Some ‘smart farmers’ in the district, who have deviated from usual farming practice, have identified a ‘sweet way’ of augmenting their income by intercropping minor (seasonal) fruits and vegetables along with orchard crops.
Perennial fruit crops like mango and acidlime, having long gestation period, are the biggest hurdle for the poor farmers, who hesitate to take up fruit crop cultivation on a large scale as they cannot reap immediate revenue.
Under the National Horticulture Mission (NHM), to promote the cultivation of mango and acidlime, farmers are given mango grafts, acidlime saplings with a subsidy of Rs 7,650 per hectare for normal planting method, whereas High Density Planting (HDP) method fetches Rs 9,800 per hectare for mango, and for acidlime a subsidy of Rs 12,000 per hectare is given.
During 2014-2015, 50 hectares have been covered by mango under normal planting method, 60 hectares under the HDP method and 100 hectares under acidlime to benefit 242 farmers. Following rains, farmers have planted mango and acidlime plants. The Department of Horticulture was urging the farmers to cultivate a season-bound intercrop like watermelon in these new orchards to get revenue in about 80 to 90 days during summer.
“The pulp of fully ripe watermelon (Citrullus lanatus), will be juicy and delicious. It is the richest source of iron among all cucurbits. It requires warm weather with low humidity and bright sunshine. During the development of the fruit, a higher temperature will result in more sweetness in the juice. The yield of hybrid variety ranges from 45 to 60 tonnes per hectare,” says S. Raja Mohamed, Deputy Director of Horticulture, Tirunelveli.
Inspecting the field of K. Subramanian of Pappankulam in Nanguneri block, where acidlime has been cultivated on 0.50 hectare, Mr. Mohamed, along with A. Asir Kanagaraj, Assistant Director of Horticulture, Nanguneri, said the plant intercropped with watermelon under drip irrigation system was ideal to get the maximum return from the intercrop.