Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Melia Dubia : At 5 months and many more to go...

Finally, monsoons are over(fortunately it was not as heavy as last year) and the weather is fantastic. On the low end at 17C and at maximum of 29C, it is almost too good to be true for this part of the country. As promised, here is an update on Melia Dubia and the progress thus far.

If you recall, we planted Melia Dubia saplings during first week of August, right at the onset of pre-monsoon showers. In case you missed the blog, you can check it out at

http://techie2aggie.blogspot.com/2011/08/melia-dubia-planting-pictures.html

So far the plants have demonstrated robust growth. At almost 5 months, some of our 'star' trees stand tall at 12 feet, though the average height would be about 5-6 feet. We have witnessed patchy growth in a few areas so it is evident that the growth is dependent on soil quality, moisture (excessive moisture is detrimental) and soil loosening. There were a couple of lines that we added later on but the pits were dug by hand (and not deep enough by a JCB). The plants in these pits have not grown as well as the others - in other words, loosening of soil to about 2 ft is essential for a good growth.

We have not applied any chemical additives so far and plan to minimize their use as much as possible (may be 3-4 times a year). It is said that the compactness of timber is reduced on using fertilizers.

To give you a reference, our worker is about 5 ft 7 inches tall.




Although the overall growth is encouraging and finally one part of the farm is lush and green, we had a little firefighting to do during monsoons ( that's an agri-oxymoron!). Our Melia Dubia plots are close to a couple of large village water tanks. During monsoons, the ground water in these plots rose leading to excessive underground moisture. We had about 40-50 plants that succumbed to root rot.

Root rot is a condition when the roots decay due to excessive moisture. Wilting of leaves is a symptom and fruity smell from the roots confirms the condition. We contained the problem by applying Bavistin (fungicide) 2gm/L on the plants.

Drooping branches and wilting leaves are typical symptoms of root rot. A red ribbon was tied to ascertain if the condition is infectious. Although it is said that root rot can spread to other healthy plants by water and soil, we did not notice it on our farm.

Plant afflicted with severe root rot.

In the first couple of months, we witnessed yellowing of leaves in large numbers. One of our consultants suggested applying Ferrous Sulphate mixed with Neemcake (for iron deficiency). The blunder we made was applying the mixture right at the base of the stem. For all the new agri-preneurs out there, it is almost never a good idea to apply any kind of manure or additive at the based of the plant. You should always maintain a little distance from the stem. General rule of thumb is to apply the mixture at the circumference of the canopy.
Though there were a few casualties that could not be recovered, we were able to salvage most of them. Now, a number of these plants have a black ring around the stem (Neemcake is hot and should not be used in excessive amounts).

A decimated stem due to improper application of neemcake.


This should be the last post for 2011 unless I suddenly feel the urge to post an update on watermelons on new years' eve. Watermelon seeds have shown good sprouting in 7 days.

Thanks to all the readers for following our activities and developments. Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous year ahead!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Watermelon: Short term crop # 2

We have accomplished sowing our second short term crop for this year. Rains receded by second week December, which allowed us to sow by third week.
Watermelon can be sowed anytime between November and January but care should be taken that there is no water stagnation at the time of planting.

This time we were a little more ambitious and sowed 2 acres. Spacing is 2 ft by 5 ft and only 1 seed was placed in a pit (compared to traditional method of sowing 2-3 seeds per pit)


Basal dose included 1 bag of DAP and Potash each (50 Kg) per acre in addition to 1 mug of FYM and coir pith compost each per pit.


16 packets(50g each) Seminis seeds (hybrid) were used for 2 acres.


A total of 4 male and 6 female labourers were needed to sow 2 acres in one day.


Come late February, we should have an update for all of you on some nice juicy, red watermelons!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Season's Greetings!

Hope this holiday season brings joy to everyone!

Our maiden year has been full of adventures, successes and learnings. We have enjoyed each step along the way which made 2011 a very fulfilling year. Looking forward to the coming year since we have much more to accomplish.


Wishing abundant success, prosperity and happiness to our readers!
Season Greetings & Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Drop by drip!

A couple of you had requested to post a blog on drip installation, so here are my initial thoughts and learnings. At the outset, designing and installing drip may seem to be a daunting task but once you have gone through the process, the science and technique can be mastered. Firstly, let me break down the essential components of a drip system -

1) Head Unit: This connects the water source (borewell) to water carrier system (PVC pipes). Depending on the quality of water, it may contain a hydro-cylonic filter and a disc filter to remove sand particles and impurities.

This is our head unit. Blue tank contains heavier impurities which need to be cleaned periodically. Finer impurities are filtered by disc filter (black)












Three control valves that control the water in each direction. This is IMPERATIVE (for big farms) and will save you a lot of walking.













2) Water carrier system: There is mainline that connects the head unit to the end of the plot. Typically, perpendicular to mainline are sub-main lines. The pipe size of sub-mains are smaller than main line. At the junction of main and sub-main lines is a valve to control the flow of water for a particular section of the plot.

Two valves for mango and vegetables. It is a good idea to have separate valves for each to control irrigation and fertigation.













It is always a good idea to have a bypass pipe (the one leading into the tank) to avoid high pressure and potentially bursting of pipes.
We used this while irrigating Brinjal. Area under irrigation was much smaller compared to the outflow of pump, hence water had to be pumped back into the tank (yes, not the most efficient method! )




3) Laterals: This is the pipe that actually delivers the water to the plant. There are two types of laterals - Inline and Online.
  • The former is used typically for vegetables, bananas where continuous wetting is required or roots grow laterally or the spacing between plants is close (in cm). There are built-in drippers inside the lateral pipe. 
  • The latter is used for orchard crops where the distance between two trees may be large (in meters). In online laterals, external drippers need to be attached to the lateral. The holes in laterals come in multiple spacings (30 cm, 45cm, 60 cm etc). Like wise, the drippers come in different water discharge rates - 4 Liters per hour (lph), 8lph etc. Depending on the crop, water requirement, operating time, your drip installer should be able to tell you which one is suitable.

Online dripper
















Inline dripper















  


Some DOs and DON'Ts
  1. When you are dealing in big acreages (10 acre +), it is advisable to use a JCB to dig out the trenches. Digging manually is not only inefficient but very time consuming. 
  2. When reviewing a drip design, ensure you have the ability to control water to all sections of the farm in a centralized manner. In other words, it is a good idea to have 4 'control valves' for the four directions. Closing one of them should completely shut off the water for that part of the farm irrespective of 'local valves' position. This will save you a lot of walking.
  3. You should perform 'flushing' of drip lines (both PVC pipes and laterals) periodically (once in 15 days) to avoid clogging of pipes.
  4. If you plan on inter-cropping between orchard crops, make sure there are separate pvc pipes/valves for both for fertigation purpose else you will end up fertigating both the crops at the same time. In other words, you will end up fertigating Urea on Mango and Brinjal when it is only needed for Mango. It seems common sense but a leading drip irrigation provider did not figure this before we pointed this out.
  5. Use pressure compensated drippers if your land has a gradient.
  6. At the time of irrigation, make sure the pressure valve reading does not exceed 2 kg/cm^2. Higher pressure can lead to bursting of PVC pipes.
  7. If your drip irrigation schedule involves multiple sessions (typical in bigger farms), always open the second section's valves first and then close the first section's valves. Again pressure build up can damage the pipes.
  8. It is a good idea to have a bypass valve at the water source to create multiple water sources for shadenet or labour quarter etc.
  9. If you plan on having avenue trees or trees not irrigated by drip, it is again a good idea to have water outlet points that can tapped from PVC pipes that lead to a central tank. So every time you run the borewell to fill up the tank, you can irrigate trees that are not irrigated by drip.
  10. Ensure that the laterals are not very long. More the distance from submain, lesser will be the pressure at the last dripper. Installation folks should be able to tell you what is the maximum length one can go without realizing drastic pressure loss. In our case, it was 40m. This will vary depending on the outlet pressure, topography of land, water requirement of crop etc. 
Hopefully some of these suggestions will save you time and effort. Feel free to respond with additional suggestions for other readers.

Monday, December 5, 2011

1 year of blogging..and finally some cash in pocket !

It was exactly one year ago when we started blogging about our activities at Savera Farms. The journey so far has been truly thrilling. As we venture into new activities, technologies and experiences into the second year, we hope that the readers find this blog informative and interesting. I appreciate the inputs, questions and queries from all of you..so keep posting!!

Lastly, all this would not have been possible without the support and encouragement from my parents and my brother - our NRI think tank from the US. Given that he has so much time to think about our activities, future initiatives and overall road map of Savera Farms, I suspect US economy must be really slowing down :)

Coincidentally, today is also the day when we had our first sales..Well, you can call it a sample/prototype sale (It turns out that even village folks need a sample..).


This was the first fruit that was spotted at 80 days - seeds are Kiran by Ankur company.












This was at 90 days (today) and is almost 1.5 times the size of an egg..it turns out that this is overripe and the buyer rejected it.. I shall be consuming for dinner in a few minutes from now :)









Karnan, one of the people we hire rotavator from, demanded a sample of 1 Kg before 'sealing the deal'. On an average, one fruit weighed around 80-100 grams.











Although all of us are thrilled with the inception of harvest, we had our own set of battles to fight..against the shoot and fruit borers.

Shoot borer is a common pest and we had a bunch of them to eliminate. Typical symptom is wilting of leaves above a shoot. If you break open that shoot, sure enough you will find one these bugs.










The remedy is to mix Carbaryl (Sevin brand) and Wettable Sulphur (Sulfix), 2 gm/L each and spray on the veggies. 5ml/L Neemoil (Nimecidine from T.E. Stanes company) is also being sprayed every 3 days - this is organic..

A fruit affected by a borer.




Thursday, December 1, 2011

Farmer Profile : V. Veeraraghavan (Watermelon)

Mr. V. Veeraraghavan from Mudaiyur village,Tamil Nadu, is a good example of how a farmer with only 2-3 acres of ancestral property to his name successfully grew his watermelon cultivation to over 120 acres.

"From childhood I wanted to achieve something big. After my diploma in mechanical engineering I decided to do farming. I knew that farming in 2-3 acres would not help. Luckily, I came into contact with a private agricultural consultant who advised me to take up large lands on lease and cultivate short-term crops which fetch a good price.After some initial hunting for lands, Mr. Veeraraghavan took 120 acres on lease for cultivation and started growing watermelon.

Why did he choose watermelon when there are hundreds of other crops? “Watermelon is a short term crop (60 days) and if done in large acreage a farmer can earn a good profit,” he says. Unlike the regular (red flesh) watermelon variety, this farmer is growing the yellow (mythila) variety, also called next generation or ice pack variety and orange (devyani) varieties as well.“There is very good demand for the yellow and orange varieties, especially from star hotels, as the supply of these two varieties is low,” he says.The most distinguishing feature of these varieties is that they grow all through the year, unlike the red ones which are available only during summer.

Chemical fertilizers are applied in 100 acres and Humic acid used in the remaining 20 acres to grow the watermelons.“Mr. Raja, the private consultant, initiated me into the beneficial effects of using Humic acid. I decided to experiment in 20 acres and surprisingly found the yield increased from 10 tonnes to 12 tonnes per acre after using the acid. I soon plan to cultivate all the 120 acres using Humic acid alone,” he says.

But what about the cost of cultivation using this acid?“If a farmer cultivates a crop in 20 acres, the expense for buying the fertilizers and sprays comes to about Rs. 10,000. But if he uses Humic acid, then he needs to spend only about Rs. 1,000.“My expenditure in 20 acres after using the acid has drastically come down. Other farmers should also start using this acid and realize its benefit,” he emphasizes.

In the last one year Mr. Veeraraghavan has sold nearly 10,000 tonnes of fruits and has made a net profit of more than Rs.50 lakhs. For details readers can contact Mr. V.Veeraraghavan at his mobile : 9894145143.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Events Page

I have created an Events page which contains information on agri fairs, expos, seminars etc. If you aware of any agri related shows/fairs/exhibitions in the near future, do mail me at saverafarms@gmail.com.
Additionally, if you have an article to share related to innovative agri technology, farmer profile or anything relevant to agri, send me a mail so that others can benefit as well.
Thanks!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mango planting videos

Videos of our UHD Mango plantation are below. At the time of planting, 200 gm of Neemcake and 100 gm of Single super phosphate were added. The former is an organic insecticide while the latter promotes root development.  Manuring was complete earlier to expedite the planting process. Saplings were dipped in 2gm/L Bavistin solution which mitigates fungal infections.

Happy viewing!

http://youtu.be/NNt-vufb254
http://youtu.be/tDhe8OhOD1g



Monday, November 14, 2011

Transplanting brinjal...

After raising the brinjal seedlings in the shade net for over 35 days, we transplanted them on October 16th. Typically, the seedlings are ready by 25 - 30 days but we had to wait out a little more due to delays in EB supply.
We engaged 2 - 4 labourers to transplant seedlings for 0.5 acre. Since there were other competing activities at the time, we completed the planting activity over 2-3 days. To give you idea, 0.5 acres is 55 beds with width of 1.2m and length of 30 m. Drip was aligned in the center of the bed. Seedlings were planted 30 cm away (keeping drip line as center) and 45 cm from the next seedling. There are multiple grid sizes being used depending on the variety but 60 x 60 cm and 60 x 45 cm are quite common.




















It takes 4-5 days for the seedlings to establish. Do not be disappointed if they look dull and weak in the first few days, like in the picture below.




















A week later, they all look more invigorated!




















A closer look..they are flowering already!




















Some of you may have noticed that we started off with one drip lateral but in the later pictures two laterals were present. Since we are irrigating only half an acre (system was designed to irrigate 1 acre at a time), there is too much water pressure on the sub mains. As a result, we are irrigating with 2 drip laterals (equivalent to 1 acre) but cutting the operating time by half (now down to 1 hour).

Drip laterals are inline (built in drippers) spaced at 60 cm with a discharge rate of 4LPH. 
We are following fertigation every 3 days comprising of Urea, All 19, Mono Ammonim Phosphate (12:61:0) and Potassium Nitrate (13:0:45)





Friday, November 4, 2011

Farmer Profile : Kevin Cherian (Multi-produce approach)

We thought it would be good to acknowledge some of our industry colleagues in this section aptly titled 'Farmer Profile'. Each profile will provide background details on the farmer, best practices developed / followed by them and finally contact information for our readers to reach out to these mentors directly.

Most people who come into the farming business lose heart because there is no proper guidance available and have to do most of the things on a trial and error basis and by the time they find the right way to do it, they are either financially broke or fed up with the whole process. The main reason is that very few who do it professionally, others have no domain knowledge and those who are successful often do not mentor or share experiences (for free). Another breakpoint is the inability to market your produce effectively. With all the running around you do to gather information, the time spent, the money spent on producing that specific product, you finally end up with less than the production cost for the product. The main reason is the lack of proper marketing system in place that supports the farmer. The person who makes the money is the middlemen.Lastly, the long(er) gestation period is another deterant. The grower has to wait for the crop to yield and provide returns. This often takes 5-6 months after planting or sowing depending on the corp.

Now if guidance is available and the grower gets value for their product (proper marketing) and immediate gratification (quick returns) is possible, the whole process of farming is interesting and much more profitable. All this happens by proper planning. You need to budget your capital into different sections. In the last three years I did a lot of experiments and made several mistakes.

Kevin has devised a module that has started to bring in results. For immediate returns he has Quail and duck layers on his farm. Quail start laying at 45 days after hatching and they lay 300+ eggs at one go. The space requirement is less ( in 300 sq ft you can grow 2500 quail on a multilayer stand system),feed conversion ration is profitable. Ducks also give quick returns because layer ducks are available and so no waiting for five and a half months for the duck to start laying. They are easy to manage because of their feeding pattern. In the normal case where you sell a duck egg for 2.75/- in the wholesale market, the cost of production would be 2 to 2.25/-. but the cost can be brought down to 1.25 to 1.5/-(the profit is .75 ps to 1 rupee more than the normal practice) per egg plus the sale price increased from 2.75 to 3.5/-(proper marketing gives you another 75 ps extra here too). Same is the case of quail eggs, you can make a profit of .75 to 1/- per egg.
He has also planted bush jasmine (1000 nos). This crop has a life of 15 years and the rates per kilo are very promising. Another veg corp that has started yielding is Ivy gourd. This plant starts yielding within 45 to 60 days of planting ans has a life of 3+ years. It is a creeper plant and gives two harvest per week.

Kevin can be contacted for details around planning, costing, operating and marketing expenses for each produce listed above. Kevin entered farming to make money and while his first few years were disappointing but his determination is showing results now. He is more than happy to guide anyone who needs support is willing to share his experiences. Kevin may be reached at kevinblr@hotmail.com or 9845520116 / 9900039462

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Successful Indoor Cultivation

Over the last few months, a few people have inquired about our goals for Hydroponics in 2012. As always, we'll keep everyone posted around our progress, until then here is a succinct write up on key aspects of this efficient and profitable agri practice.

8-step guide to Successful Hydroponics

1) The Right Environment
Having the right environment is critical for your garden. Key elements to a successful garden room include relative humidity, temperature, CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) and air circulation/exchange. The ideal humidity for a garden room falls between 40 & 60 percent. Some plants like higher humidity, but know that higher humidity can lead to problems with fungus and disease. Temperatures in your grow room should be between 68 – 75 F degrees. Temperature changes will lead to variations in humidity levels. Assuming you have good air circulation/ exchange, your garden room will naturally have between 300-400 PPM (parts per million) of CO2; higher CO2 levels should accelerate growth rates. If you choose not to supplement CO2 in your garden room, it is important to address the air circulation/exchange so that your plants will receive fresh CO2.

2) Start off with Good Water
The water you use for your plants will determine how well your plants will grow, regardless of what you add in terms of nutrients and supplements.PPM (parts per million) or EC (electrical conductivity) are the measurement of the salts in a solution. Neither PPM nor EC readings will tell you what is in your solution / water, but rather are indicators of the solutions ability to conduct electricity. Ideally, you want to start of with a low PPM or EC then you can add nutrients specified to your plants requirements. You can reduce the PPM of your water using a Reverse Osmosis (R.O.) unit then build your nutrient solution around what your plants need. pH (potential hydrogen) measures the acidity or alkalinity of your solution on a scale of 0 – 14. When working with hydroponics you typically want your pH to fall between 5.8 and 6.2. When growing in soil or coco you want your pH between 6.0 and 6.8.

3) Choose a Method
Ebb & Flow gardens flood and drain a tray of plants with a nutrient solution at regular intervals. A drip garden provides nutrient solution to the plant through tubes & emitters (drip stakes) to each plant. Aeroponic growing mists an oxygenated nutrient solution directly to the roots of a plant. NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) gardens create a slow moving nutrient solution -‘film’- that flows over the roots of the plants. Organics have become a preferred method of growing. Choose the size container you want, an organic soil/medium, an organic fertilizer and water by hand.

4) Choose a Medium
Growing mediums act as the anchor for the plants root system. Some add nutritional value to your plants while others simply give the roots something to hold on to. Some mediums to consider are soil, soil-less mixes, coco, hydroton, rockwool/stonewool, or silica stone. Coco is available in both a loose and compressed form. Coco is made from the husks of a coconut, and it is very pH stable and provides good moisture retention and natural aeration qualities. Hydroton or clay pebbles are made from expanded, pH neutral clay. They tend to hold water well and have great oxygen to water ratio; this makes hydroton suitable for hydroponic and soil gardens. Rockwool is made from stone that is heated then spun into fibers. It is then compressed into starter cubes, grow blocks, or slabs. This medium has excellent oxygen to water ratio. Rockwool works best in an ebb & flow and drip systems. Silica stone is a rock that contains high levels of silicate which helps slow transpiration rates of plants. This is especially helpful in garden rooms that have temperatures above 85 F degrees.

5) Nutrients
Like humans, plants require food (nutrients) to grow. Nutrients come in organic and synthetic varieties and are available in both liquid and dry form. Nutrients can be separated into two categories, macro and micro nutrients. The macronutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulfur. The micronutrients or trace nutrients include iron, manganese, boron, zinc, copper, molybdenum and chlorine. If the nutrients are deficient or are abundant you may see burning, curling or yellowing. You do not want to over or under fertilize. Most nutrients/fertilizers will have an N-P-K (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) on the front of the bottle. In the vegetative or growth stage the “N” will typically be higher. In the flowering or bloom stage the “P” will typically be higher. You may also consider implementing additives/supplements into your nutrient mix

6) Lighting
High Intensity Discharge (HID) is the preferred lighting in a garden room. The two types of HID lighting commonly used are HPS (High Pressure Sodium) and MH (Metal Halide). HPS lamps deliver more of an orange/ red spectrum, which is ideal for most plants in the flowering/bloom stage. Another type of lighting ideal for plant growth is T5 lighting. T5 lighting is a high-output fluorescent light with low heat and minimal energy consumption. It is an ideal light for cuttings, mother plants and short growth cycles. All plants require light in order to grow and bloom. Most plants grow and bloom according to the amount of light they are given. In the growth or vegetative stage plants typically want 15-18 hours of light. In the bloom stage you reduce the amount of light your plants get to 10-12 hours.

7) Testing Equipment
There are many different meters available for testing pH, PPM, EC, temperature, humidity, CO2 and light levels. Single meters are available as are combination meters that test and/or monitor your environmental conditions The important thing to remember is your garden will only be as good as the limiting factor. Water, nutrient, light, temperature, humidity, CO2 & circulation are the elements to a successful garden room. By “dialing in” these elements, you will ensure a successful and bountiful produce.

8) Optional Accessories
There are many items available to help your garden grow. Organics, controls, fans, blowers, plant stakes, relays, nutritional supplements and the lists go on. Consult with your retail supplier to discuss what the best accessories for your garden are. Good luck!!

Credits : http://www.purelyhydroponic.com

Sunday, October 23, 2011

UHD Mango - Answers to a few queries..

I am glad UHD Mango plantation post has generated some interest among the readers. A bunch of you posted some questions which I have addressed today.

In the interest of others who may have similar questions, you can read the queries and answers at the bottom of the page where comments are posted -
http://techie2aggie.blogspot.com/2011/10/ultra-high-density-mango-uhd-planting.html



Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ultra High Density Mango (UHD) planting complete!

We started our mango planting on Oct 11, 2011 and once again the sun god was cooperative enough to make the process fairly comfortable. A total of 10 acres was planted using this innovative cultivation technique promoted by Jain irrigation. The spacing grid we followed was 3m x 3m.

In retrospect, UHD land preparation had its own share of challenges.
Due to the close spacing, moving around within the plot was not easy after the 3 ft x 3ft x 3 ft pits were dug by a JCB (do not even think digging by manpower! ). We ultimately dozed every alternate mound of mud so that the terrain could be more accessible (this is something we should have done in the first place, transporting the soil elsewhere by a tractor).
Secondly, due to higher number of pits, the requirement for farm inputs like FYM, vermicompost is huge! So if you are not in a position to procure enough inputs, I would not recommend this farming technique.

Crossing these mini mountain ranges was not fun. Gravel soil made the area very slippery and manuring was next to impossible..











So we hired a JCB to doze down every alternate mound off soil.














..and in the process our tractor driver learnt a lesson or two about skillful driving between the pits!














After the initial manuring of FYM, Vermicompost and coir pith manure (15 Kg total), all pits were covered and peg marked.

Ready for peg marking..


















On planting day, we had 6-7 teams of 2 members working in parallel, in addition to 3-4 more people who helped with the logistics and transportation of saplings from nursery to the field.

Mango is susceptible to root rot during heavy rains. So we made a drum full of Bavistin solution (2 gm/L of water) and saplings were immersed in it before planting.











We did not apply any FYM during planting but added 200 g of Neemcake (fertilizer cum insecticide) and 100 g of Single Super Phosphate (enhances root growth)











Planting in process..

















..and 5 days later we completed 10 acres of UHD - approx 4500 saplings.

















UHD method of cultivation involves continuous pruning once the saplings reach 1-1.5 m height. I will provide more info when we get to it. For now, all of us are thrilled that we were able to achieve our objectives in relatively good time. Having completed phase 1 of the project, we will be taking a break for a few weeks before we commence the next phase.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

More links..

Since the edits to other pages (apart from Home) does not send out an email, just wanted to update everyone on a couple more links that have been added in the Links page.

We have been busy with the preparation of Mango UHD plantation. Next week, we will be planting 10 acres of Mangoes along with Brinjal (they are screaming to be transplanted from the protected shadenet and ready to take on the big bad world! )

 More info in a few weeks!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

MNREGA is killing Agriculture..

MNREGA (http://nrega.nic.in/netnrega/home.aspx) is a program that has been promoted by the Central government to guarantee 100 days of work to the rural populace. While the government lauds its achievement in providing employment to the rural folks, thereby improving their standard of living (especially women which constitute 50% of the program beneficiary), but in reality it is just another welfare scheme to garner easy votes!

This program is making people lazy, incapacitating their ability to do any form of hard work and killing agriculture - We are seeing this first hand.

Typically, the program lasts for one to two weeks at a stretch spread across the calendar year. Activities such as forming bunds, desilting of water tanks, widening of roads etc are generally executed. Although it sounds like a great program where local population is not only gaining employment but also improving the village infrastructure; but the irony is the work day pretty much ceases at a time when government officials typically get to office - the day starts at 7:00 am and by 10:00 am people can be seen taking naps under trees, chatting, and even walking back to their homes. Earning Rs 100 for 2-3 hours of nominal work sounds like a pretty good deal. Why would they work on our farm for 7 hours for a little more than that? There have been reports that some of our honorable MPs are even considering to extending this program to 300 days.

Farm labour is becoming scarce in India and more so in south India where literacy rates are higher and standard of living is much higher compared to the rest of the country (thanks to the freebies like mixers, washing machines, TVs and even gold! ) . Such programs does no good but only exacerbates the labour problem. I am not sure what the future holds but in my opinion importing farm labour from other countries legally will become a reality - just like the H2A visa in the US.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Looking for a Farm Manager

Savera Farms is looking for a farm manager, with at least 4-5 years of relevant experience in horticulture. 

The ideal candidate would have the following responsibilities -

  • He will be overall in charge of the farm including day to day operations
  • Implement Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Integrated Farm Management (IFM) concepts.
  • Provide ideas on increasing crop and soil productivity, including effective water management
  • Manage the farm labor tactfully for optimal output
  • Execute farm development schedule/activities.
  • Liaison with agriculture consultants/visiting experts and understand the schedules/guidance and implement it
  • Co-ordinate with the local suppliers of farm inputs and planting material for timely delivery.
  • He will be responsible for the entire project lifecycle – from sowing, routine maintenance to harvest
  • Provide ideas and implement the entire farm design
  • Provide ideas for optimal land development prior to sowing
  • Maintain Vermi compost pit sites for in-house consumption
  • Identify and implementations of water management techniques across the farm.
  • Train farm labour on operation of farm equipment / systems including drip irrigation system.
  • Provide ideas on cultivation and marketability of short term crops

Friday, September 16, 2011

Germinating brinjal ..

Brinjal is one of the short term crops we plan on cultivating this season. The idea for a short term crop was to generate some income to pay part of the expenses. Given that it was our first time, we defined a list of criteria for selecting the right crop. The ones we came up with were the following
  • It should be easily marketable in the local/surrounding markets. 
  • A crop with relatively less price fluctuation. 
  • It should respond well to drip irrigation (According to one of the TNAU studies, yield of brinjal under drip is 2-3 times more than conventional irrigation)
  • Crop that is not too labour intensive with minimal to moderate water requirement.
  • It should respond well to inherent soil and climatic conditions.

Keeping the above criteria in mind, Brinjal came out as a strong contender.

So we started our brinjal nursery in early September and by early October, the seedlings should be ready for transplanting.
Beds of size 2m x 5m were made. Periphery of the bed was dug about 6-8 inches deep and then soil was turned over the bed.












Later, it was found that 2 m was too wide..so we split it into half. So the bed dimensions are 1m x 5m .
20 square meters of bed area should be sufficient for 0.5 acres of seedlings.











An elusive recipe was then concocted...Elusive because more the people I talked to, each came up with his own recipe..Eventually I just took the common denominators and the mixture was spread evenly over the bed

So here it goes -
Urea - 250 gm/bed
Furadon - 50 gm/bed
FYM - 5 Kg/bed
Vermicompost - 5 Kg/bed
Phosphate - 750 gm/bed


A V-shaped cross section stick was used to make grooves across the beds (where seeds were planted)













Brinjal seeds were treated with Trichoderma viride (5 gm) which is a fungicide.













Treated seeds were placed in the grooves.














Paddy waste was spread evenly over the bed. This is used to develop a conducive environment for favourable germination and prevents spilling over of seeds while irrigating.










A sneak peak at 5 days..















At 12 days!














A closer look!!















Day 18..


















I am also planning to germinate some seeds in portray. It would be a great experiment to evaluate if seedlings germinated in portray are in fact healthier and yield more. If it is, then my next crop would be in germinated in portrays. More of that in the coming weeks..



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Harvesting Daincha!

Back in June, I had planted Daincha to enrich the soil in Nitrogen and to generate some organic matter for mango pits. Typically, the plants are cut within 45 days when they flower. Since I was not ready for planting mangoes, I let it grow for another 45 days.
There was a wild growth and some stems grew as high as 6 feet. The stems just above the soil were hard and thick and one could easily be hurt if not wearing shoes.
Last week, we finally cut the plants and to my surprise I found new growth emerging from the sides of cut stems (Like Melia Dubia)..This was a pleasant discovery but for now I have had enough of Daincha and would be uprooting all the undergrowth with a 5 finger implement.

Standing 6 feet tall!















All rolled up to be dumped in the mango pits..















Daincha Next-Gen!