Fenugreek Plant Cultication & Farming in india
Fenugreek, also known as methi, is a popular herb and spice used for culinary and medicinal purposes. It belongs to the legume family and has aromatic seeds and leaves that are rich in protein, minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals. Fenugreek is native to the Mediterranean region and western Asia, but it is widely cultivated in India, which is the largest producer and exporter of fenugreek in the world.
Fenugreek has been used in India for thousands of years as a food, medicine, fodder and incense. It is mentioned in ancient texts such as the Vedas, the Charaka Samhita and the Sushruta Samhita. It is also used in Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha systems of medicine for treating various ailments such as diabetes, digestive disorders, skin problems, hair loss, inflammation and menstrual disorders.
Fenugreek is an annual herbaceous plant that grows up to 60 cm in height. It has trifoliate leaves with toothed margins and whitish flowers that produce long pods containing 10 to 20 small, brownish-yellow seeds. The seeds have a strong smell of curry and a bitter taste. The seeds are used as a spice and also extracted for their oil and oleoresin. The leaves are used as a vegetable and also dried for making kasuri methi, a popular ingredient in Indian cuisine.
There are many varieties of fenugreek cultivated in India for different purposes. Some of the popular ones are:
- Kasuri: This is the most common variety grown for its leaves. It has small seeds and large leaves that are highly aromatic and flavorful. It is mainly grown in Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
- RMt 1: This is a high-yielding variety developed by the Rajasthan Agricultural University. It has medium-sized seeds and leaves that are suitable for both spice and vegetable purposes. It matures in 130 to 140 days and has good resistance to diseases and pests.
- Pusa: This is an early-maturing variety developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute. It has large seeds and small leaves that are mainly used for spice production. It matures in 110 to 120 days and has good tolerance to drought and frost.
- Co-1: This is an early-bunching variety developed by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. It has small seeds and large leaves that are used for vegetable production. It matures in 95 days and has good quality and yield.
- Methi No. 14 and Methi No. 47: These are high-yielding varieties developed by the National Research Centre on Seed Spices. They have medium-sized seeds and leaves that are suitable for both spice and vegetable purposes. They mature in 120 to 130 days and have good resistance to diseases and pests.
Climate and Soil
Fenugreek can be grown in a wide range of climatic conditions, but it prefers moderately cool, frost-free and clear weather during its growth period. It can tolerate temperatures ranging from 10°C to 32°C, but it is sensitive to high humidity and heavy rainfall. It can also withstand mild frost during its vegetative stage, but it may suffer damage during its flowering and seed formation stages.
Fenugreek can be grown in various types of soils with good drainage and organic matter content. However, loamy or sandy loam soils with pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.5 are ideal for fenugreek cultivation. The soil should be well-prepared by ploughing, harrowing and leveling before sowing.
Seed Treatment and Sowing
Fenugreek seeds should be treated with fungicides such as thiram or captan at the rate of 2 g per kg of seeds to prevent seed-borne diseases such as damping-off, root rot and wilt. The seeds should also be inoculated with rhizobium culture at the rate of 10 g per kg of seeds to enhance nitrogen fixation.
Fenugreek can be sown either by broadcasting or by line sowing using a seed drill or a dibbler. The optimum seed rate is 20 to 25 kg per hectare for broadcasting and 15 to 20 kg per hectare for line sowing. The seeds should be sown at a depth of 2 to 3 cm and covered with a thin layer of soil. The optimum spacing between rows is 20 to 25 cm and between plants is 10 to 15 cm.
Manures and Fertilizers
Fenugreek is a leguminous crop that can fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil. Therefore, it does not require much nitrogen fertilizer. However, it responds well to phosphorus and potassium fertilizers. The recommended dose of fertilizers for fenugreek is 20 kg of nitrogen, 40 kg of phosphorus and 20 kg of potassium per hectare. Half of the nitrogen and the entire amount of phosphorus and potassium should be applied as basal dose at the time of sowing. The remaining half of the nitrogen should be applied as top dressing after the first irrigation or 30 days after sowing.
Fenugreek also benefits from the application of organic manures such as farmyard manure, compost or vermicompost at the rate of 10 to 15 tonnes per hectare before sowing. This helps in improving the soil fertility, structure and water-holding capacity.
Irrigation and Weed Control
Fenugreek requires regular irrigation for its proper growth and development. The frequency and amount of irrigation depend on the soil type, climate and stage of the crop. Generally, fenugreek needs four to six irrigations during its life cycle. The first irrigation should be given immediately after sowing to ensure good germination. The subsequent irrigations should be given at intervals of 10 to 15 days depending on the soil moisture status. The critical stages for irrigation are flowering and pod formation.
Fenugreek is susceptible to weed competition, especially during its early stages. Therefore, timely weeding and hoeing are essential for maintaining a weed-free field. Two to three weedings and hoeings are sufficient for fenugreek cultivation. The first weeding should be done 15 to 20 days after sowing, followed by the second weeding after 30 to 35 days and the third weeding after 45 to 50 days. Alternatively, chemical weed control can be done by spraying pre-emergence herbicides such as pendimethalin or oxyfluorfen at the rate of 1 to 1.5 kg per hectare within three days of sowing.
Harvesting and Yield
Fenugreek can be harvested either for its leaves or for its seeds. For leaf production, fenugreek can be harvested when the plants are 25 to 30 cm tall, which is usually 40 to 45 days after sowing. The leaves can be cut with a sickle or a knife and tied into small bundles for marketing or drying. For seed production, fenugreek can be harvested when the pods turn yellowish-brown and start shattering, which is usually 110 to 130 days after sowing. The plants can be uprooted or cut with a sickle and stacked in small heaps for drying in the sun for a few days.
The average yield of fenugreek leaves is about 10 to 15 tonnes per hectare and that of seeds is about 1 to 1.5 tonnes per hectare. However, with improved varieties and management practices, higher yields can be obtained.
Threshing and Storage
After drying, fenugreek seeds can be threshed by beating the pods with sticks or by using a mechanical thresher. The threshed seeds should be cleaned by winnowing or sieving to remove dust, dirt and other impurities. The cleaned seeds should be dried further under shade until they attain a moisture content of about 10%. The dried seeds should be stored in gunny bags or jute bags in a cool, dry and well-ventilated place away from direct sunlight and moisture.
Fenugreek leaves can be dried either in the sun or in an oven until they become crisp and brittle. The dried leaves should be crushed or powdered and stored in airtight containers in a cool, dry and dark place.
Fenugreek is a versatile crop that can provide multiple benefits such as food, medicine, fodder and income. It is easy to grow and requires minimal inputs and care. It can also improve soil health by fixing nitrogen and adding organic matter. Fenugreek cultivation can be a profitable enterprise for farmers in India who want to diversify their cropping system and enhance their livelihood.