Pichandi of Eesur village near Chengelput has set an example to prove that multi-cropping in a shared land will yield maximum returns. Single crop on the same land may not fetch consistent returns. We cannot predict when it would fail. Instead, if multi-cropping is tried on the same piece of land, one or the other will help the farmer survive under all circumstances. While this is the core advice extended to farmers by the agricultural experts, Pichandi has been successfully handling his 3 acres of land with the help of this concept.
In his personal story, Pichandi shares that during his grandfather’s period, the entire land was under organic manure only but when his father took over, he had resorted to chemical fertilizers. However, Pichandi was able to convince his father by practically and successfully banishing a particular pest that was widespread on their crops with the help of natural manure and cow dung. Additionally, Pichandi has now fielded his graduate son Udayachandran also in the same process.
When Pichandi first started organic farming, he used 60 cent land only and the entire extent for bitter gourd cultivation. Due to organic farming practice, the size of the harvested gourd was unusually big and unfortunately the local vendor at T.Nagar refused to buy it from him stating that it would be unsuitable. Pichandi had to enlighten him on the nature and outcome of organic farming practice. He used to make use of the cattle manure, urine and humus only for cultivation. In the meantime, the Indian Institute of Science Centre officials visited Pichandi’s land and wanted to encourage by asking him to form a group. Unfortunately, for want of response, the group could not be formed but Pichandi continued to do his own practice with the available techniques which he had experimented. Later on, he happened to come across a group in the neighbouring village Chithiraivadi where only he came to know many positive factors behind the organic farming practice.
Pasumai Vikatan – Instrumental for his turning point:-
Pichandi was motivated a lot by the tamil magazine Pasumai Vikatan that had been highlighting the practice of organic farming. This further led him to go in search of many more Tamil books on agriculture. He underwent a few training sessions also and after three years, he was awarded IMO certification as a result of which he was eligible to even export his products. However, he did not attempt any exports for he was satisfied with his local production covering the available markets.
Pichandi strongly believed in multi-cropping exercise right from the beginning. Out of his 3 acres of land, he has allotted 40 cent for banana, brinjal and bitter gourd. He has set apart another 10 cent for bottle gourd. He has some more land not put to any cropping. He uses bore well cultivation. He is able to reap consistent results from all the different crops with little risk whatsoever. Pichandi further feels that absence of chemical fertilizers alone would not suffice to call organic farming but many of the inputs must be procured and utilized on the land to get maximum returns.
Pichandi’s Commercial Analysis:-
Return from Banana:-
For the past nine years he has been consistently cultivating Mondhan banana crop in his 40 cent land. When banana plant is ready for harvest, he would cut the banana alone and leave the tree . The essence of the cut trees would automatically be transmitted to the left-out plant. The natural manure would also additionally help the growing plants. In this process he has never planted any new banana plant in this portion. However, from last year, he has cultivated banana plant in 30 cent land and Karpura vazhai banana plant in the remaining 10 cent. Pichandi says he is able to sell one vazhai tar containing a minimum of 70 bananas daily @ Rs.5/- per banana. He is able to collect Rs.350/- per day against local sale with no additional cost.
Return from Brinjal:-
Ujala is the name of the variety of brinjal that Pichandi cultivates in the portion of 40 cent of land holding. Quite contrary to the general statement that organic manure will not help in the growth of this particular brinjal, Pichandi has been successful in using organic manure only for the effective growth of ujala variety of brinjal. He has erected a bar of 5ft. and with 2 ft.distance in between, he has planted the ujala variety of brinjal and once a fortnight, he has been sprinkling panchakavya and amudhakaraisal including neem oil as an insecticide.
Pichandi confirms that three months have elapsed since he planted the brinjal and in the fourth month he has now started harvesting once in two days. So far he has harvested 5,500 kg; thus he has collected 1,375 kg.per month on an average. He has been able to sell the same not less than Rs.15/- per kilo so far. He feels he has two more months to continue the harvesting and if the same rate of growth continues he will be able to reap 8,250 kg.in a period of six months. Similarly, if he is able to sell the brinjal @ Rs.15/- per kilo on the average, he will be able to get a total income of Rs.1,23,750/- in all. Deducting the expenses of Rs.28,000/- from this figure, he will be able to get a net income of Rs.95,750/-
Return from Bottle gourd:-
Pichandi says that he is cultivating bottle gourd in an area of 10 cents and once in two days he is harvesting. While he has so far completed 15 harvests, he has collected 800 kg worth bottle gourds. Still he can harvest for another 30 times wherein he expects around 1,600 kgs yield. Thus the total yield would be 2,400 kgs which he can sell @ Rs13/- per kg on an average. This will lead him to get a total amount of Rs.31,200/- from which if we deduct the expenditure incurred by him, i.e. Rs.5,500/-, he will be able to get a net return of Rs.25,700/- in all.
Methodology of growing bottle gourd:-
Pichandi has successfully done it on his 10 cent portion of land as under:-
Bottle gourd seed can be planted directly; however, it would be still better if it is done through mulching seed system and kuzhi thattu method with little bit of coconut fiber and thozhu uram mixed soil
The actual land where the plant is to grow should be prepared well within 12 days from the time of putting the seeds in the pits. If it is delayed beyond 12 days, it will be difficult and it will take longer time for the plants to climb upwards
The selected land should be irrigated with 2 tonne cattle manure and poultry manure. Then one more irrigation with the help of rotavator should be undertaken to grind the soil further. Bottle gourd will comfortably grow on the red soil land
A proper shed with pandhal needs to be erected so as to facilitate the creepers to climb up and grow
The raised platform can be put up with 2 ft. breath and ¾ ft.height while the length can be decided based on the available land. The in-between distance should be two feet
Drip irrigation is to be followed
The entire area should be protected with mulching sheet
Subsequently, with 4 ft. distance holes must be drilled on the mulching sheet for growing the plants
As base manure, we must put handful of pseudomonas and little bit of earthworm compost
We must ensure that water is sufficiently sprinkled on these plants through drip irrigation process
Irrigation must be done for ½ an hour on a daily basis
When the creepers grow up the side branches should be cut and groomed
After weeding side offshoots, i.e.on the 25th day, the creepers that grow up straight should be tied with a strong thread and must be allowed to climb over the pandhal
If the side offshoots are more they will prevent the straight creepers to grow fast
Irrigation can be taken up based on the nature of soil
Panchakavya must be sprinkled for a fortnight from the 15th day
Likewise, once in 7 days, amudhakaraisal must also be poured through the drip process
5 lt. EM karaisal should be given with water twice a month in order to avoid any disease from attacking the roots
If we sprinkle the fish amino acid once a month, it will give us more yield
Side offshoots will start coming up from the 20th day
From the 45th day to 50th day flowers will blossom
From the 65th day onwards they will become ripe enough and from 80th to 90th day they will become fit enough for harvesting
Once the harvest stage comes up, it will continuously give yield for 90 days. Thus the concept of multi-cropping on the same land will help the farmer reap more returns.
(This article written in Tamil by Durai Nagarajan has been reproduced in English by P S Ramamurthy)