At a time when educated people are scouting for remunerative options in the farming sector, a reputed scientist has shown the way by successfully demonstrating a model of reaping good profits from mango cultivation through “ultra high-density planting”.
Molecular plant pathologist P. Chowdappa, who retired as Director of the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute in Kasaragod, Kerala, a few months ago, has taken to full-time farming now and is successfully experimenting with various horticultural models.
Going against the conventional method of planting 40 to 50 mango saplings an acre, Dr. Chowdappa has planted 674 a acre on his farm, located beyond Doddaballapur in Bengaluru Rural district.
“I have planted alphonso and kesar varieties of mangoes at a rate of 674 plants an acre on 10 acres. I have given a spacing of nine feet between the rows and six feet between the plants. While the yield per plant will be low when compared with the conventional planting system, the total yield per acre will be higher,” he said. This method has been taken up for the first time in the State on a large scale. A salient feature of the method is that almost all the fruits will be of good quality.
“I allow the plants to reach a height of just six or seven feet and prune the branches thereafter. The idea is to ensure that the branches of one plant do not touch the branches of another,” he said, pointing out that maintaining a proper canopy architecture was crucial for sufficient sunlight to reach the plants. “We are getting 50 fruits from a plant, which amounts to 10 kg. As of now, we are not allowing more than 50 fruits. We also pluck the additional fruits at an early stage for easy maintenance,” he said.
This year, which marks the fifth year of planting saplings, he was able to sell his produce to an online commodity firm at a farmgate price of ₹60 a kg. With this, he has earned a profit of over ₹2.5 lakh an acre, after deducting expenses of about ₹1 lakh an acre.
What is important in this kind of ultra high-density planting is proper crop management. In addition to drip irrigation for some dry months, he also provides nutrients and sprays medicines at three intervals a year. “In fact, I hinder the growth of branches to an extent so that the plants yield early. The yearly yield helps in getting good prices for the fruits as the demand for mangoes will be generally high during the early season owing to fewer arrivals in the market,” Dr. Chowdappa said.
Getting such a high yield from mango plants is being seen as a possible game changer for farmers from dry and semi-dry areas as mangoes require less water.
Dr. Chowdappa’s 20-acre farm, which he has been developing for nearly 15 years, resembles a miniature demonstration field. “Associating with farming, whether as a scientist or as a farmer, is my passion. This is because I hail from a farming family,” he said.
The 20-acre farm has multiple fruit varieties in addition to mango and bamboo plants for supply under the national bamboo mission. For effective harvesting of rainwater, he has built four farm ponds. He even rears fish in these ponds and earns a revenue of about ₹1.5 lakh a year from each of them.
The farm resembles a miniature demonstration field in a research station because of its quality and proper maintenance. Dr. Chowdappa’s intention is not earning great sums as revenue through the farm; he wants to help fellow farmers earn sustainable incomes. “My larger aim in retired life is to help farmers, especially the farm youth, get sustainable incomes. I have decided to provide practical training to them in various aspects of commercial farming, including the preparation of bio-fertilisers,” he said.
In fact, he is building a training facility at his farm for imparting scientific skills to youngsters. “The current situation, created by COVID-19, has increased the relevance and importance of farming for a sustainable future,” he said.