I came to know of Thanga Raj Nadar (38) while doing an article for the Hindu Business Line and ever since then has kept in touch with him. A year later I connected with him to know what learning’s he has gathered growing Moringa.
Having worked six long years as a software engineer in Mumbai-based Kotak Securities Nadar quit his job in 2013 to return to village Karungulam in Tamil Nadu’s Nagercoil district to pursue farming. He planted three varieties of Moringa, namely PKM 1, PKM 2 and ODC, on his 20-acre ancestral farm. Besides running a software firm with his brother in law he now manages his 90-acre farm and also sells his agri produce like moringa powder, moringa dried flower, moringa seeds, fresh drumsticks etc. through his website www.indianagrifarm.com. Here is an excerpt from a chat I had with Nadar.
Why did you choose Moringa as a crop?
Even a person who has hardly any knowledge in farming s/he is likely to get good yield growing moringa if the proper schedule of irrigation, application of fertilizer and pest control is followed. One can get an abundant yield in March and April in Tamilnadu but as the supply is more than the demand one can get only 5 Rs per kg but the same pods sold in November and December is likely to yield 100 Rs per kg!
What practices did you follow to get good yields in the off-season?
We conducted a study at our farm to induce off-season flowering and pod set during November to February. In this study, we followed some practices to induce flowering and fruit setting of ODC3 moringa variety. We arrived at these conclusions:
- Sowing to be done between 30thApril to 15th
- Germination begins from the 10thday post sowing and the pinching done when the plants reach a height of 2 ft. and subsequent pinching e 25 days later. This helps the tree to form an umbrella like shape which induces more branching followed by better holding capacity of the tree for flowering and fruiting.
- The crop has to be sprayed with the chemicals 0.5 % potassium nitrate, 0.5 % nitrobenzene at the rate of two sprays during the 70thday and 85th
- The crop will come to flower from 90 to 100 days after sowing.
- The spray induces flower initiation by bud formation at the onset of flowering. (Physiological parameters like total chlorophyll content, soluble protein, nitrate reductase activity and relative water content had a significant effect on the off-season flower induction and fruit set)
- This induces the off-season production of moringa during November to February. The rainfall if coincides with flowering could induce dropping of flowers but later dates after flowering will not affect the pod set and pod yield.
- Flower should not be allowed before last week of September
- Plenty of FYM should be given as a basal dose
- Flowering can be induced by giving mild stress to plant ie. stop water or give less water, this activity should be done in the second week of September
- The first week of September, 5-10 kg of Poultry Yard Manure should be applied to each plant, this PYM generates soil heat and helps the plant to flower.
What is the variety of Moringa you prefer?
ODC3 as it is a selective variety of ODC. We visited a number of ODC drumstick farms located in different states of India in our quest for a good variety of Morina. We acquired some 45 samples and planted them in our farm in 2012. We observed different characteristic of plants i.e. flowering season, fertilizer application, water requirement, fruit set, taste, size, weight and yield. We selected few plants which possessed special characteristics, which we thought could get us good market both in India and abroad. It is a pureline selection developed by continuous selfing for six generations, collected from varies States. In each generation, only long pods, good colour, taste like desirable characters were selected and advanced. The fruits are fleshy and tasty. It comes to flowering within 3-4 months of sowing and can be harvested within 6 months of planting. The average yield of the variety is 300 fruits / tree.
Do you suggest any seed treatment before sowing? If yes, what?
Yes, I strongly recommend the following seed treatment to prevent the spread of seed-borne diseases. I would recommend bio fertilizers like Azospirillum and Pseudomonas for seed treatment.
Is there any organic fertilizer you suggest?
There are plenty of commercial organic fertilizers in the market which are very costly and not affordable for small /medium scale farmers. The main raw materials for all commercial organic fertilizer production are animal manure so applying your own Farm Yard Manure (FYM) with enriched form is likely to do the trick. However, only one organic fertilizer I would recommend at the time of flowering, i.e. “HB-101”. It is plant growth enhancer manufactured in Japan. It’s very costly. A litre costs around 15000 INR. You can order the same online. http://www.hb-101usa.com
Beside Moringa what do you have any your farm?
We do four varieties of Tulsi, Stevia and fodder crops such as Super Napier and CO5.
Have you tried Moringa extract as a bio fertiliser?
No, I have heard about it but haven’t tried it as yet.