Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Happy hill rice - 2016 monsoon

Happy hill rice was cultivated by Masanobu Fukuoka and supposed to be one of the best yielding variety. On this monsoon, I am cultivating happy hill rice just to make sure that I have the seeds..and probably try to improve this variety for the local climate. The seeds which I am using now, is cultivated from the original seeds sent by a Japanese friend.

A raised bed was made and cowdung is spread and some seeds were put directly here. Some seeds were kept in a covered wet cloth and after 3 days, they started germinating and those seeds were put in another portion of the raised bed.

I hope to send the seeds to more people who is interested to try out this variety. Last time I had sent the seeds to 4-5 friends located at different parts of the world and had requested them to send back some seeds after their harvest, yet to hear from them.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Broadcasting horse gram, cowpea and sesame in harvested rice field

After the harvest of the rice was over by mid March, I scattered horse gram,cowpea and sesame seeds,mulched with straw and then  irrigated. Ideally it should have been broadcasted 2 weeks before harvesting, but since walking through the muddy field was difficult, postponed it to after harvest.

By the time, harvest was over field had gone completely dry and even cracks started developing. Cowpea and horse gram germinated well,but sesame was not seen at all. It looks like field was completely dry and sesame didn't germinate well. Even though it was irrigated, climate was very hot and goes dry very fast.

Later some time, could see some sesame plants also in flowering and fruiting stage and it was never over grown by weeds. There were not many fruits, but considering the fact, no manure was applied and field was just recovering from previous till operation, it was fine.

So if timed well, no-till way of sesame,horse gram and cowpea may work out and will be tried in the next season.




Monday, May 9, 2016

One farmer who talks about pelleted seeds,cover crops,no-till grain farming with clover etc..

Came across the blog of Eric Koperek who has extensively used pelleted seeds,cover crops and no-till grain with clover. Please see the site, it has wealth of information. Had some email communication with Eric and came to know that he had visited Fukuoka in 1972 and 1980.

https://agriculturesolutions.wordpress.com/

Some interesting information taken randomly from this site...For complete information, refer the above site...

Biological No-Till Small Grains:     Broadcast seed pellets by hand or use a rotary spreader.  Sow pellets directly into standing vegetation so that soil remains undisturbed.  (Broken soil stimulates weed germination).

2 to 4 weeks before harvest sow pelletized seed of second crop into standing vegetation of first crop.  This is necessary to control weeds.

TO CONTROL WEEDS IT IS ESSENTIAL TO KEEP SOIL COVERED WITH GROWING PLANTS AT ALL TIMES = 365 DAYS YEARLY.  USE CLOVERS OR OTHER COVER CROPS TO FILL UP EVERY DAY OF THE GROWING SEASON.  SOIL SHOULD NEVER BE LEFT BARE, NOT EVEN FOR A SINGLE DAY.

Before seeding clover or any other living mulch, remember that two crops are growing on the same land at the same time — the mulch crop and a cash crop.  Success requires careful management or both crops may fail.

Costa Rican Indians grow dry beans by broadcasting seed into the weediest fields available.  The weeds are then hand cut and left as mulch to protect the germinating beans.  Yields are low, only 400 to 500 pounds per acre, but there are no costs other than labor for planting and harvesting.

Direct seeding into standing clover is not recommended unless the clover is knocked back to reduce competition with the primary crop.

Seeding small grains into living mulches works best when:  (1)  The companion crop is dormant or its growth retarded by mowing, grazing, or rolling, and  (2)  The grain crop is selected for a competitive growth habit.  Heirloom (non-dwarf) varieties usually pair well with understory legumes like Dutch white clover.  Alternatively, clover can be broadcast into standing grain that is well established (8 to 12 inches high).  Again, careful timing is essential to prevent the cover crop from overwhelming the cash grain.

The key point to intelligent weed control is to disturb the soil as little as possible, just enough to get a crop into the ground.

Remember that weeds have evolved specifically to rapidly colonize bare soil.  The more soil is tilled, the more weeds are stimulated to grow.  
Down the road I have a wilderness of citrus interspersed with live oaks, Spanish moss, and pangola grass.  It’s an old orchard that is long overdue for rotation, but it still makes me money because I spend almost nothing to maintain the trees.  Every now and then I spread some racetrack manure.  The irrigation system turns itself on and off.  The weeds grow 6 feet high.  Once a year, right before harvest, I mow between the trees — just enough so folks can pick the fruit.  Result:  No bugs on my trees.  Across the hedgerow of old-fashioned hibiscus, my neighbor clean cultivates his orchard and sprays with robotic frequency.  Every spider mite in the district comes to eat his leaves.  Chemical companies use his orchard to test new pesticides.  The mites don’t seem to mind; they eat insecticide like salad dressing.
Across the lane is my pride and joy: A jungle of weeds and melons.  The weeds grow over my head and the melons grow over the weeds.  The trick is to mulch the young melons (or mow the weeds) just until the vines start to run.  After the melons are well established, the crop fends for itself.  Vine crops thrive in the light shade cast by nearby weeds; the best fruits come from the weediest parts of the field.  Insect pests don’t like the broadleaf jungle so I never have to spray vine crops grown in weeds.
Find the weediest field possible.  Broadleaf weeds are best and thistles best of all.  (Thistles indicate fertile soil).  Broadcast seed directly into standing weeds.  (Pelleted seed greatly increases seedling survival, especially for large-seeded crops like peas and beans).  Mow down weeds with a scythe (or use a lot of people with sickles or machetes).  Cut weeds act as mulch for germinating crop.  Pray for rain.  Come back at harvest time and hope for the best.  Yields are low but surprisingly economic (because there are no costs other than seeding and harvest).


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Summer - 2016

Summer is hot and temperature is at 40 degree and no summer rain yet. Neighboring district Trichur received good rain and it is still raining from morning there. Open well is almost dried and pond used for irrigation is also in the same state.

Some views...




Earth worm castings...it is there throughout where cows does not graze...


Rice field with horse gram grown after paddy harvest...field is mulched with straw, but does not cover the whole field densily



Papayas stopped yielding...but still there are some fruits left


Only some water is left...5 families collect drinking water from this well.. Some small fishes are there and one king fisher is constantly behind them...



Termites are attacking healthy trees also..but no harm done..


Termites do a good job...


Banana circle...


Tapioca growing on Hugelkulture beds..they survive without any water...



Effect of summer heat..some plants just fall down



Termites



Hugel beds opened up during tapioca harvesting...







It is mango season...





Some more banana circles....




Water does not reach here, no grass seen







Meeting a farmer who cultivates traditional rice varieties

Today met a farmer named M.P.Paul from Ottappalam who cultivates 14 or so traditional rice varieties on 5 acre farm. Now a days since labor cost is increased, he does all the work by himself. He has tractor, planter,tiller etc..all machineries needed for rice cultivation.

Chettiadi variety is grown by him and for the last 3 years, he just ploughs the field and seeds from pervious crop germinates and he gets decent yield, about 1000kgs from 1 acre. He says, the cost of cultivation is minimum for this. It competes with grass well and he does not do any manuring. Straw is completely returned to the soil.

Some other varieties can be seen in the photos...more about his farming, once I make a visit to his farm.



Saturday, March 5, 2016

Coconut Harvesting

Coconut prices are going down and may be at rock bottom.In 2011, I had sold at 30 rupees per kg (dehusked and with water), but now private parties take at 15/- per kg. Since price has crashed, goverment takes it at 25 rupees per kg, in an effort to save the farmers.Typically prices goes high in sabarimala festival season since demand for coconut is higher, but this time that also did not happen. Coconut oil prices are at 120 per litre, it is not that low, so why is that price for coconut has fallen? Price of all commodities and labour charges have increased drastically in the last 5 years, but the price of agriculture produce, goes down !!!!

Earlier I used to sell it to private parties, which involves no work from my side. They come harvest, dehusk, weigh and takes it.But since price they offer is very low decided to sell it to government procurement center. This involved some paper work and got it done quickly, but they said waiting period is 1 month, waited close to 2 months. 

Got one person to pluck the coconuts and then they are supposed to gather it at one place. Two ladies came for gathering and they complained of thorns and farm ground is not clean and they are scared of snakes and they just went away. I had to get my worker's family for gathering and they are not experienced in this job, so take more time...

Searched for dehuskers and landed in some tea shops. To meet such people, I should go there at 7AM, when they come for tea. Finally worker's family agreed to do that and I made a dehusking tool. But one professional dehusker came on that day, arranged by my helper and he did a good job of dehusking 2000 coconuts in 2 days. If he wouldn't have come, it would have been difficult to complete it.

Finally with all the effort, could deliver it in Krishi bhavan (Government procuring centre) and totally it was around 2 ton and got a decent price. Money comes later ,may be after a month, but still it is worth the wait.

I never used to put lot of effort in marketing the produce, since running around was not interesting, this time I felt selling the produce at throw away price is not good, so took the pain of selling it. Once the system is in place and experience gathered helps in selling it next time, and also I document all the expenses, hence next time I know how to go about it.

May be a co-operative movement of farmers would help to sell it better and I can see there are many examples in different parts of the country. It is about co-ordinating things, but without loosing the spirit of agriculture.





Saturday, January 23, 2016

Taro

Taro (called as Chembu in our local language) is very common in our area. I cultivate two varieties, in small numbers. Typically this is cultivated in raised beds or planting in pits filled with mulch. I wanted to try natural farming on this with minimal effort.

Last time I made a long pit put dried leaves under this and later planted its roots. Yield was not that good, but had some roots for making curry.  This time after harvesting just put some roots there itself without disturbing previous bed, and that is minimal work. Planting happens along with harvesting, but not sure, if we get good results. Also on the same area, cultivating again and again the same crop also is not advisable ? Only time can tell this.

This time made some pits and filled dried leaves in it and started planting roots directly. Next time after harvest, I can replant it at the same place and if it gives decent harvest, it will be taro natural farming.

Some photos..






Last harvest of small variety of taro.. yield is not that good, last time it was on raised bed, now put small holes using pick-axe and put the seeds and mulched. Will add some soil after some time and mulch again.



Seeds planted with minimal effort..to be seen if this become successful. Conventional type farming on raised bed need lot more effort. Existing raised bed will be reused. Cultivating same crop on the same place may not be advisable??? to be seen the result.

In Natural Farming book Fukuoka says ...As for potatoes, once these are planted in orchard, they will grow each year from the same spot, crawling vigorously along the ground to lengths of five feet or more and never giving into weeds. If just small potatoes are dug for food and some tubers always left behind, there will never be any want of seed potatoes.

The above statement is the ideal situation...hope to achieve this for taro on some day.