Tamil Nadu is well known for Moringa cultivation in different districts. Though there are more than a dozen and odd varieties, many are area specific, which thrive well in that particular region alone.
For example a variety called sugarcane moringa (named after sugarcane because of its sweetness and taste) is specific to Paramathy, near Karur.
“Moringa is one crop which is still not commercially exploited fully. The oil from its pods serves as a good lubricant for watches, clocks and aircraft, but how many really know about this?
“Commercially there are no machines available for the oil extraction. A tree which requires practically no expense for its care, yet gives back multifold returns in terms of leaves, pods, stem, bark etc needs to be popularised among farmers to make them take up its cultivation on a larger scale. The fact that from one acre this tree can generate more than Rs. 1 lakh during peak season a year is something which farmers need to experience personally,” says Mr. N. Madhu Balan, agriculture extension adviser and administrator of Vivasayam karkalam on face book.
Madurai Valaiyapatti moringa is one such variety. Nearly a decade back not much information was available on it. Today thanks to farmers like Mr. K.P. M. Sadaiyandi of Pallipatti, Dindugal, this variety has become quite popular among farmers in the region.
What is so special about this Valaiyapatti variety?
When cooking it, there is a pleasant mouth-watering odour. The quality and taste of leaves and pods are good. The trees are resistant to pest and diseases. Pod length is quite lengthy and the number of seeds per pod is also higher — up to 22-25 numbers than other varieties.
It is a perennial bearer and can be maintained for more than 25 years either as a monocrop or as intercrop in coconut gardens. The only problem is during monsoon or heavy winds the trees tend to break since their stem is not strong to withstand the heavy wind flow.
For an acre as a monocrop, about 160 seedlings are required to be planted at 5 metre distance between individual seedlings. As an intercrop about 80 seedlings are sufficient.
The farmer has planted 80 trees as intercrop in his 10-acre coconut garden. The trees are watered through drip lines and grown organically. Vermicompost, sheep manure, panchagavya, practically any natural input is used as manure. Plant extracts like ginger paste diluted in turmeric solution are sprayed for controlling caterpillar menace common in this tree. Though small in size the variety is fast-growing. The farmer has trained the variety in such a way it produces several branches from the bottom unlike other varieties where branches grow on the top.
“Training the tree is important to get many branches. The trees are allowed to reach a height of 25 feet and bear 30-35 branches. They grow quickly even in poor soil. Like other varieties this also does not require sophisticated and expensive farming methods,” says Mr. Sadaiyandi.
Farmers can opt for harvesting either the leaves or pods. If leaves are harvested, one cannot get pods and vice versa. The Madurai Valaiyapatti produces at least 100 kg of pods per tree during three seasons annually.
The farmer sells each kg of pod from Rs.10 to Rs.150 at the local market depending upon the demand. He was able to get a net income of Rs.1.6 lakhs from an acre during the 18 months of planting the trees.
“Though the income was quite sufficient from this crop I wanted to increase it. I noticed that there was a vast scope for seedlings and decided to switch over to developing and selling good seedlings than just as leaves and pods”.
Though moringa trees grow easily from seeds or stem cuttings, it takes a long time for them to get established and also mortality percentage is more in them. Suppose you need about 160 trees for an acre. While planting them about 30- 40 seedlings die.
“To avoid this I preferred a technique of air layering and started this method of propagation before six years. When tree starts flowering, I tie the branches by using moist coco peat with panchagavya called air layers. The layers develop roots in a month. They are then separated from the mother tree and transferred to polythene bags, kept in the shade for a month for hardening,” he explains.
In a year three batches of seedlings are produced which are sold at Rs.40 each to farmers of Dindugal, Theni, Salem and Madurai.
Till now, four lakh seedlings (one lakh seedlings a year) have been developed, generating a net income of Rs. 4 lakh. About 20 trained women and three men work in his farm doing the air layering, separating rooted air layers, then transferring to polythene bags.
For details contact Mr. K. P. M. Sadaiyandi, Karthikeyan moringa nursery, Pallapatti, 624 201, Nilakottai taluka, Dindugal district,Tamil Nadu, mobile:9791374087 and 9865078101 and Mr. N. Madhu Balan on mobile: 9751506521 Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu.