Babu Jacob returned from Denmark to become a lemon farmer in Kerala's Kottyam district. His two-acre plantation has been blooming for over a decade.
The humble lemon is not only rich in medicinal and nutritional value but also useful in many other ways. For some, just a dash of lemon turns a dish into a masterpiece, for others it’s an essential part of their beauty regime, and for Babu Jacob it is a source of income.
In 2010, Babu decided to return to his hometown in Kerala’s Kottayam district, ending his 15-year stay abroad, where he worked at different companies as an Industrial worker in Bahrain, Portugal and Denmark. “The concept of cultivating lemons came to mind after I realised how popular its demand is in the marketplace. Not only for kitchen uses, lemon also has many more benefits as it contains potassium, folate, molybdenum, which boosts the immune system,” Babu tells The Better India.
He says that in his vegetable plantation, he gets some fruits only during specific seasons, but when it comes to lemons, it is more readily available. Usually, the lemon plant bears fruit during three seasons, but surprisingly, in Babu’s plantation, lemons are abundant in supply all year through.
Babu recalls, “As the first step, I collected 14 saplings from my ancestral house and planted them in my 7-cent plot. And in just four years, I harvested about 1,000 kilograms of lemon and sold it for Rs 100 per kilogram. I sell my produce mainly in shops and food processing units. I have got almost 80-100 kilograms of lemons from a single tree. According to the market price, the price of lemon increases and decreases. But as I understood the revenue opportunity from lemons, I expanded my cultivated land.”
He then went on to plant more saplings in his 2-acre property by cutting the rubber trees from his plantation. Currently, he has almost 250 lemon trees.
Babu says that during the initial days the trees did not grow well. After testing the soil for various parameters, he understood that it did not have some elements, which was in turn affecting the growth of the plant. Adding manure to the soil, the plants started to grow well.
Lemons at the plantation are safe from the attack of animals like monkeys, rats and bats due to the sharp thorns on the trees. Also, its sour taste keeps the animals at bay.
Babu also suggests new farmers to begin planting the trees in a smaller plot of land. “Planting two or three plants in a small plot will help in identifying whether the soil is good for the plant,” he says.
Essentials for a lemon tree
Babu says that the trees need a good amount of sunlight, water, fertilizer and maintenance. “Only with hard work will we get good results. From day one, I have given my plants good care and love so that they bear more fruit,” says Babu, who also owns a nursery, named Lemon Meadows, for selling saplings.
Both hybrid and local saplings are sold in the nursery. He says, “Hybrid lemon saplings, which are shorter, and can be grown in apartments and/or drums, are a cross between a citron and a pomelo hybrid distinct from the common lemon.” The hybrid saplings, which are imported from North India, are also available in the nursery along with local saplings that are germinated in the nursery.
Babu also cultivates rambutans, passion fruits, guavas, areca nuts, seedless lemons and mangosteens his plantation.
If you wish to know more about lemon cultivation, you may contact Babu on this number 95625 49231.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)