This summer, it literally rained Alphonso mangoes at a farm located at V. Kurumbapatti, eight km from Batlagundu of Dindigul district in Tamil Nadu.
The challenge in growing Alphonso, a popular variety in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, in V. Kurumbapatti is its terrain is not so suitable for the crop. The bountiful harvest was the result of proper crop, water and pest management.
K.S.B. Farm, which did not see encouraging results five years ago, produced about 120 tonnes of Alphonso mangoes from more than 80 acres, this year. Muthuvel Pandian of Bodinaickanur, who had taken up contract farming at the 120-acre farm, attributed the success to the application of customised techniques.
S.T. Baskar, a farmer from Kovilpatti, who provides technical advice, said water management had played a significant role in the record yield. Direct pumping from a nearby well, earlier, meant reduced pressure, uneven water distribution and higher wastage. Hence, a ground-level water tank, with a capacity of 3.5 lakh litres, was constructed to streamline irrigation.
Water is now pumped into the tank from where it is supplied to individual trees through a drip network. Rationing is adopted as the trees start to flower between December 15 and January 20. During this period, water supply is suspended and resumed when the fruits start to appear. Twenty litres of water is provided for each tree once a week when fruits remain tender. After a month, 50 litres of water is pumped into the roots of a tree per day for three months, till the fruits are ready for harvest.
Grafted mango saplings, brought in from Maharashtra, had been planted at the farm with a gap of 15 feet between the trees. Neem-based pesticides and insecticides are used at this zero-fertiliser organic farm, where pruning of trees is done only once a year at the end of July.
Mr. Baskar said that customised farming had ensured that even an alien variety like Alphonso could flourish in the hot climate of Tamil Nadu. “There is no need for cold months for the trees to yield better fruits and they can also withstand any amount of rainfall because of the red soil in the region,” he said. The fruits weighed between 180 to 250 grams each. Compared with other crops, labour deployment is low at this farm which employs only 20 people, including 12 women.
Alphonso has had a good demand this year in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai and the export market. But it could not attract fancy prices like the other popular variety, Imam Pasand.