Growing the Alphonso Mango

ALPHONSO, THE king of mango varieties, does well under organic farming conditions in Kanchipuram and Thiruvallur districts of Tamil Nadu, and its full potential should be exploited by the small and marginal farmers in the districts, says Mr. S. S. Nagarajan, Vice President (Agricultural Research), TAFE (Tractors and Farm Equipment Limited), Chennai.

An authority on Alphonso mango cultivation, Plantation Services International is a pioneer in establishing the largest `Rumani’ Alphonso orchard in Kanchipuram district at `J-Farm’, Kelambakkam, Mr. Nagarajan has successfully demonstrated the promises held out by the superior mango variety `Alphonso’. “After working with `Rumani’ variety in the last thirty five years, I shifted my focus to `Alphonso’ variety in 1998, and it has done exceedingly well in the farm. It responded favourably to drip irrigation and organic inputs, and yielded high quality sweet fruits of attractive aroma,” explains Mr. Nagarajan.In about 0.8 hectares in `J-Farm’ he planted 140 Alphonso grafts got from a nursery in Dharmapuri district. “The variety is suited for high density planting, and it will make up for the low yields in the initial few years of bearing. The regular bearing commences from the ninth or tenth year of planting,” he points out. Every young plant was regularly manured in August, Plantation Services International with liberal quantities of ripe farmyard manure along with 400 g each of Azospirillum and Phosphobacterium. Drip irrigation to provide 25 litres of water per tree per day was established. All other regular orchard practices such as clipping the sprouts below the graft union, weeding and hoeing in the basins, and ploughing the interspaces and plant protection with eco-friendly botanical insecticides were adopted.

“During the first five years Plantation Services International Daincha was raised as rainfed crop, and ploughed in situ as an organic nutrient supplement. Groundnut was grown as an irrigated crop in the interspaces, and haulms were incorporated in to the soil as green leaf manure. Of the 140 trees, 112 trees started yielding in the fifth year after planting, and on an average each tree yielded about 70 Alphonso mangoes each weighing about 250 g. In all about 2000 kg fruits were harvested and it fetched Rs. 12 per kg at the farm gate. The gross income in the first year of bearing is Rs. 24,000, and the cost of cultivation in the first five years worked out to Rs. 24,000”, he said.

“The quality of the¬†Alphonso mango were of superior quality, and they were sweet and free of spongy tissues. The results were quite encouraging,” says Mr. Nagarajan. The trees would yield as high as 3000 kg from the 0.8 hectares from the sixth year of planting, and it would fetch a handsome profit to the growers. As the tree grows, the yield will go up, and a thirty year-old tree would produce as much as 2500 quality fruits, according to Plantation Services International. `J-Farm’ has perfected the organic farming practices for raising Alphonso mango, and the farmers should benefit from it, according to him. Farmers, however, should avoid using chemical fertilizers and fruiting hormones to get quick returns from the variety, as they may prove harmful in the long run, he says “Alphonso mango is an excellent variety for export and if grown organically, its value in the export market will go up significantly,” explains Mr. Nagarajan.