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Eat healthy, grow your own veggies

The conversion from industrial or chemical agriculture to organic agriculture is not merely replacement of synthetic insecticides and fertilizers with natural ones but it is actually a complete “conversion” of one’s set of beliefs. After all poison-free vegetables are an important consideration when thinking of healthy food for oneself or one’s family, specially the children

 Miguel Braganza

 

Vegetable seeds are now available at the Directorate of Agriculture’s Zonal Agriculture Offices across Goa. Oswaldo de Souza has an eye for detail and has been my most consistent supplier of seeds. The Manga Hilario mangoes I eat each year are all thanks to his grafting skills and tenacity in getting to the source. Plants grafted by him can also be seen at the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research (IIHR), Bangalore; the premier research station for fruit crops, vegetables and flower crops under the Indian Council for Agricultural Research or ICAR. The Arka Anamika or Selection-8 Ladyfinger and Arka Suryamukhi pumpkins of IIHR have been grown in Goa in the past too.

Almost any type of vegetable, chilli, pepper or herb can be grown in a container as long as it has enough space to grow and has enough light for photosynthesis and to flower. While small containers dry out more quickly and need to be watered daily, bigger pots occupy more space and create a heavier load on the structure. While selecting a container or a pot, minimum soil depths can help act as good indicators:

10 centimetres or 4 to 5 inches: salad greens, lettuce, onion chives, coriander, mint (pudina)

15 centimetres or 6 to 7 inches: bush beans, garlic, kohlrabi, onions, Asian greens, peas, mint and thyme

20 centimetres or 8 to 9 inches: pole beans, radish, carrots, chard, cucumber,  basil, fennel, peppers and spinach

25 centimetres or 10 to 12 inches: beets, broccoli, Bhendi, sweet corn, summer squash, dill and lemongrass

I am flagging just a few points on the polyhouse cultivation of vegetables based on my experience in the field.

  1. In case of heavy rainfall the poly-sheet that covers the aerodynamic design of polyhouse needs to be rolled down so as to cover the netted portion so that the rain water drains to the ground outside the polyhouse. If not, the rain water floods the plant bed area and produces moss, a clear indicator of excess water in the soil.
  2. A shallow drain [about 4 inches deep] must be dug on all four sides of the poly-house to prevent rainwater from entering it.
  3. The netted area and both the doors can be opened in the afternoons for a few days to help dry the soil. Research at ICAR-CCAR, Old Goa, has shown greater efficacy when blowers and exhaust fans are used at opposite ends of the poly-house. If one is unable to use fans then natural wind movement or a “chimney effect” can be used.
  4. Mix Trichoderma viride [get a free packet from the Zonal Agriculture Office, or for Rs.25/- from the KVK-North of ICAR Old Goa] with compost or cow dung manure. Sprinkle a little water to make it moi st and then apply this to the soil around the plant base ten days later. This reduces soil borne fungal pathogens that cause many diseases in chilli, brinjal, capsicum and other plants

There is hope on the horizon: the farmers of Goa have been able to grow green chillies in surplus of the state’s daily requirement, the process of setting up a college of agriculture in Goa is nearing completion and at least two MLAs are leading the movement for urban vegetable cultivation.

Poison-free vegetables are an important consideration when thinking of healthy food for oneself or one’s family, specially the children. After all said and done, “education” developed by corporate-supported Western universities, agriculture scientists and extension officers [me included] have been a part of the hard-sell for the agro chemicals that the European countries have long banned in their countries of origin and across the ‘developed’ world.

The conversion from industrial or chemical agriculture to organic agriculture is not merely replacement of synthetic insecticides and fertilizers with natural ones but it is actually a complete “conversion” of one’s set of beliefs. The philosophy changes from profit maximization at all costs to counting the cost of making the profit on other people, animals, birds, bees and even microbes in the environment. We now have hope.

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