Along with the usual crop cultivation, there are farmers who continue to gain successful agriculture by virtue of incorporating new technologies into it. The utmost commitment and interest they show in their agriculture endeavour never fail them. One among those successful farmers is Muthuvel Pandiyan, from Theni district.
Mostly, no one carried out intercropping in the mango farms. But, Muthuvel Pandiyan has profited immensely through intercropping at his mango farm.
His own farm, named ‘Chellaiya Natural Agriculture Farm’ is situated on the way to Agamalai from Bodinayakkanur. He is a retired bank employee, who has turned into a full-time natural farmer now. One day we visited his farm. Enjoying the cool breeze embracing us from the Western Ghats, we entered into his farmland full of mango trees. It is not a grove but a thicket of the forest. That is the extent of the dense cover of trees in his farmland. He invited us with a blossom of a smile and shared the story of his farmland.
“My father was a mango trader. He used to get mango farms on a lease, harvest the mangoes and trade them to other districts. When I was young I used to go with him to the farm. At a young age, I was able to learn about various facts about growing mangoes, including plucking the mangoes, pruning the trees and so on. After completing my education, I could get a job in a local bank in Periyakulam. At a particular point, my father was doing his business at a greater measure. Officially I was transferred to his place, i.e., Bodinayakkanur. After having moved to this place, I was thinking of entering into agriculture. I cultivated pineapple in our own land. It grew significantly well as we maintained the farm properly. In 1989, I was awarded during a function in Kodaikanal, for the best performance in cultivating pineapples. I used chemical inputs only during those days.
In 1991, I bought this piece of land, spanning 65 acres. The land was full of mango trees at the time of buying the land. With a gap of thirty feet, there were about three thousand trees of various varieties, like Neelam, Senthooram, Kallaamai, Alphonso, Kalapet, Malgova. I bought the land with confidence as I was familiar with mango cultivation. But, I was not able to work as a bank employee and continue agriculture. I gained income only through letting the mango farm on lease. Then, in 2008, I took voluntary retirement and immersed into full-time farming.
At that time, farmers were complaining about not getting the right price for the mangoes they produced. Thinking that they were suffering only because they had relied on one particular variety, I decided to opt for intercropping, with multiple varieties. Then I started planting various plant varieties, such as jack, coconut, guava, lemon and papaya”. He, then, took us around the farm, sharing his experience.
“I have been reading ‘Pasumai Vikatan’ continuously since 2007. I used to read it with considerable interest, with regard to articles delineating various cultivation techniques and multi-layer cultivation. I took up natural farming completely ever since I had started reading the magazine, ‘Pasumai Vikatan’. I decided to go for intercropping only with the forty-five acres of land. I planted jack, teak and silver oak along the bunds. In 2015, I planted lemon trees in ten acres as intercrop. I planted approximately one thousand lemon plants in between the mango trees. Now they are at the stage of fruition. I also planted jack, teak and silver oak, one by one, between the mango trees. After they had grown, I made the pepper plant climber over those trees. There are one thousand pepper climbers on the farm. They are yet to reach harvesting.
Jacks are planted along the bund fully. There are totally one thousand jack trees. Those trees planted at first have reached fruition. In ten acres of land, between the mango trees, I have planted coconut saplings called, ‘Chowghat orange’. They have started yielding now. In five acres of mango farm, I have planted a papaya variety called, ‘Red lady papaya’ and I am planning to extend it in another five acres of land. I have planted a guava variety, called ‘Lucknow 49’ as mango intercropping. It’s only six months since I have planted it and therefore yet to reach the yielding stage.
Within three years those trees planted as intercrop will start yielding. I have been doing canal irrigation until now. But started establishing drip irrigation technology at present”. He then concluded.
“There will be a recurrent problem if one goes only for monocropping due to the sudden fall of price. But if one follows intercropping, there will not be any loss, if not getting profit. If one grows multiple crops, at the time of crisis, at least one crop will survive and support us. In mango farms, many plants such as coconut, areca, lemon, guava, papaya, fig, banana, jack, pepper, can be grown as intercrops. I am able to successfully farm only because of intercropping methods. I moved to the natural method of farming only because of Pasumai Vikatan. Similarly, the reason for me to opt tree crops is due to the advice provided by ‘Vanadhasan’ Rajasekaran, who was writing a series of an article named, ‘Cash growing trees’ in Pasumai Vikatan. I am thankful to Rajasekaran and Pasumai Vikatan’. Then he bid farewell to us.
Muthuvel Pandiyan, mobile – 93677 99887
Muthuvel Pandiyan shared the income statement with us. “I have leased out the mango trees so far. From this year onwards, I have decided to take care of sales, on my own. Last year, I leased out the mango trees for Rs 27,00,000. I hope I will be able to get more this year. From lemon alone, I have gained Rs 5,00,000, this year. I get Rs 2,00,000 from coconut trees this year.
I get Rs 2,00,000 from papaya in a year. Similarly, I get Rs 2,00,000 per year from jack trees. At present, we can conclude that I get Rs 38,00,000 from a total of 65 acres of land. Considering the expenditure, the net profit will be Rs 30,00,000, this year. Excluding the mango trees, and considering only the intercrops, I am able to get an additional income of Rs 11,00,000. It will increase three-fold in two or three years. In future, income will be greater through the trees like teak and silver oak”. He was highly confident about it.
He further said that even with one acre, intercropping can be done. In one-acre mango farm, we can plant 100 lemon saplings. Each tree can give around 50 kgs per year and at an average price yield of Rs.10 per kg, one can get a revenue of 50,000 per annum.
The same way one can plant 100 saplings of Guava. From one tree, we can get 50 kg of fruits. If one kg of guava is Rs 20, we can get an annual income of Rs 1,00,000. About 200 pepper plants can be made to climb all those existing trees, standing in the farm. With a calculation of having two kg of pepper from each climber, we can harvest 400 kg of pepper. If one kg of pepper is Rs 500, the income will be Rs 2,00,000. Agriculture will surely be profitable if the intercropping method is followed based on the type of soil and availability of water resources”.
(This article written in Tamil by R Kumaresan and Durai Nagarajan for Pasumai Vikatan magazine DT 25/2/19 has been transcreated in English by V Amalan Stanley).