Increasing Biodiversity

One of the features of a natural forest that we have tried to conserve here on this plantation is the rich biodiversity prevalent under the canopy of rainforest trees. By leaving uncultivated sectors of natural “weeds” and fauna in each valley, we have been encouraging several predatory populations to flourish in these valleys. As a result, we now have excellent populations of spiders, wasps, dragonflies, frogs, lizards, snakes, and birds, all of which contribute towards building up of a diverse and healthy agri-ecosystem.

Whereas our initial focus was to control a host of fungal diseases and insect pests on the cardamom crop through identifying local plants which we could use for crop protection, we have now found that these pathogens and pests are no longer at crop-threatening levels and we can focus our attention on improving the efficiency of our composting techniques to replenish the soils after the heavy monsoon rains.

Rich spider diversity helps to control insect pests.

The Mojo Plantation spice farm is located in one of the highest rainfall zones of Kodagu District, Karnataka. At 1100m altitude, we receive 3500–5000mm (200 inches) of rain annually, most of it between June and September. The plantation is also densely forested with native trees. While this environment places limitations on the types and quantities of crops we can grow, it creates its own unique flavours which are reflected in the excellent quality of our organic produce. Our crops are: cardamom, coffee, black pepper, vanilla, kokam, fruits and some tree spices.

 

Don't Panic - It's Organic!

We welcome and encourage all forms of organic farming whether it be revival of traditional practices (such as panchkavya), biodynamic farming, permaculture or natural farming; they all result in sustaining alive and healthy soils which is the foundation of a strong agri-ecosystem.

Pollinating vanilla flowers by hand.

We have endeavored to develop this plantation along the principles by which Nature “manages” land and water resources. Our aim has been to strike a balance between time-tested traditional practices and modern scientific approaches. The methods we follow are based upon:

  1. Maintaining a forest - like canopy above, and a dense ground cover of weeds between the crops and dense mulching helps to conserve fragile top soil.
  2. Incorporation of fallow spaces and tanks/ponds within the cultivated areas allows creation of habitats that promote populations of a wide range predatory species which keep the pest populations under control. As a result, we now have excellent populations of ants, spiders, wasps, dragonflies, frogs, lizards, snakes, and birds, all of which contribute towards building up of a diverse and healthy agri-ecosystem.
  3. Multiple cropping of diverse species helps prevent buildup of pest populations.
  4. Animal husbandry to provide valuable manure (and urine) which is mixed together with leaves, weeds and other biomass to make compost to feed the plants. Cow dung is also put thru a biogas plant and the digested slurry is liquified and mixed w cow urine to make a rich liquid manure which can be distributed thru pipes, saving on manual labor.
  5. Recycling all forms of organic wastes generated on the farm through use of bacterial cultures such as EM.
  6. Maintenance of nurseries for all crops. The location is changed every year to avoid pathogens from developing.

Ripe coffee berries - ready to harvest!

Coffee Blossoms.

Setting up the biogas plant.

Our biogas plant converts animal and food waste into energy! Inside our digester, organic waste is broken down by anaerobic bacteria, releasing methane gas (which is used in our kitchen stoves) and a super-fertile compost (which is applied to the soil - wonderful for the crops.)

Headloading compost.