Cash Crop – Mentha
By Anirudh Biswas
Mentha cultivation has become extremely popular in central and west-central part of UP . Ever since the rate of Mentha oil has touched Rs. 2000/lt6, farmers are getting excited for this crop. Popularly known as peppermint, Mentha oil has got very high demand in cosmetic and beauty care industry, tooth paste and mouth freshener products, ayurveda ointment, oils and many more. The fresh leaves are also used for salads and health drinks, people in India fondly refer to it as ‘Pudina ke Patte.’ It is a sub-tropical, shrubby plant and the duration of the crop is 100 -120 days. Mentha arvensis is the most popular variety, known as Japanese peppermint, which contains higher oil, due to succulent nature of its leaves and stems. Generally the runner roots, locally known as ‘jwar,’ are planted as nursery bed during the month of February. After 30 days the transplantations takes place. It needs lot of irrigation and that’s why the problem of broad and narrow leaved weeds are prevalent in this crop. Generally Pendimethilin is used as pre emergence herbicide, after first irrigation given within 2 days of sapling sowing. For post emergence, people use oxyflurofen and for narrow leaved weed control the use of quizalofop 5 is popular. Among the insect pest the borer or Heliothis is the most menacing pest; white fly also causes considerable damage to the crop.
Farmers generally use lesser toxic insecticides like Emamactin benzoate, acetamiprid and bio pesticides. People believe that with the use of toxic insecticides the aroma of the oil gets reduced, so will the market value of the batch. Paushak is a very popular brand of plant growth regulator in mentha, and in the adjoining areas of Lucknow, farmer believes that Paushak increases the oil content by making the plant more succulent. After the harvest of the crop, the oil is extracted in simple distillation method, and during the oil extraction process, the entire area is filled with fragrance and aroma. Farmers used to spend sleepless nights, until the process of extraction is completed. The general yield is 50 lts per acre and the average rate is 1500/lt. So if the cost of cultivation is assumed to be 30-40k/acre, the profit is huge. That is why, Mentha is becoming such a popular cash crop in the region. The oil is stored in earthen pot for keeping the aroma intact over an year. Farmers used to use it as Gold or cash and sell as per his money requirement and market rate.
From pesticide consumption point of view, it is also a very potential crop, and KREPL has created its own brand of product range like Kri-Stop, Kroll, Kristar and Paushak etc. Everybody like farmers, traders, company people are being benefitted by its increased area.