TRICHY: Go traditional and use less of chemical fertilizer, strengthen the soil to face the wind and take timely steps like pruning leaves to ensure a bumper banana crop, says A Mariappan who has been a model for banana farmers of the region.
A marginal farmer from Trichy who took to agriculture following in his father’s footsteps, he had started cultivation on three acres of their ancestral land years ago. It was a combination of smart agricultural practices that helped raise his paddy and cereal cultivation area to 10 acres on his own land and banana cultivation to 27 acres on leased land. All these had come true only because of adopting traditional ways with the help of the agriculture department.
During his 15 years of experience, Mariappan, 41, hailing from Lalgudi, had found that tackling gusty wind was a big threat to banana plantations. So, when he started cultivating on 27 acres of leased land five years ago, he decided to be smart. “Rain accompanied by gusty winds pose a grave threat to banana plantations, particularly when the plant is ready for harvest. The wind would uproot the plant and cause heavy damage to the farmers. Though erecting casuarina stems is the usual way to safeguard the plantation from wind, sometimes it fails to save the plantations. To avert such situations, we need to strengthen the soil”, he opined.
He recalled suffering a heavy loss a few years ago when the entire banana crop on three-and-a-half acres was destroyed due to rain followed by heavy wind. This made him have a rethink whether to continue the use of chemical fertilizer which had weakened the solid texture of the soil. “Excessive use of chemical fertilizer for a long time makes the soil infertile. Since the soil loses its organics and insects and worms which help the crops grow well it would ultimately affect the strength of the plantains”, he said. Though he could not strictly adopt the natural way of cultivating, he used cow dung and tree leaves as green manure so as to reduce dependence on chemical fertilizers, he added. While most farmers use only chemical fertilizers like urea and potash and pesticides like monocrotophos, Mariappan says he employs natural and chemical in equal amounts. But he intends to eradicate chemicals entirely in future.
“Planting casuarina would help protect banana trees in a natural way and I am going to try this method instead of relying merely on its stem. This method would protect the banana plantations from heavy damage caused during monsoon”, he added. Pruning of leaves would also significantly reduce the weight of the plantain. So, farmers should regularly do it, he further stated.
Horticulture department has asked farmers to take up a number of such actions to reduce the impacts of high winds. Of these, leaf removal and harvesting the banana plant on time were the important ones. This would help the farmers to safeguard their crop against the destructive impact of winds or flash floods, he added.