Sunday, June 26, 2011

Agri Land Buyers : Crash course 101


Due to popular demand, I decided to publish a posting on agricultural land prospecting and purchase.

Following are some points, that I believe are important and buyers should keep them in mind while searching for the ideal land. Prior to commencing the search, you need to determine the required parameters for the type of cultivation or crop you want to pursue. Each crop has certain ideal soil, climate, water and processing requirements, these will become your driving parameters. It is rare to find the 'ideal' land but do your best. Having arrived on the parameters, use the following pointers to narrow down your land choices.

  1. Soil characteristic can be fairly easily evaluated based on neighboring cultivation. If there is minimal cultivation and the proposed land acreage is large, it is advisable to hire a JCB and dig some test pits to see the soil profile at least 3 ft deep. (Of course, employ the JCB when you are convinced that the papers are right and this is the right land for you.) You should look for white calcareous substrate beneath the soil. This is not good for cultivation.
  2. Presence of water bodies adjacent to your land is always beneficial, as chances are they replenish the water table under your land.
  3. Identify the nearest village. Ideally, you neither want it too close not too far from your land. About 1 km would be considered ideal. Close proximity may lead to unwanted interferences and longer distance may lead to labour unavailability later on.
  4. Evaluate if the land is low lying and is prone to flooding during monsoons.
  5. Ensure that the land has a clear and undisputed entrance. If there is no clear access or if you have to cross another patta land to get to yours, DO NOT buy the land. This will create problems later on.
  6. Evaluate the demography of the community adjacent to the land. There are certain communities that are a little more aggressive and resist “outside” entry, especially if it is a big plantation.  If the local community is known to be aggressive, it is better to look for another land, especially if you are not a local.
  7. Look for wells / borewells / electricity board (EB) connections and if there are in working conditions.  
  8. It is imperative to have a contiguous land. Any patches in middle should not be acceptable.  Assurances of acquiring the patches will land you in trouble later as that will be at enormous cost.
  9. Avoid lands with temples / shrines inside patta lands. Legally, local people can ask for access to the temple and that will result in loss of acreage or may add to the nuisance value.
  10. You cannot find a friendlier neighbour than a forest. Lesser the patta lands around you, fewer chances for disputes / interferences.
  11.  Legal Scrutiny: Please do not rely totally on sellers legal opinion. Have your own lawyer to do this job. Mother documents and Power of Attorneys are to be thoroughly scrutinized.
  12. Ensure payment of advance directly to the owner after entering into an agreement to sell, by cheque only.
  13. Price fixation parameters:  The price of the land will depend on the land prices in the surrounding area, availability of facilities on the land, location parameters, motorable accessibility to land and most important is how good it measures on your parametric scale. If you like the land, do not hesitate in paying a bit more, as you may not get another land of the same calibre.
  14. Key to land searching is PATIENCE.  Do not show your urgency to the brokers and do not take their promises/assurances on the face value. My experience is they are false / flawed in 75% cases. 


Following is a questionnaire I had prepared, when I was searching for land. I used this to eliminate lands which did not satisfy the basic criteria like soil color, contiguity, accessibility to owners etc.

Physical Characteristics :
What is the land acreage?
Is the land acreage absolutely contiguous?
What is the village name, taluk name?
What is the nearest town? How far?
What is the color of soil?
What is the current cultivation on the land?

Facilities :
Number of wells and bore wells?
Number of power connections?
Any other infrastructure present on the land?
How far is the land from state highway?
Is the road from state highway a tar road?

Current Ownership :
Original Patta is available?
Number of patta owners i.e. number of people who will be signing on the document.
If it is 1 family, please specify number of family member who will be signing on it?
Location of owners - local or remote?

Pricing :
What is the price per acre?
Do you have access to the owner?
Access to the primary broker? If not, how many brokers are there between you and the owner?
Motive for selling? 

That is all for now. If somebody would like to add to this list, kindly email me at saverafarms@gmail.com. Hope you enjoy this posting..

Monday, June 20, 2011

The grass always seems to be greener on the other side of the FENCE..

Fencing the farm was a mega project in itself. We have fenced over 1500 m and we still have more to go. We were expecting the activity to take 4-5 weeks but fortunately we came across some folks who did a good job and completed it in 11-12 days.
Due to a rabbit menace and forest being one of the boundaries, we decided to go for chain linked fence rather than barbed wire. The former is more expensive but is more secure and easy to install. The roll below is 10 gauge (which is stronger and more expensive than 12 gauge)

Spanking new fence roll
















Stone pillars were erected at a distance of 9-10 ft.






























Stray wires are put on the pillars to provide support to the fencing roll.














Fencing in process..















A closer look..















Looks pretty neat to me..

















Sometimes, cement mix is used at the base of the stone pillars for additional support and durability. This was not deemed essential since the soil is red and is quite compact and strong in itself. One and half feet holes were dug and was filled with gravel to make the poles sturdy.

Economics:

2 poles @ Rs 160/pole placed at 10 ft.  ~ Rs 17/ft (11 stones * Rs 160 / 100 ft) Edited 23/6/11
100 ft long mesh roll (10 gauge ). Avg wt 60 Kg @ Rs 65/Kg ~ Rs 39/ft
Stray wires and support wires ~ Rs 5/ft
Labor - Rs 70 for a span of two stones ~ Rs 7/ft

Total - Rs 68/ft

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Melia Dubia - Proving the concept!

Last October, we went to Coimbatore Agri Fair and picked up four Melia Dubia saplings. Before planting it in big volume, we wanted to do a trial in our own garden.

The trials were done in worst case scenario. We watered them once in two days and gave no additional nutrients or fertilizers. The only source of Urea that was supplied was by my boxer, Buddy; who seemed to have  developed an affinity for the tree second from right. Overall, we were pleased with the growth, given that minimal inputs were given.



In approx. 9 months, trees have towered up to 15-16 ft.














This was taken at chest level height. I could just about hold all the way around.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Daincha - Green manure

In the detailed soil report, we found that organic matter and NPK levels are low since our farm has not been cultivated in a long time.
We decided to sow daincha seeds in the pits to increase the nutrient levels. Daincha essentially fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil. We also broadcasted the seeds in about 5 acres of plot where we intend to do some short-term inter-cropping. Results were fantastic, given that we started the activity in the peak of summer and watered it 3-4 times only.
Daincha typically grows to about 2 ft after which it is harvested - it can be either incorporated into the soil with a rotavator (to increase the organic matter) or can be cut and used as animal fodder.
Other alternatives include cowpea, sunhemp and grams. Cost of 1Kg daincha is Rs 35 and we used a handful per pit.

Seeds sprout on day 3.















Day 10































At the time of planting, we will add FYM and other farm inputs on top of daincha.













Flowering took place in 45 days.















Case in point: Plants grow better when FYM is applied..compare the height of the plants on the right (near FYM) to the ones on left.