. Deducting Rs 25000 towards maintenance for another four months the net profit could be Rs 1,11,000. Therefore, with one acre of land, we will be able to have a profit not less than Rs 3 lakhs”. He concluded with contentment.
“Papaya is nearly a 22-month crop. If calculated annually the profit will only be Rs 1.5 lakhs per acre. Though it is not a huge profit, considering the drought condition prevailing in the area rendering cultivation almost impossible, it’s truly a huge profit for me having able to earn in this challenging situation. For that reason, I remain thankful for the principles of organic farming and also the drought resisting papaya variety”. Having said so, he engaged seriously in harvesting activities.
For contact, Sivaprasad
Mobile: 97874 39077
Jeevamirtham monthly once
On the 5th day of planting the saplings, 200 liters of Jeevamirtham formulation can be passed on the plants through irrigation water, on a monthly basis. A mixture of 300 ml of Panchakavya in ten liters of water is to be sprayed through hand sprinkler for every 15 days. Flowering will happen after 100 days of planting. At that time mix 250 g of asafetida in 200 liters of water and pass it along with the irrigation. It will help holding the flowers strongly to the plant, leading to fruiting. At the time of fruiting, 300 ml of Thaymore formulation can be sprayed along with 10 liters of water using a manual sprayer.
The chosen one acre of land should be ploughed using pot plough for once and allowed to air dry for ten days. This is followed by twice ploughing with a tiller. Pits of ¾ foot circumference ¾ foot depth and with a gap of 7 feet should to be made. With this measure of gap, 889 pits can be made in an acre. But according to the contour of the land, the number of pits can vary. Sivaprasad has laid 860 pits in an acre. After digging the pits, half a kg of farmyard manure is added to each pit, allowing it to air dry for four days.
Neem oil against Flour insect
There will be a heavy infestation of flour insect pest in papaya. One should remain diligent from the day of planting of saplings as the pest could infest papaya at any moment. When the flour insects are found the plants should be sprayed with water profusely as if it is raining.
Within two hours after water spraying, 100 ml of neem oil along with a small piece of Khadi soap mixed along with 10 liters of water, to be sprayed using the manual sprinkler.
Preparation of papaya saplings
From the chosen piece of land for planting take 100 kg of soil, mix it with 30 kg of farmyard manure and keep it undisturbed for a day. Then fill the polythene bags of 4-inch width and 6-inch height, with the mixed soil and sprinkle water on the bags using hand sprinkler. Then dip one seed in each bag at a depth of a ¾ inch, queue the bags in line and cover them over with a polythene sheet. Spray the bags with water every day and cover them with the same sheet. There will be sprouting after the 8th day. It is recommended to raise more bags of saplings to compensate the loss of saplings during transplantation. The saplings should be transplanted between 45 and 60 days.
Seed treatment using Beejamirtham
200 g of seeds are required for an acre. These seeds should be dipped in 250 ml of Beejamirtham formulation, followed by pouring them on a palm mat, and finally, shadow drying them for 15 minutes. This kind of seed treatment will prevent the plants from root related diseases.
Neem oil cake repelling threadworms
Weeding should be carried out on day 20 and 40 after planting the saplings. After the first weeding 30 gram of neem oil cake should be sprayed around the base of each sapling and strengthening it. This will prevent the saplings from threadworms. After the 6th and 10th month of planting, each sapling should be added with half a kg of farmyard manure.
Planting in the evening
Before planting the saplings each pit should be drenched with water through drip irrigation. The moisture content of the pit will be evaporated during the day if they are irrigated in the morning. Therefore, it is better to irrigate them in the evening so as to keep the saplings alive and grow well. Plant the saplings one in each pit and irrigate them every day for a month.
Then, it is advised to irrigate them as per the moisture content available in the soil. Based on the growth rate of the saplings the drip irrigation unit should be taken away from the plants gradually. For those who wish to follow intercropping, it is advised to plant onion and cowpea on the day of planting papaya saplings. As both of them are complementary crops to papaya all of them grow well together.
Harvesting from 9th month
From the ninth month of planting, the trees will give out unripe papaya. Yield will gradually increase from the 11th month. If they are maintained properly the trees will yield until about 16 months after the first harvest.
Red soil is suitable
Redlady papaya variety grows well with red soil. Aadi (Jul-Aug) and Karthikai (Nov-Dec) months are suitable for seed sowing.
(This article written in Tamil by E Karthikeyan for Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 10th June 2017 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)