Well, mango is inarguably the king of fruits. We wait all year long for summer to arrive in order to relish the juicy, succulent mangoes. Alphonso, Pairi, Totapuri: all are welcome. Being a seasonal fruit, the royal mango has innumerable health benefits. Mangoes pack just the right amount of antioxidants to help prevent cancer. Its high fibre content is instrumental in fighting obesity and lowering the bad cholesterol in our body.
But how does one grow this king? What processes are involved in delivering this heavenly fruit to us? Let’s find out!
Basic terminologies: the ABC of farming
Fertilizers: Plants require adequate nutrition for growth. Some of the important nutrients are listed below:
Elements which constitute about 94-99.5% of plant mass.
Elements which constitute about 0.5-0.6% of plant mass
|Hydrogen (H)||Potassium (K)
Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are mainly obtained from the atmospheric carbon dioxide and water, whereas phosphorous and the like need to supplied to the plants via the inorganic salts present in the soil. Another method for ensuring these nutrients make their way into the plant system is by adding fertilizers to the soil or applying it directly to the plants. Fertilizers include organic manures, plant residues, biological nitrogen fixation (i.e. harnessing atmospheric nitrogen with the help of nitrogen-fixing bacteria) and commercial inorganic fertilizers.
Pest-control: In order to minimize the harm done to crops by insects, weeds, and pests, various pest-control methods are practiced. One of the most commonly used methods is spraying pesticides, which will specifically repel the pests affecting the concerned crop. Pesticides such as dinocap, carbendazim, copper oxychloride, bordeaux mixture, and naphthalene acetic acid (NAA) are generally used in mango farming.
Ripening: In fruits, ripening is a natural biological process, which makes it more palatable and sweeter in taste, softer to touch, nutritious, and is accompanied by colour change in the peel. Generally, fruits produce a plant hormone called ethylene gas, which brings about ripening of the fruits.
Conventional farming of mangoes: Faulty practices that we taught ourselves
Certain chemicals used in agriculture for nutrition or pest-control, have been the main culprit behind destruction of the equilibrium and balance of our eco-system. They have been responsible for killing certain organisms, which work as natural enemies of menace-causing pests. This further results in the resurgence of pests, and increases the application and costs of chemical pesticides.
Also, it is widely accepted that incessant and overuse of pesticides has led to the emergence of pests, which are even more harmful than their predecessors. Thus, this traps the farmer in a vicious cycle due to which he is compelled to spray even more of these chemicals to deter the pests from harming the crops.
If fruits are harvested once they’re already ripe, they stand the risk of rotting during transit to the markets. Thus, they are harvested way before the ripening stage, and are subjected to unnatural ripening via certain chemicals.
One of the most popular and cheap chemicals used for ripening is calcium carbide, also known as ‘masala’ among fruit traders. Commercially used for gas welding, calcium carbide reacts with moisture to release acetylene gas. The resultant acetylene ripens the fruit.
Even though the cosmetic appearance of such fruits is better, their internal fruit matter remains raw and tasteless, not to mention unhealthy and highly toxic to heath. Accelerating this natural process by chemical means is one of the most harmful practices of conventional farming.
The hazards caused by the toxic chemicals, used as fertilizers and pesticides are more than one can count. Some of those harmful repercussions are listed below:
Organic farming of mangoes:
In order to increase the yield of his crops and to protect them from environmental harm, mankind interfered with the natural balance of the environment with synthetic aids.6 And we continue to suffer due to this act. We at Advaita strongly discourage the use of such artificial practices when it comes to growing food.
Organic fertilizers are known to preserve the beneficial micro-organisms and help increase the nutrient value of the soil with each passing year. Common sources for organic fertilizers include urea, charcoal, carbonized rice hull, wood ash, fish amino acid, and vermin compost. Most of these fertilizers have already undergone natural decomposition due to the action of beneficial microorganisms, making it easier for the plant to absorb the essential nutrients from the soil. Quarterly application of these fertilizers will also ensure optimum supply of macro and trace mineral elements.
The organic compost made from pest-repellant herbs like most legumes will also increase the nutrient supply to the plants, along with protecting the plants from pest and diseases.
Since mango trees are perennial, the soil used to grow them should be kept free of any chemical based fertilizers, pesticides and herbicide that kill beneficial fungi, bacteria.
During the flowering and fruit development stages, application of fish amino acid (FAA) can ensure the health, vigour and productivity of the mango trees. It makes the fruit grow bigger, heavier, and sweeter. It also reduces or minimizes fruit drops.
If organic methods are adopted for the cultivation of mangoes, the trees will naturally possess better immunity against pests and diseases, even without the harmful pesticides. If the crops are affected by pests, pruning of the affected parts, brushing them with soap and water, removing the weeds, and spraying of organic pesticides can help combat the infestation. HOC-n1 or herbal organic concentrate acts as a natural fertilizer, fungicide, insecticide and pest repellant and can be used for organic farming.
The fruits can be ripened naturally by enclosing them in jute bags or in box full of hay for a period of about 24 hours. Naturally ripened fruits, although fully ripe, may show green patches on their peel.
What is organic farming, and why is it so important?
When we hear the word ‘organic’, the first thing to pop into our minds is ‘natural’. That’s right! Organic farming means natural farming. It involves using substances, which are solely derived from nature. But wait? Isn’t that how mankind has always been growing its food?
In school, we were taught how the waste material obtained from plants and animals was used to produce manure, which worked as a fertilizer for crops. Unfortunately, due to the ever-increasing global demand of food, globalization of the food market, and increased crop losses due to plant pests, weeds and diseases, the farming scenario has changed by leaps and bounds. Farmers have started resorting to spraying their crops with harmful chemicals to nourish them adequately and to keep the pests and growth-deterrents at bay. Pesticides are popularly termed as ‘crop protection products, since they are believed to help increase the crop yields, quality and availability.
Use of organic farming is both an art and science, which draws from the wisdom of ancient agricultural practices, and scientific evidence supporting its benefits.We at Advaita believe it is our responsibility to promote this wisdom and enable consumers make the right food choices by making organically produced food both easily accessible and affordable.