MANEKA SANJAY GANDHI
A recent book I have picked up, from The Other India Bookshop, is a manual on panchgavya by K Natarajan.
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 since 1998, since it was used the first time. 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 also how it is used in different places across 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 with the idea of doubling everything overnight. During the Green Revolution, pesticides and chemicals were introduced and pushed through all media and scientific institutions. In ten years, most of the food we ate had been replaced by standardised, low level, unhealthy grains.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 realised 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 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, when mixed appropriately, have excellent, almost miraculous, results. Natarajan has added some more ingredients. This is what his panchgavya recipe is:
Fresh cow dung, 5 kilograms; cow urine, 3 litres; cow milk, 2 litres; cow ghee, ½ kilogram; 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, a concrete tank, or a plastic can. No metal containers should be used. Put fresh dung and ghee in first and mix twice daily for three days. On the fourth 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 grams of jaggery 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. Once it becomes thick, water can be added to keep it in liquid state. It contains all the nutrients necessary for plant growth, and these have been verified by laboratories 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. The mixture should be used to drench seeds in for 20-30 minutes before planting. It is then sprayed 20 days after planting, and again after every 15 days in the pre-flowering phase. It is sprayed once in 10 days at the flowering stage and once more when the pod matures.
This is the effect it has on some fruits (the details of others are given in the book):
Mango: The tree gives fruit every year instead of alternate years, with flavour and aroma enhanced.
Lime: The plant flowers around the year and gives a plump fruit with strong aroma. The shelf life is also extended by 10 days.
Guava: Gets bigger and tastier with an extended shelf life of five days.
Banana: The bunch size becomes uniform and harvesting can be done a month earlier.
Turmeric: The yield is enhanced by 22 per cent with extra long fingers. There is a reduction in pest attacks and diseases.
Jasmine: There is continuous flowering throughout the year with an exceptional aroma.
Vegetables: The yield is enhanced by 18 per cent and doubled in cucumber. There is also an extended shelf life and strong flavours.
Paddy: It gives 300 grains per earhead and the harvest is advanced by 15 days. The percentage of broken rice is also reduced during milling and the grain weight increases by 20 per cent.
Panchgavya has been investigated on sugarcane, mustard, groundnut, jowar, bajra, ragi, maize, wheat, sunflower and coconut. In all of these, it 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 per cent.
Normally, the yield falls when the farmer moves from chemical to organic farming, and this is the main reason why farmers fear the shift. However, if farmers use panchgavya, the yield remains the same, the first year itself. The harvest is also advanced by 15 days in all the crops. Panchgavya also increases shelf life, so selling and storing becomes easier.
I would suggest that you 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.