Friday, February 1, 2013

Seed ball experiences

I tried making seed balls in this season for finger millet, rice, cow pea and sesame. I was reasonably successful in making seed balls for finger millet, rice and sesame. For all these seeds I was able to make them wet and mix with white ant hill soil and after 5-6 iterations seedballs were ready, it was reasonable from effort and output point of view. For cowpea, making them wet, they started soaking water and seeds become large and the outer cover peels off and even if seed balls are formed, some time seeds come out since the outer cover of the seed is very smooth. Hence I had to roll individual seeds which was time consuming.

I tried rice seedballs and germination was very bad. There might have some issue with watering also, seeds being in seedball need more water first to soak the seedball mud and then seed. For finger millet, sesame and cow pea also the germination was very bad. All these seeds I had broadcasted and cut and mulched the grass. Other than moisture, I am not sure what other factors affect this. For cowpea and rice, I had seen the seeds eaten by some insects and some time the seeds were damaged and they just disintegrates on pressing. Probably some moisture was there, but it was not enough for healthy germination, but enough to damage the seeds. One thing strongly felt is that, in summer when moisture is less,using seedball is not that useful, since when you want to cultivate with available moisture, seedballs take extra moisture to soak the soil covering. I could see that after watering the field completely by next day, the field is dry at the top, but underneath there is moisture which is enough for the seeds to germinate.

When I tried sesame, and none of them had germinated, even after watering. Typically sesame is cultivated after rice using available moisture. They till the land and put the sesame seeds and again till it and the seeds germinate with the available moisture. Also I think, when the seeds are in direct contact with moist soil, the chances of germination is much better.

In the next trial, I made an opening in the soil using a sharp tool and put sesame seeds in this line. And I could see lot of them germinated. In some cases, where there was mulch, germination was bad, it looks like being very small seed, they won't be able to lift the mulch and come up. From my experience so far, germination is better when seeds are put inside the moist soil.

Making opening in the soil was time consuming and hence now wanted to broadcast the seeds and then rake the soil so that seeds go into the moist soil.

In Masanobu Fukuoka's 'Natural Way of Farming' in the picture 'Toward a natural way of farming' he says to follow 'Direct-seeding with shallow tillage' before going for 'no-tillage direct-seeding'.

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