Multicropping, self-help are the best help
— Photo: IISR
The farmer gets more than Rs. 4 lakhs as gross income per year
Flourishing yields: The farmer Mr. T.J. Abraham working in his farm at Kozhikode, Kerala.
Multicropping system and some diversified activities in a farm go a long way in de-risking the loss faced by farmers who stick to mono cropping.
The advantage with multicropping and some other allied activities such as dairy, poultry, and vermicompost units is that even if there is an unexpected loss from one of the crops, the income from the others will help the farmer to make up for it.
Mr. T.J. Abraham of Kozhikode was mainly a monocrop farmer who was growing about 500 areca nut palms in his 8-acre land. When a majority of the trees started to die due to yellow leaf infestations, Mr. Abraham approached the Krishi Vigyan Kendra of the Indian Institute of Spices,(IISR) Kozhikode, for help.
He was advised to cut off severely affected palms and replant with seedlings collected from disease-free areas and to start multiple cropping systems, in order to realise reasonable income and also overcome fluctuating prices.
Accordingly, he planted banana, cocoa, vegetables, vanilla, and pepper. On the boundary of his farm, a live fence of pathimukham, (its wood is highly valued for its natural dye) was also raised.
In about 5 years, his farm income increased, and he is at present able to get a gross annual income of about Rs. 4.47 lakh from the various activities in the farm.
“When I began to intensify farming, I found that non-availability of quality planting materials was a major problem. So I thought of starting a commercial plant nursery,” he said.
He started producing quality planting materials of various crops and slowly became a reliable source of planting materials to other farmers of the locality and districts.
His nursery flourished and with reasonable margin of profit he was able to realise a net profit of around Rs.50,000 annually. Seeing his success, a number of rural youth and women are coming forward to start similar nurseries.
Since he was able to produce quality-planting materials and sell them at affordable rates to farmers, the Department of Agriculture, Government of Kerala, declared his unit as the first Government approved nursery in the district.
“I was using chemical pesticides and fertilizers in my farm without giving much importance to organic manures. Even though it was effective for a short period, in the long run I found that I was unable to sustain the yield levels.
“Realising the benefits of organic farming, I formed a young farmers’ SHG (self help group) for organic farming, and as a first step towards organic farming I was trained in vermicomposting and coirpith composting,” he said.
He started a vermi compost unit with financial assistance of Coconut Development Board, Kochi, and at present he is manufacturing about 10 tonnes of vermi compost annually.
Since this was not sufficient to meet his full requirement, he started converting coir pith in the locality into quality compost using a fungus culture arranged from the Central Coir Research Institute, Alappuzha. In the first year, he produced about four tonnes of coirpith compost by this method.
He also started a biogas unit which provides biogas for domestic consumption and slurry for his farm. He found that slaughterhouse waste, which is supplied free by the nearby slaughter units, is ideal for production of biogas along with cow dung.
He has about 300 black pepper vines in his farm. Phytophthora foot rot was a major disease that infested the crop and the recommended practice of application of chemical pesticides was not fully effective to control the disease.
To solve the problem, a bio-control agent named trichoderma was used in his fields. “This was effective in reducing the disease incidence in my plot and many farmers are now adopting trichoderma application to manage the disease,” he said.
He has also started a herbal garden and was awarded financial assistance of Rs. 90,000 by the National Medicinal Plant Board.
For more information readers can contact Mr. T.J. Abraham at Thevarkottayil House, Avadukka (P.O.), Kozhikode-673 528, Kerala: Phone: 0496- 2668355 and 2669053.
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