Smt Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, Chairperson of People for Animals, shares her knowledge of organic farming techniques and the people who are a pioneering force in this story.
A recent book I have picked up, from the The Other India Bookshop, is a manual on Panchgavya (panchgavya is a mixture of five cow products) by Dr. K. Natarajan. Dr. Natarajan has studied the effects of panchgavya for decades and has used it across India to treat plants, animals and human beings.
He says that the basic preparation should be fine tuned for maximum efficiency. He has already won the prestigious Srishti award for his bio pesticide (ease of preparation and lack of side effects) and has made excellent immunity boosters for cattle. He has two herbal medicines for diabetes and arthritis.
Panchgavya has come a long way from 1998, when it was innovated by scientists for the first time. Now students have their PhDs and M.Phils for scientific research in “itr”. Thousands of farmers use it daily. The manual is extremely interesting. It not only gives detail of what panchgavya is, and how to make it, but it gives the names and details of how it is used in different places all over India, and empirical evidence on the difference it makes immediately to the soil and to the body.
India has gone through a deeply troubled phase in agriculture. For centuries, we ate organic, good, seasonal food and fruit. Then, in 1960 the government was enamoured of the idea of doubling everything overnight. In the “Green Revolution” pesticides and chemicals were introduced and pushed through all the publicity media and scientific institutions.
In ten years most of the food we ate had disappeared and was replaced by standardized, low level, unhealthy grains. As the years went on, the ground became soaked with chemicals and urea, and had become so thirsty that we started overusing water, and then electricity, simply for irrigation.
By 2000 India realized that, while we were importing millions of tonnes of poisons to put on the land, nothing had increased except cancer. The Green Revolution had failed totally and farmers were in despair.
Very slowly, farmers started to go back to what they knew best – organic farming. Tiny steps were taken to replace chemical fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides, with organic manure. But nothing was available to replace growth promoting hormones and immunity boosters, and to bring sustained higher productivity. So farmers, and some scientists, started experimenting with medicines mentioned in the Vrikshayurveda, and panchgavya was the result.
Panchgavya for farmers consists of five products from the cow: dung, urine, milk, curd and ghee. These, which when mixed appropriately, have excellent, almost miraculous, results. Dr. Natarajan has added some more ingredients. So, this is what his panchgavya recipe is:
Fresh cow dung, 5 kg; cow urine, 3 litres; cow milk, 2 litres; cow ghee, ½ kg; cow curd, 2 litres; sugarcane juice, 3 litres; tender coconut water, 3 litres; 12 ripe bananas, and toddy or grape juice, 2 litres. This gets you 20 litres of panchgavya.
Take a wide mouthed mud pot, concrete tank, or plastic can. No metal containers. Put fresh dung and ghee in first and mix twice daily for 3 days. On the 4th day add the rest of the ingredients and stir, twice daily, for 15 days.
After the 18th day keep in the shade, and cover with a mesh to prevent flies. If you don’t have sugarcane juice add 500 gms of jiggery dissolved in 3 litres of water. If you don’t have toddy, put 2 litres of tender coconut water in a closed plastic container for 10 days. It will ferment and become toddy.
This panchgavya can be kept for six months and, when it becomes thick, water can be added to keep it liquid. It contains all the nutrients necessary for plant growth, and these have been verified by labs and farmers across the country.
Add three litres to every 100 litres of water, filter, and spray it on all crops. It can also be used through drip or flow irrigation.
It should be used to drench seeds in for 20-30 minutes before planting. Then it is sprayed 20 days after planting, and after every 15 days in the pre flower phase, once in 10 days at the flowering stage and once when the pod matures.
Effect of Panchgavya on Food
This is the effect it has on some fruits (the details of others are given in the book).
Mango: Dense flowering fruit every year instead of alternate years, flavour and aroma enhanced.
Lime: Flowering round the year, plump fruit with strong aroma. Shelf life extended by 10 days
Guava: bigger, tastier. Shelf life extended by 5 days.
Banana: bunch size becomes uniform and harvesting can be done a month earlier.
Turmeric: yield enhanced by 22% with extra long fingers. Reduced pest and disease.
Jasmine: Continuous flowering throughout the year . Exceptional aroma.
Vegetables: Yield enhanced by 18 % and doubled in cucumber. Extended shelf life and strong flavours.
Paddy: 300 grains per earhead. Harvest advanced by 15 days. Percentage of broken rice reduced during milling. Grain weight increases by 20%.
Panchgavya has been investigated on sugarcane, mustard, groundnut, jowar, bajra, ragi, maize, wheat, sunflower and coconut . In all of these, panchgavya acted as a growth stimulant and pest inhibitor.
Plants sprayed with panchgavya produce bigger leaves, sturdy side shoots from the trunk, and the roots are profuse, dense and go deep, making the plant take the maximum nutrients and water. A thin oily film forms on the leaves and stems, reducing evaporation of water and allowing the plants to withstand long dry periods. Irrigation can be reduced by 30%.
Normally, yield falls when the farmer moves from chemical to organic farming, and this is the main reason why farmers fear the shift. If he uses panchgavya , the yield remains the same, the first year itself. The harvest is advanced by 15 days in all the crops.
Panchgavya increases shelf life, so selling and storing becomes easier.
I would suggest that you cut this out and share the information with the farmers you know. Let them try this out on a small part of their farms and see if it works. If it does, it will definitely make them richer and the consumers of their produce, healthier. Or, try it on your garden and the trees outside your house.
Get the book. Contact Dr. Natarajan at +91 9443358379. This story has been written by Smt Maneka Gandhi, founder of People for Animals India.