Saturday, June 29, 2013

Raising Moringa 101

As alluded to in an earlier posting, we are planning on cultivating Moringa for leaf production. We had earmarked several acres on the plantation, however thought it would be prudent to first pilot the high density cultivation on a smaller scale. We talked to a couple of experts about germination practices and it was recommended to raise a nursery rather than direct sowing in the field. The latter approach has lower germination rates.

So, we recently started our pilot project of bagging and planting 20,000 seeds in 10,000 poly bags. We have decided on a spacing of 2x2 ft which is considered high density but too wide to be ultra high-density. For the pilot our goal was to prepare about 10,000 saplings and 2 seeds were being sowed in each bag.

Soil and manure are being ground into finer granularity to improve germination rates. 

 Bagging and sowing of seeds in process. Ideally, the seeds should be placed 2-3 inches deep and covered with fine soil.

Part of our first batch of bags.

Seeds were treated with a 2ml/L solution of Humic Acid for 1 hours. Subsequently, they were dried before sowing. Once sowing was done, on day 5 about 50 ml of Humic Acid was administered to induce higher germination.. We had a few long days but with a handful of farm labour we were able to produce over 1500 bags a day. With the conclusion of the first step, the next update will be in a few weeks, once we experience sprouting.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Pruning of Mango UHD - Summer 2013

With a couple of showers earlier in the month, mercury has been hovering at 35-37 celsius, which is a huge relief from what we witnessed in April and May. Most days have been partially cloudy in the month and we took the opportunity to prune the mango plants at this time. Pruning was long due but we delayed due to high temperature (in excess of 40 celsius).

Typically, June experiences strong winds and this time around the wind farms across the state have been delivering 3 phase power 24x7! We did have a few of the heavier branches suffer damage but noticed new growth sprouting promptly from the damaged areas.

Most plants are being pruned for the third and fourth time. We have started to see a well defined canopy emerge in most plants.

Alphonso plots are being pruned for the third time now.

Imampasand plots have shown steady and uniform growth. 

As stated in an earlier postings, we need to de-weed. Mulch sheets are a significant investment for the lengths we need so we plan to try a dual approach of bio weed retardants and card boards squares as an ad-hoc measure. Lets see how they fare.

Why not recycle - the sheep make a go at the mango greens!

Day 9 - New growth from a damaged branch

On a closing note, does anyone have experiences around feeding Mango leaves to Goats / Sheep? We are being advised that mature Mango leaves are not very conducive for Sheep but our herd seems to be quite enthusiastic about this occasional treat so far. Observations around prior pruning attempts have been posted in earlier postings. Feel free to research the blog and provide your commentary around better or other best practices.

Friday, June 14, 2013

On What-if Regrets and Internet Marketing

Being on the plantation most days of the months, gives me a chance to reflect on life, the journey so far and plans for the future - not just for Savera Farms but at a personal level as well. We started developing Savera Farms a few years ago, since then we have made significant progress and learned a lot! With that said, I have come to rely that agriculture (Indian or otherwise) shall provide several moments of joy, despair and ambivalence. I mention 'Indian' only because I know several of you recognize the challenges and ground realities of  Indian bureaucracy, legal systems, social pressures, etc. I hope not to discourage any newbies but setting the right expectations and attitude goes a long way here. We have a mixed bag of accomplishments and bumps any week of the year but I can certainly vouch for two things. I will never have to regret the what-if scenario since I am living my passion and busy trying to realize my dreams. Next, because I believe in what I am doing I am filled with optimism for the future, feel empowered to chart my own course and truly enjoy interacting with those who have similar experiences and advice to share.

Talking about the future, I discovered this illustration which seems to be a fitting tribute to 'those who dare'. Opportunity is knocking at our doorsteps everyday, it presents itself at times of triumph and despair. Sometime we consciously grab it with both arms and there are other times we are blinded by own judgements not to recognize the potential of something staring right at us. Whatever the scenario, it is universally true that fortune favors the fearless! Here are a few, very apt quotes.

Flaming enthusiasm, backed by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success. - Dale Carnegie

Nothing is work unless you'd rather be doing something else. - George Halas

Switching gears from philosophy to reality, I also wanted to share the following digital marketing roadmap. Though the illustration presents a tree but for an operation like us, effective marketing is definitely about taking the right steps and starting the journey. Looking at the options available today, we realize that we have barely started down the go-to-market path. Coming for a techie background, I certainly get the significance of these digital levers and potential sales channels. Often you, the readers, provide trade information which can be very useful as well. There was a recent comment about Small Farmer’s Agri-Business Consortium ( which provides marketing assistance, something we shall consider seriously - thanks for the tip, Jagdish!

Well, these were my thoughts on this balmy evening. I hope many of you will follow your passions and realize your dreams.  Be sure to come back here and tell us your story, until then keep at it! 

Nine out of ten businesses fail; so I came up with a foolproof plan : create ten businesses. – Robert Kiyosaki

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Phase 2 Mango Update & Need to De-weed

Our second phase of Mango (UHD) was planted late last year. The plants have progressed well and so far have been pruned once - in Feb 2013. It is about time for another round of pruning but we are waiting for the temperatures to cool off a bit, after which we would begin the pruning. Lately, the sky is often overcast but we are looking for a few good showers.

While the plants have been growing well so far, we did encounter a few dozen casualties during the peak of summer. I tried evaluating the roots, looking for fungal infections but did not find anything. On showing it to an agronomist, we found that the plants were affected with root rot. It was not immediately clear why this occurred but at this time the consensus is that it is due to pathogens (natural or introduced) in the soil. The recommended prevention is drenching the root zone in Bavistin solution 1g/L + Fytolon (Copper oxychloride) 2g/L. During our replanting, we shall use the solution and hope that the replacements will fare better. Heat could be another reason as well, ambient temperatures in May have been consistently hovering around 40-42 degree Celsius, so you can imagine the temperature on the ground!

Due to regular irrigation and fertigation, we realized that the weeds flourish as well. Managing weeds has been an issue so far. De-weeding using the Rotovator or brush cutter does not effectively eliminate those near the base of the saplings, as seen above. Has anybody used a cost effective and easy method to control/retard weed growth?