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 :

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 -

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 ( 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.