Noni, a native fruit, is also known as Mulberry. In our country it has been used for thousands of years for Ayurvedic treatment. This fruit is packed with many nutrients, including amino acids, vitamin C and pectin. It is used to stop the growth of tumors and cancer cells. Apart from this, it also proves beneficial in increasing immunity and good hair growth. However, it is not easy to find this fruit and plant, as you cannot grow Noni everywhere.
It is grown only in the coastal areas of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Odisha, as mulberry seeds require tropical temperatures to germinate. However, Prasenjit Kumar (24), a graduate in Agriculture (B. Sc. Agriculture) from Jharkhand Rai University and founder of Jeevanbodh Agrotech, has succeeded in growing Noni in his backyard in Bokaro.
The Better India Speaking to TOI, Prasenjit says, “I not only grew the fruits but also extracted the juice from them using traditional techniques. Apart from this, I have also extracted seeds from the fruit.”
Purchase of Noni/Mulberry Seeds
Prasenjit was told about the benefits of Noni fruit in 2018 by his father, who is himself a farmer. His father also explained why it cannot be grown in Jharkhand. Prasenjit says, “My father, Vivekananda, cultivates papaya (Red Lady Papaya), jasmine (Night-flower Jasmine) and dragon fruit. In 2005, he was the first person to cultivate spirulina (algae) in this area. My mother is an ayurvedic doctor and treats ailments with traditional recipes. It was my mother who told me why Noni is considered a Sanjeevani fruit.
चूंकि प्रसेनजीत, अपने कॉलेज के फाइनल ईयर में थे, इसलिए वह इस "असंभव" काम (Noni Cultivation) को संभव बनाने के लिए अपने प्रोफेसरों की मदद लेना चाहते थे। सबसे पहले, उन्होंने ओडिशा में एक फार्म की पहचान की, जो पहले से ही शहतूत के फल उगा (Noni Cultivation) रहा था। उनके साथ बात करने के बाद, वह समझ गए कि बीज अपने कठोर बाहरी आवरण के कारण अंकुरित होने में छह महीने तक का समय लेता है।
During these six months, the seed remains in tropical conditions. Prasenjit said, “When I contacted the farm, they were ready to give me a cutting or a sapling, but were hesitant to give me the seed. So far, the seeds have failed to yield in non-coastal areas. But I wanted to grow Noni from seed, so that I could grow a plant suited to the climatic conditions of Bokaro. So I convinced them and bought 200 seeds for Rs 1,000.”
After getting the seeds, he contacted a professor who taught plant breeding at JRU University for tips on how to germinate the seeds.
The professor suggested an easy way to break the outer hard shell of the seed. He suggested that soaking the seed in concentrated sulfuric acid for two minutes would break its shell. However, he also advised caution, as sulfuric acid can burn the skin.
He said, “I was not looking to give it a try, but my father was ready to take the risk. So we bought concentrated sulfuric acid and dipped the seeds in it, removing its outer shell. In the process, despite wearing garden gloves and using a steel spatula to scoop out the seeds, my father got a little burned. But thankfully it wasn’t too serious.”
Fruits up to 45 kg in the first year
Prasenjit also built a low cost polyhouse to germinate the seeds. 200 seeds were placed in individual plant containers in the polyhouse and within 50 days 116 of them germinated. The rest of the seeds did not grow.
The plants were then transferred to soil rich in organic manure and compost. After a few months, only 16 plants remained healthy and grew to a height of three feet.
Prasenjit said, “Till November 2019, after the monsoon rains, the trees were filled with mulberry fruits. I got up to 45 kg of fruits in the first year. Since the tree produces fruits and flowers throughout the year, I can get at least 10 fruits from each tree, every month.”
At present he is not selling these fruits. His mother extracts juice from the fruit in a traditional way and uses it to treat some patients.
Prasenjit says, “We decided not to sell the fruits, as they can get spoiled even in cold storage. So we kept them in airtight jars and let them cook in the sun.”
Empowering other farmers aim
Prasenjit also collected seeds from the plucked fruits and tried to make them germinate once again. This time he did not use concentrated sulfuric acid. This time in the polyhouse, the seeds germinated within 45-50 days.
He says, “I tried it with only four seeds and the idea worked. The seeds, I believe, have adapted to the weather conditions of Bokaro and can be grown by other farmers as well. 10 seeds are usually sold for Rs 250, and a kilogram can be sold for Rs 800.
Original article – Roshni Muthukumar
Editing – G N Jha
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