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"Organic methods reap a house full of mangoes
from a single tree

CHENNAI, May 12: Having nurtured the Mysore Badami mango tree for as long as 14 years, the family was disappointed with a meagre yield of about 100 mangoes and wanted to chop it down.

However, the head of the family, Dr H K Lakshman Rao, who had developed an emotional attachment to the tree, refused the suggestion and decided, as a last ditch effort, to use natural organic manure instead of chemical fertilisers.

The result was nothing less than spectacular.

"When we harvested the mangoes last week, we thought it would be a routine affair and would be over in about half-an-hour’s time. But that was not to be. We are amazed by the yield as it took nearly ten hours to finish the job...And the house was full of mangoes," Dr Rao told UNI, proudly pointing to the mango tree in the compound of his house in a south Chennai locality.

"After our own consumption and gifting to relatives and friends, there were lot of mangoes left. We sold it at a very nominal rate that yielded Rs 4,000. There was mad rush for the mangoes and many of them had to go home empty handed...," he added.

Ironically, the 63-year-old Dr Rao, a management consultant associated with BITS, Pilani, IGNOU and AIMA, had been in the marketing division of Madras Fertilisers Ltd. for 23 years.

He told UNI that all these years, no expense was spared in looking after tree. Timely application of fertilisers, chemical pesticides and regular watering was carried out. The tree started yielding crop from the seventh year, but it was too meagre, mostly infected with pests and unfit for consumption.

The changeover to organic cultivation methods have paid rich dividends as the tree has started yielding more than 2000 mangoes much to the amazement of the residents of the South Chennai locality. Dr Rao said he was also getting queries from various quarters, including from outside the state, about his cultivation methods.

He said as a first step, he had trimmed the tree immediately after harvest in June last year. The lopped off leaves, both green and dry and the tender stems were raked into a 1.5 feet deep pit dug near the tree. Subsequently, the ditch was topped with mud.

A large quantity of neem leaves, procured from the trees lining some streets in the neighbourhood, were put into another pit near the root system of the mango tree along with neem cake and sand as a substitute for chemical fertilisers.

The moisture content was maintained with a little bit of watering. Dumping of coconut husk in and around the tree also helped in retaining moisture, reducing the need for frequent watering.

Neem oil, instead of chemical pesticides, was sprayed once in three months in July, October and January. The result was that the tree became pest-resistant.

A "vermipit" was set up on one side of the house in which earth worms, vegetable wastes and kitchen wastes were put and covered with mud. After two months, it became good organic manure for the tree.

Dr Rao claimed that the neem leaves, coconut husk and the neem oil provided some sort of nutrition to the tree as it not only increased the yield manifold, but the size and the taste of the mangoes also improved. Hardly any fruit suffered pest infestation, he added.

He said he found that with this treatment, the tree became much healthier. Dropping of flowers and withering of the mangoes were also significantly reduced. "When we were spending about Rs 1,500 to Rs 2000 for chemical fertilisers, the yield was very low and the return was only pests," Dr Rao said.

"For Rs 300 spent on organic manure by way of collecting falling neem leaves from other parts of the locality, we got a return of more than 2000 mangoes," he said.

The mantra for Dr Rao is simple. "The focus of the management is on adopting the available resources to the best of one’s advantage...Whether in an industrial plant or on a mango plant. I did that exactly," he said with a smile.

"If everyone adopt this same system, self-sufficiency could be achieved, leading to bumper crops everywhere and bring down the market price of mangoes to affordable levels for common man," he added.

Dr Rao’s other interests include rain water harvesting and solar energy. At his residence, he had set up a rain water harvesting facility which he claimed improved ground water quality and quantity. He had also installed solar heater at the terrace of his residence and a solar lamp is the latest addition. (UNI)"

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