How this farmer harvests 41,000 kg banana and 25,000 kg potato per acre with crop rotation

Ram Saran Verma practices crop rotation to cultivate banana, potato, wheat and other crops in Uttar Pradesh, earning four times more than mono-cropping. Farmers from around 100 neighbouring villages are now following his techniques for record-high yields

Rashmi Pratap
New Update
Ram Saran Verma at his farm in Daulatpur village, Uttar Pradesh

Ram Saran Verma at his farm in Daulatpur village, Uttar Pradesh

When Ram Saran Verma joined his father’s farm after completing class 9, he soon realised that profitability was low in the cultivation of wheat, sugarcane, rice and mustard. With six acres of ancestral land in Daulatpur village of Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki district, he started thinking of cultivating other crops that could give higher income.

“Around that time, I read somewhere that horticulture crops were more profitable than rice and wheat. With nobody around me cultivating them on a large scale, I decided to travel to other states to see how farmers were faring with fruits and vegetables, the techniques they used and the incomes they earned,” says Ram Saran. 

During his travels, one of the things that caught his eye was the cultivation of bananas using tissue culture. Tissue culture is a method of growing plants from the tissues of select elite plants in a laboratory. It ensures that new banana plants are free from of disease, viruses and nematodes.

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Crop diversification to minimize risks

“I bought 500 banana tissue culture plants from the lab of late horticulturist and plant breeder Dr Manmohan Attawar and planted them on my farm in 1988. The profit was five times that of wheat and I decided to venture further into banana farming,” says Ram Saran, one of the first farmers to introduce tissue culture in Uttar Pradesh. He is now known as the ‘high-tech farmer’ and his techniques combine traditional wisdom with modern agriculture science. 

Ram Saran Verma amid potato harvesting. Pic: Courtesy Ram Saran Verma

Armed with the knowledge of banana tissue culture, Ram Saran converted his six acres of land into a farm of bananas, potatoes, tomatoes and wheat, growing them in a crop cycle to maximize profitability. Seeing good returns, farmers from nearby villages began joining him. 

“About 100 neighbouring villages have diversified from sugarcane and wheat to horticulture and now practice crop rotation to earn Rs3 lakh to Rs4 lakh profit per acre,” says Ram Saran. 

He was honoured with the Padma Shri in 2019 for his contribution to India’s farming sector. His work has stopped migration from farming families to urban areas by creating local employment, improving incomes and reducing the use of chemicals in the area. 

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Ram Saran has helped farmers in two ways. “One, I have been encouraging farmers to opt for crop diversification. Two, I have been promoting crop rotation as these practices minimise risk from natural disasters and market rate fluctuations,”  he says. If one crop does not turn out to be good or the market rate drops, the farmer can earn from the other crops and his income will be reduced but not wiped out in any year. 

With banana plants (left) and in watermelon fields (right). Pic: Ram Saran Verma

Today, Ram Saran is growing bananas, tomatoes, potatoes and watermelon over 310 acres on contract farming. India leads the world in banana production with an annual output of about 14.2 million tonnes and a national average of 30.5 tonnes per hectare (around 13 tonnes per acre), according to the National Horticulture Board (NHB).

The yield of bananas using Ram Saran’s techniques is more than triple the national average at 41 tonnes or 41,000 kg per acre. The output of tomato is 40 tonnes per acre and potato is 25 tonnes per acre.

This high yield is the result of following crop rotation, diversification from mono-cropping and keeping soil fertility high through best farming practices. 

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Crop rotation for high yields

Explaining the crop cycle for high productivity and income, he says, “In April, we start by sowing dhaincha (Sesbania aculeate) seeds for green manuring. After 45 days, we cut the 4 feet of grass and leave it in the soil and it becomes manure. This green manure improves aeration in soil by stimulating the activities of algae and bacteria, adds nitrogen and improves water retention capacity,” he says.

Green manuring reduces the requirement for biofertilizers and other inputs by 50 percent and cuts down costs drastically, he points out.

Then banana plantation is done in June-July. Ram Saran cultivates Grand Nain (G9) and Williams varieties. “In one acre, we put 1200 plants with a plant-to-plant as well as a line-to-line gap of 6 feet. The crop cycle is 13 months. Flowering in bananas starts next year in June and harvesting can be done in August-September,” he explains.

Chemicals are not used in wheat cultivation. Pic: Courtesy Ram Saran Verma

“Consistently, the yield has been 400 to 410 quintals per acre for both the varieties. We sell all the produce in Uttar Pradesh. Most of the wholesalers come to the farms for purchase,” says Ram Saran, also a recipient of the Jagjivan Ram Kisan Puraskar in 2007 and 2010 and the National Horticultural Award in 2014.

He says after harvesting the banana, its stem is cut using a harrow allowed to rot in the field. This adds potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus and magnesium to the soil. 

“Then in some part, we sow potato and cultivate wheat in the rest. We don’t use any fertilizer for wheat because the soil is rich with nutrients,” he says. Wheat is sown around November 15 and is ready for harvest by April 15. “The yield is 25 quintal or 2500 kg of wheat per acre,” Ram Saran points out.

The potato crop is ready in 90 days and the yield is 250 quintals per acre. “We plant watermelon around March 15 and it is ready in 75 days, creating consistent income opportunities for farmers,” he says.

(Rashmi Pratap is a Mumbai-based journalist specialising in business, financial, and socio-economic reporting)

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