Vanilla - organic cultivation with special reference to manuring
Ashwini Krishna Moorthy and Dr. Varanashi Krishna Moorthy
Vanilla, a tropical orchid vine in nature grows attached to a support plant
under shade. This climber produces roots from every node, which grows attached
to the support plant extending downward and spread profusely on the humus layer
of the soil just under the degrading organic matter. So for successful
cultivation of vanilla lot of organic matter needs to be applied.
Vanilla is grown in tropical countries but mostly consumed in European
countries and North America. Today in the consuming countries, organically
grown food commands higher price. In case of Vanilla, this premium is 70-100
Varanashi Farms Adyanadka is a certified organic farm growing various plantation crops. In this farm,
vanilla is successfully grown with high productivity.
Mixed farming - ecologically and economically stable: To make vanilla
cultivation more sustainable it is better to grow it as a mixed crop using
Glyricidia, Erythrina, arecanut, coconut, teak, casuarina, cashew nut or even
natural forest trees as support/shade trees.
Semi-degraded compost-ideal: Vanilla roots need good aeration.
It is a perennial crop and demands continuous supply of nutrients. So,
semi-degraded and fibrous compost from coir pith/arecanut husk is ideal.
These materials do not contain enough nutrients. Hence, compost has to
be prepared by addition of appropriate N,P,K rich materials.
For composting, any suitable method could be followed. However, VRF Method
of Composting is most advanced and easy to adopt.
VRF Method of Composting: Varanashi Research Foundation has developed
this method. It involves construction of 10 cm high mud bund all around
preferably in shaded level space measuring, 8 m length, 1.8 m breadth and
spreading the thin HMHDPE plastic sheet of 2.7 m width to form a shallow tank.
Heap of 1 m height is built by spreading pre-wetted (70% moisture) biodegradable materials
layer by layer (see table for recipe). Addition of a consortium of beneficial
microbial culture like Varanashi Composter makes the compost microbiologically
richer. The heap needs to be covered again with same kind of plastic sheet
secured with pressing mud along the base and in turn to protect the sheet from
UV rays covered with coconut leaves/dry grass. Turning of the material hastens
the process of composting. The semi-degraded compost will be ready within 2-3
months. However, the un-turned heap, though cheaper, takes longer time for
composting. Because of the plastic lining underneath as well as the top
of the heap, there is (i) higher retention of nutrients; (ii) higher ratio of
the composted material to the raw material and (iii) consequently; a perceptible
increase in the total quantity of the nutrients recovered per unit mass of the
Compost recipe for different materials (quantity in kg)
||250 Dr.L./ Fr.L./ W.Pl./Ag.W.
||25 O.K./250 FYM/ 125 C.D.
||250 Ar.H + Ar.L. (Mix)
||25 O.K./ 250 FYM / 125 C.D.
||125 P.M./250 C.D.
Ar.H. : Areca husk
Ar.L.- Areca leaf
V.C. - Varanshi Composter
FYM - Farm yard Manure
C.P. - Coir pith
W.Pl.- Weed plants
Fr.L. - Forest leaves
Dr.L. - Dry leaves
O.K. - Neem/Castor cake
C.D. - Cow Dung
P.M. - Poultry Manure
Ag. W- Agricultural/ Agro-industrial wastes
|R.P. - Rock Phosphate (with 18-20% P2O5 in case of higher content reduce the quantity)
Right quantity and right time of manuring: Beginning of the monsoon
is most ideal time for planting vanilla. At the time of planting,
about 10-15 kg of semi-degraded compost need to be applied to a thickness
of 2-3 cm around the support plant having vanilla vine. Repeat the
application of 15 kg in the month of September-October. In case of mature
vines, 20-30 kg of compost application is to be given when the pollination
of the flowers begins in February-March. The quantity of manure mentioned
earlier could be reduced at low rainfall areas where the leaching loss is
less. The manure could be also given in 2-3 split doses. Use of oil cakes
like castor cake/neem cake also helps in boosting the growth. However,
these are rich in nutrients and so the quantity should be restricted
to ¼ to ½ kg per application and one or two applications per year during
Nutrient Spray boosts the growth: The aerial roots of vanilla absorb
the nutrients when given as spray. Foliage also absorbs them. During summer
months, nutrient spray can be given once in 7-10 days. Cow urine diluted 10
times can be sprayed alternatively or in its absence, Varanashi Biospray could
be given. Biogas slurry diluted 1:4 could be used to feed the root zone once
in 30-60 days. Vermi-wash, compost tea (extract) are other useful organic
preparations. Manuring and nutrient spraying just before heavy rains and
also after September are to be avoided in order that the plants are enabled
to shift to reproductive phase.
Organic and mixed farming - Minimum pest diseases: At Varanashi Farms,
the pest problems are minimum compared to other farms. Birds and other natural
predators control most of the insect pests. In addition, mechanical control
also needs to be practiced. For fungal problems, like Phytophthora rot during
rainy season 1% Bordeaux spray is to be applied.
Organic farming is the key to sustainability: A properly planned
organic farming is much cheaper and more sustainable than chemical farming.
One should grow as many crops as possible and make farming nearer to forest
eco-system. By such practices, the land, which has been bequeathed to us,
could be profitably utilised and passed on to next generation in a sustainable
Vanilla processing and curing