Friday, January 26, 2018

No-till experiment 2018

It has been failures after failures..but still the experiment continues. The reason for the last rice failure was that the field is still not ready for rice in the 2nd season, when the rain recedes. I thought the moisture holding capacity of land would have improved considerably, but it takes time. The failures makes me more cautious about things I do. I don't expect to seeds to germinate with little water and make sure that weeds are cut rather than just broadcasting seeds over standing grass.

Still there is presence of strong weeds, the build up of mulch on the top is less. Much of the mulch disappear, due to decomposition, termite activity and may be because of heat itself. So I wanted to establish a cover crop of sunhemp before starting the next rice.

I cut the existing grass and rice which had come up here and there by scythe. I took close to 2 days to cut the entire field. I first broadcasted around 5-6Kgs of sunhemp seeds then cut the grass. Felt very happy since I could complete the work all by myself.

Asked Palani (my local helper) to water it and he did a goo job and sunhemp is establishing nicely. Plan is to cut when it flowers and keep the field ready for rice in the next season.



Quite happy to see that sunhemp germinated well, now the challenge is how to establish rice in the next season. Sunhemp can be cut after 2 months, may be by April beginning.  Some time first rain starts by April mid, and mostly grass will start growing with this, before that rice should germinate and grow. If I make seed balls and throw, will it survive the summer, last time, I had seen termites eat lot of them.Some time, rain gets delayed and starts by May mid, so till that time, seeds should be waiting in the summer. But it looks like no other way, since if weeds establish first then there is no way rice can compete. Also seed balls generally need more water to germinate, but weeds gets an advantage, they germinate fast, may be with first rain, if water is less, I may have to give some irrigation just to make sure that rice germinates.


There was two rains in February, sunhemp is growing well.

This area, there are some gaps, still looks OK.

Looks little bit of water stress, may be watering in every 10 days will be needed


Watered it once, already yellow flowers started coming

This area density is poor, weeds may come back quickly

This is the input from my friend Eric Koperk of  ""

"Sunn hemp is NOT a good mulch crop because it produces significantly less biomass than grass crops and decomposes rapidly.  Because there is less mulch on the ground and the cut foliage rots quickly, weed control is about 1/2 as effective as a grass crop used for mulch-in-place.  Translation:  You might get only 3 or 4 weeks of weed control rather than 6 to 8 weeks."


Sunhemp started flowering and may have seeds in 3-4 weeks, so wanted to terminate this and sow cowpea, so that another 3 months, they will grow and cover the ground. If I cut sunhemp and leave it, grass may take over, so doing rice later will be difficult.


Broadcasted 4Kgs of Cowpea and then cut Sunhemp using Scythe, just at the flowering stage, it is quite tender and cutting is quite easy. Since there were lot of bees and other insects feeding on the flowers, left one area for them, in that area also, cowpea is sown. Cowpea was bought from 3 different shops and per Kg cost was 90/-, 80/- 66/- per Kg. I could have complete the cutting in 5-6 hours in a single stretch.


Broadcasted another 1Kg of cowpea in the remaining area, and cut the grass. Cowpea has germinated reasonably well in the previous cut area.


Cowpea growing well, there are some weeds in between, to get a clear covercrop, may be some manual weeding will be useful.


Cowpea still has the majority, but weeds are not bad, they are also taking up the competition, I am worried about very strong weeds, which will come back after cutting.


Weeds are also growing in between, so not sure, I will have a clean weed free field. On terminating the cowpea, I am planning to cut the weeds also close to the ground and make it weed free while starting rice and also weed rice twice so that rice has a better chance. May be some weeding here also would have helped to establish a uniform cowpea crop. Fukuoka san says initially some weeding, composting etc will be required but slowly this can be reduced.


Cowpea started flowering and some peas are seen.


There are some weeds seen in between cowpea which is a concern, while cutting cowpea, these weeds being small may not be cut so may interfere with paddy. One way is to cut using brush cutter, otherwise after one round of cutting using scythe, have to weed manually.


With good rain, cowpea is establishing well.

Cowpea had withered with more rain, broadcasted Aruvakkari traditional rice (5Kgs) and then cut and mulched. 2 women laborers helped me for this. There are grasses in lot of places and after this, receiving heavy rain, so not sure if the seed germinates. Seeds were put in water for 24 hours.


Weeds are growing in between, may have to weed it once, even though bit difficult. In some areas, too many rice plants, may have to thin a bit, seed rate has to be reduced to 3Kgs from 5Kgs. There is one particular weed, which after cutting just grows back from each piece, that weed had to be removed outside the field.


Weeding was done with two ladies, they did a nice job.


Since rain has stopped and soil has gone dry, watered it once

Received couple of good rains...grains formed..some plants has fallen down after the rain..ready to harvest in 15 days


By the time of harvest, all rice plants had fallen, this variety is not strong and falls down. Got around 1Kg of paddy.

weeds in some area, they are strong, grows back after cutting

Peacocks comes in the mornings and evenings for eating paddy, they don't do major damage they just picks few and then moves on. When they came, I was harvesting, they waited for some time and then joined me through another side.

Since rice had fallen down, grass started growing vigorously, within a month, they just took over.

Started cutting grass for next crop, may be sesame, though not sure if the tiny seeds will compete with this grass and establish.


Bought 0.5Kgs of sesame from a local store and made seed balls, using termite hill soil. For some earthworm deposit also was tried out, but it was not very strong. Making sesame balls took around 3 hours. Each time a handful of sesame seeds were used.

Cut the big grass using Scythe and then kept on side and then cut using brush cutter using nylon wire so that there are no grass in the field, wanted to give the sesame a good start. Cutting the whole thing with brush cutter is difficult, scythe is useful for cutting big grass while it does not suite for cutting the small grass.

Totally took around 2 days to cut the big grass and 2 days for cleaning the ground using brush cutter. If there was a uniform cover crop, may be cutting would have completed in a single day.

In one area, arachis pintoi grows 

Field after cutting big grass 

After cutting using brush cutter


The germination of seed balls were bad, one reason could be that I flooded the field after broadcasting and it took around 2 hours. The filed with flooded water might have washed away the soil covering of seed balls and insects would have taken it. May be I should water it nicely first then broadcast the seed balls and then mulch it.

Put another 0.25Kg of seasame seedballs again, took around 45 minutes to create this seedballs. May put seedballs once again after flooding the field first. Also thinking of adding some compost to the seedballs so that water retention is good and chances of germination will be more, just some thoughts.


Since germination was bad, just poked here and there with a pointed tool and put some seeds. Also in 3 marked areas, put seasame seed balls in line to see what happens to the seed balls. Could feel that even though soil is moist, there is less chance of the moisture getting to seed ball and germinates, may be flooding will make the seed ball moist. Did an experiment of putting seed balls in water for 1 hour and could see that seeds just come out, this is what happens with flooding. So better to put seed balls at the end of the flooding so that it does not get immersed in water for long time.

Some seasame plants can be seen 

Field after poking here and there.


Some sesame plants can be seen, weed started growing along, so not sure what will be the end result.




No watering have been done close to a month now...fruits have formed...


Harvested a few seeds, and next phase of experiments moved to the new topic - No-till experiment 2019


Ravi said...

Hi Nanda kumar , its pleasure to read you farm activity, your are true natural farmer. But i wish you could be successful so that other could follow you.

Ravi said...


Please check this method in case you might have not seen. video link below

will be glad to hear your comments on method shown in video link.

Nandakumar said...

Hi Ravinder,

Thanks for the comments. I had seen this video long back, it looks to be a workable solution since there is a clean weed free field, but they says, it takes 6 months for the black velvet beans to reach this stage.

Also cutting/rolling and spreading is a laborious process, many people are involved in it. So have to see if there is a better solution.


Unknown said... Please see the above link. It may helpful

Nandakumar said...

Hi Challa,

I have seen this video, I learnt some of this from Raju Titus sir. People who have visited him tells his farm is extremely fertile, even though there is less rain. So once the land is very fertile, weed pressure may be drastically reduced.

He says, any ground cover is OK, but I have tried it multiple time, with established grass, no-till just won't work.