Calotropis for green manure


Photo credit: Google



by  Dr.A.Jagadeesh – Director Nayudamma Centre for Development Alternatives


2/210 First Floor,Nawabpet – NELLORE- 524 002, Andhra Pradesh – INDIA



With the advent of chemical fertilisers, “Green manure” usage  has declined, especially in paddy cultivation.

Calotropis (Calotropis gigantea and C. procera) occurs widely on the roadside and along railway track sides. It can also be grown in waste lands.

In the olden days people use to put it in fields after harvesting and before ploughing for the next crop. The latex in Calotropis is antibiotic. If it falls on skin, blisters develop. On RATHA SAPTAMI (Festival Day) people put the leaves of Calotropis on shoulders and then take a bath. Moreover, if any thorn is struck in the leg, people cover it with the latex of Calotropis and the thorn comes to the surface.

In Punjab, to remove the hair from the skin of goats, people put the haired skin in mud along with Calotropis leaves. The hair is removed after a week. Based on this principle, Central Leather Research Institute’s scientists isolated the pigment from Calotropis latex and patented it. Today this is the only chemical used to dehair goat skins.

In groundnut (peanut) fields the “Red Hairy Caterpillar” is a big menace. It comes out in the night and eats the groundnut leaves. In the day time, it digs a hole and hides inside the soil. Local people put Calotropis leaves here and there in the groundnut fields. After eating the leaves, the Red Hairy Caterpillar’s further regeneration is averted. Obviously the latex in the Calotropis must be playing the trick. I suggested to ICARDA in India and FAO to carry out research on this in the 70s.

This regenerative multiple-use plant should be put to good use. My concept is “Leaf To Root Approach” of abundant available resources.

Calotropîs procera –

My present project with Calotropis

We have a biogas plant since 30 years and have a number of cattle in our village. The slurry after dried is mixed with soil and used as natural manure for our mango and coconut trees. Since we have sizeable quantities of slurry,we are burying the leaves of Calotropis under the slurry and water it now and then so that the plant leaves putrify and mix up with the slurry. After a month we dig the slurry with the putrified Calotropis, mix and dry it for a few days. Then the green manure is used for our mango trees (about 6 years old) and the coconut trees.

Objectives of green manuring

To add N to the companion or succeeding crop and add or sustain organic matter in the soil.

Information On Calotropis Procera

By Bonnie L. Grant

Calotropis is a shrub or tree with lavender flowers and cork-like bark. The wood yields a fibrous substance that is used for rope, fishing line and thread. It also has tannins, latex, rubber and a dye that are used in industrial practices. The shrub is considered a weed in its native India but has also been used traditionally as a medicinal plant. It has numerous colorful names such as Sodom Apple, Akund Crown flower and Dead Sea Fruit, but the scientific name is Calotropis procera.

Appearance of Calotropis procera

Calotropis procera is a woody perennial that carries white or lavender flowers. The branches are twisting and cork-like in texture. The plant has ash colored bark covered with white fuzz. The plant has silver-green large leaves that grow opposite on the stems. The flowers grow at the tops of apical stems and produce fruits.

The fruit of Calotropis procera is oval and curved at the ends of the pods. The fruit is also thick and, when opened, it is the source of thick fibers that have been made into rope and used in a multitude of ways.

Calotropis procera uses in ayurvedic medicine

Ayurvedic medicine is a traditional Indian practice of healing. The Indian Journal of Pharmacology has produced a study on the effectiveness of extracted latex from Calotropis upon fungal infections caused by Candida. These infections usually lead to morbidity and are common in India so the promise of properties in Calotropis procera is welcome news.

Mudar root bark is the common form of Calotropis procera that you will find in India. It is made by drying the root and then removing the cork bark. In India the plant is also used to treat leprosy and elephantiasis. Mudar root is also used for diarrhea and dysentery.

Green cropping with Calotropis procera

Calotropis procera grows as a weed in many areas of India, but it is also purposefully planted. The plant’s root system has been shown to break up and cultivate cropland. It is a useful green manure and will be planted and plowed in before the “real” crop is sown.

Calotropis procera improves soils nutrients and improves moisture binding, an important property in some of the more arid croplands of India. The plant is tolerant of dry and salty conditions and can easily be established in over cultivated areas to help improve the soil conditions and reinvigorate the land.

Green Manures

Green manures are an excellent source of nitrogen and micronutrients. It is low cost manuring, called the poor farmer’s manure. It improves the soil structure and organic matter in the soil. It is an excellent remedy for the alkaline and saline soils. It improves the soil fertility. It also prevents the nitrogen loss by soil erosion. It improves the soil aeration and organic matter content. It improves the soil structure. It stimulates the growth of beneficial microbes and other soil organisms. Green manures are playing an effective role in controlling weeds.

Other objectives of green manures:

They can be used as catch crops, shade crops, forage, cover crops.

Types of green manuring:

1.Green leaf manuring crops
2.Green manuring in situ crops

Green leaf manuring crops:

They are raised in other locations, collected as green biomass and added to the soil. They have to be incorporated in the soil by fine ploughing. The crops should be cut during the flowering stage. Some of the green leaf manure crops are ,

1. Pongamia glabra (Pungam)
2. Tephrosia perpuria
3. Calotropis gigantia (Erukku)
  4. Gliricidia maculata
5. Ipomea carnea
6. Azadirachta indica (Neem)
7. Leucaena leucocephala (Subabul)
8. Cassia pistula
9. Indigofera teysmannii

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.