Among vegetables, green leaves and flowers the crops that fetch daily income are primarily the flowers. That too, there is a stable market opportunity for Champanki (Magnolia champaca) all the time. Hence, the choice of most of the farmers who opt for flower cultivation is always champanki. One of the farmers who has been successfully cultivating the flower is Ponmari from Sankarankoil, Thirunelveli district.
His champanki garden is situated in Sevalkulam village, 12 kilo meters from Sankarankoil. We met him at his garden when he was preparing to send the harvested flowers to the nearby market.
Agriculture while teaching
“Along with my friend, Maria Inbent, I have been doing agriculture in this land. Chidambarapuram village is native for both of us. But both of us are not from farming families. Both of us studied teacher training course, together. He went to Dubai as he could not get a job here. I got a teaching job in one of the private schools nearby. I have been nurturing great interest in farming for long. Not able to withstand the work pressure, Maria Inbent too wished to return to our native and start a business for livelihood. That was the time we came together to buy a piece of land stretching 6 acres and 63 cents and initiate agriculture. It is a red soil, good for agriculture”. While explaining about his agricultural initiatives he called Maria Inbent on mobile informing about our visit to their farm.
Guidance through cell phone
Maria Inbent spoke to us over phone. “Though both of us did not know agricultural activities we bought this land based on our interest in agriculture. We planted lemon in four acres at the beginning as lemon is the prevalent crop in this area. Ponmari used to directly take care of the farm activities. I used to guide him about the agricultural technologies through internet. In the land space of half an acre, other than lemon trees, we grew brinjal. But it succumbed to more pestilence attack.
Solution through internet
In spite of my recommendations to prevent them from pest attack through references using internet proved useless. Ponmari appraised the helpless situation to me. While searching through websites in English generally it will show sites that recommend chemical treatments. On that day, for a change, I typed in Tamil about solutions against pest attack in brinjal. Only then I was able to get details about natural pest control measures. In all those information there was a reference to ‘Pasumai Vikatan’ and then only I subscribed to Pasumai Vikatan through online. That was the time we learnt about natural farming methods.
Pasumai Vikatan guided us
While I was browsing through the old magazines of Pasumai Vikatan from its archives, I came to know about Dindigul Maruthamuthu who was cultivating Champanki. There is a huge market for flowers in Sankarankoil market too. So, we decided to go for it and therefore reached him over mobile phone. We went for Champanki cultivation after getting all information related to its cultivation from Maruthamuthu. We have been getting higher returns from it. I will also join organic farming directly after returning to India at the earliest. You can get other details from Ponmari,” thus concluded Maria Inbent over phone.
Primarily Champanki and Marigold as intercrop
Ponmari continued describing about the cultivation aspects. “Maruthamuthu was the one who encouraged us to go for Champanki cultivation. As soon as we learnt about the higher returns from flower cultivation we planted Champanki in 1.25 acres of our land. We have established drip irrigation for Champanki. This is followed by growing marigold in another 1.25 acres as intercropping to four acres of lemon trees. We are getting returns from both the crops. With that confidence we opted for planting Kozhikondai flower (Celosia argentea) additionally in 1.25 acres as intercropping to lemon trees.
Selling is not a problem
We sell the flowers of Champanki at Sankarankoil market. The flowers remain fresh for long as they are organically grown. Therefore we get higher returns too. The price will be lesser if there are more jasmines and Pichi flowers. But usually we get a considerable return from Champanki, especially during the days of marriage and festivals. It is now one year old after planting.
We get 25 kg of flowers daily from 1.25 acre land. The yield will increase day by day. We could get yield continuously for six years if we maintain the farm properly.
Daily income of INR 2000
One kg of Champanki is sold for INR 80 – 200. Even if we consider the lowest price of INR 80, we get INR 2000 from 25 kg of flowers daily. It will be INR 60,000 per month. Deducting INR 7000 towards harvesting, transport and farm inputs, we could get INR 53,000 per month from 1.25 acres”, with contentment Ponmari described about the returns.
“At the beginning the villagers commented negatively about our agriculture initiatives, doubting what we could do as teachers. But I would not have earned this much had I got a government job. Organic farming made us achieve this milestone. To start with the cultivation of Champanki we had spent about 1.25 lakhs. But no other business will fetch us such a remarkable return with that principal amount”. Feeling proud about his agricultural venture he started sending the harvest to the nearby market.
Seed treatment essential
Seeds of Champanki should be treated before sowing to avoid fungal attack, to prevent seed decay. Decaying of roots, burn disease at the tip, withering diseases can be avoided through seed treatment. Therefore treat the seeds before planting.
Formulation using Ginger, Garlic and Chilies
Grind ginger, garlic and chilies together using mortar. Contain the grounded portion in a piece of cloth and soak it in 10 liters of cow urine for 7 days. Take 300 ml of the extract, mix it with 10 liters of water and spray it on the crops.
Here is the lesson of Champanki cultivation in 1.25 acre of land as described by Ponmari.
Planting in all seasons
There is no specific season for Champanki cultivation. After thoroughly ploughing 1.25 acre of land let it air dry for a week. Plough the land after spreading ten tractors of goat manure on the land. Then plough the land after adding 300 kg of neem cake to it and let it air dry for two days. Then lay a raised bed of 100 feet long, 2.5 feet breadth and half a foot height. There should be a gap of 1.5 feet in between the channels. Fix drip irrigation after channeling. Then spread a sheet of polythene along the channels to avoid growing of weeds. This is a polythene mulching sheet. Make holes of 5 inch depth, on the sheet in a zigzag way, a triangular planting method, in 2 feet gap between the channels.
550 kg of seed tubers
550 kg of seed tubers are needed for planting in 1.25 acre of land. Air dry the tubers for five days. Add one kg of Trichogramma viridi and one kg of Pseudomonas in 200 liters of water. To it add half of its volume of Jeevamirtha formulation and soak the seed tubers in it for 30 minutes. Then shade-dry the seeds for 30 minutes before planting, followed by watering. The seed tuber soaked formulation should not be reused for the second time. On the third day of planting the seeds, watering can be done. Based on the moisture content of the soil watering can be continued then on.
Continuous nutrient formulation
15 days after planting, mix one liter of phosphobacteria and one liter of Azospirillum in 200 liters of water and supply it to the plants through drip irrigation.
On day 18, mix one kg of Trichogramma viridi and one kg of Pseudomonas in 200 liters of water and supply it to the plants through drip irrigation.
30 days after planting, mix 6 liters of Panchakaavya in 200 liters of water and supply it to the plants through drip irrigation for every fifteen days. Next 15 days, supply 200 liters of Amuthakaraisal to the plants through drip irrigation. Then keep supplying Panchakaavya and Amuthakaraisal to the plants on rotation, alternatively.
Harvest after 90 days
After 15 days of planting the seed tubers will sprout and after 35 days the sprout will keep spreading. It will start growing significantly after 45 days. It will start flowering by 70 days and therefore can be harvested from 90th day. The flowers will be sparse at the beginning. The yield will be significant only after six months of time and it will keep increasing. The yield will continue to the maximum duration of five years. Spray a mixture of ginger, garlic and chilies if there is flour insect infestation found.
Marigold as intercrop
Marigold is planted as intercropping to lemon trees. Ponmari describes about it as given below.
“We have planted marigold in 1.25 acres as intercropping to lemon. Here too, we have planted it using raised bed method. It should also be maintained like Champanki. After 40 days of planting, flowers can be harvested till 90 days. We could get continuous harvest as we plant them on rotation. So, we can get 30-40 kg of flowers daily. In a month we could get about 1000 kg of flowers. One kg of flowers can be sold for INR 40-50 and therefore in a month we could get INR 40,000, considering the lower side of price. Deducting the expenses we could earn a profit of INR 35,000 per month.
Shrikar, Suhasini, Bhulorajini and Vaibhav are some of the robust Champanki varieties. But we could get larger flowers using ‘Prajwal’ variety and also the yield.
(This article written originally by Karthikeyan for Pasumai Vikatan has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)