Sunday, July 26, 2015

Farm produce costs

Price of coconut fell from 30 rupees per kg (de-husked coconut with water) to 14 rupees per kg. According to government, this is a temporary situation created by dealers. It is also said palm oil import also has a role to play. Even though production of coconut is less during rainy season, price has reduced. I am not sure who controls this, at least government should be having a say in it?  Labor cost is increasing constantly, cowdung, chicken manure all these costs also increases year by year, still coconut produce cost decreases. The cost coconut will be same as that of 5 years ago, how can the coconut farmer cop up with this? 

Cost of cultivation per acre paddy is 20,000/-. Per acre gives a yield of 2000Kg and  current government market rate is 19/- per kg, which gives a total of 38000/- with a net profit of 18000/-. If a marginal farmer has 2 acres of land, this gives a 36,000/- per season and two such crops gives 72,000/- per year. This is 6000/- per month which is typically one third of the lowest paid (17,000/- is the recommended minimum per month) government employee. Typical coolie person earns 500/- rupees per day and this will be at 12,000/- per month. A marginal farmer earns half of this, so he will be forced to do other jobs.

Politicians are behind vote banks, all are operating out of fear. Government provides good health care and education etc.. But while coming to farm produce procuring, there is a problem !!! 

I feel farmer has to take care himself in the given conditions !!! Farmers has to be organised and sell their produce for a decent cost. Also dependency on a single crop has to be reduced. Basically he should grow his food first along with cash crops. Farmer should avoid dependency on fertilizer and seeds and should follow Fukuoka natural farming/organic/zero budget farming methods to increase yield and quality of food. By producing his own food, he can have better health. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Paddy cultivation - Monsoon 2015

Monsoon was delayed badly and all farmers started paddy cultivation late. Seeing this I was also did the same, and finally it got delayed a lot. To be a good farmer, I should do timely operations and this is one area which I require improvement.

I am using a traditional variety rice called 'KunjuKunju' which is of duration 90 days. I put the seed in water and added salt in it so that lighter seeds float. As per one book, salt should be added such that tip of a chicken egg when put in this water, comes to surface. I was not having this much salt, so finally put around 0.200gms of salt and then put around 3Kgs of seeds on to it. Floating seeds were removed. Seed was later washed in pure water 3-4 times and put it in a jute sack and then piled and kept it for 3 days. Ideally I should have covered it in a cloth so that it would have uniformly germinated. I could see some seeds germinated well while some not.

I put the seeds on bed on July 3rd. My helper put a plastic sheet and put around 2" of mud on it and then put seeds on it. The field was ploughed by tractor couple of days back. Since there was not enough water, it was not leveled well.

Later a walk behind tiller was used and tilled and leveled land once again. If every thing goes well, I will be using SRI method this time.

My worker making the field ready for sowing germinated seeds


There was some issue with watering, in between rain stopped and filed went dry. So some of the seeds didn't germinate, hence density is not that good. Peacocks scratched some area and some plants were uprooted.


Cows from nearby grazed this area and some plants were was not a major damage and plants are recovering. Transplanting delayed, now doing SRI may not be advisable, but not enough plants for close spacing in conventional way. Women workers are busy with other work and I get lowest priority since acreage is less and they have less work with me. One day I tried transplanting and understood how difficult this work is. Walking through puddled field is difficult and planting is back breaking, so left it after couple of rows. It would have been great if natural farming works for me, but that is also a tough game, but all these troubles motivate me to keep trying it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Masanobu Fukuoka on timings of crops

Timing of crops is very important in natural farming since establishment of crops before weeds establish is very critical. To me road side healthy rice plant getting established because of right timings and also the pumpkins which germinate of their own establish well and fruits, again because of the right timings. Just scanned through One Straw Revolution once again to pick up the crop timings related information and here are some of Fukuoka's statements.

"At that time, passing an old rice field in Kochi Prefecture which had been left unused and uncultivated for many years, I saw healthy young rice sprouting up through a tangle of weeds and straw which had accumulated on the field’s surface".

"If seeds are sown while the preceding crop is still ripening in the field, those seeds will germinate ahead of the weeds. Winter weeds sprout only after the rice has been harvested, but by that time the winter grain already has a head start. Summer weeds sprout right after the harvest of barley and rye, but the rice is already growing
strongly. Timing the seeding in such a way that there is no interval between succeeding crops gives the grain a great advantage over the weeds."

"The important thing is knowing the right time to plant. For the spring vegetables the right time is when the winter weeds are dying back and just before the summer weeds have sprouted. For the fall sowing, seeds should be tossed out when the
summer grasses are fading away and the winter weeds have not yet appeared."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Natural falling and germination of seeds

On the way to farm, there are plenty of paddy fields and I like watching different phases of paddy cultivation. In one part of the paddy field which is uncultivated, I used to see some daincha plants which grows very tall. In the summer it will get dried and now in the rainy season, there are daincha plants growing luxuriously. The fallen seeds germinate at the right time and establish well by the rain. This is a fundamental principle of natural farming. We have to observe nature and see which seeds gets fallen in nature and if we mimic nature this way, by putting seeds when they naturally fall in nature, then they will establish well.

For e.g to cultivate a vegetable in natural way, you have to see when it germinates well naturally and establishes. If you look at your surroundings, then you will be able to figure it out. Some of these plants will come up and if you can put those seeds without getting eaten by insects or birds, then there is a good chance that they establish. Ideally make seed balls with these seeds and then put them under field.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Natural farming paddy experiment - 2015

After many failures with natural farming paddy experiment, I am doing regular tilled organic paddy cultivation. But this year onward, one small portion of land is dedicated for no-till Fukuoka style paddy cultivation.

In the last season, I had cultivated rice in this area and afterwards grown cowpea. Cowpea was grazed by cows and nothing much was left towards the last. I cut the existing grass using scythe and wanted to sow rice seeds in a row so that weeding if required can be easily done. But sowing seeds in straight line was difficult since I had to bend a lot for this, which I don't like, so left that and broadcasted seeds in normal fashion. While broadcasting I was walking in a line and putting seeds, just to make sure that all area was uniformly covered. I should have done this with seed balls and then could have completed this sowing in peak summer so that rice seeds would have sprouted with first rain, and chances of success was much better.Will try this in the next summer.

Also wanted some cuttings of Arachis Pintoi (Wild peanut) just to see if they establish as a cover crop.

A few photos...


Like many experiments, this also has failed, couldn't see a single rice plant, none of the seeds germinated. Has to test the germination capability of the seed used and may put some more seeds.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Adaptation of crops to weedy environment

I used to wonder how some of the rice plants on the road side comes up so well and produce good yield. Similarly had seen pumpkin plants which was not planted by anyone giving many pumpkins. While thinking about this felt that these plants germinate at the first rain along with other weeds and they fight for their survival and establishes well. This is different from crops which we plant, since in this case, timings will be chosen by us when to germinate and in lot of case it will be using artificial irrigation. Similarly there is no use of cutting weeds and then sowing crops, since weeds already has their root system established and they come back strongly. If we till the land and then put seeds then weeds get the vigor.

When I clear the field with all the weeds and then transplant rice, weeds take over the crops. But if we introduce the crop seeds at the summer and these seeds germinate along with weeds, definitely the crops will adapt to this environment and will try to fight with weeds and win. If the seeds from this type of environment is used again and again there is good chance of crops gets established well.

In farms where there is artificial irrigation is provided, natural farming is difficult. In my rice fields, I used to irrigate crops and weeds establish in all conditions and hence crops find it difficult to establish later.Typically in summer all weeds die and if crops are established with first rain, then there is good chance of establishing a crop. Probably after establishing crops, artificial irrigation to some extend may be fine.

Fukuoka san knew all these well and established crops before the weeds take over..Knowing the timings of weeds and meeting the timings is very very important in natural farming.

Traditional lady's finger

Traditional vegetables are tasty and plants are adapted to local conditions and grows very well. I have been looking for traditional seeds which are not easily available now a days. People started buying seeds from shops and agriculture departments and does not keep their own seeds. Recently during a visit to one farmer called Gopu Kodungallur, got a very long lady's finger which is called 'Anakomban'. This was growing very well and produced good vegetable in my hugelkulture bed.

Recently a neighbour grandma gave a very peculiar lady's finger and it was very tasty. She has been cultivating it for many years. Last day she gave that seeds and will be cultivating it soon.