Mango Called Sadabahar

Link to my article https://www.thebetterindia.com/140411/farmer-created-sadabahar-mangoes-kishan-suman/

I have copy pasted the same below:

Intimately associated with the history of agriculture and civilisation in India, we have had a love affair with mangoes since long, but it was Hsüan-Tsang, the seventh-century Chinese traveller who brought our fascination for Mangifera Indica to the world’s notice.

A country which has 1,500 varieties of mangoes, as a nation, we get excited whenever a new aam or amba variety makes its appearance. We each have a different way of eating, peeling and slicing or making aam ras with milk and jaggery—the luscious and fragrant fruit is summer’s greatest gift.

The same is happening with ‘Sadabhar’, a mango which flowers thrice a year.

Developed by Shree Kishan Suman, a Kota-based horticulturist and farmer, Sadabahar is a recent entrant on the mango-sphere and has quite a few similarities with Alphonso. Mango growers the world over are making a beeline for this new variety of the ‘king of fruits’ to have in their orchards.

Many in the know are likely to confuse Sadabahar with ‘Baramasi’ or ‘Dofasla’, which flowers and fruits twice or thrice a year but the former stand out due to its table quality, its lack of fibre, shape and size—all akin to Alphonso.

Popular with the masses due to its adaptability, nutritive value, rich variety, delicious taste and excellent flavour, Indian mangoes rank first among the world’s mango producing countries, accounting for about 50% of the world’s mango production.

The word ‘mango’ comes from the Portuguese ‘manga’, which is probably derived from the Malayalam manga. It is believed that the Portuguese introduced vegetative propagation methods in India during the 15th century when they established trading outposts along the western coast of India. These were then used to clone superior mono-embryonic trees, like the Alphonso, named after the Portuguese general Afonso de Albuquerque.

The most important mango cultivars of India like Alphonso, Dashehari, Langra etc., are selections that were made at the time of Mughal Emperor Akbar (1542–1605 AD) and therefore, have been propagated vegetatively for several hundred years.

Fifty-two-year-old Suman of village Girdharpura, 15 kms from Kota, belongs to a family of farmers who used to grow rice and wheat but gave them up due to the fluctuating market rates.

In 1995, they started cultivating rose, mogra and mayurpankhi (thuja) and continued doing so for the next three years. During this period, he developed rose plants which yielded seven colours of rose in a single plant and made good returns.

“I thought if I could work with roses, why not with mangoes. I acquired mango stones of different varieties and nurtured them. When the saplings became big enough, I grafted them on rootstock,” recalls Suman, sitting among saplings of different sizes and ages, bearing flowers and fruits.

In 2000, he identified a mango tree in his orchard, which had bloomed in the three seasons viz. January-February, June-July and September-October. He prepared five grafted mango trees, using them as a scion. This tree had a good growth habit and had dark green leaves. Growing them for years, he found the mango trees immune to major diseases and common disorders.

Soon the word spread and one Sundaram Verma, a volunteer with Honey Bee Network, informed the National Innovation Foundation (NIF), the institutional space for grassroots technological innovators and outstanding traditional knowledge, about Suman’s innovation. “NIF asked me not to sell or gift Sadabahar saplings, and for 11 long years I followed their advice while it was grown by them at different places in the country to authenticate the veracity of my claims,” says Suman, who took about fifteen years to develop his variety.

But for Suman’s nursery-cum-orchard, Sadabhar yielded fruits in Kamal Hissaria’s two-acre farm near Aalniya Mata Mandir on Kota Jhalawar Road, 30 kms from Kota railway station.

Suman-in-his-orchard-500x667

“I gifted him 20 plants in 2012 and the trees have been yielding fruits. When the fruit ripens, the skin acquires orange colour, while the insides have a saffron hue,” says Suman.

Hissaria who runs a tea blending unit in Kota is among the few who can enjoy the delicious and sweet mangoes three times in a year, unlike others who have to wait for the summers to have their ‘king of fruits’.

In March 2017, Suman was conferred with the Farm Innovation Award during the 9th Biennial Grassroots Innovation and Outstanding Traditional Knowledge held at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

According to Hardev Choudhary, Innovation Officer, NIF, Sadabahar blooms throughout the year. “The fruits are sweeter in taste audit and developed as a dwarf variety which is suitable for kitchen gardening and can be grown in pots for some years. It has great potential, unlike the existing varieties, and due to its off-season availability, it is likely to benefit the growers immensely,” he says.

Perhaps the nation’s or in fact, the world’s only hybrid mango that flowers thrice a year, Sadabahar has been registered under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act as a farmers’ variety.

Will it be able to dethrone favourites like Alphonso, Langra or Dashehari? It’s too early to tell. Meanwhile, ICAR-Central Institute of Subtropical Horticulture (CISH), Lucknow, which has the world’s largest germplasm of mangoes in its field gene bank, has acquired the saplings of Sadabahar.

Work at CISH is on to determine factors such as preferred agri-climatic zone and soil quality for Sadabahar to prosper. Dr K K Srivastava, Principal Scientist, CISH, says, “We now have five plants of Sadabahar mangoes and are studying its performance. It will take us close to three to four years to arrive at any conclusion.”

But mango lovers are unwilling to wait. And ever since Suman’s mangoes were planted at Rashtrapati Bhavan, his phone has been continuously ringing.

So far, Suman has sold over 800 plants, available for Rs 1,000 each, to nurseries and individuals in Delhi, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Telangana. “I have even received inquiries for saplings from individuals in Nigeria, Pakistan, Kuwait, Iraq, UK, and the USA, but don’t know how to go about it,” shares Suman.

Mangoes take around five summers to yield fruits. Growers need to wait that long but they are not complaining, for Sadabahar is unlike other mango varieties. Isn’t that worth the wait!

You can contact Suman at 9829142509.

The article appeared on http://www.thebetterindia.com on May 8,2018

 

 

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How to Grow Off-Season Moringa And Make Money

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.

Moringa 2

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.

Moringa1What 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.

 

Ramphal, Sitaphal’s Better Half

As the summer begins I have seen them umpteen times on the fruit carts of the neighbourhood hawkers but dared not to buy them. Moreso as I was never introduced in my childhood.

I was in for surprise this weekend as Mangal picking them up from a tree which had shed its leaves he presented them to me—a fruit shaped like a human heart.

RamphalYears back Mangal had mentioned that he had planted one at the edge of the farm plot. Standing ignored and hardly cared for, this April it yielded its surprise: Ramphal.  Not one but four of them.

Adam had made its appearance now I’m waiting for Eve to do my bidding! My three Sitaphal (Anona Squamosa) trees though over six years old have still to bear fruits.

Named after the deity Ramphal (Annona Reticulata) is sweeter than Sitaphal. Compared to Sitaphal, its texture is creamy yet slightly granular, especially nearest to the skin. It’s smoother, butterier and the best part is that it has fewer seeds. Also known as bullock’s heart Ramphal tends to have a smoother surface in varying colours. Some fruits are pale yellow while others are a rusty shade of pink. The fruit’s insides are very much similar to the female namesake, Sitaphal.

Ramphal grows wild and there has been no attempt to make hybrids of it, like in the case of sitaphal. Ramphal’s main fruiting season occurs from March through May. As it grows wild and not grown as a commercial crop you’re unlikely to see it in shops and malls.

A rich source of potassium and ample vitamin C, a nutrient that boosts the immune system, keeps skin healthy and assists with repairing wounds and cuts. The fruit also contains a good dose of potassium, which helps the body regulate its electrolyte balance, enhance muscle growth, and improves the body’s ability to process waste.

 

Red Ants Chutney, Very Nutritious

The moment I saw it I wondered what it was.  I asked Mangal what we need to do. He suggested we spray some pesticide but I was not willing and planned to seek an expert’s advice.

It was a like a cocoon created a swarming group of red ants with the help of newly arrived tender leaves of mango. An art installation created by scores of red ants.

RedAntsThese are the same red ants much popular among tribals of Bastar in Indian state Chhattisgarh who make Chapda chutney from it and British cook Gordon Ramsey during his visit in 2010 to make documentary loved them. He termed chapda chutney the world’s best chutney.

He clicked a couple of pics and messaged them to experts in my group.

I approached Ramesh Khaladkar, a postgraduate in agri science and an agripreneur and he told me that they were commonplace in the red soil of the Konkan region.

“Do you see any damage due to the Ants?”, he asked and went on to suggest: “If not, please do not disturb them. Actually speaking, the Ants are very helpful in controlling some pests.”

According to him, the ants make their passage from one tree to the other not disturbing human beings or cattle passing beneath.

Botanist and water conservationist Dr Ajit Gokhale explained it was a nest of red biting ants called as ombil (ओंबिल) in Marathi. “Their sting has formic acid and they keep the tree sanitized for some pests.  Not vicious though their sting can be a bit painful. They are also thought to pollinate the flowers accidentally. The chutney made out of them is bit sour and high in folic acid and other B group vitamins. Good to have them unless they are too many and too close to comfort,” he added.

Flower Memory

Such occurrence doesn’t happen often. At least I haven’t seen it in my decade of watching the natural world. I also believe that a decade is a mere blink.  In the second week of  February, I had made several cuttings of Gliricidia, the green manure tree, and put them in nursery bags. So that they would get ready for plantation before the monsoon appears.
img_20180306_100936.jpg

In the first week of March, I came across flowers which have appeared from the cuttings. The episode was timed with the flowering of Gliricidia. A clear indication that the cutting (branch) instilled the memory of flowering. And when the mother plant bloomed the cutting too flowered.
I haven’t seen this happen in any plants I have worked with. Isn’t it a miracle of nature? I think so. If you’ve come across such miracles I would like to hear from you.

Mulberry Days

For a fruitarian, summer is the time s/he anxiously waits for. With the last days of February it begins with mulberry, then comes green jackfruit, followed by grapes, watermelon, love apple and ultimately ending with the king of fruits: Mangoes.
Most orchard owners do not care much for mulberry for various reasons as it invites scores of birds and then there is the problem of picking the tiny fruits. But my purpose has been to build an ecosystem where I am happy to have the bird, the snakes, the butterflies, lizards and all sorts of benign and harmful insects. Well, the birds do chomp away a lot of mulberries. I let them have it for I have benefitted from their transgressions. They have brought and deposited seeds in my garden, of which some have grown into trees, namely the Laburnum, Singapore Cherry and several others.

mulberry (2)In my childhood, I knew mulberry as shehtoot. In Marathi, it’s known as tooti. Having spent my childhood days in Cantonments in places like Kanpur, Ludhiana and Ambala we were exposed to the cream-coloured variety which we devoured returning home from school after having written our exams. I have the magenta-coloured one. It makes its appearance as green, turn’s red with time and ultimately assumes the dark shade of magenta making one feel that it’s black! And that’s when the birds come to have their share. Not a stray one or two but scores of them raising a ruckus.
Plucking them individually is a chore and time-consuming though Mangal likes them that way even climbing the tree. I try the easy way out spreading old sari all around and violently shaking the tiny branches. The ripe ones get dislodged and drop down.

My mulberries—I have three of them—yields fruits twice. In October-November and once again in March. The trick is to prune the tree every year which results in the appearance of new branches along with leaves.

InShot_20180307_204205Though packed with nutrition, mainly anti-oxidants mulberry have a very short shelf-life and thus not available in the market. They also contain large amounts of vitamin C as well as Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, really high levels of Iron, and Dietary Fiber which all help to give the body and mind incredible energy.

According to www.ReturntoNature.us.They are also high in minerals like potassium, manganese, and magnesium and contain the B vitamins, B6, Niacin, Riboflavin, and Folic Acid. Mulberries contain flavonoids and phytonutrients and are extremely high in anthocyanins which help to fight against cancer as well as reduce ageing and neurological diseases, inflammation, diabetes, and bacterial infections. The berries also contain resveratrol, a powerful blood flow increasing antioxidant which you have probably heard promoted through the wine industry as their new claim to fame. Resveratrol is a powerful healer for many conditions such as ageing diseases, inflammation, and a number one go to as part of a herbal protocol for the treatment of Lymes disease.

Growing them is very easy as a mere cutting planted during the monsoon can yield a tree. I try to populate my orchard with one mulberry every year.

This year I had a bountiful harvest. It made wifey very happy and she made several glasses of smoothie which we have been downing your throats every morning. She has promised to make jam and pancakes too.

Biochar, the best way to dispose coconut shells

This Sunday something surprising happened. Months back, if I remember rightly, I had asked her whether she used grated coconut in her kitchen. And she, a Tamilian, had said: Yes, I do.

Thinking it as an opportunity to bring her closer to my plan I had said: “Can you gift them to rather than throw in the garbage bin.”

I had explained to her in details why I needed and she agreed. I knew I had converted to my cause.

biocharFour months later she waited for me at Badlapur station with two shopping bags full of coconut shells. I made a return gift of a medium-sized green papaya, a bunch of lemongrasses and a handful of carrot.  She was delighted and promised to motivate her neighbours too towards this eco-friendly disposal of coconut shells.

Days later Mangal helped me make charcoal out of the coconut shell which we commonly have known as biochar. Being porous biochar stores moisture for a longer period and can be spread around plants. Within a couple of months, biochar decomposes increasing the carbon content of the soil.

Coconut shells generally take nearly a year to decompose. Converting them into biochar hastens the process immensely. It’s very simple. Make an oven out of bricks, place the coconut shells and introduce the fire. Don’t let air to move in. And you get biochar in minutes.  As it cools spread them around your farm.

Thanks Poornima for believing in my cause. May your tribe increase?

Also read: https://anibongpalm.com/2010/06/23/the-case-for-coconut-waste-utilization-i/

 

‘Bamboo needs to be accorded the importance of a cash crop’

Botanist by education and horticulturist by profession, Hemant Bedekar was recently awarded a PhD for his thesis titled “Environmental effects on the expression of bamboos in the Western Ghats.” A promoter of bamboo for over two decades now and executive director, Bamboo Society of India (Maharashtra Chapter) he spoke to Hiren Kumar Bose on the future of green gold and issues associated with it.

bedekar

We have realized only lately that bamboo holds a great promise in ensuring a livelihood not only to the farmer but the artisans too?

It’s true. In most cases, the craftsmen have been dependent on the bamboo available at the mercy of the foresters or the ones growing on private land or acquiring them from the open market. My study shows that most craftsmen are engaged in this business only during certain months, namely November to February when fresh bamboo is available. There is huge potential for this craft activity especially basket making which is still used in the villages. Now, organic farmers too are using large storage cases, made of bamboo, to store cereals and pulses.  Then there an increasing demand from the corporate and tourism sector for gift articles. At present, the craftsmen engaged in this industry are generally old people and women. Youth are not interested in this enterprise. The entire craft industry needs to be supported with common facility centres with small hand-operated or single phase operated machines. There is increasing demand for small household furniture which can be manufactured by these artisans. The Industrial Training Institutes (ITI) in order to attract the youth should start bamboo training courses in the bamboo growing areas. Surprisingly there are syllabi for providing training is available, which are updated till 2014. I believe that there is ample scope for providing employment following modernization of the bamboo artisanship.

Can bamboo be the answer to the agrarian crisis and a source of livelihood for our farmers?

Bamboo needs very less water and that too until December – January. Systematic plantation along the agriculture field, along with the newly rejuvenated water currents, along rivers and all water channels, in the catchment area of the dams and percolation tanks, even wastelands and rocky lands will help the farmers as well as the nation. Bamboo reduces soil erosion, allows water to percolate slowly and replenish the underground water too. It works on the principle of rainwater harvesting and makes water available in wells which can be used for the second crop in Rabi. Bamboo has a great advantage that it thrives well if supportive irrigation is there. But it survives even if no water is available for the prolonged period. During drought, it hibernates and again grows when it rains.

Having spearheaded the cause of bamboo since long do you think the Maharashtra Govt. decision and now Central Government’s to free the transit pass (TP) condition for bamboo grown on private land will be a shot in the arm for those who plan to grow green gold?

What was TP? It was a permit to cut and transport bamboos in the given state. This was done for the protection of forest bamboo. These permits were issued by the foresters. The farmer growing bamboo on his private land was compelled to a take permit from the Forest Dept. Foresters always treated this as the source of income. There was always harassment from the foresters from top to bottom. In Western Maharashtra (Sahyadri) and Konkan bamboo has been mainly grown on private lands for decades together. The species grown here is Managa (Dendrocalamus stocksii). It is a non-seeding bamboo and hence never naturally propagated by seeds. As it is a non-forest species it was not possible for the foresters to restrict the movement of Managa. This has helped the farmers of 8 districts of (W. Maharashtra and Konkan) to cut and transport the bamboos to the markets. These markets are from Sankeshwar to Nasik. With one rough estimate, the farmers of Pune district (Only 3 talukas namely Bhor, Velha and Mulshi) sell Rs 150 crores worth of bamboo in open market. There is a well-established system of harvesters, transporters and traders. Kolhapur has two different markets for two different varieties for very long time. If all these 8 districts together are surveyed, it will prove to be the market worth some thousand crores. In Vidarbha, Marathwada and Khandesh, unfortunately, there is no bamboo on private lands. These areas have a climatologically different than Western Maharashtra and Konkan. Due to this difference, only Manvel and Katang are the varieties grow well. These species are mainly forest grown species. Hence foresters took the disadvantage and did not allow the farmers to grow these bamboos on private lands. Even if somebody dared to do that he was caught in the TP process and not allowed to sell his bamboos. The removal of TP regime will take some time to develop the market. Farmers especially the large farmers should take the lead for development of this. It will be a slow process. But it will happen without any intervention of the govt. In fact, in my opinion, there should not be any intervention of govt in trade. The failures of crops like cotton and soybean due to adverse climatic conditions and pest attacks, the farmer is searching for alternatives. Bamboo is a good option for places in Vidarbha, Marathwada and Khandesh where rainfall is scanty.

Being strong a CO2 absorber future do we see for bamboo in urban habitats? Growing them in roadsides, parks and open spaces?

Lot has been debated on the Co2 fixation ability and carbon sequestration by bamboo. The International Network on Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) working on this. If planted along water currents flowing through the cities it will improve the water quality flowing. There are ample places in the urban areas where one can plant bamboo. So also along the highways, we can plant bamboos. If planted in city parks and open places along large roads it will be very advantageous First by providing an evergreen landscape and helping reduce the temperature in the cities. Secondly by improve the air quality and thirdly provide huge biomass and along with the biomass which can help run a power plant or alcohol plant or CNG plant bringing in additional for the local bodies.

Which are preferred bamboo varieties in Maharashtra?

There are only four varieties of bamboo grown for a long time and on large scale in Maharashtra. These are Manvel (Dendrocalamus strictus), Katang or thorny bamboo (Bambusa bambos), Managa ( Dendrocalamus stocksii), and Chivari or Ooda (Munrochloa ritchiei). Of these only, the first three are economically exploited. Then, we have some varieties introduced recently, namely Bhima (Bambusa balcooa), Burma (Dendrocalamus brandisii), Giant Burma( Dendrocalamus giganteus) and yellow bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris strata). Except for Bhima, others are yet to be tested extensively in Maharashtra.

Is it true that Bhīma is preferred in Vidarbha and Marathwada while in Konkan it is Managa?

As explained earlier the bamboos which are from forests were not allowed to cultivate on private lands, Bhīma has been introduced. It is growing well in Gadchiroli. It has limitations as far as use is concerned. It is good bamboo for the energy, alcohol or CNG production. Its yields are high. But its growth pattern restricts its use in other areas of use like construction industry. We can judge only when other varieties are planted and started flourishing the in the area. Bhīma gives higher yields when grown with irrigation. Other bamboos grown in Maharashtra are rain-fed bamboos, with irrigation these also may give good yields. Yes in Konkan and W. Maharashtra along Sahyadri Managa is preferred and it is paying. The markets are well established.

What needs to be done on the fronts of technology and resource development to strengthen the foundation of the bamboo sector?

It is always quoted that China has developed the bamboo sector very nicely. I visited China and the Anji County. It is the hilly area of south-central China which provides the bamboo products to the world. It is a temperate region. The variety is Phyllostachys sp. The area is similar to Konkan or rather Sahyadri. Here we have also only one dominant bamboo i.e. Managa.  The Chinese Govt. has encouraged researchers, farmers, industrialists by treating bamboo as an industrial crop. Due to hilly topography, there were only two options – either growing timber trees or bamboo. Being a good substitute for timber and fast growing as well as the ability to start production within 3-4 years bamboo a has been preferred. We need to emphasise that sugarcane is not the only cash crop for bamboo has bigger potential than the former. Industrialists should come forward with contract farming of bamboo. There is another hitch. Once processed only 30-40 % of bamboo can be converted into a final product. The bamboos pieces of uniform diameter (6-8 feet long) are converted into strips round sticks which can be used in ply making, lumber making or fashioning Venetian blinds. Reaming waste which is almost 70 % is a load on the cost of the final product. But all the wastes can be used for one or other products. Namely, the upper portion of bamboo (around 8-10 feet) can be utilized for support of horticultural crops. The sawdust which is a major waste in this process can be used for making the pellets or particle boards. The bottom internodes which are of odd diameter can be used for Agarbattis or chopsticks or toothpicks. The remaining portion can be used as charcoal or a firewood. In China the whole process is called the preprocessing of bamboos which are done at village level and all the parts mentioned above are delivered to the respective industry. Such kind of the mechanism needs to be developed in India. The Maharashtra Bamboo Development Board continues to be part of the forestry department. It needs to be freed to flourish. Lot of things to be done by NGOs, like Bamboo Society to popularize and develop the mindset of farmers towards bamboo and we have started these activities. At the bank level, like NABARD and other nationalized banks should start treating bamboo as a plantation crop and provide finance to the growers for the same.

 

 

Searching for Weeds

The earth has dried up but is not parched as such, because of the morning dew which ushers in the moisture every day. Rains are a two-month-old memory now for it has been that long since the monsoon receded. Now, it’s opportune moment to watch for plants and flowers you’ve not been familiar with but which have taken home in the soil.

anantmool
Anantmool

Like the two plants, I found last week. For me, they were weeds–a plant in the wrong place is called so. But then there are soil scientists who believe that weeds arrive or sprout to take care of the soil’s deficiency. And in their own way add nutrition which the soil till recently lacked. Well, that’s the way I too think. For I’ve never sprayed pesticides to exterminate the termites which are plenty on my soil. In fact, I’ve created a congenial environment for them. Come the second week of October when the soil is still moist having received incessant downpour beginning mid-June they start chomping on the twigs and branches strewn all around. They begin covering the twig/branch with a thin film of soil creating a cocoon and slowly as the days advance it chews it away and soon thereafter the dust joins the soil.

When I found two alien plants I clicked them with my phone and sent it my botanist friend, Ajit Gokhale.

tridex procumbance
Tridax procumbens

The tiny flowering plants he identified as Tridax procumbens, also called coat buttons. The flowers are bulbous and easily snappable with long delicate stalks. Its Hindi name is Khal muriya , Tal muriya and Ghamra. While in Sanskrit it’s known as Jayanti veda.
One can find this plant along roadsides and attracts a lot of low flying butterflies. The leaf juice has wonderful wound healing properties. In fact, its Telugu name is Gayam which means wound.

The second plant is Anantmool (Hemidesmus Indicus). Try pulling it out from the soil and you’re likely to find that its roots are unending or anant.

It has a sweet smell and at times prostrate or semi-erect shrub. Its roots are woody and aromatic. The leaves are opposite, short-petioled, very variable and elliptic-oblong. Its flowers are greenish outside and purplish inside.

Anantmool is one of the Rasayana plants of ayurveda and has medicinal galore. It is used for venereal diseases, herpes, skin diseases, arthritis, gout, epilepsy, chronic nervous disorders, abdominal distention, debility etc. Its saponin content is considered to have a steroidal effect that enhances the production of testosterone.

Did you know that a face pack made of anantmool root powder and milk and applying can make your face bright and clear complexioned?

 

Conversations With A ZBNF Farmer

Driven in a white-coloured Volkswagen Polo you would expect an early thirties techie to play Bruno Mars, Adele or maybe Mika, if you’re  a Bollywood follower, but you’re in for a surprise as you catch a reedy voice talking about farming in an earthy Marathi. Yes, Sujay Gawand plays Padmashri recipient Subhash Palekar’s lectures on Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) as we do the two-and-half-hour long drive to his family’s farm in Murbad from Powai.

We leave behind villages named Saralgaon (the village of simple-minded folks), Tokawade (rhymes with takeaway) to reach Pendhari on the NH 222 after we have had spicy vada-pao and washed it down with jeera drink in a roadside restaurant which dots the roadsides claiming to offer you umpteen variety of dishes but has not been allowed to express their culinary skills beyond missal-pao because no one so far has asked for butter chicken!

Sujay“I have downloaded hours and hours of lectures and hear them often to catch up on the techniques of ZBNF,” says Sujay proudly, who is among the growing breed who either are hobby farmers juggling their jobs and dirtying their hands with soil or those who believe that farming is their alternative calling.  Till recently a whole time techie, Sujay having worked as a software developer in places like Connecticut and Hawai presently works as a freelancer techie and a farmer. “I am seriously into it… 80 percent into farming and the rest as a software developer,” says the man who spends three days in a week in his farm and also moonlights as a software developer for a start-up he and a friend own.

The Gawand family till about 25 years back lived in a wadi in Bhandup. “We had all sort of fruit trees, mango, chickoo, papaya etc. I still remember tasting the latex of papaya out of curiosity and spitting it soon in disgust. Thanks to creeping urbanization my father sold the wadi where now high-rise towers have come up and with the money earned acquired 18 acres in Pendhari village,” he reminiscences.

BananaFew kilometres away from Malshej ghat, farmers in Pendhari continue to grow paddy in kharif and bhindi (okra), and tur as a fence crop during rabi. Sujay has planted ‘bahuvarshik tur” which is likely to yield tur for a couple of years on 2.5 acres with various intercrops including moong and ginger. The tur plants are between 6 ft to 10 ft fed with jeevamrut and the occasional spray of dashaparni to combat the pest. “The person who sold me the seeds claimed that each plant would yield around 5kgs but I would be happy if it gave 2kgs,” says Sujay who sheds his sneakers for a gumboot as he assumes the avatar of a shetkari. “The locals laughed at me when they came to know that I was growing tur as a crop but now they come to seek my advice.”

This May and June Sujay door-delivered Haphus, Payeri and gaonthi varieties of mangoes to people in the Central suburbs and also to one family in Ville Parle. “Every time I visited my farm I lugged nearly 300 kgs of mangoes in the dickey of my car,” informs Sujay.

In fact, Ghorpade family was fortunate to have the mangoes because Sujay took matters into his hands. As family members rarely visited the farm the caretaker for decades had maintained: Kahi nahi hot. Meaning the trees hardly yielded any fruit.

Like most young urban dweller turned hobby farmer Sujay believes in the motto of share, cooperate and collaborate. Spent time with him he will provide you with hazaar ideas about crops, farming techniques, organic pesticides etc. – techniques which he has either experimented with or acquired from others experiences. Like pooling resources of like-minded farmers to concretise the floor of a local cattle owner and in turn the donor is promised complimentary cans of gomutra. Or acquiring a cow past its prime so that it doesn’t end up in a slaughterhouse. Pointing towards the new guest tethered to a tree Sujay says with pride: “That’s my new possession. Now I need not scout for gobar and gomutra.”

cowIt is always a dream of every farmer to grow paddy and next kharif season Sujay plans to sow the Indrayani variety. Once harvested he plans to leave the stubble so that he can squeeze a second crop the next season.  Being a techie Sujay’s approach to farming is like handling a project: trying to minimize the chances of human errors by researching the crop/fruit he plans to introduce, understanding the suitable weather conditions, interacting with fellow growers, accumulating information from locals etc. However, he is steadfast on the issue of never taking recourse to chemical inputs but find natural means to combat issues. Be it in search of growth promoter, fertiliser or pesticide.

Presently, in the midst of readying his plots for watermelon and pineapple, he says he is still to identify the pineapple variety he plans to zero in. “I will either go for Mauritius or Queen, not the MD2,” says he.

As he leaves me at Tokawade bus stand for a Murbad-bound bus he asks apologetically: “Hope your journey was fruitful?”

Indeed it was: for I was introduced to herbs like Akkalkada (Anacyclus Pyrethrum)—chewing the tiny flower makes the tip of the tongue grow numb for a short while; and Anantmool (Hemidesmus indicus)—the powder of its root used for skin conditions.

For an ignoramus, like me, till very recently they were just weeds.