Makhana harvesting is the process of removing the entire plant after maturity. It includes collecting the scattered and matured seeds either from the bed of the water body or from the field.
Harvesting in Pond System: In case of pond system of cultivation, it is interesting to know that during makhana harvest, experienced farmers engage divers to go deep into the bottom of the water body and pick up the matured makhana. This is done with the help of a horn shaped bamboo pole, locally known as the “Kaara”. Later on, the mud is sieved through a locally made bamboo screen or sieve known as the “Ganiya”.
Harvesting in Field System: This is a modern method of makhana farming, which also takes less time for the crop to mature when compared to the traditional method. This type of makhana harvesting is also less labour intensive and less risky. The yield per hectare with this method is also much higher. Makhana farmers and growers prefer this method of harvesting.
Time Required for collection In Pond System: The time taken for harvesting in the pond system is much more when compared to the field system. The time taken for collection also depends on the size of the pond and the number of seeds sown. Under the pond system of makhana production, the collection of seeds can sometimes also gets risky for the divers, as there is a risk of acquiring infections and diseases due to the muddy waters.
Time Required for collection in Field System: The time required for collection of seeds is much less when compared to the traditional system. This is due to the fact that fields are shallow and its easier for the farmers to collect the seeds.
Once the seeds are collected, they are washed and cleaned. The seeds collected during each day are put into a horn or crescent shaped container known as ‘Gaanja’. The container is then shaken repeatedly until all seeds are cleaned.
Once cleaned, these seeds get packed into small bags. After this, the seeds are again put in a container and get rolled on the ground for getting smooth surface. In the next few days, these seeds are spread on the ground under direct sunlight for them to dry.
Comparison of Pond system Vs Field System Makhana Harvesting
Following is the comparative analysis of the two methods of makhana cultivation. In india, both the methods are used. However, most farmers are keen on moving to the field-based system for better income and profitability.
|Sr no.||Parameters||Pond System||Field System|
|1||Requirement of Water||Minimum 4- 6 feet||Between 1-2 feet|
|2.||Seeds Required||Up to 90 kg per hectare||20 kg per hectare|
|3.||Source of Water||Natural water||Mostly irrigation water|
|4.||Fertilizer and manure requirement||Cannot be used due to depth of the water body||Can be easily used|
|5.||Managing Weeds||Very difficult owing to sludge and muddy waters||Very easy to manage|
|6.||Crop production cycle||8- 10 months||4-6 months|
|7.||Inter cropping||Not possible||Paddy, wheat, fodder and Water chestnut|
|8.||Crop protection||Very hard||Easy and feasible|
|9.||Yield||Up to 2 tons per hectare||Up to 3 tons per hectare|
|10.||Horizontal expansion of area||Very limited and dependent on water bodies||Can be expanded as per requirement|
|11.||Capital Investment||Very high||Medium|
|13.||Risk to diver||High||Low|
Constraints of Harvesting
Long & Tiring Hours: Makhana seeds normally harvest in the winter season between the months of December and March. It becomes very tiring for divers to go under the water and take out makhana seeds (also known as guri in some Indian states). This is a very tricky and a pain staking process.
High Dependence on Climate: Many small and medium strata farmers still depend on the climate and direct sun light for drying the seeds. This makes makhana processing a very unpredictable process. Also, the farmers then have to get up early in the morning to ensure that they spread the seeds and get ample sunlight during the day.
Health risk to the diver: Harvesting of makhana can also be a risky process for the divers as manual harvesting includes collecting the seeds from the bed of muddy pond and other water bodies. Many a times the muddy water, thorny plant growths, weeds and water organisms can cause infections to the divers by entering into the ears and nose of these hard-working people. This can however be avoided by using proper protective diving gears.
The diving gear also enables the diver to remain under water for a sufficiently long time, without any health risk. Finally, less risk and comfort due to protective diving gear also helps in improving the harvest output.
Efforts to Improve Makhana Harvesting Process
Looking at the constraints in the current makhana production & harvesting processes, the Government of India along with the leading agricultural research institutes have come up with certain improvements in harvesting equipment that have substantially eased the pain of the farmers and divers.
Floating Platform: This improved equipment consists of a 10 litre cylinder that contains compressed breathing air with regulator. It also includes a hose pipe with regulator, protective gear with diving suit, a cap, a mask and content gauge.
Makhana Grader: The machine is made up of 3 main components. It includes the main frame, the sieving unit and operator unit. The pedal operated grading machine has been very efficient in separating the makhana seeds. The grading is done into four major categories, which in turn is based on the quality and size of makhana obtained from different outlets.
The capacity of the makhana grading machine is upto 800 kg/hour. It required two operators for the smooth functioning of the machine. While one operator pedals the machine, the other fills the makhana seeds inside the machine. This pedal- operated Makhana grading machine was designed and developed at the leading research institute ICAR Research for small farmers in the eastern belt of India.