It has suddenly sprung up on the road medians and along roadsides. Motorists find it as godsend barrier on the NH-4 bypass to Old Goa via the Kadamba plateau as it cuts the glare of the oncoming traffic on the other side of the median. Almost no one seems to know the Sesbania aculeata, also known as Danchi or Dhaincha in India, Thailand and Vietnam, countries that have lots in common besides the rice-eating habit. It was wrongly identified as Sesbania aegyptica earlier by the Egyptian Pea grows into a small tree like the Pigeon Pea or Arhar; the Dhaincha plant remains an herb even when it flowers. The flowers are cooked as vegetable in Thailand.
Dhaincha seeds were brought to Goa by the truckloads for ‘Green Manure’ in the early 1980s when I was a rookie agriculture officer and Prabhakar G Navelkar was the Director of Agriculture. The small pea-sized seeds came in one hundred kilogram jute sacks. One rainy afternoon in end July 1983, the ten-tonne truck driven by the one and only Ramachandra Gomes arrived at the rented premises in Bordem that served as the BDO and ZAO complex then. It was 5 p.m. and the stock was for distribution under the green manuring scheme that was allotted to me. We had four officers, half a dozen clerks, four labour and forty staff in the mechanical section. It was impossible for four labourers to unload ten tones or one hundred bags of Dhaincha and stack them. The mechanics, drivers, assistants and helpers would not budge. “It’s not our job.” was the common refrain when I pleaded with the mechanical staff. Then I climbed on the truck to help in the unloading. Without a word said, there were forty more hands on the job and we completed the task within twenty minutes. Dhaincha is something I will never forget. The mechanical staff later adopted me in its fraternity.
The Dhaincha plant is very adaptable to different kinds of soils: heavy clays to light sandy soils; acidic, alkaline or saline soils. It can also tolerate excess rain and drought conditions. Simply put: it is a survivor. Just think of it: it was dumped by the farmers who were given the seeds but not explained the technology as is still the case with many introductions including biological control. The focus is on achieving the physical target of distributing the inputs. Like ‘Little Jack Horner’ it is enough to “put in the thumb and pull out a plum and say, ‘What a good boy am I’.” Rare was the case of a rookie officer like me with a seasoned mentor like Abasaheb Kale, taking a 7 a.m. bus in Bicholim and reaching the farmers’ fields in Virdi, Advalpal, Mencurem, Dhumashem, Sal, Ladfem or Maulinguem to show farmers how to use Dhaincha or Rhizobium culture. The Dhaincha has survived in Goa for thirty years and erupted in green all over. In another two weeks it will be a sea of golden flowers. The flowering has just begun.