Unnao farmers switch from wheat and paddy and go bananas over profits
Banana cultivation in Unnao district is becoming popular with the farmers as they reap profits that are way more than the traditional crops of paddy and wheat. From a mere 40 hectares about four years ago, banana cultivation is now spread across nearly 140 hectares of land in the district.
Sumit Yadav 8 July 2022 9:04 AM GMT
Udaybhan Singh who has been a farmer for most of his life owns five and a half bighas of land (1 bigha = 0.25 hectare). The 42-year-old from Kharauli village in Sikandarpur Karn block has traditionally grown wheat and paddy on his land for 20 years without significant profit.
"Growing paddy and wheat always meant a lot of expenditure and the income never matched that. I just about managed to break even every time," Udaybhan Singh, who lives in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh, told Gaon Connection.
But three years ago, the farmer decided to try something different. On half a bigha of his land, he experimented with growing bananas. And, so happy was he with the outcome that he extended the cultivation to two and then three bighas of his land.
Like Udaybhan, a number of farmers in Unnao are switching over to banana cultivation. Several local farmers claimed that while they barely saved about Rs 20,000 from one bigha of paddy or wheat, the banana crop allowed them to save nearly up to 1.5 lakh rupees worth per bigha. But, it is worth all the hard work they have to put in to cultivate the bananas, they said.
Banana cultivation has become a popular crop with farmers, said Jairam Varma, district horticulture officer, Unnao.
"The horticulture department is also encouraging farmers to grow bananas. They were given several subsidies and grants that they could avail by registering on our website (www.dbtuphoticulture.com). The district currently has about 140 hectares of land under banana cultivation. About four years ago, there were only 40 hectares of land under bananas," the horticulture officer told Gaon Connection.
Rajendra Dwivedi, a farmer from Mahramau village in Sikandarpur Karn block, grows bananas in seven bighas of land. Like Udaybhan Singh, this farmer too cultivated paddy and wheat for several years in his 26 bighas of land till he decided to grow bananas in a part of his land.
"If we take good care of the banana crop, we get about 30 to 25 kilos of fruit from each tree," the 52-year-old Dwivedi told Gaon Connection.
The farmer said there was no problem whatsoever getting a good price for the bananas. "The traders come to our field itself to buy the bananas and no matter how much the price drops, even if I get a minimum of twelve rupees a kilogram, which I do, it is a lot more profit for me than what I made out of paddy and wheat," he pointed out
According to Dheeraj Tiwari, agricultural scientist from Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Unnao, there are a lot of advantages of cultivating banana sapling that have been developed through tissue culture.
"Such saplings are healthy and pest resistant, besides being uniform in size and appearance, when compared to those grown out of rhizomes," Tiwari explained to Gaon Connection.
Benefits of tissue-culture variety of banana saplings
Traditionally, farmers in Unnao district get the banana rhizomes from Maharashtra and plant them in nurseries they prepare on their land. Lately however, many of them have taken to planting the tissue-culture variety of banana saplings, which have proven to be a lot more advantageous.
The tissue culture saplings begin to flower before 60 days and they yield their first harvest of bananas between 12 and 14 months. In the conventional rhizome method, the harvesting happens after 15 to 16 months.
Also, the second harvest in the tissue culture banana plant is ready within eight to 12 months of the first harvest. This is not so with the rhizome varieties of plants.
Explaining his profits, Udaybhan said: "A thousand saplings can be planted in a bigha of land. These yield about 200 to 250 quintals of fruit. Each quintal goes at a price of approximately Rs 1,200."
According to him, in order to farm bananas in one bigha of land, the expenditure is about Rs 80,000. "Even after spending Rs 80,000 on a bigha of land, I make a profit of up to Rs 1.5 lakh. I am able to recharge my Kisan Credit Card, and my family is living a comfortable life," the farmer said happily.
Water and soil requirements for banana cultivation
The banana requires considerable amounts of water to grow. But, according to farmers, that is not such a great challenge. "Water levels are at no more than 28 to 30 feet below the ground and we draw water from tube wells for irrigation purposes," Udaybhan told Gaon Connection. Irrigation through tube wells is expensive business, but since there are no streams or other water bodies available to them, there was no option, he added.
"The soil has to be prepared well for growing bananas. It has to be well-drained and there should be no water logging," Udaybhan explained.
The process begins in the month of July when the ground is prepared with fertiliser made of cow dung, then a series of small pits are hollowed out in the ground at a distance of five feet, and then the saplings of the banana plant are planted, the farmer explained. After a week to ten days the field is irrigated. After a few weeks the field is weeded and in about three to four months the produce is ready to be harvested, he added.
"One has to ensure more soil is added regularly to the base of the stem to further strengthen the sapling, and it is important to keep an eye out for any infestation," Udaybhan cautioned. If there is, expert advice should be sought and appropriate medicines be administered, he said.