The Indian farmers are looking at farming options for achieving income enhancement and livelihood security. The cultivation of medicinal crops is less risky in terms of the incidence of wild animals, pest, diseases attack and price fluctuations, and has potential returns and these crops can be grown in degraded and marginal soils, or grown as intercrops in orchards. Even Bacopa monnieri, Centella asiatica, Ocimum sanctum and Pogostimon patchouli could be considered as high returns per rupee investment and better system productivity crops. Medicinal and Aromatic Plant based cropping systems in India have shown that farmers gain significantly higher profits from their lands.
The health benefits of tulsi, relief from respiratory disorders, as well as treatment of fever, asthma, lung disorders, heart diseases and stress. This crop is being under cultivation in Gujrat, Rajasthan, M.P., Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, Bengal and Tamil Nadu. Intercropping of Tulsi with different fruit crops offer greater scope to utilize the land and other resources to the maximum extent. Shri Neil Saha from Pandori and Nishant Kumar M. Patel from Porda, Petladh both the farmers were motivated under Central Sector Scheme sponsored by DASD, Calicut, Kerala for cultivator of medicinal crops. After a year of cultivation, they achieved good amount of profit. The highest net return (Rs. 59,201/ha/year) was obtained as intercropped with lime. On the contrary, the lowest net return (Rs. 32,095) were obtained in sole crop. This obviously reflected the importance of intercropping to increase the productivity per unit area and also offers insurance against crop failure (Fig. 1).
The entire plant of brahmi is used in indigenous system of medicine as a nerve tonic and cure for epilepsy and insanity. This crop is under cultivation at small scale in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Foot hills of Himachal Pradesh & Uttaranchal. Farmers are facing water logging problem especially during rainy season. Under such unfavourable condition, cultivation is not possible for most of the crops. Therefore, they need suitable crop especially during rainy season. It is a success story of village Pandori of Anand District in Gujarat which has emerged as a brahmi cultivating village under low lying fields. When the farmers were impressed about the profitability of brahmi cultivation, they decided to cultivate this crop (Fig.2). The story of this crop starts with the plantation of one bigha by farmer Sh. Neil Saha as consulted with scientists of ICAR-Directorate of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Research, Boriavi and collected about 10 kg cuttings as planting material from ICAR-DMAPR, Boriavi. First year the farmer itself multiplied the planting material. The whole plant is cut into small divisions to about 4-5 cm long, each with few leaves and nodes are planted directly in the beds with a spacing of 40 x 40 cm to get maximum herbage yield.
The plants transplanted in month of May and were allowed to grow and proliferate through hot and humid months of monsoon till September after which harvesting was done. The plants maintained in a perennial state with three harvests in a year, the first ratoon in February and second ratoon crop taken on or before June. On an average, a yield of 150 q/ha dry herbage obtained from three harvests. After first harvest about 15-20 q/ha additional dry herbage yield can be obtained from the ratoon crops. The material turned over in alternate days, during drying. The dried material should be packed in waterproof bags and stored in a cool dry room. After a year of cultivation, farmer could achieve good amount of profit. Previously, the farmer was cultivating traditional crops but after getting more profit, he never went on back foot. On an average, a farmer can get approximately Rs. 2,49,000/ha/year net returns from the cultivation of brahmi as a sole crop under low lying field. The B:C ratio over cost C2 was 2.99 (Table 1 and 2). This emphasize that brahmi cultivation is a profitable venture under low lying area of our country (Fig. 3). Brahmi growers not only fetching the remunerative income from this enterprise, but also providing the employment opportunities to the local people.
Fig. 3 Bhahmi multiplication, cultivation, harvesting and packaging practices at farmer’s field as guided by DMAPR Scientist
Table 1: Components of cost and returns for brahmi cultivation/ha/year
Table 2: Economics of brahmi cultivation under low lying area of central Gujarat
Based on the performance and economics of the selected plants viz., Brahmi, Tulsi, Mandukaparni and Patchouli were found to be suitable intercrops in citrus, papaya, custard apple, pomegranate, aonla and mango orchards under marginal land. Medicinal and aromatic plants are gradually recognized as source of significant livelihood opportunities besides conserving soil for marginalized farmers.
(Source: ICAR-Directorate of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Research)