Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pilot Melia Dubia plants at 2 years!

Later this week, our 4 test plants at our residence will complete 2 years. Since there are very few plantations in Tamil Nadu that we can treat as a yardstick, the growth of these pilots would be a realistic figure to emulate..

This one started off as the weakest one of the four, but somewhere in the middle took the lead at a girth of 20 inches. Total height of the plant is estimated to be 30 ft.

These trunks have grown to become smooth and round. Here is an example of how the bark grows and becomes smooth in sections where initial branches once grew.

The average girth is about 16-17" which is encouraging for a trunk column of about 17-18 feet.

Now that we have an estimate, our goal would be to see our plantation trees at Savera Farms cross these figures in another 11 months.The environment and soil is not at par as these pilot trees but that only means we will have to be a little more diligent to nurture and patient for the plantation to mature.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Moringa - The Powerhouse

Few days back, somebody from Kenya contacted me online regarding procurement of Moringa seeds. I was surprised people were aware of Moringa in Africa since I was under the impression it was primarily grown and consumed in South East Asian countries. On inquiring, I found that Moringa leaves are fairly popular in several African countries to supplement nutritional deficiency in children. I was aware that Moringa had nutritional benefits but I was astonished when I did some more research on Moringa leaves.

Moringa leaves have
  • 7x the Vitamin C of orange
  • 4x the Vitamin A of Carrots
  • 4x the Calcium of Milk
  • 3x the Potassium of Bananas
  • 2x the Protein of Yogurt

In comparison, dry moringa leaves contain the following nutrients –
  • 25x more iron than spinach
  • 4x more protein than in eggs
  • 10x more Vitamin A than in carrots
  • 17x more Calcium than in milk
  • 15x more potassium than in bananas

In the research, it was discovered that the nutritional value is maximum in leaf powder, followed by fresh leaves while the pods contain the least nutrients of the three.  
It is extremely surprising a tree like Moringa that does not require much water, thrives well in Indian climatic conditions, is not being promoted aggressively by the government to combat malnutrition in the country. Nonetheless, it is encouraging to see entrepreneurs in Africa cultivating Moringa not only as an economic activity but also for a social cause.

I look forward to learning from our readers who may have had longer interaction and experience growing, processing or marketing this multi-faceted crop. Please feel free to post comments or contact me directly if you would like to share information or work with us. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Farmer Profile : Self-reliance and diversification

Several months ago, I discovered this article online. Initially, it did not strike a cord with me and it only seemed to state the obvious. In the ensuing months, I realized that along with land crops, we should consider spreading our risk and consider animal husbandry as well. Apart from revenue streams, rearing certain animals like Cattle, Goats, etc, have known tertiary benefits to a farming operation as well. 

I revisited this article and this time reflected on the farmer commentary listed within. After several hours of discussions and many more weeks of introspection around our current agri-portfolio, I had essentially arrived at similar conclusions. Here are a few key points, I would agree with the article based on my experiences thus far. Our readers should take these with a pinch of salt and for how they may apply to their particular situation.

  1. Minimize dependence on external input. Aim to be as self sufficient as possible. I am happy to be on the right trajectory regarding self reliance with our efforts around generating manure, vermicompost, mulching, etc.
  2. Knowing what and how to grow is important. Being able to market and sell the produce is even more important in today's environment. We learned this lesson last year with some of our short term crops. Our produce was handsome in quantity but I feel our revenue realization could have been better if we had a more robust 'go-to-market strategy'. All is not lost for there is always next season!
  3. A combination of perennial, annual, and seasonal crops as well as livestock rearing would be an ideal combination is you can pull it off. Do not invest too heavily on only one type or crop. We have been fortunate that each of our crops are progressing well but need for diversifying the risk had become necessary from a revenue generation standpoint.
  4. Utilization of available resources for multiple uses has been mostly academic for us till date but we are determined to achieve it. We now have two irrigation tanks of approx 400 thousand liters capacity between them. This is an opportunity in Pisciculture waiting to be tapped.
  5. Do your independent research. This cannot be stressed enough for the novice farmer. Govt. schemes, online agri-forums, blogs like mine, etc will only provide certain facets of the agriculture experience, sometime not even applicable to your operations. There is absolutely no basis for expecting the impossible. Careful study, interacting with other experienced farmers, and experts will be more beneficial. Dip your toes before leaping into the tide. 

This article was based on an interview with Mr. Sadananda from Doddaballapura taluk, Bangalore. Feel free to contact him at 808-7659151 / 9342022146.

Credits : Full transcript is available online

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Farmers' visit at Savera Farms

Earlier this summer, the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) Kundrakudi center at Sivaganga expressed an interest in visiting Savera Farms. We were delighted when the KVK staff brought along 16 local farmers from the Sivaganga district. Each district in the country has a KVK and they strive to help farmers with exposure visits to farms embracing precision farming, latest agricultural practices etc, training rural youth, facilitating extension programs and knowledge transfer.

With the KVK staff and local farmers
The focus of their visit to Savera Farms was primarily on our Mango UHD and Moringa plantations. Most of the farmers who visited were traditional farmers but showed interest in embracing precision farming and modern methods of cultivation. Some of them were astonished on seeing the close spacing of Mango plots. A lot of questions were asked on the pruning method of mango which indicated they were interested in knowing more about this innovative method of cultivation.

 Farmers inspecting Mango saplings

Phase 1 UHD Mango plots at Savera Farms

Drip system was another area with a lot of queries. The drip design was explained and why we chose to do things the way we did, relative to the tank (minimizing risk in case one of the bores goes dry in future) and four control valves (controlling water in each direction for ease of operation)

 Discussing drip irrigation techniques

At the drip system, explaining the different filters

Group inspecting Morgina plantation

It was humbling to share our knowledge with these 3rd/4th generation farmers and we really hope this visit can catalyze a change in the way they view and perform agriculture. Sivaganga is not known for flourishing agriculture due to various reasons like climate, lack of agri-promotion, migrant population etc. However, I think the biggest compliment we have come across yet was by the KVK convener, who told the farmers that Savera Farms was an example of 'Israel' right here in Sivaganga. The climate can be merciless, soil is not exactly the most fertile, water availability is about average and yet we were able to transform this landscape (with about 5 palm trees at the time of purchase of land) into a patch of greenery. Come September, we will be able to extend the green-cover into our second phase.

 If any of our readers have encouraged their local community in this manner, please share your experiences and learnings. We would be happy to include your site links in the 'Blog' section on the right.