Last summer a fellow farmer advertised that he had some arhar seed to spare if anyone wanted to grow it! We had never grown arhar (pigeon pea) before. But practicing jaivik kheti for the last year or so, gave us fresh confidence at growing legumes and pulses. So we happily picked up 2 kg of Arhar Dal to sow at Mandala - our patch of land down the road which is devoid of any irrigation. The arhar dal seed was originally brought from UP by the farm help at Shivi's farm.
We had learnt that Arhar dal could grow in poor soil conditions, and devoid of any water because of its deep tap root system. Not only that, it is supposed to restore soil nutrients and build back poor soils. This was just what we needed at Mandala. Also intercropping can be done with bajra or sesame or groundnut - thus making the field available to other crops as well, while this long duration crop occupies it.
We planted Arhar a little before the rains after ploughing the soil once, but nothing germinated for the first few weeks. We had almost given up hope on the seed, but once it started raining, we could see plants about a foot or two high. See below photo of arhar interspersed with sesame (til).
By October, our plants were greener and bigger, and the sesame had been harvested, leaving the space for the pigeon pea bushes to shoot up further.
By December, we could see flowers appearing on the arhar bush and the ground beneath was drying up on account of no water. But the Arhar bush was continuing to do well. We have sprayed Jeevamrut on the crop a couple of times, but nothing more. This is permaculture at its best - just letting nature do its job.
And now its January, and we can see nice big pods all over the bushes - even though there are still many flowers as well. We are looking forward to March when we can harvest the crop. Its a long cycle crop - almost 9 months, but very hardy, resilient and easy to grow. We have decided to keep Arhar as a staple crop in the rainfed Mandala farm and grow bajra, groundnut and sesame along with it.
Watch out for our Arhar dal harvesting post sometime in March!