Horticulture plants are important crops that require less water, support easy maintenance and having extreme drought tolerance. An organic farmer, S. Elangovan from Manupatti village, near Udumalaipettai, Thiruppur district is one of the successful farmers who has been gaining rich returns from cultivating fruit crops organically. We could meet him at his farm situated along the Western ghats, in one of the cool breezing early mornings, while he was gathering guava fruits along with his wife, Malarkodi.
Guava plan from a meeting
I am basically a civil engineer by profession. I live in Udumalaipettai because of my job. Whatever I could earn from my job I have no mind to leave my traditional profession of agriculture. While I was brooding over a unique way of farming methods I could get a solution through ‘Pasumai Vikatan’. I am an ardent reader of Pasumai Vikatan. I have collected and read all the issues that have so far been published. I learnt through Pasumai Vikatan that there was a seminar on organic farming conducted by Nammazhvar Ayya, in Karur and I was able to participate in the program. In the program, I happened to meet a farmer from Srivilliputhur growing guava. He told me that I could get a high return by growing guava fruits organically. Based on his advice I chose to grow guava. Cultivation of guava fruits in my area is rare. Hence I thought there could be better market opportunity to sell the fruits and so I planted guava seedlings in my 1¾ acres of land. From the time of planting till harvest, I decided to follow only natural inputs in my farm.
650 seedlings in an acre
I bought seedlings from a farm in Srivilliputhur at a cost of rupees 30 per seedling and planted in my land. We should plant at the maximum of 6-month age old seedlings. I planted Lucknow-49 variety. This variety of plant will have flowers at the time of procuring it from the nursery and will continue to flower after planting too. But till the girth of the plant grows up to the size of forearm we should shed the flowers periodically so as to provide strength to the stem. For the first three months, except irrigation no other maintenance is required. From fourth month, they should be provided with nutriments on a monthly basis, one by root and another by leaves.
Harvest in 18 months
We can get harvest from 18 months of planting if we could maintain the farm properly. It is three years since I planted the trees. I am harvesting for the second time. We can harvest fruits after having sown during Aadi (Jul-Aug) and Thai seasons (Jan-Feb). From both the seasons, we can get a yield of 15 tons annually from an acre of land. On average, we sell one kg for rupees 20. With that calculation, I get a return of 3 lakhs from an acre in a year. Subtracting the expenses related to seedling, pits, drip irrigation, maintenance and harvesting for the first yield, it can amount to rupees one lakh sixty thousands for an acre. From the next yield, it is only maintenance expense.
In regard to sale of fruits, there is no hassle. Shoppers visit my farm and pay me the amount after collecting and weighing their choice of fruits. So I find myself free. Though I am into engineering getting good salary, I have turned to be an organic farmer, having acquainted with Nammazhvaar Ayya, Pasumai Vikatan and many other farmers. Ayya often used to mention about Eco-tourism, a kind of tourism on environmental aspects. I have established it for the first time in the ambiance of Udumalaipettai that is suitable for the theme. I aspired to invite Nammazhvaar Ayya and make him stay at my farm. Unfortunately it did not happen but I believe his blessings are there with us” overwhelmed by emotion he concluded.
Bamboo home, herbal food
In his farm, he has established a house for a natural living, with a swimming pool. There is a pantry built with bamboo with a roof using wild grass. It could lure nature lovers. Along with regular food, minor cereals, herbal sauce, steamed vegetables and tea with Aavaram flower (Cassia) are served by his family members.
The lesson on guava cultivation in 1¾ acre of land is given hereunder as described by Elangovan.
Guava can grow any soil that has good draining features, giving significant yield. June and July are suitable for planting. While planting the seedlings provide a gap of 6 feet between the plants and 10 feet between the rows. Dig a pit with a dimension of 2x2 feet breadth and depth and it will be 650 pits per acre. Fill each pit with 500 grams of sand, neem cake and farm yard manure 2 kg and 5 grams of Trichogramma viridie as base manure and plant one seedling per pit and cover the pit with soil.
Provide the young saplings with growth facilitating nutrition through their roots. This base manure is important for protecting the plants from diseases as well as to prevent roots from rotting. Provide life saving water continuously and irrigate them weekly twice during absence of rain.
Panjakaavya, fish amino acids and buttermilk formulation
From the fourth month after planting, provide nutrients through roots and leaves. If Panjakaavya (300 ml in 10 litres of water) is sprayed for the first time, following it, spray Fish amino acid (50 ml in 10 litres of water) and then spray buttermilk formulation (500 ml in 10 litres of water) next time, on rotational basis. This cycle should be followed in every 15 days.
Once in every six months poke the soil around each plant using crow bar and pour Panjakaavya (15 ml in 500 ml of water) and cover the place with soil. This will facilitate the leaves to grow lush green and fertile so that they could produce adequate food for the plants through photosynthesis. Further, this will also help the fruits grow in size and rounded due to better supply of nutriments.
Khadi soap against flour insects
Guava plants are prone to flour insect attacks. It can be controlled by using Khadi soap and tobacco extracts. Mix a bar of Khadi soap in 10 litres of water and spray it on the leaves up to their base, fully drenching them using hand sprayer. In a similar fashion, spray 40 tanks of it for an acre. By doing so the soap solution will wash off the nests of flour insects, keeping the leaves clean. Next day, this should be followed by making gruel of Maida, boiled and cooled, added with 50 grams of tobacco powder and mixed with 10 litres of water. This should be sprayed on the leaves so that the flour insects are completed erased off from the bottom of the guava leaves. This practice can be initiated as soon as the symptom of flour insect attack is noticed.
Biofencing to protect from heavy wind
There will be heavy wind during the month of Aadi and therefore there is a chance for the flowers blooming during that period to shed off. In order to stop it and at the same time to enhance additional income, Elangovan has planted many other varieties of trees as biofencing. “There are 300 Moringa, 580 Malai vembu (Melia sp), 220 Mahogany and 100 Kumizh that stand as biological fence, serving as a wind barrier, shielding against winds. The trees also bring in additional income”.
Enhanced yield through fish amino acid
Farming will become complete only when the planted crops begin to provide stable yields. It is essential to provide ‘growth promoters’ to the plants in order to increase the yield. Fish amino acid helps towards that goal. Mix one kg of fish waste and one kg of jaggery together in a plastic bucket, cover it and keep it under shade. Keep it undisturbed for 24 days. After that the contents of the bucket become liquefied and it is termed as amino acid. 50 ml of it mixed with 10 litres of water and spraying it on the plants will facilitate better growth. This will also protect the plants from pox disease and leaf tip burns, leading the plants to look luxuriant and fertile, and increased number of fruits.
Pruning for easy picking of fruits
Growing plants should be pruned for every six months so as to control the plants growing tall, becoming unreachable. It should be ensured that the plants should be allowed to reach a specific height so as to enable easy picking of fruits. Further, they should be picked when unripe so as to avoid damage due to fruit flies and birds and small animals, and get complete yield successfully.
Weeding by sheeps
Grasses will grow in the gaps between guava trees. But I do not use weedicides to control weeds. Instead the sheeps I rear at my farm take care of weeding out the grasses in the farm. They not only control weeds by grazing the grasses but also fertilize the soil by virtue of their urine and dung as manure. Therefore sheeps can be grown in these kind of farms so as to get double profits.
It is better to buy them when they are very young so that they will grow within six months time and can be sold double the price of their original price. Through this task too we can get an additional income annually”.
Vermicompost before rains
Before the advent of rainy season, vermicompost should be added to each plant. 3 kg of it per plant should be given three times in a year. Only when the fertility of soil is enhanced there will be continuous supply of nutrients to the plants.
(This article written by G Palanisamy in June 2016 in Tamil for Pasumai Vikatan has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)