Drumsticks and Moringa leaves, a perennial favorite of Malayalis, has always been in high demand. The article enumerates the effective farming techniques for this low effort-high return crop. Drumsticks are a reservoir of vitamin C and B and the humble moringa leaves is a powerhouse, calcium, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, phosphorus and iron.
Drumsticks grow the best in tropical and subtropical climates in soils with enough sand and clay content. Despite this it is a hardy and adaptable crop and can survive in varied weather and soil types even in dry rainless climates.
A single tree may yield more than 1000 sticks in a harvest. Varieties such as Jaffna, Chavakkacherry, chemuringa, kaattumuringa, kodikaal muringa and the AD4 and KM1 developed by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University are available.
For seedlings, use a plastic bag for germination and transplant when they are 25-30 centimeters tall. If using the moringa cuttings, choose trunks which are the size of a hand and plant during May-June months for best results.
For the transplantation, make pits of 45 centimeters height, width and depth, 2.5 meters apart from each other in every line. Then add 15 kilograms of bio-manure in the pits and plant the moringa.
You will need 600 grams of moringa seeds for a hectare. Watering the seedlings is necessary and after three months a dosage of urea, super phosphate, muriate of potash has to be supplied in a 100:100:50 grams proportion. The plants need to be watered once in 10-15 days.
After six months add 100 grams of urea to the plant base. Remember to water the plants liberally during these stages, especially during the manuring stage. Once the plants are 75 centimeters tall clip the edges so that the tree spreads out in branches.
Moringa cultivation can be mixed with tomatoes and cowpea and okra. They can also co-exist with coconut palms. The major pest issues are green caterpillars, hairy caterpillars and stem borers and defoliation. But these can be controlled with the effective and measured use of pesticides like bordo mixture.
If well cared, plants can give two rounds of yield in a year, once in March- April and again in July- September. A plant may yield 30-35 kilograms of yield. After every yield the tree must be trimmed at 90 centimeters and this will help in accelerated growth and fresh sprouts.
The plant may stand in good yield up to 6 years. The stem, being very delicate needs care against breakage. The seeds of Moringa yield oil in a lot of economies, but is not popular in India.