Those who retire from teaching and police profession will mostly opt for similar assignments or consultations post retirement. Only a few will turn towards agriculture. One such person Dr Prabakaran from Arumuganeri village, Tuticorin district, was formerly a professor of a college who has been involved in organic farming successfully. We met him at his banana plantation situated in Idaichivilai village, 2 km from Thisayanvilai of Thirunelveli district, while he was overseeing his farm.
“This is my native village. My father was involved in farming. He mostly cultivated ladies finger, broad bean, snake gourd, ridge gourd and bitter gourd. I served as a Professor of Economics at Thiruchendur Adhithanar College, for 33 years. Even before getting retired I was thinking about what I wished to do post retirement. It struck me at that time to opt for agriculture.
No use by chemicals against disease in banana
In Vallavilai village, near Arumuganeri, I own 2.5 acres of land. In 2012, I cultivated Nadan variety of banana fully using chemical fertilizers. The plants were suddenly affected by disease where the leaves turned yellow and started withering. The disease rapidly spread to other plants. There was no use even after getting suggestions from others and using all recommended pesticides on the plants.
Jeevamirtham as a surprise
Sakthikumar was one of my students from Kayamozhi who was into banana cultivation through organic farming. When I sought his advice he suggested to use Jeevamirtham and also taught me the preparation method too. But I did not have any trust in using it but I tried it for the sake of it. After spraying Jeevamirtham the plants recovered from the disease within a week. I was so surprised to witness it. I started using it for every fifteen days as advised by Sakthikumar.
Guidance from Pasumai vikatan
Sakthikumar was the one who introduced me to ‘Pasumai Vikatan’to read, suggesting me that it is an ideal guide for organic farming endeavors. You told me that I need not seek for any other source on organic farming except to read the magazine and follow the methods recommended by the magazine. Immediately I subscribed to it. I learnt the complete organic cultivation methods including input preparations, simple farming techniques, natural ways of controlling pests and diseases, from Pasumai Vikatan.
I have a complete collection of the magazine from its first edition till now. I have also made notes in my diary about the references of pages where specific details are available as an index”. Thus he explained us about his journey of organic farming and continued about the cultivation methods.
Paddy through crop rotation
“Last year in Vallivilai, I cultivated 1,200 Robusta, 1,300 Nadan varieties of banana in 2.5 acres of my land. I have also sowed Karnataka Ponni as a rotational crop so as to continue cultivation after harvesting banana. At present the paddy is two months old.
Here in Idaichavilai, I have four acres of land. In 2.5 acres of it I have planted 1,000 Robusta and 750 Nadan, 600 Rasagathali and 500 Rasthali varieties amounting in total of 2,850 banana plants. It is now six months completed. And I am going to plant Redlady variety of papaya in 75 cents.
In the remaining 1.25 acres I am going to plant mango, guava, amla and sapota varieties. I have prepared the land for the same. Banana plantation is growing well through organic methods. I am getting very good returns too”. He continued to describe about yield and returns from the plantation.
No problems for selling
Last year I cultivated 1,200 Robusta and 1,300 Nadan varieties of banana. After removing the wastes I could get 1000 bunches from Robusta variety. As soon as they reached the harvesting age, I kept selling them gradually. On the whole, I could sell each bunch on an average for Rs. 356.80 and I could get an income of Rs 3,56,800. Similarly, as soon as the Nadan variety reached the harvesting age, I kept selling them gradually. On the whole, I could sell each bunch for an average of Rs. 452.60 and I could get an income of rupees 4,52,600 . From 2.5 acres of land I could get a gross amount of rupees 8,09,400 and after deducting the expenditures I could get a profit of rupees 7 lakhs and above.
The leaves of Nadan variety is leased out, which fetched me rupees 13,000 as net profit. I don’t go in search of organic shoppers to sell them.
As I get more yield I used to sell them in Arumuganeri village where they are bought on tender. Besides, for marriages and festivals fully grown banana plants are bought by the villagers for higher price. Therefore there is no problem to sell the yields”, thus he concluded.
Drought resistant banana
“Due to water scarcity many farmers abandoned banana cultivation. Therefore there are less numbers available in the market. There is already higher price for them right now. In this year I have planted 1000 Robusta, 750 Nadan, 600 Rasagathali and 500 Rasthali varieties, 2,850 in total. They will reach harvesting stage within four months. If I could sell all of the harvests I could expect a gain of 10 lakhs as income, this year.
Due to scarcity I use water frugally. There is no need of excess water in organic methods. Leaves are used as mulches to retain moisture content in the soil.
As the proverb goes, ‘a person who consumed salt must drink water’, if more chemical fertilizers are used there will be excess need of water in the soil. Because of that many farmers did not cultivate banana. Nevertheless, I will get a very good return, this year”, he bid farewell expectantly.
Banana cultivation as described by Prabakaran is given below as a lesson.
6 feet gap with 1 sf deep pit
Aadi month (Jul-Aug) is appropriate for planting banana. Prior to that, in the month of Aani (Jun-Jul) the proposed land for plantation should be ploughed, left air dried for ten days and re-ploughed. By this process, the weeds will be killed. In the month of Aadi, one square foot deep pit should be dug with a gap of 6 feet in between. One day prior to planting, the pit should be watered. The chosen tubers with high quality should be soaked and taken out with Jeevamirtham formulation. Then they should be shade dried for a full day. Then the treated tubers should be planted one in each pit, then fill it with soil and irrigate it.
After the third day of planting, tightly strengthen the soil around each planting. Based on the moisture content of the soil, irrigation can be planned. Every 25th day provide 200 liters of filtered Jeevamirtham per acre along with drip irrigation. Leaves will appear after 15-20 days of planting.
Eight days after planting spread a handful of Sanappu (Sun hemp) seeds around each banana plant. When they grow and flower, they can be folded and made as mulch along with soil and this will provide nitrogen to the banana plants.
On day 30 after, add 50 ml of fish amino acid in ten liters of water and spray it on the plants using hand sprayer. This should be repeated every month. On day 45, mix one liter of Jeevamirtham in 10 liters of water and spray it to the plants. This should be repeated every month.
On day 50, mix 500 ml of enriched E.M. formulation in 10 liters of water and irrigate it through drip irrigation. On day 65, mix one liter of Pseudomonas in 20 liters of water and the same to be mixed with 200 liters of water and send it through drip irrigation.
On day 90, mix 400 kg of neem seed powder in 100 kg of groundnut oil cake and put a handful of it in each stem of the plants.
Leaf dot disease will affect the plants if there is rain during the months of Aippasi and Karthikai (Oct-Dec). This should be controlled at the beginning itself. Add 300 ml of neem seed extract in ten liters of water and spray it on the plants using hand sprayer.
From 7th month, flowers will erupt turning into unripe fruits. Prior to flowering, during 6th month and after 8th month, mix 300 ml Panchakaavya in 10 liters of water and to be sprayed using hand sprayer.
From 9th month, banana will reach harvest stage. Based on the need they can be gradually harvested and sent for sale.
In a 200 ml capacity drum, mix 10 liters of cow urine, 10 kg of cow dung, 2 kg of country sugar, 2 kg of gram powder (any one of black gram, green gram, black channa and cow pea) and a handful of soil together.
Then fill the drum with water till it fully fulled and stir it every evening clockwise for 20 times. Within three days Jeevamirtham is ready.
Neem seed extract
Grind 3 kg of neem seed using a mortar and mix it in 10 liters of cow urine. To it, add each 1 kg of ground Nochi (Vitex sp), Kozhinji (Wild indigo, Tephrasia sp), Papaya, Oomathai (Datura sp) and Erukku (Calotropis) leaves. Daily stir the extract using need stick for ten days and the extract is ready for use.
(This article originally written in Tamil by Karthikeyan for Pasumai Vikatan has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)