Radhakrishnan of Achchamthavizhthan village at Virudhunagar district is a classic example for the headline. He has erected a pandal (temporary structure made of stone pillar and steel rods) upon which he grows and cultivates snake gourds aplenty under organic farm practice. It is not an exaggeration to state that of late, many agriculturists have turned to this practice and have been growing bitter gourd, snake gourd, peerkan etc. Under this method mainly because of the fact that it is simple and less labour-intensive.
Achchamthavizhthan is about 10 kms from Srivilliputhur where Radhakrishnan’s organic farm and snake gourd cultivation are so famous.
Radhakrishnan’s educational background is up to X Standard. He belongs to agricultural family but his father was a staunch follower of chemical fertilizers and use of insecticides. He was growing chillies, cotton and brinjal. Though his father realized that despite all chemical inputs he could not protect the plants from the attack of insects, he was not ready for changing the practice. However, Radhakrishnan got an introduction to one farmer who had motivated him to go for organic farm practice and suggested him to go through Pasumai Vikatan. At the same time, Organic Farm expert Nammazhwar had come to that area for demonstration and meeting in which Radhakrishnan participated. Having been thrilled, he tried to convince his father who was still not to be convinced. However, Radhakrishnan was determined to go ahead with organic method and prove to his father about the efficacy of organic farming practice.
Radhakrishnan sowed deluxe ponni variety paddy in his 2 acres of land under organic farming practice and was able to get 42 bags per acre totalling 84 bags which was equivalent to the quantum that he used to get under chemical process. The quality of rice was superior. Subsequently, he tried country brinjal under the same organic pattern wherein he was able to do away with the insects with the help of dried ginger and garlic essence and neem oil spray. The harvest was also very encouraging and his family automatically accepted the importance and value of organic farming.
Incidentally, Radhakrishnan could not mobilize adequate manpower on a daily basis to pluck the brinjals and hence he was planning to switch over to something else. In the meantime, he happened to visit his relative’s farm at Hyderabad two years ago and he had cultivated snake gourd under pandal pattern which was very huge and attractive. It looked like a hanging garden full of snake gourds. Having been motivated, Radhakrishnan immediately started in his two acres the same pattern of snake gourd cultivation wherein one acre harvest is on now while the other one will be ready in due course.
45 pluckings….11,250 Kg.
Radhakrishnan plucks snake gourds on alternate days from 6 am to 8 am only. Since it is pandal pattern, the vegetable is clearly visible and easy to spot out and pluck.2 persons are enough to harvest in one acre. On alternate days he is able to pluck 45 to 50 nos. which would weigh 250 to 300 kgs. Sometimes, it may exceed this. On an average, for 45 pluckings, at an average of 250 kgs.per plucking, he is able to get a total quantity of 11,250 kg.snake gourd and it fetches him Rs.12/- to Rs.18/- per kilo in the market.
Income & Expenditure Details of Radhakrishnan in one acre of snake gourd cultivation under organic farming practice:-
PS: Fixed expenses remain the same for subsequent harvests also and hence are not included under expenditure head.
Radhakrishnan is so confident that he does not even brand his vegetables under the head of ‘organic’ while selling. Customers themselves come to his place and are prepared to offer extra price up to Rs.3/- more per kilo because of good quality and bigger size. Even if he is able to sell it at Rs.12/- per kilo, he can get Rs.1,35,000/- for 11,250 kg of snake gourd. He says he will reap a net profit of more than Rs.1 Lac after meeting all expenses.
He further suggests that the demand will be constant for vegetables grown on pandal pattern and he is of the opinion that it must be of stone pillar so that it will stay for long and serve the purpose more lucratively than other types.
Lessons from Radhakrishnan on cultivation snake gourd in one acre:-
- 180 stone pillars can be erected for an acre of land
- There is no season for pandal pattern of growing vegetables
- Snake gourd is of 150 days vegetable
- The stone pillars should be 10 feet tall and erected with a distance of 15 ft.at a depth of 1 ft.
- The roof can be made with rods.
- 4 tractors of humus must be spread and the land to be ploughed with the help of a mini tractor and must be left untouched for a week
- With one plough drip irrigation must be made available
- In each row with 2 ft.distance a pit must be dug up with hand
- We must put one seed in each pit and close the pit with sand followed by irrigation
- 300 gms. seeds would be required for one acre
- Irrigation should be done the next day also and must be continued depending upon the moisture content
- From 5th to 10th day the plant will come out
- On the 15th day water must be poured at the ratio of 300 ml.panchakavya for 10 lt.water and 20 ml.fish amino acid throughout the cultivable land
- The above process is to be continued once in a fortnight
- Between 18th and 20th day the creeper will spread
- Immediately, it must be tied to the pandal for proper growth
- It will evenly spread over the pandal before the 35th day
- 40th day onwards it will start flowering
- 50th day onwards snake gourds can be sighted
- From the 60th day we can harvest
- From 75th day the quantity will increase enormously
- Harvest can be continued for 150 days
- 20,40,60 and 80th days we must weed out unwanted plants
- Each time when we do so, we must keep under each plant one handful of the following mixture of 20 kg.groundnut cake, 20 kg.neem cake, 20 kg.vermi compost manure .
Marketing & Sales:-
Radhakrishnan is very practical. He opines that we should not depend on only one market lest they should dictate terms on us. We may not have any option having transported and taken all the vegetables to one particular market. Instead, if we have two or three markets, we can avoid possible loss and waste of time and effort too.
Radhakrishnan says that rabbits do spoil the snake gourd seeds easily and that too, the same day we sow the seeds. Alternatively, they would bite the stem part if it has already started growing. The best remedy is rotton eggs to be soaked in 10 lt. water and it must be sprinkled once a week around the plants. The same remedy holds good for rats and bandicoots.
Ginger-Garlic Karaisal for red beetles:-
Red beetles may appear on the stems. Immediately, the insecticide should be used. He says that we must grind 250 gm each of ginger and garlic and mix it in 10 lt. water from which 100 ml. alone is required to be taken and mixed in water for sprinkling. The beetles will not come near the plant.
Uses of snake gourd:-
As snake gourd has Vitamin A, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous it is good for growth and development of bones. It eliminates toxic elements from our body. The water content which is available in snake gourd helps us maintain the right body weight and drives out unwanted salt water from our body through sweat and urination. The juice of snake gourd leaves with coriander leaves can be boiled and the filtered essence can be taken thrice a day to control jaundice.
Fungas disease & seasoned seeds:-
100 ml.panchakavya should be mixed in 300 ml.water wherein the snake gourd seeds should be soaked for one full night. The next day morning, the seeds can be taken out upon which 20 gm acospirillam, 20 gm. phosphobacteria should be sprinkled and the seeds should be dried in shade. If we season the seeds like this, no fungus disease will attack the snake gourds.
It is no exaggeration to conclude that snake gourd is one of the best vegetables that can be organically grown at a cheaper cost and with maximum returns.
(This article originally written in Tamil by Karthikeyan for Pasumai Vikatan has been reproduced in English by P.S.Ramamurthy)