Bitter gourd is found to be one vegetable whose price does not normally fluctuate in an extreme manner. It will assure one of decent returns for the investment made on that. At the same time, cultivators think and dread to invest on bitter gourd because they are under the impression that they have to spend a huge sum on stone pillar pandal. However, Rajasekar of Karur district has proved that it would not cost that huge sum but only a fair cost with simple technology.
Rajasekar belongs to Mallanatham which is next to Chinnatharapuram where he grows bitter gourd under natural organic farming practice. Rajasekar’s farm poses a very natural look with an absolute green environment, hanging kowai fruits (Coccinia grandis/ivy gourd), loitering and grazing sheep, beautiful butterflies and peacocks. It is a feast for one’s eyes.
Rajasekar proudly states that his entire family has hailed from this village only. He possesses 24 acres out of which 15 acres are meant for grazing; 2 acres for drumstick cultivation; 4 acres are for groundnut. Earlier they had allotted 16 acres for grazing for their sheep but now one acre from that has been reallocated for bitter gourd cultivation.
Rajasekar’s wife Rajeswari says they will sell the offsprings of the sheep in Kannivadi market; drumstick at Moolanur market and groundnut at the oil mill in Vellakoil. Bitter gourd has since recently been started by them. Rajeswari shares with us that once when she was travelling to Madurai by car, she happened to see a farm near Dindigul with cultivation under pandal structure devoid of the stone pillar construction. They had simply used the tree branches, small sticks etc.only. They immediately met the owner of the farm and enquired the details of their farming practice. Being motivated, Rajeswari and Rajasekar replicated the same in their farm under one acre cultivation, exclusively for bitter gourd and snake gourd
Initially, Rajasekar was using both chemical and organic farm practices until his meeting Manokar at Moolanur during which time Manokar had enlightened them on the safer and cheaper cultivation of vegetables under organic cultivation method. He only taught them about the process of preparing the inputs, panchakavya, jeevamirdham, herbal insecticides etc. New Rajasekar is able to grow all the three vegetables, viz. ribbed gourd, snake gourd and bitter gourd in his farm.
Rajasekar says he sells all the three products directly in the markets of Vellakoil, Kangeyam and Paramathi during the weekly markets. He incurs only the transportation expenses.
Rajasekar confirms that he has spent Rs.10,000/- only towards cost of construction of pandal. He feels certain that it will last for two years. He is confident that the quality of the soil will remain the same as all the three are cultivated on a rotational basis. Above all, he does not incur any expense such as weeding operation, harvesting etc. since all these are handled by his family members themselves.
In fine, Rajasekar shares with us that what he has learnt in these five years of operation is that those farmers who have water availability should do vegetable cultivation at least in ½ an acre under pandal construction. If they do like that, they will certainly be able to earn Rs.2 lacs per season easily.
Rajasekar explains the method of cultivating bitter gourd in an acre as under:-
Red soil is more suited for better harvest
This does not require any specific season. It can be cultivated throughout the year
Its age is 150 to 160 days
200 gms seeds are required for an acre
First, sheep waste should be deposited
After firm ploughing, 5 tonne organic manure should be spread and again ploughed
3 ft.width x ¾ ft.height bars should be erected with 15 ft. distance in between
In the bar, pits should be created within 2 ½ ft. gap and seeds to be sown
Usual ploughing and irrigation should be done
Pandal should be erected. Depending upon the moisture content of the earth, irrigation should be done
Weeding should be done on 15th, 25th and 45th days
Within 8 days from the sowing of seeds, the sprouting will happen and on the 20th days the creeper will come up and during this time, the creepers should be made to climb the pandal sticks
Within 30 days the entire pandal will be crowded with bitter gourd plant
After 35 days flowering will occur
After 55 days bitter gourds will appear
After 60 days plucking can start
During the initial stage, the quantity will be minimum; but, however, as days pass on, it will increase manifold
Rajasekar says he planted the seeds on the 11th of Vaikasi month and harvested on the 11th of Adi month. He was able to get 10,650 Kg bitter gourd in 20 times of pluckings till 19.09.2017. He sold 900 kg.@ Rs.40/- and got Rs.36,000/- and further sold 4,950 Kg @ Rs.30/- for a total sum of Rs.1,48,500/-. Further, he sold 3,000 Kg @ Rs.25/- for a total amount of Rs.75,000/-. Finally, he sold 1,800 Kg @ Rs.20/- and got Rs.36,000/-.
Rajasekar confirms that out of 10,650 Kg bitter gourd, he was able to get a total amount of Rs.2,95,500/- and after deducting the expenses towards ploughing, pandal, harvesting and van hire charges etc. amounting to Rs.62,000/-, he was able to get Rs.2,33,500/-. He still expects 8 to 9 pluckings from which he can get 6,000 Kg quantity which if he sells even at the minimum price of Rs.20/- per kilo, he will get an income of Rs.1,20,000/-. After deducting the usual expenses amounting to Rs.30,000/- he is sure to get Rs.90,000/- as profit. He concludes that by this way he will be able to reap a profit of Rs.3,23,500/- in about 160 days of hard work in an acre.
Normally, before flowering in bitter gourds, essence sucking insects, leaf curl worms and other insects will attack. The remedy is the essence of ginger, garlic and green chillies should be spread on a rotation basis.
Jatropha leaf, Datura leaf, Datura unripe fruit, aloe vera stem, Vitex leaf and Neem leaf etc. should be taken in the equal quantity of ½ kg and pounded. This pounded material should be soaked in 15 lt. cow’s urine for three days and with this, 250 gm tamarind powder, 1 kg. cowdung should be mixed and kept for 7 days. Each day, we have to stir it twice a day. Ultimately, this essence should be filtered and mixed in the proportion of 500 ml.in 10 lt.water and it should be sprinkled on the plants. This will stimulate the growth of the plant further.
Ginger, garlic and green chillies essence:-
Each of the above should be taken in equal measure of 1 kg and ground firmly and separately. Then all the three should be mixed and 100 gm of this combined substance can be taken in 10 lt. water for sprinkling. This will eliminate all kinds of worms including asuvini and white fly from attacking the plants.
Stimulant to bitter gourd:-
From the 15th day of sowing the seed and once in 15 days, Panchakavya karaisal of 30 ml in 1 lt. water should be sprinkled on the roots. Similarly, from 20th day and once in 15 days, 25 kg groundnut cake and 5 kg neem cake should be mixed in 200 lt.water and poured in each plant.
Rajasekar clarifies about the pandal set-up as under:-
10 ft.height pine sticks should be planted with 8 ft. distance in between throughout the surface. On top of the pine sticks, the rope should be tightly tied. On the earmarked surface of the land, 7 ft. height neam sticks should be planted with a distance of 8 ft.in south-north direction and 15 ft.distance in each-west direction.
He further says that if we smear the workshop used oil at the bottom of both sticks, it will not be affected by termite. After planting the neam sticks, cloth thread should be used for tying the same in criss-cross direction. Finally, if Oonjal tree(Albizia Amara ) creepers can be planted near each plant of the bitter gourd, the bitter gourd creepers will climb up through this with ease and comfort.
Doubtless, Rajasekar’s description of his personal success story must be inspiring to other farmers.
(This article written in Tamil by G Palanisamy in Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 25/10/2017 has been reproduced in English by P.S.Ramamurthy)