An uncle-nephew duo from a Vavanje village in Panvel, Maharashtra has tasted success in organically cultivating strawberries.
Strawberries require a cold climate and grow only at places where the temperature stays below 29 degrees. However, in Panvel, the temperature fluctuates at around 35 degrees.
Sajjan Pawar, 40, and his nephew Prashant Pawar, 32, decided to take up the challenge. They successfully grew strawberries in their village despite the adverse climatic and soil conditions.
Panvel taluka officials said that this is the first time witnessing such an experiment is happening in the taluka.
How It Began
Prashant recalls that during an agriculture exhibition in Khandeshwar in 2019, he came across farmers from Mahad who had cultivated strawberries. It made him wonder if they can also do it as the climate at both places is more or less the same.
In the beginning, they cultivated around 100 saplings in a small area in Vavanje in November 2019. After a month and a half, the saplings bore fruit, and they were happy with the results.
Pawar says that after the experiment was successful, both of them decided to try it on a larger scale. In December 2020, they purchased 1,000 saplings and started cultivating them in a 714 square metres of land. By February, all the saplings bore fruits that tasted at par with the ones from Mahabaleshwar.
Their strawberries have become famous in Vavanje and they have already started getting orders. They are now selling it locally at ₹250 per kg.
The duo plans to expand their strawberry cultivation on a much larger patch of land by the end of this year. Prashant mentioned that they are targetting to cultivate the strawberries at least in an area of five acres.
While Sajjan is a resident of Kanpoli village, Prashant stays in Palebudruk in Panvel. Both of them belong to farming families.
Sajjan Pawar shares that when it comes to vegetables, a little variation in the quantity of water doesn't make any difference. "However, it is not the same for strawberries, temperature and quantity of water plays a major role here," said Sajjan Pawar.
He mentions that one has to keep in mind the temperature and water the plants accordingly. If it's cold, then the watering is done in the evening and in case if the climate is warm, the watering is done in the morning. Apart from this, one also has to see that the plants do not receive direct sunlight while watering them.
One of the biggest challenges that the duo faced while growing the crop in Panvel was the quality of sand. The land in Panvel has mushy mud which is in complete contrast to Mahabaleshwar's red sand. Another problem faced by the duo was pollution in nearby areas.
"Even with all the challenges, we managed to grow the crops in an organic way without using any chemicals and fertilisers. We used a 25-micron mulching paper that kept the fruits away from the mud so that it doesn't get spoilt. The paper also helps to keep the plant cool and doesn't let any other grass grow beside the crop," Hindustan Times, quoted Prashant as saying.
Dattatrey Nawale, sub-regional officer, Panvel taluka, who visited the farm, appreciated the duo's initiative. He added that if other farmers of Panvel would also benefit if they decide to take up strawberry farming.
He also mentioned that Panvel rural area has a lot of barren land which could be utilised for strawberry farming in winters. For initiating and motivating other farmers to take up such farming activities, he has even written to Raigad collector to suggest a scheme to fit in strawberry cultivation.