Turnip Cultivation in India – Profit and Cost of Farming

Turnip is not a very common vegetable in the market in most parts of the country. Turnip is not well-established in most markets throughout India. The lack of awareness about the vegetable, its distinctive taste, and its inability to grow locally everywhere throughout the country make these crops preferred and consumed in only some states in the country. 

Think about it this way… if I asked you to tell me 2 dishes from potatoes that are famous, you could easily do it. The same goes for carrots, peas, okra, and a lot of vegetables. But when it comes to some vegetables like radishes and turnips, we find it difficult to name a dish made of them and is popular. Even radish has a signature dish (mooli ke parathe) named after it but turnips are not as popular.

This is because turnips are not cultivated in most parts of the country. Turnip requires a temperate climatic conditions. Most parts of India, save a few, have subtropical or tropical weather conditions. This prevents commercial cultivation of turnips limited to small areas only. But theoretically, if a vegetable is rare, then they are to be of higher value and considered “Exotic” in India. Not in the case of Turnips. Turnips are considered a normal vegetable, just like most carrots and beetroots. 

Nevertheless, Turnips are consumed widely in areas near where they are cultivated. A small amount does go around to larger cities and towns where they are easily sold considering the huge population. 

Where exactly do turnips have a market?

  • Himachal 
  • Haryana
  • Delhi
  • Jammu 
  • Meghalaya
  • Punjab 
  • UP

These are the 5 states which have a prominent market for turnips. There are markets in other states too that sell turnips, for instance, Bihar has a moderate market. Tamil Nadu too has a small requirement for turnips and is acquired in mandis and markets. But these 6 states have a wider market for Turnips and they can be easily sold. If you compare the market of any of the 6 states above with a state which does not have a market, you would understand the difference in consumption. For instance, Kerala, Andhra, and Karnataka, Together wouldn’t be able to acquire the total consumption of turnips in any one of the above states.

  • Climate for  Cultivation: Turnips grow best in temperate climatic conditions. The temperature should be between 10 and 15-degree celsius for better root growth and good yield. Warmer weathers are suitable for some varieties but these varieties produce smaller roots and yield is not commercially viable. Turnips require Longer nights and shorter days with 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. In the south, Nilgiri hills are suitable for turnip cultivation. In the northern part of India, there are plenty of places where turnips can be cultivated seasonally. Punjab, Haryana, Himachal, parts of Uttar Pradesh, Parts of Bihar, the eastern part of India, and Jammu & Kashmir are all states where Turnips can be cultivated.
  • Ideal Soil for  Cultivation: turnips require soil with high humus and organic matter. Turnips do not like water logging and the soil should be well drained. Heavy soil is not recommended for turnips as the roots turn hard and fibrous. Sandy loam soil is best suited for Turnip cultivation.
  • Varieties of Turnips: Commercially some varieties suit each location. Most varieties are hybrids that were developed by agricultural universities in the states. Varieties differ in yield, taste, and even the way it looks. Some varieties are completely red, while others have a red top with a white base and others are completely white. They also differ in yield from 20 Tonnes per hectare to 40 tonnes per hectare. The time from seed to harvest is also different from variety to variety. The common varieties are
    • Early Milan Red Top – High Yielding Red Top, white base Well grained mildly pungent
    • Golden Ball- Globe Shaped with creamy yellow skin, white flesh 
    • Punjab Safed 4 – Early maturing Medium-sized round, White with a mild taste
    • Purple top White Globe – Heavy Yielder Large root, purplish top with a white base, crisp flesh with mild sweetness, Suitable for cooler months
    • Pusa Chandrima: Medium to large roots nearly flattened globe, white skin, Fine grain, Sweet and tender flesh, Early maturing (50-60 days) heavy yield (400 Tonnes per hectare) suitable for colder months
    • Pusa Kanchan: Hybrid of Asiatic and European Turnips, Red skin, Creamy yellow flesh, excellent flavor. Can be left in the field longer without getting hardened and fibrous than the parent variety
    • Pusa Swarnima: flattish round, creamy yellow skin, pale amber colored flesh, fine flavor and texture, best for June July in hills and November December in plains. 65-70 days to maturity
    • Pusa sweet: White roots, 45-50 days to maturity. Early maturing variety
    • Snowball: Early temperate, medium-sized, white skin, fine-grained sweet and tender flesh
  • Propagation: Turnips are propagated from seeds and are directly sown in the fields. Treatment with fungal powder may be required. Irrigation post seed sowing is required.
  • Season: Turnips are Cold season crops. The best time to cultivate turnips is from November onwards in most states. Sowing is done in mid-November to late November. Depending on the variety, crops can be cultivated once or twice a year. Early varieties can be cultivated twice if planned well. Some varieties can be cultivated in June and July in some areas. Nevertheless, it’s important to make sure that the climatic conditions during this period are good for the variety. Not all varieties can be produced during June and July.
  • Land Preparation: The land needs to be tilled thoroughly and loosened. Application of Manure and compost is imperative. 20 Tonnes of cow manure is recommended per hectare of land. Rows are made with trenches to remove water. Drip irrigation may be required for irrigation. 
  • Planting, Spacing, and Density: Seeds are planted at a distance of 30 centimeters with row to row distance of 90 centimeters. The seeds should be sown 1.5 inches deep in well-fertilized soil. 
  • Intercropping: Intercropping turnips with similar plants is common. Beetroots, carrots, and Radishes are commonly intercropped with Turnips. Intercropping with turnips is a good idea if you are new to turnip farming. Though turnips do not require a lot of attention and knowledge to grow, there may be reasons to start small, especially when you are doing something new and are not sure about the market 
  • Irrigation: Irrigation is required every 8 to 10 days depending on weather conditions. Moisture stress affects the growth and yield of Turnips. Ensure proper moisture content in the soil for better quality and quantity of turnip in terms of yield.
  • Fertilizers: Turnips require moderate to low content of fertilizers and application is more focussed on basal. The initial 20 Tonnes per hectare of farm yard manure should satisfy most of the requirements for the crop but depending on your soil conditions you may need to add fertilizers that are depleted. Commonly 100 KG of nitrogen, 50 kg of Potash, and 50 KG of phosphorus are applied during the entire course. Half of the nitrogen with 50 kg of potash and 50 kg of phosphorus is applied as a basal application while the remaining 50 kg of nitrogen is applied in 2 splits, once during the initial root growth and the second during the development of root knobs. Micronutrient application may be required at the rate of 1 KG per hectare. Specifically, Boron Calcium and Molybdenum. One or two sprays may be required depending on the soil condition. 
  • Pests: Pesticides may be required to control maggots, thrips, and aphids. These are the most common pests in turnips
  • Weed Control: Weeding twice is usually required for turnip cultivation but sometimes it may require 3-4 weeding schedules depending on the weeds in your farm and also the growth of the turnip leaves. Once the turnip leaves are big, they prevent weeds from growing, and weeding is often not required. The weeding also helps loosen the soil, enabling the turnip roots to grow better. 
  • Harvesting: Harvesting of turnips is done once the root reaches 5-10 centimeters or depending on market preferences. Harvesting should be done preferably in the evenings to retain maximum moisture content and freshness. The produce should be thoroughly washed and the side roots trimmed. While some markets prefer that the leaves be removed, others prefer the plants with leaves. Find the right way to pack the produce before shipping. The plants should be immediately shipped to market. The turnips once harvested can stay fresh for up to 3 days. Delay in harvesting makes the roots tough and fibrous.
  • Post Harvest: once the turnips are harvested, they are usually transported fresh to the market. Traders may opt to store the produce for future sales during the off-season. Produce can be stored for up to 16 weeks if stored in 90-95 % humidity at 0 degrees Celsius. 
  • Yield: Yield is dependent on the variety and season of the turnip plants. Tropical turnips cultivated during June and July often have a much lower yield than those cultivated during November and December. An average of 20 tonnes per hectare can be expected from turnip cultivation with the higher end ranging to 40 tonnes per hectare. 
  • Seed: Approximately 3 KG of seeds are required to cultivate one acre of land. A kilo of seed could cost anywhere between Rs 750 to 1500 depending on the variety of turnips cultivated. Hybrid seeds are usually more expensive but provide a better yield. Some varieties have a shorter seed-to-harvest time ranging from 45 to 50 days.

Areas of Turnip cultivation

  1. Punjab: Punjab is known for its extensive cultivation of turnips. The fertile soil and favorable climatic conditions in this state make it ideal for turnip farming. Major districts like Ludhiana, Jalandhar, and Amritsar are known for their turnip cultivation.
  2. Haryana: Haryana is another state where turnip cultivation is widespread. The state’s rich agricultural land and suitable weather conditions contribute to the successful growth of turnips. Areas like Hisar, Karnal, and Rohtak are known for their turnip production.
  3. Uttar Pradesh: Turnip cultivation is practiced in several districts of Uttar Pradesh. The state’s fertile Gangetic plains provide a favorable environment for turnip farming. Places like Bareilly, Lucknow, and Varanasi witness significant turnip cultivation.
  4. Rajasthan: Rajasthan is known for its dry climate, but certain regions in the state have suitable conditions for turnip cultivation. Districts like Jodhpur, Jaipur, and Kota are known for their turnip farming practices.
  5. Himachal Pradesh: The hilly regions of Himachal Pradesh provide suitable conditions for turnip cultivation. Places like Shimla, Kullu, and Mandi are known for their turnip production.
  6. Jammu and Kashmir: In the Kashmir valley, turnip cultivation is a common practice. The cool climate and fertile soil of the region contribute to the successful growth of turnips.
  7. Bihar: Bihar is another state where turnip cultivation is practiced. Districts like Patna, Gaya, and Muzaffarpur are known for their turnip farming.
  8. West Bengal: Turnip cultivation is practiced in certain regions of West Bengal. Areas like Bardhaman, Malda, and Murshidabad witness turnip production.

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