While agriculture is facing a challenging time in the light of drought, poor pricing etc. and many agriculturists are moving out of agriculture, people like Nandakumar are determined to overcome the same by resorting to possible alternatives in the field. Nandakumar belongs to Kanchipuram district and is engaged in rearing casuarina trees. He emphatically says that timber wood cultivation especially casuarina will pay comparatively rich dividends under organic farming.
Nandakumar’s farm is situated in Nallamur village near Madurantakam. Agriculture is hereditary business for him right from his grandfather’s time. Nandakumar had it as full-time job upon completion of his college education and his father’s unexpected death in 2003. He has 30 acres of land wherein he cultivates casuarina trees in about 16 acres and in the remaining portion he is cultivating paddy, tomato and urad. Of course, he now plans to grow only casuarina in his entire 30 acres.
Nandakumar’s land is full of red soil with well water irrigation. In the early years he was following chemical farming only but since 2010, he has been under organic farming, thanks to Pasumai Vikatan and Ariyanur Jayachandran who helped him to learn about organic farming step by step. Initially after shifting to organic farming, his land did not get him adequate returns but at the same time, his perseverance helped him increase the returns steadily.
Nandakumar owes his gratitude to Jagadeesan for the practical suggestions given to him in regard to rearing the casuarina trees. He says that while casuarina trees can grow without much manure, they require constant water supply. There are two types such as a) country type and b) hybrid variety. There are some advantages in the country type such as a) the country type only would get us more thickness; b) vendors prefer country type only normally; c) the trees would not bend much but at the same time will be very strong; d) they are preferred for construction activities. However, they cannot withstand drought. Water must be made available always. Whereas the hybrid variety can manage drought and still grow but will not fetch more revenue. Mainly, the paper industry would buy these hybrid variety. In general, these trees can be cut from 1 ½ years itself and after five years, the profit will be more. Nandakumar has planted hybrid variety and country type in 8 acres each. He will harvest the country type in about 2-3 months while 2months only have elapsed since he planted the country type.
Profit from first yield:-
Nandakumar had planted country type casuarina in 3 acres in the year 2005 for the first time. When he harvested this in 2009, he got a yield of 120 tonnes from 3 acres which he sold @ Rs.3,000/- per tonne, thus getting a total income of Rs.3,60,000/-. Deducting the expenses amounting to Rs.40,000/- he got a net profit of Rs.3,20,000/-
Profit from second yield:-
In 2010 Nandakumar planted country type in his 5 acres of land and made the harvest in 2014. He got a total yield of 225 tonnes which he sold @ Rs.4,500/-thus getting a total income of Rs.10,12,500/-. Deducting the total expenses of Rs.70,000/-, he was able to get a net profit of Rs.9,42,500/-
Nandakumar further says that he has planted the same country type trees in 8 acres in 2013 which he will be able to harvest in about 2 months. He expects to get around 40 tonnes and if he is able to sell it @ Rs.4,500/- per tonne, he will easily get a net profit of more than Rs.13,00,000/- Nandakumar concludes that if one cultivates country type trees in about 5 acres, he will surely get a considerable profit from this without any doubt.
Nandakumar shares from his experience that if drip irrigation is introduced for casuarina trees, there will be no undue dependence on manpower; expenditure on water will be less and harvest will be under effective control.
Feedback from Jayakumar of TNPL, Karur:-
Oil secreting trees and casuarina trees are mainly used for paper manufacture
They give the plants at subsidized rates to those who have a minimum one acre land for cultivation and adequate water availability
They give counselling for planting, cultivation and harvest including maintenance
He says one can expect 60 tonnes yield from one acre
If the tree growth measures an inch of diameter from the centre portion the company itself would buy it @ Rs.4,500/- per tonne
There is a condition that the tree growers are required to door-deliver at this price. In case they are not able to deliver, the price would be subject to change as the company has to arrange for delivery
Tips for cultivation:-
The portion of land meant for casuarina cultivation should be left untouched and dried for 5 months
2 tonnes of manure per acre should be put and spread throughout, followed by 8 ploughings
Pits of 2 inches depth between 3 ft. distance must be created for planting the casuarina plant
4,800 plants can be planted in an acre
Up to one year the land should be irrigated once in ten days and afterwards once in 15 days irrigation can be provided
Weeds must not be allowed. Cutting of side branches must be done whenever required.
Harvest can be undertaken from 1 ½ years depending on the position
Trees of 5 years of age will fetch good returns
After complete harvest, the land should be cleaned up thoroughly for next phase of planting and cultivation
As already mentioned these trees can grow in any soil except for alkaline soil. However, if it is fine sand , the harvest must be done within 3 ½ years; or else, the trees will fall down. If the successive cultivation is undertaken after due land reclamation, the trees will grow stronger and healthier.
(This article originally written by Durai.Nagarajan in Tamil for Pasumai Vikatan has been reproduced in English by P.S.Ramamurthy)