Going organic with Okra


Miguel Braganza

Last week we saw how we can sow ladyfinger or Okra [locally called bhenddo] on mounds of soil or on ridges in a series of ridges-and-furrows, if the land is sloping. The smarter and experienced farmers sow two seeds per spot at every foot (30 cm) distance half way up the ridge. This makes it easier to earth-up, or pile-up soil to support the base of the plant as it grows. Still more efficient farmers sow ladyfinger seeds in twin rows one foot apart with twice that spacing between two pairs. The crop can be easily harvested while allowing for more plant population and higher yield per unit area.

The local ‘Sath Xiramcho Bhendo’ is pista green to ivory coloured and fetches premium price. We had overcome the perennial shortage of seed of this variety by multiplying it at the Margao and Ela Farm. Possibly, my former student Siddhi Prabhugaonkar can now multiply it at a larger scale at Kalay farm. In fact, pure seed of Elephant’s Tusk Okra can also be procured and multiplied again as we had once done with the Chorao Farmers’ Club in Tiswadi. Each ivory coloured Ladyfinger of this variety is almost half a metre long during the monsoons and, hence, the name. The organically grown crop is tastier and has a better shelf life.

The conversion from industrial or chemical agriculture to organic agriculture is not merely replacement of synthetic insecticides and fertilisers with natural ones. It is actually a complete ‘conversion’ of one’s set of beliefs. The philosophy changes from profit maximisation at all costs to counting the cost of making the profit on other people, animals, birds, bees and even microbes in the environment. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements [www.ifoam.org] defines it thus: “Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.”

Organic farming is not just what our grandparents did but a bit more. Effective Micro-organisms (EM), Panchagavya, Amrut Paani, Rhizobium japonicum, Trichoderma viride, Beauvaria bassiana, Goniosus nephantidis, Trichogramma japonicum, Pheromone traps, SRI or Madagascar method were not a part of their vocabulary as they are of present day, informed and conscious organic farmers. Organic agriculture involves tradition plus scientifically validated innovations. If one cannot get the same levels of yield and lower input cost, why should a small farmer want to shift to organic farming? The premium prices are only for certified crops. The certificate is sometimes as good as one given by a computer institute to someone who has done the complete course but has learnt nothing.

This monsoon, grow some vegetables at home and taste the difference. You do not need a certificate for what you grow at home for your own use.