There are many crop varieties that fetch income on yearly, monthly, weekly or daily basis. Greens and flowers are the crops that could get daily income. By choosing the ‘daily income fetching crops’ and cultivating them in a reasonable piece of land, based on the fertility of the soil and the local agroclimatic conditions, one need not struggle for daily household expenses. Thangavel from Coimbatore district is one of the farmers who has been getting daily income from his farm cultivating greens and other green leaf varieties.
His farm is situated in Athappa Goundan Pudur village, near Irugur. He has been cultivating many varieties of greens on rotation and also continuing zero budget agriculture for the past seven years.
We met him while he was tying the green leaves into bunches after harvesting them from his farm. “By 9 o’ clock, the van that goes to market will reach the farm. I need to tie the leaves before they arrive here”. He started to elaborate his agriculture activities, after handing over the farm work to the laborers.
Saline resistant green leaf varieties
This is my native village. There is 7 acres of land with well irrigation facility. The well will never dry up as there are aquifers within supported by the nearby Noyyal river. There is no textile dye related water pollution problem as the village is placed well before Thirupur from Coimbatore. But earlier, the water used to be crystal clear and therefore we were able to cultivate paddy, sugarcane, tobacco and cotton. But now, due to sewage pollution from Coimbatore city the water quality deteriorated and became saline. So, we manage to cultivate crops that could withstand salinity. And green varieties are apt for that condition. He shared his story about his entry in to organic farming.
“In the past, there would be more number of goats and cattle in the pasture lands. We used to keep them fenced for months within the farm and fertilize the land for cultivation. By dumping chemical fertilizers in the name of green revolution, they rendered the land infertile. I too was using chemical fertilizers in my farm, till ten years ago.
Loss due to Jasmine cultivation
In 1990, I cultivated jasmine in half an acre of my land. The plants were continuously attacked by various pests, like Aswini, root worms and sucking insects. We used to spray innumerable liters of foliar and penetrating pesticides of chemical in nature to protect the plant from pests. Even then they were not contained. We used to have great challenges just to cultivate jasmine in half an acre of land. I became debt burdened after spending considerable money on chemical pesticides.
Relief through zero budget
While things were so, I happened to attend a training program conducted by Subhash Palekar. Those three days of program changed me a lot. As I had been searching for an alternative method for chemical inputs I realized that zero budget was the only solution. Since 2009, I have been following various organic methods like, Jeevamirtham, potent jeevamirtham, Bijamirtham, Agnihasthiram, Brahmmahasthiram, planting of dichotyledon seeds and mulching”. Then he invited us to his farm.
Cultivation through crop rotation
“In order prepare zero budget farm inputs I keep three country cows at my farm. At present, there are coconut trees in 4 acres, green fodder in 2 acres and I grow spinach varieties on rotation in the remaining one acre of land. Currently, harvesting is going on in 15 cents of green varieties. There are other varieties like, Sirukeerai, Araikeerai, Thandukeerai,Palakeerai in the field. In the remaining land area along with these Amaranthes varieties, I cultivate other varieties such as Vendhayakeerai, Pudhina and Sengeerai too.
As I grow these varieties in each 15 cents, on rotation basis, they are available for sale throughout the year. The bed will be of 6x4 feet dimension for sowing. Araikeerai and Palakeerai are sown in 6 beds whereas Sirukeerai and Thandukeerai are sown in three beds each. He continued about the returns now.
Daily 150 bunches of green leaves
“From this 15 cent land I get all varieties of green leaves and I harvest them and tie them together as bunches. I usually get 150 bunches per day, each bunch weighing about 350-400 grams. A bunch is a quantity of stems with leaves that the thumb and index fingers could hold when rounded together. Every day local shoppers send orders and collect them. Similarly, the organic shoppers buy from us through orders. Of the 150 bunches, about 100 will be bought by the local shoppers. I sell to them at the rate of rupees 4-6 per bunch. The remaining bunches of 50 will be sent to organic shoppers, pricing rupees 10 per bunch.
Income of rupees 950 per day
On an average, I get rupees 450 from 100 green bunches. Similarly, from the organic shoppers I get ruppes 500 from 50 green bunches. In total, daily I get rupees 950 from 15 cents of land. Deducting the expenses related to sowing, weeding, harvest and farm inputs, which would amount to rupees 250, I get a net profit of rupees 700”. He says with contentment.
Peaceful organic farming
“It is satisfactory to get that much profit from 15 cents of land. Nevertheless, I get more satisfaction by the fact that I am producing poison-free green leaves. That gives me peace of mind. For the cultivation process, I spend only an hour a day. Whatever agriculture one does in the farm, cultivation of green varieties will provide money for daily expenses”. He then went to attend the transport van that used to take his harvest to the nearby market.
What Thangavelu shared about green variety cultivation is given hereunder as a lesson.
Generally, there is no specific season for planting green leaves. Any time is ok for sowing the seeds. But it is better to avoid sowing at the time of excess rain. After deciding the span of land for cultivation, plough the land and plot it 6x4 feet. Level the plot or bed by adding 10 kg of farm yard manure. Then add one kg of potent jeevamirtham in each bed. Spread 100 gram of seeds in each bed and streak the floor crisscross with a stick. Mix 500 ml of Jeevamirtham in 10 liters of water and spray it to each bed.
After the third day of sowing, the shoots will sprout. Weed out the plot every now and then. Irrigate the bed based on the moisture content of the bed. Mix 500 ml of Jeevamirtham for each bed along with irrigation. Araikeerai, Sirukeerai and Thandukeerai will reach harvest about 22-30 days, whereas Palakeerai requires 45 days. Sirukeerai and Thandukeerai are single-life plants and therefore rooted out during harvest. After harvesting, the land can be leveled and airs dried for 15 days and then can be used for further sowing. Araikeerai and Palakeerai are regenerative plants. Therefore Araikeerai can be cut in every 20 days and it can be continued for 10 times. Palakeerai can be cut in every 15 days and can be continued for 30 times.
You can get the harvest continuously if the single-life greens are sowed in the beds in such a way to get daily harvest, on rotation. Similarly it can be followed for the regenerative greens by pacing out the sowing depending on the harvest time.
Palekar visited Thangavel’s farm
In 2009, Subhash Palekar, one of the pioneers of zero budget farming, visited his farm along with a few local farmers. He shared about his experience with Palekar. “He visited every nook and corner of my farm land. He pointed out the lack of nutrients in some parts of my land. Further he said, ‘Earthworms are the best farmers. It is enough the land has cow dung. However deep they stay within the soil, they will come out and eat up the cow dung and generate organic manure. Wet cow dung will lure earthworms. Dry farm yard manure will not attract them. Therefore when farm yard manure is poured on the land, it is better to have it sprayed with one liter of Jeevamirtham in 10 liters of water. Then the earthworms will swarm the ground’. Based on his advice I made it a point that whatever part of the land you touch you will get enormous numbers of earthworms. Filtered Jeevamirtham is spent through drip and sprinkler irrigations to the green crops.
Bijamirtham for seed treatment and Agnihasthiram against insects
“Generally, for the next phase of cultivation, I don’t buy seeds from the shops. I allow particular crops to flower and collect seeds from them. I treat the seeds using Bijamirtham and this will facilitate better sprouting. Further, there will not be root related diseases. In the green fields, I grow marigold along the bunds so as to protect the crops from insect attack. In spite of all these measures, if pestilence is found, I used to spray Agnihasthiram and Brahmmasthiram,” thus he concluded.
(This article originally written in Tamil by G Palanisamy for Pasumai vikatan has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)