Bitter gourd cultivation in a modified form has sweetened the life of an aged farmer. He used to toil hard in his farm in a rain-shadow region of the district under a scorching sun for a modest income from field crops.
The magic wand that transformed the life of K. Pasupathi at Mesiapuram near Melaneelithanallur is the ‘pandal’ cultivation programme that was introduced in 2012 with an attractive subsidy under National Agriculture Development Programme.
Under the scheme, small and marginal farmers receive 50 per cent subsidy to the maximum of Rs. 2 lakh per hectare for erecting ‘pandal’ with a view to increase the yield.
The farmer can also get 100 per cent subsidy for setting up drip irrigation facility.
Enticed by the lucrative subsidy, Mr. Pasupathi cultivated bitter gourd on 1.25 acres in his farm and received a subsidy of Rs. 1 lakh from the Horticulture Department during 2013-14.
“I used to get an yield of six tonnes and a net profit of Rs. 40,000 from other crops with limited water sources. But, through ‘pandal’ cultivation with drip and fertigation techniques, I have so far earned Rs. 70,000 from seven tonnes of bitter gourd in five harvests in 70 days. I am expecting another Rs. 80,000 from the remaining harvests in about 50 days,” Mr. Pasupathi says.
On seeing his yields and earnings, other farmers in the area have switched over to bitter gourd cultivation with ‘pandal’ by getting the subsidy under this scheme.
S. Raja Mohamed, Deputy Director of Horticulture, Tirunelveli, says horticultural crops, compared to field crops, offer better returns. The district received Rs. 10 lakh to cover 10 hectares under the programme for promoting ‘pandal’ cultivation alone during 2013-14.
Need less water
Crops, such as bitter gourd, raised under ‘pandal’ required minimum water for irrigation.
“Since this revolutionary approach has increased productivity per unit area, vegetable production in the district has gone up substantially. Mesiapuram has become the cluster village for ‘pandal’ cultivation. Seven farmers have turned to ‘pandal’ cultivation of bitter gourd,” Mr. Mohamed said.