Sunday, December 14, 2014

Banana Cultivation

I planted about 1000 Njali poovan (Elakki) banana suckers in Aug 2013.Most of the suckers were bought from a near by farm and some where from the farm itself. Planting was done by just making a pit and putting the suckers and covering with soil, no manure was given. Typically people put cow dung, compost or mulching in the pit. I didn't want to invest more money into farming, so thought of taking a minimal expenditure path. Watering was given once in a week and around 750 survived the peak summer but growth was not very good. Typically after 9-10 months I should have be able to harvest them,

During the rainy season, I put some dried cowdung to 10 of them just to see the effect and those were growing some more healthy compared to the other. I employed labor to cut the grasses and but they were not mulching it around the plants.

Later using Scythe I started cutting and mulching and it was a tough job since lot of grass had grown after the rains. But once it was done, maintaining them at the summer was much easier.

Seeing the growth of grass, broadcasted sunhemp through out this area, in some areas, they had established well, but not every where. Later thought of establishing an invasive leguminous cover crop and bought seeds of Pueraria Javanica and broadcasted it some part. But it didn't germinate well or it was covered by grass, so planted them in grow bags and transplanted a few plants and they are coming up well. Hopefully they will establish well in an year throughout this area. Some photos..

April - 2014 - In summer



In this area, I had broadcasted sunhemp and it grew well and could see plants are healthy in this area. Cut and mulched one area.


Sunhemp cover cut and mulched using CEC Scythe, it is becoming immensely useful.

Pureria Javanica growing in some areas...hopefully should give a good cover



I didn't update this section for a long time now...thought of updating it...bananas has become very dense and need some maintenance of leaving only one or two. Also thought of applying some cowdung...


Pureria cover crop established well in some places..Since summer is severe, and rain was less, just left them without cutting.

In a group, just maintaining only 2-3 plants, cutting all other, now the remaining ones are doing good. We can leave all without cutting any, provided, land is very fertile and all plants gets enough nutrients,

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Scythe from CEC Hyderabad


The below article is an old article, after trying out CEC scythe, I have stopped using it now, since more comfortable and internationally used Scythe designs are available now in India...Please visit

Old Article

Cutting and controlling weed is an important activity in natural farming. I had seen Masanobu Fukuoka carrying a weed cutting tool with a long handle and thought such a long handled tool will be useful for cutting weeds. Fukuoka san carries two such tools, one short handled and one long handled. That tool was called Japanese Kama and later found that a tool called scythe exists which will be useful. See a picture of that tool.

I couldn't find any source in India to buy a scythe so contacted Alexander Vido of scythe works and got one scythe,it works well, but has some problems. It is very sharp and light weight but blade gets damaged when hit a stone or a hard branch which is there here and there through out the farm. Blade was bent,cut and I keep peening, sharpening but thought a bush scythe will be useful in these cases. Importing scythe was costly so finally came across CEC Hyderabad which makes scythes.Thanks to Balaji who gave this information on finding my previous blog post on scythe.

CEC (Centre for Environmental Concern) Hyderabad had imported scythes from Europe and studied it and they make it locally. Contacted Gopal of CEC Hyderabad and he spent the specification as

Stainless steel pipe welded to high quality hardened spring steel cutting blade. The Pipe is 4 ft with 16 mm diameter. The blade is 1.5 mm thickness, 90 mm width and 360 mm in length.

They make it to make the work of women laborers easy since benting and cutting weeds causes health problems (back ache etc) and allergic problems while coming in contact with some weeds.

I transferred 1200/- for this scythe and Mr. Gopal sent it to me. I fitted the scythe and started using it. It was not that smooth since it was little heavier than earlier scythe and also the snath was just 4 feet. According to the scythe experts it should be as tall as the person cuts. So I just put my earlier scythes wooden handle to this scythe and it works well now, even though it is little bit heavy compared to my imported scythe.

I am quite happy with this scythe's edge which is very strong steel and sharp. Hitting branches and small stones are all fine. I still haven't fitted handles for the snath and not really using it the way scythe is being used, since most of the cases there will be in between plants and there is no complete grass area to cut.

So anyone who buys this scythe should experiment a little bit and also fit a new snath. I use the same sharpening stones for making it sharp.

Here are some pictures: The one with steel handle is the scythe from CEC.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Paddy crop season 2 - 2014

Season 2 paddy crop has started. Field was ploughed, using tractor with gauge wheel, this is the first time I am trying this. Need good amount of water in the field only then gauge wheel ploughing can be done. One good thing is that, any amount of green biomass can be put in the field, including branches, and all get incorporated in to the soil and finally levelling was done so that water does not get stagnated in one place. Totally around 70 cents ploughing was done in 3 hours and costed around 3000/-.

7Kgs of seeds were put in the puddled field by October 13th and on November 1st transplanting was done. Seed used is called Gopika developed by Sasidharan of Pulamanthol, Calicut, Kerala. Sasidharan developed this field by sowing Aiswarya and Jyothi together and it took around 9 years to develop this. He claims that 10 ton yield was obtained from 1 hectre using SRI method. Bunches of 3 seedlings were put and still seedlings were not sufficient for the 0.7 acre. In some area, seeds were broadcasted.

Here are some photos..


Plants are recovering from the initial shock of transplanting.


Plants are turning more green and weeds are also doing very well !!!. Since field was not flooded completely, weeds has come up and overtook the paddy. 5-6 women labourers were put for 3 days to completely deweed and field looks clean now. Weeds are a major issue, if we don't know how to handle them..after a period, once the rice has grown and covered the field, weeds are not an issue.

To make weeding easier, planning to plant them in line at 25cms distance as in SRI method. Also wanted to try azolla, but not sure if we always has to keep the field flooded.

weed infested area before deweeding

It is becoming a challenge to control the weeds. After deweeding, water was kept reasonably well, but still weeds are coming. Started another round of deweeding, this makes my next plan very clear, at any cost it will be SRI at least for the 2nd season. It looks like density is a problem, in broadcasted area, there is more dense plants and hence weeds are less.

Broadcasted area, weeds are less.

Broadcasted area, weeds are less


After weeding, now plants looks more healthier. As of now weeding cost is 40% of the total money spent, so definitely this can be reduced with line planting.


Azolla was put in one area, it is spreading slowly...

Weed has taken over this broadcasted area, left this, no more weeding will be done here. I think if weeds are controlled, you can get a decent yield.


Paddy started flowering..during my last visit saw some birds trying to catch some insects, so put some support for them in the field. This is a normal practice to control the insects, but my assistant Palani has not seen this before, so he didn't do it as expected.

1st Feb-2015
Myself with paddy


Broadcasted area, grains have formed..rat attack in some places..

The taller ones are plants which came from last season's cultivation, they grew taller and already matured. This is a variety called Vysakh - an upland high yielding variety. Generally it is believed that plants which come from last season's crop will be weak, but it does not look like..even if left overs of last season may be enough for next season !!! to be seen.

In some areas..sunlight is blocked by nearby trees, there it takes time to mature..this has to be taken care in the next crop.

Crop slowly turning golden is a delightful sight to see this.


Almost ready for harvest, another 1 week to go..

9th March, 2015

Harvest is over..was done in 2 steps, there was some water in the field so it could not be completed on first day. Totally 11 women labourer's work was needed to harvest and process it and put it in sacks. Totally 54 para (in local kerala language, may be around 8Kgs) paddy was there. Totally 20,000/- was spent on this and 432kgs was got, so will get about 280Kgs of rice, enough food !!!

Number of tillers is between 10-15, had put only 2-3 plants in one place.

Some learnings
Broadcasting needs more skill to make plants uniform
Yield is less compared to other organic farmers since no manuring was done
Little more early weeding would have made it more efficient
May be case for SRI since watering is done from well and it becomes costly to flood also weeding cost can be saved and yield can be improved