After successfully experimenting with olive farming, farmers in Rajasthan have now started growing strawberries.
Strawberries, until now have remained outside the reach of the poor. However, for the last 6 years concerted efforts are being made by a progressive farmer from Chittorgarh district, Jagdish Prajapat, to bring strawberries to the middle classes.
Jagdish Prajapat, resident of Nimbahera Tahsel Gram Panchayat Bangreda Mamadev, decided to do something new. Initially, he planted strawberry plants in 10 acres of agricultural land. The local climate and land-water conditions proved favourable in ripening of the fruit crop. Carrying his learnings forward, he is currently farming in 6-7 acres of agricultural land. From a small village like Bangreda Mamadev these strawberries have reached major cities including Delhi and Ahmedabad.
In the beginning, he brought the plants from Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra and even Himachal Pradesh. However, this year his own farming tactics proved fruitful and he managed to create crops from the strawberry plants present in his field.
Prajapat’ input cost is Rs. 3 lakhs per acre of land. This cost includes compost, fertilizer and manual labour. At a time 50 quintals of produce can be obtained from per acre of land in Jagdish’s field. He then neatly organizes these strawberries in 2 kilograms packs (approximately costing Rs. 200 per box) to protect the fragile fruits before transporting them in buses to various cities.
For successful strawberry farming, Prajapat applies all techniques suggested by the Agricultural Department. These techniques include drip irrigation, plastic mulching sheet bed for moisture protection and fertigation as per nutrients recommendation to maintain the premium quality and shape of the plants.
Like most plants and flowers, strawberries also have numerous varieties, Winter variety did very well in Prajapat’s farm. This plant was cultivated in the first week of September with 12,000 plants in his field. The crops are ready for harvesting by March-April. Varieties like Raniya, Pamaroj, Camilla, Nebila, Sweet Charlie, Chandler, Aofa, among others were also tried out by him but the local climate and natural resources benefitted the Winter variety more.
Prajapat believes that favourable air, water and soil conditions for cultivation of strawberries exist in many places in Rajasthan. “Insects and plant sickness are a challenge but all crops possess a certain degree of risk.,’’ he points out while hoping to get himself involved in strawberry processing but would only proceed in this direction after receiving ample guidance.