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Herbs Cultivation
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SANF- An Introduction To Herbs Farming And Cultivation Practices For Farmers

India is facing agrarian as well as nutritional challenges, our farmers in particular. The government itself has admitted that doubling of farm income by 2022 is not possible with the rate of growth that the agriculture sector is witnessing currently, and said it is advocating nurture of allied sectors to achieve the target. According to the Agricultural Census of India, 70% of the Indians directly or indirectly depend on agriculture. Surprisingly, both people and the government fail to deliberate over the magnitude of these numbers. More than anyone else, it is our small and marginal farmers who are at the receiving end of the crisis that the agricultural sector in India is facing today.

The consequence of the agricultural crisis in India is extensive and will likely hit all the other sectors and the national economy in more ways than one, it’s time we took matters into our own hands. SANF is not oblivious to the current plight of our Indian farmers, and that’s why, we propagate natural farming methods, which is a sustainable way of farming where nature plays a dominant role to the maximum extent possible and the farmer is considered only a facilitator (with the real work done by nature itself). Practicing natural farming, intercropping, and mixed farming systems are the only ways to revive the condition of our farmers. Natural methods of farming are the only ways to stop the agricultural downfall, otherwise, the situation might result in immense havoc in the agricultural sector and also simultaneously in the life of each individual of the nation if it couldn’t be reined in.

There are several factors why agriculture in India is facing a crisis today, including labor shortage, increased costs of cultivation in agriculture, natural calamities due to wrong agricultural policies, Green Revolution proving to be a wrong step, high doses of (artificial) fertilizer, use of pesticides, tractors, tillage of the land, more water consumption. Natural farming is the solution to reducing all these hazards. The idea of natural farming is to highly reduce physical work and labor as compared to other agricultural systems with the yields being similar to (even more than) chemical agriculture. There is an increase in soil fertility year after year, water requirement is minimized.

Intercropping:

Intercropping is a practice of cultivating two or more crops simultaneously on the same piece of land, a practice often associated with sustainable agriculture and organic farming. The idea behind intercropping is to produce a greater yield on a given piece of land due to better use of resources. With intercropping, the yield increases due to a higher growth rate of crops, reduction of weeds, pests, and diseases, and more effective use of resources (makes use of resources that would otherwise not be utilized by a single crop). Intercropping plays a huge role in decreasing the risk of crop failure by increasing the crop yield stability over time and across locations. You should plant one crop that has deep roots with another that has shallow roots to keep crops from competing with each other for space, nutrients, water, or sunlight.

Let’s shift our focus to intercropping in Melia Dubia plantation:

Truth be told, near about every kind of fruit and vegetable can be grown as an intercrop in Melia Dubia plantation, starting from ash gourd, eggplant, drumstick, ginger, papaya, turmeric, to mango, coconut, sugarcane, red gram, pomegranate, marigold. It is the best host, you can grow any crop in Melia Dubia project as an intercrop, it helps other crops by increasing nitrogen content in the soil, secretes carbon, helps other roots in getting water, air, thus leading to the rapid growth of the plant. Melia Dubia or Malabar Neem is a perennial crop (long duration) and grows very tall in a short time. After 3-4 years when canopy enlarges, you can go for any shade-loving trees or can do herbs farming in Melia Dubia project as an intercrop.

According to industry estimates, the market for herbal products is at Rs 50,000 crore, growing at a fast annual clip of 15%. Even more amazing are the farmers’ returns. A farmer growing a medicinal herb can easily earn Rs 2.5-3 lakh per acre. A lavender farmer may earn Rs 1.2-1.5 lakh returns per acre.

Herb Farming:

You are dedicating your land to cultivate herbs for a commercial purpose is what herb farming is. Herbs are mainly used for medicinal purposes and also to procure the oils which are essential for mankind. Herbs are also used in their raw forms for the preparation of herbal products.

Types of Herbs:

Medicinal Herbs- Medicinal herbs which are grown commercially include Aloe Vera, Amla, Brahmi, Ashwagandha, Basil or Tulsi, Calendula, Lemon Balm, Jatropha, and Marsh Mallow.

The medicinal herb farming has been growing exponentially in India as people are adopting a more natural and healthy lifestyle, leading to growth in their demand. The medicinal herbal farming is the one which is highly profitable for farmers in the current scenario due to the proven benefits of the herbs as an alternative to medicines. Medicinal herbs are being used more and more in light of most of the population wanting to live a healthy life.

The aforementioned herbs are just some of the profitable medicinal herbs available. Grow and sell these favorites and you’ll be on your way to growing profits in the herbs business.

Perennial Herbs- The most popular herbs include Asparagus, Coriander, Chives, Mint, Rosemary, Oregano, Curry Leaves, and Terragon.

Perennial (long duration) plants are those which live for at least three years. The biggest benefit of farming perennial plants (herbs and vegetables) is it is more time saving and effort saving, still one can expect great profits. If you are thinking about growing perennial plants, choose a place that would be permanent to grow them.

Biennial Herbs- Parsley, Evening Primrose, Caraway, Foxglove, and Angelica are some of the popular biennial herbs.

These plants which are grown annually take two years for a biennial plant to complete its biological life cycle, with the plants producing a good number of fruits and seeds before dying.

Culinary Herbs- Examples include Bay Tress, Parsley, and Peppermint.

Most of these herbs are annual, and culinary plants also serve as plants which are pest repellent, companion plants, etc. These are tolerant to drought after they are set up. These herbs are also used as flavors in food and also for garnishing purposes.

Aromatic Herbs- The most popular aromatic herbs include Chamomile, Lemon Grass, Sage, Mint, Lavender, Tulsi, Rosemary, and Sweet Basil.

Aromatic herbs are used for cooking to enhance the taste of the food, and also to season the stews and add extra flavor to the recipe. They are known for their aromatic, medicinal values (treats nose when one catches a cold) that come with the seasoning qualities in cooking, and also used to prepare incense. The oils extracted from the aromatic herbs are used to prepare fragrances, the smells of which when inhaled give therapeutic effects by soothing the mind and inducing sleep, therefore enhancing both physical and emotional health.

Suitable Soil for Herbal Farming

To grow herbs, drain the soil well in a way that it crumbles easily, which will ensure the roots to be able to get sufficient water without causing any decay and strengthening them simultaneously. The soil needs to be proper for the good and healthy growth of herbs. If you are growing the herbs outdoors, make sure to check the soil before going ahead with farming, analyze the pH levels of the soil. Also, analyze the number of fertilizers which will be required for the growth of the herbs. Moreover, soil sterilization is recommended to rid your crops of diseases, pests, and weeds which are derived from the common soil.

Caring for Herbs

  1. There’s no need for highly fertile soils to cultivate herbs. Loosen the soil with a garden spade or fork, and add some finished compost and mix it in before planting.
  2. Once planted, there’s no need for fertilizers, but occasional weeding is required.
  3. Water the herbs thoroughly when the soil is dry three inches down into the soil.
  4. Pluck out any flowers as they start to show to encourage new growth and extend the harvest.

Pests and Disease Management

Use insecticides or pesticides after figuring out the type of pests in your herb farm. Some of the common insects in the herb farm include ladybugs, mantids, mites, and lacewings.

To suppress the growth or germination of common weeds, perform tillage (the method involves turning over the soil between crops to include crop residues, eliminate existing weeds, and organize a seedbed for planting), mow and cut (removing tops of weeds), thermal weeding (use heat to kill weeds), mulching (using plastic films to block weed growth), and lastly, crops rotation from year to year to break pest reproduction cycles.

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