At present, farmers are desirous of growing plants that require less amount of water and less time for maintenance. Papaya is one of those crops that provides high return but with lesser maintenance. That is why the crop remains as a preferential one for the farmers. Dhanapalan is one such farmer from Virudhunagar district, who has been cultivating papaya through organic farming, successfully gaining returns.
The farm owned by Dhanapalan is situated in the Meesalur village, 7 km from Virudhunagar. We met Dhanapalan in one of the mornings at his farm while he was engaged in harvesting.
“This is my native place. My house also remains on the farm. We have been doing agriculture traditionally. My father was cultivating lady’s finger, flat bean and groundnut. I dropped out of school at seventh standard and started supporting my father at the farm.
I went abroad as I got a job, in the meantime. I worked there for about ten years. As I fell ill, I returned to my native to do agriculture. I followed the chemical methods of cultivation as my father, growing cluster jasmine, champanki and banana. I continued agriculture even though I could not earn considerably and the yields were also not appreciable.
My daughter is studying at the government higher secondary school at Meesalur. One of the teachers of the school, ‘Kandasami sir’, working as a drawing teacher used to teach the students about organic farming. He would find out the farming parents of the students in the school and bring them to the school to teach them about organic farming. Once he invited me to his school through my daughter. I explained to him about the agricultural practices that I followed. After enquiring about the yield, he advised me ‘Don’t follow chemical methods and take up organic farming. I have been cultivating cucumber by organic methods. Visit my farm once to witness it’. The very next day he visited my farm. After seeing the banana plants having been wilted, he advised me to provide them with Panchakaavya, once in four days. I followed his advice on providing the plants with Panchakaavya. The plants regained life. The leaves became green. Then based on his advice I provided them with Jeevamirtham. I was able to get the reasonably good return at that time. He taught me how to prepare them as well. I happened to read the article about the cucumber farming through organic methods by Kandhasami sir, in Pasumai Vikatan. It was given to me by him. Since then I have been reading the magazine.
Right now I am fully into organic farming. When I asked him what could be the next plant to cultivate he told me, ‘Grow papaya. Maintenance is low and expenditure too’. Based on his advice I started growing ‘Redlady’ variety of papaya in 40 cents of my land. Currently, harvesting is going on’. After briefing about the history of his agricultural practices he took us inside the field where papaya plants have been grown.
“There a land area of 1 acre and 60 cents. The soil is a mix of soft rocks. I have spread the land with alluvial soil taken from the canal. There is a specific variety of banana planted in 80 cents. Remaining land holds papaya in 40 cents and the balance 40 cents is prepared for growing cluster jasmine. The land has become sterile because of repeated use of chemical inputs for many years. I have been following organic farming only for the past one and half years. I could witness luxuriance in the crops only after switching over to organic farming. The cultivation cost also remains lesser”. Then he shared about the detail of income.
“I have planted 350 papaya saplings in total. Of them 50 plants have withered. From the remaining 300 plants I have been gathering fruits for the past two months. Till now, I have harvested 2,123 kg of papaya from 22 collections. I have gained Rs 21,830 from selling the fruits for Rs 10 or 12 per kg. From tilling the land till now I have spent Rs 13,000 so far. At the beginning itself, there is considerable yield and I hope it will keep growing. I further hope that by the time the all fruits are harvested the rate will go high as the seasons for other fruits like mango and jackfruits will come to an end”. He then concluded.
“As of now, I am selling the fruit at the Virudhunagar market. There is no special price for the organically grown papaya. But I am pleased as I am able to sell poison free fruits. It was the organic farming initiatives that saved the wilted and withered banana crop. Similarly, I will be able to make a good profit from papaya”. His eyes were glowing the confidence and he started engaged in sending the fruits to the nearby market.
Seven feet spacing
Here are the details of cultivating Redlady Papaya variety in forty cents, as described by Dhanapalan:
Avani and Karthikai (Aug-Sep & Nov-Dec) months are suitable for planting a Redlady variety of papaya. Plough the land chosen for planting papaya and allow a month for the land to air dry. This is followed by flat plowing and again being allowed to air dry for ten days. Then the land should be once again plowed using the tiller and allowed for another ten days.
Then, with 7 feet spacing, dig pits of 1.5 x1.5 feet dimension. Add 5 kg of farmyard manure in each pit and add the dug out soil into the pit and allow it to air dry for a week. Then add 3 grams of Pseudomonas in one litre of water to each pit and then plant the saplings. Saplings of 25 to 40 days age are suitable for planting. The pits should then be irrigated based on the moisture content of the soil. Drip irrigation is the best method. Ten days after planting, supply 3 grams of Pseudomonas sp, 3 grams of Trichogramma viridie along with one litre of water, at the base of each plant. On the 25th day mix 30ml panchakavya, 30 ml Azospirillum, 30ml Phosphobacteria, 30 ml rhizobium in 10 litres of water and pour one litre at the root of the plant.For every ten days, 300 ml of Panchakaavya in 10 litres of water should be supplied along with irrigation water. For every twenty days, supply 100 litre of Jeevamirtham formulation along with the irrigation water. Remove the weeds on 40th and 70th days. Weeding can also be done as required.
On day 60, add 50 gram of neem oil cake, 100 gram of groundnut oil cake, 100 gram of castor oil cake through irrigation water to the base of each plant.
Within 140 and 150 days, add one kg of vermicompost and 2 kg of farmyard manure at the base of each plant. Flowers will emerge at the beginning of the sixth month. Young fruits will emerge at the end of 6th month and it will start growing through the 7th month and harvesting can begin at the end of 7th month. If flour insects are found it is enough to spray water at high velocity using hand sprayer.
(This article written by E Karthikeyan in Tamil for Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 10/8/18 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)