Amla (Nelli) is one of the important drought-resistant plants. This plant has the ability to sustain itself without rain even for a few years holding its life successfully and then grow lustrously as soon as there is rain again. That is the reason for many farmers to choose Amla in the areas of water scarcity. And those who grow Amla in those challenging areas the plant has been providing considerable income. There is a farmer, Periyaswami belonging to Karur who has been growing Amla in about 17 acres of land. He has been growing Amla organically in the village Puthampur, next to Vadugapatti.
We entered the farm of Periyaswami, in one of the mornings, when the sun was reluctantly peeping out of the sky. There were rows of Amla trees with long strands of Amla fruits hanging from the trees. There were young mango plants as intercropping also. It was a pleasant morning and we found him in the farm supervising the people filling the Amla fruits in boxes. As soon as we had introduced to him he started speaking to us happily.
“Karur is my native place. My father and grandfather were doing agriculture. I joined a finance company at the age of seventeen. With that working experience, I have been running a finance company on my own. Along with that, I have also been involved in real estate business. I had bought 28 acres of land for that purpose. An Amla farmer, Rajendran used to visit my farm frequently on business. When I was chatting with him I informed him that I own 28 acres of wasteland. He advised me that ‘The wasteland can be converted to a cultivable land, growing Amla through natural farming. I too had 150 acres of wasteland and I have successfully converted it to a garden full of Amla. You too can earn a good income by growing Amla’. I had met other Amla growing farmers as well. When all of them made me confident I decided to grow Amla. I made a bore well and also applied for electricity connection.
The land was not at all ploughed for about forty years. But during these years the land became fertile due to the wastes of goats and cattle grazing the land. This place was also found to be suitable for organic farming. Having decided to grow Amla in only 17 acres I had started leveling the land that was uneven, and planted Amla plants with a spacing of 15 x 15 feet. With every 9 Amla plants, I had planted one mango sapling and fixed a drip irrigation system for them. Currently, only Amla trees are at the stage of providing fruits”. He continued with the preamble. “I have planted four different varieties of Amla, N.A-7, Krishna, Kanchana and Yendhal gold. Only when there are different varieties we could ensure fruiting throughout the year. There is a barbed wire fencing around the farm. I am rearing 25 sheep inside the farm. These sheep ensure that there are no weeds due to their grazing and at the same time manuring the soil. Amla grows luxuriantly due to weekly once irrigation and supplying Amudhakkaraisal for every two weeks. It is three and a half years after having planted the Amla trees. I am getting fruits for the past two years. Shoppers visit the farm in search of Amla fruits as they are grown organically and of good quality as well. I come to the farm daily by six o clock and will be here till eight o clock delegating the day’s work. Only then I will take care of other business”. Then he started to share the details of income from the farm.
“This year, most of the flowers had fallen due to unexpected heavy rain. However, I could get 20 tons of fruits in total. I could earn about Rs 6 lakhs by way of selling them for Rs 30 per kg. I expect at least 40 tons next year. And after ten years I would be able to get about 10 tons per year. I am planning to have an Amla value addition business soon”. He bid farewell to us with utmost confidence and contentment.
Take 5 kg leaves each from papaya, neem, castor (amanakku), ergot (erukku) and put them in a 200-liter drum. Fill the drum with water till the leaves submerge. Add to it 5 kg of dung, 3 litres of cow urine and allow the contents of the drum soaked for a week and now the leaf extract is ready.
This is the method of cultivation
Here is the lesson extracted from the conversation with Periyaswamy about Amla cultivation
Raise a bund of one-foot height after ploughing the leveling the land. By raising the bund, the rainwater will stay and percolate in the soil thereby increasing the water table. Make the soil course and loose by dry ploughing. Fill alluvial soil 20 tons per acre and spread it on the land followed by one more ploughing. With a 15 feet gap, make a pit of 4x4 square feet in dimension. Fill each pit with 10 kg of farmyard manure and allow the pit to remain so for four months. Then remove the weeds grown in the pit and fill it with the same soil that was dug out. Again fill each pit with 5 kg of farmyard manure and 50-gram biofertilizer. Dip the root of each sapling in 300 ml Panchakaavya dissolved in 10 litre of water and then plant them in each pit. Spread a handful of neem seed powder in each pit and fill the pits. After planting till a year of completion, supply 200 litres of leaf extract through drip irrigation for every fifteen days.
Make a round bund around each Amla plant. Add 10 kg of goat manure in each circular bund for each plant. Prune the plant twice in a year. Pruning will help grow more number of branches. If ants are found on the plants it implies that the flour insects are going to attack the plants. Spray the extract of ginger, garlic and chilies immediately.
For preparing Panchakaavya about nine ingredients are required. Wastes from a cow can be gathered either from country breeds or mixed breeds.
Extract of ginger, garlic and chilies
Take one kg each of ginger, garlic and chili and grind them into a paste. Mix the paste in 100 litres of water. Add 250 gram Khadi soap and spray the liquid on the plant ensuring the whole leaves of the plants are drenched.
(This article written in Tamil by G Palanisamy for Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 10/8/18 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)