Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Grain farming - 2nd crop season - 2012

People around are busy with 2nd season rice crop, with the north-east monsoon. As per the schedule planting of rice crops should be completed by October 15, but since the rains were delayed it is still going on. 2nd crop at Palakkad area is largely dependent irrigation water from dam, except for initial preparation people depend on rains.

Even though my 1st crop was not completely successful, I have enough seeds, probably around 15Kgs of upland rice variety called Vysakh. This gives me more freedom with my experiments, so thought of trying upland rice again for 2nd crop also. Consulted argiculture university and according to them there is a dormancy period of 15 days for the seeds, after that it can be sown.

This time I was more comfortable with seed ball making and hence made seed balls for for rice. Broadcasted the seed balls and cut and mulched the grass using honda brush cutter.At times I felt, the seeds will be blown away by the brush cutter, so wanted to find a solution for that. Tall grasses were pressed to ground by my helper and then I cut it using the honda cutter. But later I found that once the tall grasses are fallen on the ground cutting is more difficult. Work was moving very slowly since grasses were tall and cutting and making them thin so that seeds can grow through them. I completed sowing of two small paddy fields each measuring probably at 15 cents. I had broadcasted horse gram also along with paddy.

Germination was not proper at all places,mostly because of less rain after the sowing. This time monsoon was very weak. I should have watered heavily using motor after sowing, but expected rain will come which didn't happen.

In one area I put finger millet in seed balls, and because of less rains, germination was very poor. Watering happened little late so not sure about the results.

In another 5 cents I have put Kattuyanam in seed balls. Kattuyanam is a traditional variety of rice grown in some parts of Tamilnadu. This grows to a height of 6-7 feet and gives reasonable yield without much attention and tollerates flood and drought. I had got the seeds from Karikalan who conserves and cultivates this variety.

In this area, I first cut the tall grasses at the base and kept them aside on the bunds. This way cutting and making small pieces is avoided, but cutting and keeping them side and then spreading them back has to be done. Right now it looks this is much easier than cutting them into small pieces. After all the grass were moved to the side, I put seed balls in the field. This make sure that seed balls can be seen and distribution will be uniform and contact with ground is proper. After sowing the seeds, put the grass back and this work was not difficult. On the same day, I watered that area. Now have to see, how the germination is....One thing I have done in this case is that work was done with more attention..ie cutting and removing the grass and removing extra grass from the field so that ground contact is proper and watering on time.

If I look back, I see that I am able to plan and do the farming work more effectively and with the Honda cutter, I could finish most of the work by myself. My next aim is to get a Scythe and if I can do this much using Scythe, it is going to be much more enjoyable.

November 11,2012
Upland rice Vysakh has germinated well, horse gram also has germinated well. In one area, even after a week rice plants were not seen, but received a good rain and after that rice plants started coming. I was very happy to see that the germination was good. Some grass and creepers have started coming and they have to be cut and controlled at early stages, since after some time the effort get multiplied by many fold. But because of mulching in lot of areas, grass is not there.

Kattuyanam seeds hasn't germinated and could find that it is because of lack of moisture. Even though there is moisture inside the soil, outside is relatively dry. Released water and to be seen, if the seeds germinates. Even though seedballs were used, it was very thin seedballs and hence could see that some were eaten by ants or insects. In coventional farming, in one method, after puddling and making muddy field, farmer broadcasts the seeds and they germinate lying on the top. Since the field is muddy and sufficient water, with weight of seeds itseld, they will be sinking in the ground little bit. Hence seedballs just put in the field, and with enough water it should germinate well.

Put seed balls of 'Kallundai Samba' rice variety in one portion. This is a 110 days variety and is suitable for sandy soils, Mr. Karikalan had sent this free along with Kattuyanam. In this case also, grass were cut and kept aside and then seedballs were put and then mulched with grass.

In one area, finger millet seedballs are also put and mulched with grass.

Nov 22, 2012

Nov 28-2012

Above 2 photos are Kattuyanam which grows above 6 feet ..germination was poor, watering was not proper and on time, and seed ball was very thin and some insect/ant had eaten the seeds, some husks were seen.

Dec 09,2012
Paddy looks to be little more strong now. This always happens with paddy and I think with the most of the crops, in the early stages they look to be very weak and barely notice, after a period, they are quite noticable and strong. But in the initial stages, they have to be taken care like a child, but in natural farming, idea is to take care of them by creating a natural environment so that they co-exist with other plants. But still some time, external help is needed, like Fukuoka san used to flood the field, when clover becomes strong, to weaken it and give paddy an advantage.

Some creepers are there which chokes paddy, these were removed with one woman labor. Also applied cowdung mixed with water and sprayed it over the paddy, planning to do this once in a week. This is not labor oriented, since water is collected from the paddy field and mixed with cowdung and directly sprayed. Probably took around 30 minutes to cover paddy field of 0.3 acre.



The below photos are Kattuyanam which I had cultivated in around 5 cents. Kattuyanam is a traditional rice variety cultivated in Tamilnadu. The most difficult thing which I face now is the non-uniform germination of seeds and big gaps left in the field. The seed balls were not proper, some seeds were eaten by insects. But I am happy to see its growth...it grows above the weeds. So who ever tries to do natural farming with grain should select the traditional seed varieties which grows tall.

This one has grown really tall, compared to the grass.

Update - Feb 17-2013
Harvested the Vysakh paddy, but it was pathetic yield. Towards the last stage, there was rat attack and lot of good heads were eaten by them. Probably just good 0.5Kgs of paddy.

To make a conclusion....

1. Natural farming of rice on second season is not probably advisable. It requires lot of watering, so probably crops with less water is suitable for natural farming. Some options available are - Pearl millet, Sesame, Corn etc..

2. Fetility of the soil is still bad, lot more improvement has to be done. Couple of cycles of leguminous crops are required which produces large bio-mass, couple of different varieties so that there is good balance of nutrients.

3. Even with all these, some good amount of cowdung or chicken manure has to be appied. Fukuoka san himself suggested 600-900 pounds of chicken manure per quarter acre, this has to be taken very seriously, natural farming is not just leaving everything to nature


Norm said...

Good luck Nandan, I respect your continued dedication...regards...Norm.

Nandakumar said...

Thanks Norm. Since I am not dependentent on the income from farming, I can afford these experiments now.

Jason said...

It's coming along well, over this season and over the years... . :) Indeed, best wishes for this season Nandan; Jason.