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

Liquid NanoClay versus drought and deswertification


Photo credit: Magazine MN

Desert Control, a startup from Norway, created innovative product Liquid NanoClay that has a huge potential to help people fight such issues as drought and desertification.

Norwegian Startup Created Solution That Turns Desert Soil into Fertile Soil

According to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit on 25 September 2015, “natural resource depletion and adverse impacts of environmental degradation, including desertification, drought, land degradation, fresh water scarcity and loss of biodiversity, add to and exacerbate the list of challenges which humanity faces.”

Liquid NanoClay is a product that turns desert areas into fertile land. Liquid NanoClay is being produced by combining clay and water in a patented mixing process. The mix is applied directly into the irrigation system and is spread with the help of sprinklers. In 7 hours mix fully sinks into the soil, creating a 40-60 cm deep layer which retains water and prevents it from evaporating.

Read the full story: Magazine MN

The impact of soil management


Photo credit: CIAT

Seeing is believing: the impact of soil management


For over a decade, CIAT has tested agronomic and soil management practices in Western Kenya. From minimum tillage to integrated soil fertility management, two trials, established in 2003, are the most comprehensive picture of tropical soil health that we have in Kenya.

What these trials allow us to do is show-case changes in soil fertility and health – for example the impact of conservation measures like minimum tillage, manure application or green manure cover cropping – on soil fertility and crop yields, and what happens if these are absent.

They also enable us to show the impact of cropping systems and rotations, providing farmers with advice about which mix of organic and mineral fertilizers can restore productivity to degraded soils, for example. These are not quick-fixes: they take time to develop, hence the importance of these long-term trials.

Over the years, the trials have been visited by hundreds of farmers, regional stakeholders, and students studying agronomy and soil health practices. They also provide a platform for students to pursue their BSc, MSc or PhD studies, and to dig into some of the fascinating aspects of soil biology and biodiversity.

Read the full story: CIAT



Sustainable dryland cropping in relation to soil productivity

Posted by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM

Ghent University – Belgium


Having participated in all the meetings of the INCD (1992-1994) and all the meetings of the UNCCD-COP, the CST and the CRIC in 1994-2006, I had an opportunity to collect a lot of interesting books and publications on drought and desertification published in that period.

Sustainable dryland cropping in relation to soil productivity

Book Nr. 11

Please click:

or see Sustainable dryland cropping in relation to soil productivity

Cover crops can help protect soil and prevent degradation

Photo credit: Foodtank

Cover crops are being rediscovered at the forefront of new agriculture.


Don’t Farm Naked


Cover crops such as rye, alfalfa, and clovers are needed to protect soil from excessive rain and sun, provide organic structure, distribute nutrients, and limit harmful pests and weeds. They also provide economic benefits through reduced fertilizer needs, fewer problems with pests and weeds, and often, larger yields.

Cover crops are classified into legumes and non-legumes with each grouping having its particular applications and benefits.

Legumes like alfalfa, clovers, cowpeas, medics, soybeans, sunn hemp, velvet bean, and woolypod vetch are part of the pea family. Often referred to as green manure, leguminous cover crops can be tilled under and incorporated into the soil where their decomposition provides nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients to subsequent crops. Legumes also help prevent erosion, add organic matter to soil, and attract beneficial microorganisms and insects.

Cereal grains, grasses, brassicas, and mustards make up the non-legume category.

The high carbon content of grasses and grains like barley, oats, rye, sorghum-sudangrass, wheat, spelt, and triticale leads to a slower breakdown of their organic materials. This biomass lasts longer and is effective at limiting weeds, especially when left on ground as mulch. Their low nitrogen content relative to legumes also makes them effective nitrogen scavengers, important for balancing soil that has become oversaturated with nitrogen. This leads to a higher all around nutrient extraction with less nutrients left over for the next crop. Buckwheat is particularly effective at drawing out phosphorus and calcium from the soil. Like legumes and most cover crops, grasses and cereals also help limit soil erosion.

Brassicas and mustards like arugula, kale, rapeseed, and turnips, while not legumes, are in between legumes and grasses regarding nitrogen content and rate of breakdown. They are effective pest controllers due to strong chemical compounds released during their decomposition process that are toxic to pests and weeds, while reducing the prevalence of disease in subsequent crops. Brassicas and mustards tolerate cold and drought well, have expansive roots, and serve as useful feed for grazing animals.

Following on traditional farming practices around the world, the Land Institute focuses on crops which are perennial, meaning they live all year, and are harvested multiple times, instead of just once before dying. The Land Institute believes in agriculture in harmony with nature. The complexity that perennials and cover crops bring to soil supports biodiversity and improves soil health. “This web of checks and balances, predator and prey that make up complex ecosystems make it difficult for any single species to dominate. Instead, a self-regulating equilibrium sets in.”

Read the full article: Foodtank

Combating desertification in South Africa (Willem Van Cotthem / Michelle Greyvenstein)

Interesting message from South Africa

by Michelle Greyvenstein

Good day Mr. van Cotthem,

I have been reading up on your blogs on sand dams.  Very very interesting and very much in need in Southern Africa as well.  I am looking to make a difference in South Africa and I hope that you will be able to assist me in the execution of my dream and vision of a better future for all in this beautiful country.

I am hoping that you will be able to guide me in the right direction.  We are setting up projects to create jobs in small rural towns in the more arid areas of Southern Africa.  We are looking at small towns with 80% unemployment rate and higher.  The idea is to put together a workable and sustainable plan to create jobs and also address issues like alcohol and substance abuse.  Big problems with foetal alcohol syndrome and we want to do our best to obliterate that.

I sat down and started putting small projects together to create work for women in  particular.  Bee keepers, handwork, leather shoes with African beading, wool products, mohair products, living gardens in handmade concrete boxes, etc.  

Our main object though is to create sustainable income with harvesting a local declared weed for animal feed. What I would like to know:  is it possible to change the climate in arid areas by planting drought resistant plants that can be used for food, fuel and animal feed.  Will the plants be able to make a positive impact on the ground and the climate.  I am looking at using plants to try and turnaround areas previously marked as desert and semi-desert areas back to useable fertile land that can be used for food crops.

I will really appreciate your input if possible.

Kind Regards

Michelle Greyvenstein

RTM Project Support Administrator

British American Tobacco South Africa


My reply (Willem Van Cotthem)

Dear Michelle,

Thanks for your message and congratulations for your efforts.

I will first try to answer your questions:

(1) Is it possible to change the climate in arid areas by planting drought resistant plants that can be used for food, fuel and animal feed?

In order to change the local climate in a significant way, one needs to cover up a desertlike environment with trees and shrubs.  These will transpire a lot of water in the air and give sufficient shadow over the soil to limit evaporation of the soil moisture.  Gradually the area will become less arid.

I see one immediate solution for South Africa, that is to start planting cuttings of the Elephant bush (spekboom, Portulacaria afra), a drought tolerant species that is widespread in the country and is favourite fodder for animals (elephants, antelopes, goats, sheep, etc.).  It has a remarkable characteristic: little leaves falling on the soil start rooting with some moisture and give new plants, forming a real bush.

I would start with spekboom cuttings in a nursery and multiply constantly to be able to cover a large area.

One can also use a drought tolerant bamboo: 

Oxytenanthera abyssinica, the savannah bamboo (see Google).  It is a very hardy bamboo and can grow on poor soils.  This fast growing species can also be grown from cuttings and rhizomes. People use it to make various types of local baskets for transporting produce, but the main use is as building material (scaffolding, house construction, fencing, even furniture).  It could be used for soil erosion control and rehabilitation of degraded areas.


(2) Will the plants be able to make a positive impact on the ground and the climate?  I am looking at using plants to try and turnaround areas previously marked as desert and semi-desert areas back to useable fertile land that can be used for food crops.

Growing plants always have a positive impact on the soil.  As for the climate, it depends upon the density of the vegetation cover (one needs bushes or even a wood with trees).

Aiming at turning a desertlike area into fertile land is a rather difficult exercise.  One of the well-known methods is densely seeding the land with leguminous species. Please read this article:

<> (African legumes: a vital but under-utilized resource).

You will find a lot of interesting ideas, e.g. the use of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), gum arabic tree (Acacia senegal), honeybush (Cyclopia), rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis), groundnut (Arachis hypogea), etc.

Once (and not before) the effect of these leguminous species is significant, one can start to use the land for food crops.

However, I would like to recommend the set up of plantations of the spineless cactus Opuntia ficus-indica var. inermis (which means without spines).  Please Google “nopales” to find sufficient information on the huge plantations in Central and South America, where billions of people are eating these cactus pads and fruits.


(3) My attention was taken to your project : “living gardens in handmade concrete boxes”.

This is extremely interesting, because it coincides with my continuous efforts to convince people to switch from classic gardening (food production in a kitchen garden) to “CONTAINER GARDENING”.

As you know, the main problem for gardeners is the quality of the soil (drought, lack of organic matter, pests, etc.).

Well, by growing vegetables and herbs in all sorts of containers (pots, buckets, bottles, plastic bags, sacks, barrels, etc.) one can avoid most of these gardening problems.  Let me recommend to have a good look at my websites and Facebook pages concerning container gardening and you will discover numerous simple, cheap and efficient ideas for food production in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid regions.












It could be helpful to check out my different videos on YOU TUBE.

Please go to:

Hoping that this can help you to find the right direction for your initiatives, I wish you a lot success.

Kind regards,

Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem

Photo credit: Leen Geerts - Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem
Photo credit: Leen Geerts – Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem

Fertile land and sustainable water sources are diminishing at a frightening rate

Photo credit: Excellent

No such thing as a free lunch

“Before we used to get some good rains that enabled us to get enough food but in the recent years it has been gradually decreasing and we are now not able to get enough food, even though we put efforts in farming.”

Joseph Kilonzo, Mumbuka self-help group, southeast Kenya

Migration and conflict over sparse resources are already on the rise, and if current trends continue, hunger and poverty are likely to become more widespread.

Technologies of modern agriculture and the biodiverse ecosystems

Photo credit: Food Tank

The Living Soils Save Lives program trains farmers to value and cultivate life in the soil in order to offset the negative environmental and social impacts of modern agriculture. (The Hummingbird Project)

Soil Building in India’s ‘Suicide Belt’

The tragic phenomenon of farmer suicides in India is symptomatic of the damage that unchecked agricultural development has wrought, according to Delhi-based environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva. As explained in Shiva’s The Violence of the Green Revolution, technologies of modern agriculture, such as synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and mechanized tillage, have destroyed the biodiverse ecosystems that, in the past, guaranteed the security of a farmer’s livelihood.

Marilyn McHugh and Chris Kennedy, agricultural advocates and Shiva’s social-work collaborators, share her view: the husband-and-wife team considers the growing incidence of farmer suicides in India as the complex outcome of the unsustainable methods of modern agriculture. McHugh and Kennedy argue that there are strong connections between the soil’s compromised ability to function in modern farming systems and the larger issues plaguing Indian farmers. Accordingly, the health of the soil is a major factor in addressing the issues that lead farmers to commit suicide.

After seeing the devastated soils—and communities—in rural India’s “suicide belt” in 2010, McHugh and Kennedy created a nonprofit soil-restoration organization, The Hummingbird Project, and soon after founded the Living Soils Save Lives project. “We call the program ‘Living Soils Save Lives’ because living soils provide an alternative to the unsustainable cycle of debt and loans to purchase fertilizers, seeds and pesticides that has led to such dire outcomes for so many farmers,” explained Kennedy.

Read the full article: Food Tank

Healthier soils for sustainable development


Poor Soils A Huge Limitation for Africa’s Food Security


TEXCOCO, MEXICO, April 19, 2015 – Sustainable Development Goals being addressed at the Global Soil Week cannot ignore dependence on maize as a staple food for millions in Africa, and the need to help smallholder farmers maximize yields in African soils.

Today, Berlin, Germany, hosts soil scientists from across the world who have converged for the Global Soil Week (GSW) to find solutions for sustainable land governance and soil management. Farmers and other stakeholders in agriculture are keen to see outcomes that will translate into healthier soils for sustainable development in Africa and elsewhere.

For Africa’s smallholder farmers, low-fertility soils with poor nitrogen-supplying capacity are only second to drought as a limiting factor. Consequently, farmers suffer low yields and crop failure, a situation that has crippled food security for more than half (60 percent) of the population in this region who depend on smallscale farm produce.

To improve productivity, farmers apply nitrogen fertilizers, which provide necessary nutrients the soil needs to feed plants. However, most farmers cannot afford to apply the required amount of fertilizers because the costs are too high for them. It is estimated that nitrogen fertilizer costs as much as six times more in Africa that in any other part of the world.  “For my one-acre farm, I use a 50-kilogram bag that costs KES 4,000 [USD 42]. This is a lot of money, so I have to use very little to save for the next planting season,” says Ms. Lucy Wawera, a farmer in Embu County, Kenya.

Read the full article: CIMMYT

TV helps farmers

Photo credit: Ciat Blog

Land degradation affects 67 per cent of Africa. Credit: S.Malyon / CIAT

Scaling up – TV helps farmers shape up soils in East Africa


There are a lot of big facts about soil knocking around this year – on account of it being the International Year of Soils.These are great for mobilising much-needed global interest and action in efforts to protect this finite resource on which our lives depend (even the White House posted a blog on ‘Why soil rocks’ last week).

The Kenyan agricultural TV show, Shamba Shape Up, reaches an estimated audience of more than 8 million. Credit: S.Malyon / CIAT -
The Kenyan agricultural TV show, Shamba Shape Up, reaches an estimated audience of more than 8 million. Credit: S.Malyon / CIAT –×200.jpg

But it is small scale farmers who suffer the effects of land degradation and poor soil health the most – and, as guardians of 80 per cent of the world’s farmland, it is they who are most in need of affordable and practical solutions to protect their soil.

Research plays an important role in this – analysing the effects of climate change on soil or the causes of degradation and erosion, and testing different options to determine best-bet solutions for farmer circumstances.

But how do research results get into farmer’s hands?

In East Africa, scientists are turning to television…

Read the full article: CIAT Blog

Promoting soil health could help achieve SGDs

 Photo credit: SciDevHealth

Image credit: Hailey Tucker, One Acre Fund

  • Focus on soil health to achieve SDGs

    “Many of us fail to consider the importance of preserving the health of the earth’s soils for now and generations to come.” 
     David Guerena and Margaret Vernon, One Acre Fund

    Speed read

    • In Sub-Saharan Africa, about 65 per cent of soils are degraded
    • Promoting soil health could lead to biodiversity and increased productivity
    • The results may take time, but promoting soil health could help achieve SGDs


    Crucial and last frontier

    Seventy per cent of poor people in rural areas depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. [4] These rural areas comprise large numbers of smallholder farmers, who cultivate less than two acres of land.

    Lacking access to quality inputs, tools training, and financing, smallholder farmers are often at the mercy of unproductive soil. Promoting soil health, through strategies such as agroforestry, intercropping and composting is one important way to increase the productivity of these small plots of land.

    These strategies could help smallholder farming communities increase their resilience to environmental shocks and grow their way out of hunger and poverty.

    Soil is the greatest reservoir and the last frontier of biodiversity. Most known antibiotics come from organisms that were isolated from the soil. The soil biosphere controls the cycling of most major plant nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur. What other secrets are held in the soil biosphere? In one gram (one pinch) of soil, there are over one billion individual organisms and over one million unique species! [5] We know less than one per cent of who they are and less than one per cent of one per cent of what they do.

    Read the full article: SciDevNet


%d bloggers like this: