Swapna James is a farmer from Kerala with a 15 acre farm. She used every inch of the farm wisely and strategically to execute an agricultural technique known as intercropping. Her passion for farming intensified after her marriage.
She chose to assist her husband James in biological agriculture 15 years ago and received training from the Department of Agriculture and Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK). In the process, she managed to put Palakkad district in Kerala small village of Kulakkattukurissi on the organic farming map of India.
While she started with a small investment, she has already doubled her income and persuaded other farmers in the area to give up using chemicals in favor of biological agriculture. Today, she earns on average Rs. 2 lakh per acre, and the farm generates up to Rs.30 lakh per year, which is almost double what she earned earlier.
Exchange says the training she received gave her the courage to explore with her in the past monocultural Iand (only one cultivated land). she planted coconut, areca nut, cocoa, nutmeg, coffee, jackfruit, and pepper instead of a single crop (rubber). Tapioca, banana, ginger, turmeric, yam, bitter gourd, chili, snake gourd, snake gourd, different tuber crops, and other crops are also grown on its land.
âIn the beginning, we used chemicals to develop rubber, which resulted in losses. Either demand would decrease, or if our plantation were devastated, we would have no other source of income. The quality of the soil had already deteriorated, and our only advantage was that we had a lot of property. In 2006, we started to diversify. We knew we could fall back on rubber plantations if that didn’t work, âexplains Swapna, a mother of two.
she adopted intercropping, which involves growing a crop between rows of other crops. It also included a fish pond and breeding as additional income generators.
âCrops are chosen in such a way as to reduce water use, increase soil fertility, fix nitrogen, and resist pest attacks. The optimal combination is achieved through a series of trial and error. It is essential to keep track of how the plants, roots, seeds, fruits, and flowers react during the experiments. Crops share sunlight and nutrients rather than fighting for them, âadds Swapna.
Swapna has planted coconut, nutmeg, and Turmeric all together. Shade-loving trees like nutmeg and turmeric can grow between coconut palms. The rubber is also interspersed with cocoa, coffee, vegetables, and bananas. It sows according to the growth of the rubber trees. She grows crops that require more sun the first few weeks and crops that can be grown in shade later in the season. Pulses and legumes, she says, are planted between trees to fix nitrogen, and crops like cilantro and turmeric are excellent pest repellents.
Swapna was able to cultivate many varieties of each plant thanks to the associated planting methods. She grew 45 distinct mango varieties, such as chandrakaran, mallika, sindhooram, kalapadi; 33 distinct jackfruits, such as without gum, muttam varikka, thenvarikka, sindhoori; 26 varieties of nutmeg, 14 different guava trees, eight lemon trees, 12 varieties of okra, and more.
She also cultivated milk fruits (star apple), pomegranates, cherries, blackberries, strawberries, creamed apples and passion fruits.
Tulsi (Saint Basil), chittamruth (Giloy), panikoorkka (Patta Ajwain), and kacholam are medicinal herbs (Galangal). With different harvesting methods, intercropping ensures a constant cash flow throughout the year.
Swapna is also saving money on input expenses, which she significantly reduced by keeping three cows to create. jeevamrutham (cow urine + dung) like a natural fertilizer.
She also uses Beejamrutha and Panchagavya. While jeevamrutha can be used at any stage of the crop, panchgavya is most effective before flowering. The latter is a mixture of five ingredients of cow dung, cow urine, curds, milk, and ghee which improves soil fertility and repels pests. Swapna sometimes adds jaggery and banana to the mixture. During this time, beejamrutha (a combination of lime, water, cow dung and cow urine) is used to treat soil borne diseases in seeds.
Every year she picks up dry leaves and reuses them as mulch for the soil, and she picks up near 4 lakh liters of rainwater in the artificial pond.
âI rarely buy anything outdoors. We buy cakes and neem seeds outdoors during some cycles, but the expense is extremely low,â says Swapna.
She received the“Innovative farmer” reward by the Indian Institute of Agricultural Research (ICAR) earlier this year for its diverse expertise and successful experiences.