FARMING AS A BUSINESS – and Intercropping Mango and Vegetables

Dear All,

I am a businessman working in Hyderabad and an architect by qualification. I also own a farm which is about 45 minutes drive away near Chilkur. I have been silently reading on this forum for the last few weeks and feel very encouraged due to the immensely helpful & positive outlook of the admins and contributors. Three years ago I was in an accident which made me immobile for some months. Due to that I suffered very huge financial loss and I am still trying to come out of the setback. So now, in addition to my current business, I am thinking of working at my farm in the hope that I can provide a reasonable support to my family in the future. As of now, I am able to easily spare every alternate day for the farm-related work. I am really enjoying doing this since it is (for reasons unknown) helping my broken back to recover.

We are having a mango plantation (certified by Vedic Organics) in about 6 acres (3 acres is 6 yrs old trees, and 3 acres is 2 yrs old plants, and another 2.5 acres is lying unused). I was planning to start intercropping melons in the 3 acre area which has bigger trees and do vegetable farming in remaining area. (Pics attached).

To start off, since our region is not having much rainfall since last few years and due to water scarcity, I wanted to make sure I had enough water supply before itself. So I planned to drill a bore-well 15 days back. In 1st attempt we got only 1" water, but in 2nd attempt, by nature’s grace we got 2" water. So now in total I have 3 bore-wells for my land. My 3rd bore-well gives 2" steady output.

Here are a few things I hope some of you can help me out with:

  1. From what I could make out with the naked eye, my land has a natural gradient drop of 1–1.5 in 100. The feeders for the drip lines installed for mango plantation work well, and maybe I will be able to connect the new bores to this line itself and branch out to the vegetable crops as needed. Where can I get reliable guidance regarding laying/spacing for drip lines for different vegetables?

  2. I have also inherited (from the previous owner) a large 20m x 15m x 15m deep pit to hold water run-off, if and when it rains. I am clueless as to how to make the best use of this pit right now.

  3. In my immediate neighbourhood I see that rice, mango, pomegranate, papaya, tomatoes, brinjals, and leafy vegetables are being grown a lot. So, about 4-½ months back, I planted a few vegetables in a very small trial plot to see what is the soil quality/ what’s growing in my soil, etc. I planted Tomatoes, Brinjals, Spinach, Carrots, Onions, Long gourd, and chillies. I did not put any manure or fertiliser but I did spray Neem oil twice to control some insects. We have not used any chemicals on our land since last 10 years, and I intend to keep it that way. But I have noticed that the colour and flavour of the vegetable produce is not so attractive. The carrots are distorted in shape. I am satisfied somewhat with the spinach though. On enquiring with a neighbour farmer, he said that the soil got depleted of nutrients over the last few years, which I believe must be true. So now I will bring in compost and also add beneficial cultures to it. But I want to experiment with growing about 20 vegetables. I feel that most small-mid farmers get cornered since they grow only one or two things in large quantities, which must be avoided. When you go to market with a variety of crops, you will end up holding at least a few of the aces (as far as prices go), unless you are a very large producer, in which case price fluctuations and greedy middlemen won’t be a major factor.

Since I am new to farming, I seek your advice on how to proceed next as far as good planting practices are concerned. I can get information from other posts about how to prepare the land (organically), where from to get seeds/seedlings, how to plan their spacing, etc? BUT which varieties to use? AND what special care needs to be taken since half of it will be inter-crop? etc. I need guidance from people who have already done it. I tried to get in a consultant (from ANGRAU) but he started the conversation on a negative tone implying that city-educated people can’t do hard work required for farming and just told me to put manure and went away without giving me a “plan of action”. So I didn’t bother with him afterwards. Please guide me.

  1. I got thinking about using Polyhouse tunnels for growing varieties that are especially attack-prone. For a PVC tube trial polyhouse (see sketch) of size 75 ft x 25 ft, and 12.5 ft arch-tip height, the structure cost (excluding film cost & bed preparation) came to ₹ 7,000 approx. In my estimation, this structure should last for a year easily as I will be using UV insulting tape between the pipes and the film. Is this a reasonable cost? If it is, then I will work on it more on my farm and share the actual details with you guys. I have provided for mesh net side-ventilation in the design. Which vegetables do you suggest must be grown in the polyhouse tunnel?

  2. From what I have gathered, most of the small and organic farmers in my area are getting disheartened due to not getting proper rates and outlets for their produce. I have a good circle here in Hyderabad and with my business experience, am quite capable of organising a direct “farm-to-table” system for delivery of fresh produce (weekly and 2-day cycles). I will put in place the manpower and logistic support required. For this, I wish to get in touch with other “organic” farmers and cattle owners nearby who can contribute to my delivery system. Will any of you guys be willing to be part of this experiment? For a start, I need enough produce for 100 families only. People are willing to pay extra for organic cow milk. Also, I have found a guy who does fruit-ripening without use of harmful chemicals. So we can also add fixed-price assorted fruit basket to the offering if any of you are interested.

I sincerely hope you guys will help & encourage me in this endeavour by showing the right direction.

Regards,
Harshal






Dear Sri Harshal,

regarding suggestions on Drip and Foggers, please contact officials of Netafim company in hyderabad and/or Finolex plastro company in hyderabad, ( marketing divisions are existing in Hyderabad ) as they are some of the standard companies in drip and foggers, also have controlled systems of waster discharge from dripers , even in sloppy  lands.

If possible,( so deep pit ) try to provide a poly film , of 200 micron/ 300 micron/500 micron lining to your pit, so that the  rain water can be collected in to it and can be stored.  Also provide shade on the pit ,with another white poly film lining on that to prevent evaperation losses and to arrest growing algae. First show this pit to the lining persons, if not, get the bottom and sides be cemented, and use it as a well.

I advise you to go with one or two varieties of vegetables  initially, see the results and then expand .
with good wishes,  g.p.rao,    farmer

Hello Mr Harshal…idea is very encouraging for farmers…m also practicing with my farmers here…please give your number

regards
ratna

Hi Harshal,
I feel, you can go for polyhouse as telangana govt offers poly house for 75% subsidy and you can grow many exotic varieties like color capsicum or high demand flowers. Why I am saying this is, with just a little over 3 acres at your disposal, how many types of veggies you can grow and how much quantity you get, and how much you end up paying for logistics just do your math. moreover, you cannot produce the crops round the year… My intention is not to discourage you, just trying to give you the hidden facts. My idea is go for a poly house, and for intercropping banana and papaya go well with mango and I feel Drum stick too. get some desi cows and some sheep etc so that you can produce your own organic matter for the land ( like jeevamrutha, gana jeevamrutha etc)  keep half an acre for fodder. Even you get subsidy for the pond, like the other forum members said, cover it with a geo membrane sheet and can put some fish in to it :slight_smile:.
Good luck and wish you a speedy recovery, god be with you.

Thanks,
Suresh