Vrikshayurveda Organic Farming - An Overview
Vrikshayurveda is the ancient Indian science of plant life, a body of knowledge that has been systematically compiled in the form of 325 Sanskrit slokas in a text named VRIKSHAYURVEDA by Surapala approximately 1000 years ago..
Surapala lived and worked in Bundelkhand in central India, and under the royal patronage of King Bhimapala he carried out his various experiments in horticulture and botany. His text was forgotten and the knowledge he had painstakingly compiled fell into oblivion for several centuries. Dr. Y.L. Nene, Chairman, Asian Agri History Foundation obtained a copy of Surapala’s manuscript from the Bodlein library in Oxford and had it translated from Sanskrit into English by Dr. Nalini Sadhale. This translation was released in 1996 and a Hindi translation by Dr. S.L. Choudhary was released in 2003.
Surapala deals with various subjects such as planting a garden, importance of various trees; collection, examination and treatment of seeds; selection of suitable land, soil characteristics, digging of planting pits, different methods of irrigation, plant nutrition, fertilizers, diseases of trees and their treatment, the wonders of horticulture, plant conservation, underground water resources etc. Surapala lived and wrote a millennium ago when chemical fertilizers and pesticides were unknown. Plant diseases and pests had to be dealt with by natural means available to the farmers and gardeners, utilizing the locally available materials. Our own experiments with the recipes described by Surapala and formulation of new recipes keeping in mind the basic principles enunciated by him have yielded magnificent results in the past decade.
Surapala describes and praises a fertilizer cum natural pesticide made from fish and animal waste called KUNAPA JAL. This fertilizer was made and applied in the tea gardens of Assam, Darjeeling, dooars and the Nilgiris and in the coffee estates of Karnataka. What emerged was nothing short of miraculous. Various pest such as red spider mite and helopeltis which the tea gardens were unable to eliminate using chemical methods, were eliminated effortlessly with kunapa jal within a few months. Moreover, the tea bushes produced more green leaf and the fertility of the soil also increased as indicated by the return of earthworms in the soil. Laboratory soil tests showed that pesticide residues had been eliminated from the soil of these gardens within 4-6 months of steady and regular application of kunapa jal and other liquid manures.
Arijit Bhuyan and Babul Lahkar of Golaghat, small tea growers, learnt how to make kunapa jal from the author and applied it to their gardens and fields in 2006. They obtained fish and meat waste very cheaply from the local fish and meat market after taking the municipality into their confidence. Needless to say, they obtained glorious results within a short period of time. These farmers today produce great full-bodied loose leaf green & assam teas from their farms that have been able to get appreciations from foreign buyers for their unique natural flavours.
Paddy farmers and small tea growers in the Golaghat area were also encouraged to prepare and use kunapa jal and other liquid manures in their gardens and fields. Dr. Padmeswar Gogoi a retired botanist has also praised these vrikshayurveda manures when he saw their wonderful field results. He is totally convinced about the efficacy of sasyagavya which uses green weeds and cowdung as raw materials. He has now become a champion of vrikshayurveda in Assam.
The relevance of vrikshayurveda for the farmers of northeast India
The small tea farmers of Golaghat have demonstrated that the methods of vrikshayurveda are suited to tea, paddy and vegetable farming. They have achieved excellent results within a short period of time with only a modest financial investment. Their gardens and farms are now totally organic and some have been certified as organic. Apart from tea and paddy, the northeast is suited for the cultivation of various fruits and vegetables. Bhut jolokia has been in the news as the hottest chili in the world. Small growers are trying their best to grow bhut jolokia in their backyards and sell it at a handsome price. Similarly banana growers are making efforts to step up banana production in Assam. Keeping in mind the requirements of these small requirements, one bigha models have been developed for a few selected horticultural crops using the methods of vrikshayurveda for a bountiful harvest.
Why liquid manures?
Growers both big and small want fast results today and a quick monetary return on their investment. But with the prevailing methods of organic cultivation, it takes a few years to enrich the soil, eliminate pesticide residues and obtain good crops using vermicompost, farmyard manure and the like. Many farmers do not wish to switch to organic cultivation for this reason alone as they do not have the patience to wait for a few years. Moreover, many fear a drop in their farm production while they are converting to organic methods. This means reduced income and very few are brave enough to go through this phase of austerity before they can finally taste the fruits of their labour. In this context, the liquid manures advocated by vrikshayurveda especially kunapa jal and sasyagavya will work wonders if prepared and applied regularly to their fields by these growers. Liquid manures can be sprayed easily after being diluted with water and most are ready for field application within three to twenty days in the climate of the northeast. The conversion to organic production can be made smoothly by growers if they adopt these methods wholeheartedly and give up the use of chemicals totally.
Ingredients used in liquid manures
Kunapa jal uses fish and animal waste and mustard oilcake; sasyagavya uses green weeds and cowdung; amritapani uses cowdung and jaggery; bhasmapani uses wood ash and cow urine; jaivik tika uses cowdung and cow urine; agnihotra bhasma is the ash obtained after performing agnihotra havan. All these manures can be made in simple plastic buckets or plastic drums or in cement tanks. The ingredients used in these manures are available locally and cheaply in the northeast. Most of these manures take from three to twenty days to be ready for field application., only kunapa jal takes between 45-60 days to be ready in the plains. In comparison vermicompost takes three months to be ready for field application and farmyard manure takes about a year’s time to be ready. Vrikshayurveda methods are thus suitable for today’s fast paced agriculture and horticulture.
Return to our vedic roots via vrikshayurveda
Although vrikshayurveda methods have proven their mettle in the field, this ancient science is more than a means to become rich quick. Our vedic ancestors had a deep respect for Nature and her mysteries, so did our ancient farmers. Little wonder that Indian civilization has withstood the test of time and the fertility of our soils has been maintained for over 5,000 years of our recorded history. Even Sir Albert Howard in his book An Agricultural Testament has admitted the superiority of traditional Indian methods of agriculture over European methods. Our experiment with western methods of chemical agriculture have led to disaster and farmer suicides in Vidarbha, Andhra Pradesh and north India are a direct outcome of this system of agriculture.
Indian agriculture and horticulture stands at the crossroads today. Western methods have proven to be unsustainable. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are petroleum derivatives. But with the depletion of oil reserves all over this planet within the next 20-25 years this system of agriculture cannot last. What will our farmers and growers do when DAP, urea and other chemical fertilizers are no longer available? They will of necessity have to return to their traditional methods of agriculture. But this will be a painful and long drawn out process if known methods are used for making the transition. Vrikshayurveda offers a relatively painless and smooth transition from chemical agriculture to organic agriculture within a few months! If this is too good to believe, let the interested farmers learn and adopt vrikshayurveda methods on their farms. They are sure to be surprised by the results.
Basics of Vrikshayurveda Organic Farming:
Vrikshayurveda Organic Farming-- An Overview:
Dr. Anjali Pathak is a naturopath, writer and organic farming consultant who has worked with the growers and the planters of the northeast, the dooars and the Nilgiris. She uses indigenous methods including those of vrikshayurveda in her work. She advises growers and conducts practical workshops on vrikshayurveda methods all over India upon invitation—www.naturalorganicfarming.com. Her book ANNAM BRAHMA: Organic Food in India, Pilgrims Publishing was released in 2009. She may be contacted at 09450540363, 07388975839; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- Anitha Pai