Generally, with less maintenance and labour flowers provide daily income. That is the primary reason for many farmers to get involved in flower cultivation. One such farmer is Parthasarathy belonging to Tuticorin district, who has been cultivating Hibiscus flowers organically, meant for medicinal purposes, and gaining significant profit out of it.
His Hibiscus farm is situated in Kulathulvaippatti village, about five kilometres from Ettayapuram. One fine morning we visited his farm and explained to him the purpose of our visit. He happily agreed to share his experience with the cultivation experience with Hibiscus.
“My native is Kovilpatti. I have no direct connection with farming. I was working in a software company in Chennai after having completed my post-graduation in M.Sc. Electronics. I worked there like a machine for about ten years. At that time, I happened to get introduced to Pasumai Vikatan by a neighbour. I continued to read the magazine with pleasure. I learnt about natural farming and the ecological importance of it through the magazine. Since then I have been in search of organic shops and have started using organically grown greens, vegetables and even the oils produced from traditional wooden oil extractors. At a particular point of time, I got fed up with my job. I decided to go back and settle in my native in 2015.
When I was brooding over what to do for my earning I realized that I would enter into farming using the family-owned land in the village. I enquired my friends and relatives about the type of crop that I could try. Each one came up with a different idea. Time passed by due to my indecisiveness.
That was the time I learnt through Pasumai Vikatan about Ebrahim who has been growing Hibiscus flowers by organic cultivation, in Kayamozhi, Tuticorin district. I paid a visit to his farm. With the confidence he imbibed in me I ventured to go for Hibiscus cultivation”. He continued to share details about his farming with a preamble.
“It was originally a dry land. It was filled with Prosopis plants as there was no cultivation in the past fifteen years. I cleared the land for cultivation and arranged for sheep shelter to fertilize the soil. I planted 4000 hibiscus plants in 3 ½ acres of land. But 500 of them wilted shortly. Currently, we have 3500 plants providing flowers. I have been harvesting the flowers for the past six months. I search and find companies who are dealing with medicinal herbal products, such as Siddha, Ayurveda and also herbal cosmetics who are in need of the flowers for their manufacturing units in Chennai, Coimbatore and Delhi and sell to them directly. The local Siddha practitioners who are preparing Manappagu come to the farm and buy the flowers”. Then he described the income-expenditure details.
“I pluck some amount of flowers daily and sell them as flowers. The remaining flowers are dried and sold in the market. If we dry 100 kg of flowers it will turn up to become 20 kg of dry flowers. The fresh flowers are sold at the rate of Rs 200 per kg. I have collected totally 200 kg now. With this sale, I have earned Rs 40,000 as income. On drying up 3,154 kg of flowers I have gained 616 kg of dry flowers. I have sold them with a range of Rs 490 and Rs 750. By selling 616 kg of dry flowers I have earned Rs 3,08,000 as income. In total, I have an income of Rs 3,48,000 so far. I have spent Rs 1,13,000 on preparing the land, saplings, and drip irrigation system. And Rs 1,58,000 has been spent on maintenance activities such as weeding and inputs. The expenditure till now is Rs 2,71,000. My income is Rs 77,000 so far”. Then he concluded.
“The yield will keep increasing and the maintenance expenses will come down. Then the profit will keep going up. Besides, I have a plant to opt for value addition practices such as Hibiscus tea powder, natural hair powder, Hibiscus drink, and Hibiscus jam. As soon as I start those value addition activities my income will soar up”. He sounded very confident about it.
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Ginger, Garlic Extract
Take 1 kg of ginger, garlic and green chilly in equal proportion and grind them using a traditional stone grinder. Collect the content and soak it in 5 litres of cow urine for 5 days. Then filter it and the extract is ready for use.
Arid and alluvial soils are suitable for Hibiscus plants. Planting can be made during Aani-Aadi (June-August). The plants will grow well if they are planted before the rains. The chosen soil should be ploughed twice with a gap of ten days. Then with 6 feet distance in between, dig a pit of one-foot dimension. This should be followed by establishing a drip irrigation system. Add one basket of farmyard manure in each pit and allow it to be aerated for another ten days. Then plant 2-month old Hibiscus saplings in each pit and provide water to them. During the first month, irrigate the land accordingly so that the land does not get dry at any point of time. From the second month, irrigate the land with 200 litres of water with Amuthakkaraisal for an acre of land once in a month.
If flour insects attack the leaves and stem of the plant, mix 150 ml of Ginger-garlic extract with 10 litres of water and spray on the plants. Every four months, weed out the land and make the weeds as mulch on the floor. After weeding out, pour 250 ml of Panchakavya at the base of every plant. If the plants look withered mix 300 ml of Panchakavya in 10 litres of water and sprinkle it on the plant using a manual sprinkler. There is no need for more amount of nutrients for the plant. If the plant is excessively supplied with nutrients the leaves will start becoming red, thereby reducing the number of flowers.
Nine months after planting, there will be the emergence of flowers. The number of flowers will start increasing after the 12th month. The flowers should be plucked before 10 AM. From the first flowering of the plant and harvesting, prune the plant to one foot every year before the monsoon. The plant will bring out flowers three months after every pruning. With Hibiscus, one can collect flowers for 9 months continuously. And it can continue for about 15 to 18 years.
Shadow Drying of the Flowers
The Hibiscus flowers should not be dried directly under the sun. If they are dried under the sun, they will lose their nutrients. They should be dried under a shade or in a separate room, using dry papers. By shadow drying, they will need three or four days to get dried up. The nutrients will also be retained. The fully dried flowers will have the colour of beetroot. The dry flowers should be collected in gunny bags and should be kept away from moisture and water so that they can be stored for about 8 months. There will be a fungus attack if they come in contact with moisture.
(This article was written in Tamil By E Karthikeyan for Pasumai Vikatan magazine date 10/12/18 has been translated in English by V Amalan Stanley)