Sunday, September 9, 2018

Alfalfa cover crop - trial

Fukuoka Jangli Khethi whatsapp group administered by Raju Titus sir, gave some information about Alfalfa and hence wanted to try.

Alfalfa seeds - Bought from amazon, 465 rupees per 0.5Kg


It readily germinated, but plant does not look very healthy, may be after some time, it will pickup


Applied little bit of cowdung slurry and growth seems to be fine.





I cut the alfalfa plants some time in December since my wife wanted to put amarnath, to my surprise it grew back well and flowered once again, actually this time there are more flowers. Amarnath plants which are close to Alfalfa is taller !!!


Unknown said...

What is this used for? In the US I have seen this being used as a fodder. One of my colleagues had a few horses he would get large blocks made of alfalfa compressed and feed them.

Nandakumar said...

Right now this is used as a cover crop. This was suggested by late veteran natural farmer Raju Titus, according to him, this can be sown with rice.

True, all these cover crops are also good fodder.


ravi said...

what innoculant did you apply for this?

Nandakumar said...

I didn't innoculate it, never used innoculants so far !!! Hope nature will have the right bacteria at some point of time


ravi said...

when you are using alfalfa, drainage system should be good, may be a raised bed/ small canals every 5 to 10 feet might do the trick. if you are serious about using alfalfa as living mulch, you can succeed by avoiding water logging conditions and giving initial boost.
I did try it on 1/4 acre once with wheat, it grown really well in parts where there is good drainage and didn't grow well in water logged area, the seed bed should be prepared well as well, this was another mistake I did.

for all of the experiments, living mulch is must for us to succeed in the fukuoka farming methods, so I think alfalfa fits the bill for indian environments.

i think getting a good stand of alfalfa is important before you try as companion crop on it.

may be you should persue more with alfalfa, just a suggestion..

One day I want to do this...corn, millets with alfalfa as living mulch..i think we are all obsessed with rice cultivation...

using a flail mower/tractor with inter row weeding - convert as mower between rows of crop for mulching the alfalfa every 1 to 2 months, so we can create that Fertilizer naturally, since C/N ratio wont be more than 24/1, the nitrogen will be released fairly quickly in 2 to 3 weeks...

I think you should have used the innoculant- rhizobium meliloti.

I think you should start with little tonic to feed them(may be use subash palekar methods initially, FYI) and then let the mother nature to takeover on long run.

and Please don't till the soil, this will release lot of carbon and cause environment issues, may be use a no till seed drill..

Another good Soil carbon builder - not sure if you used it before, try mulching every 1 to 2 months for 3 times

FYI - I am not a farmer but for last 7 years(first 3 to 4 years when I was in India, i did all the things that you are doing, regularly checked your site but never responded, then I came to USA, everything had stopped but interest never faded).

Nandakumar said...

Thanks for the detailed comments...

Alfalfa is a winter crop in India, so not sure, if it suits for rainy season, it does not like heavy rains. My rice field will be having standing water some time, so not sure if it can be used as a living mulch for rice, but may give a try. I also plan to rotate rice with millet.

Yes, as you suggested Subash Palekar method may give the required bacteria, I just use cowdung slurry some times.

Flail mowers are quite attractive, had seen them before, but they are costly, but it looks like a good option for no-till cultivation.

Please send a mail to and keep in touch.


ravi said...
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ravi said...
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ravi said...

"Alfalfa is a winter crop in India, so not sure, if it suits for rainy season, it does not like heavy rains. My rice field will be having standing water some time, so not sure if it can be used as a living mulch for rice, but may give a try" ----This is why I stressed about "Water logging". Please look into Agriculture drainage system, it can be costly for Subsurface drainage but surface drainage is fairly simple, have trenches like every 7 or 8 feet and have a leveled plot.

I think we should start the cultivation in oct/nov for alfalfa and once there is good stand in winter/summer, then in rainy season with good drainage system, alfalfa can grow, it can sustain some water logging..i doubt its a winter crop, i think this can grow in any season.

first we need to understand, rice is not aquatic plant, it doesn't need a standing water first, this will cause depletion of oxygen to plant, i have seen people growing rice with drip irrigation, standing water is just for weed control, i don't see any use other than that...

so, I suggest to remove this from your mindset that we need to let the water stand to discourage the weeds. we have to control weeds through alfalfa and mowing regularly like 1 to 2 months.

By the time you plant the rice, there should be a alfalfa stand, thats all we need.. just throw rice seeds and keep mowing...

since regular mowing of alfalfa/weeds will release quick NPK and other minerals, i think this can be a potential fertilizer...

I am planning to have a community garden plot in USA, i will do the same for vegetables, will provide you the images and how this method works...
i can use a clover but want to try alfalfa(it can work in indian conditions).

Nandakumar said...

Thanks Ravi for the detailed response.

Will look at the drainage, I did trenching in my coconut area, not seen anyone doing it for paddy fields.

As you said, we may be able to grow it in winter and then it may survive the rains.

Flooding in rice fields are used for weed control, but weed control decides if you have a crop or not.

This year, I am planning to cut the weeds in the field completely by brush cutter and then throw seed balls of traditional variety rice before the rain...and may do hand weeding once/twice so that a thick stand of rice is established.