Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Visit to Chandran master's farm

News about Chandran master and about his farm came in a local daily and was impressive to read it. Later father-in-law mentioned that he had met him around 10 years back and he was having his number, while daily didn't give that. Called him and visited his farm in the next morning. It is west vemballur, near Asmabi college, Kodungallur, Kerala. He asked us to come morning at 9AM so that all the cows will be there in one place, afterwards they will be moved to different parts of the farm for grazing.

He is 72 years old and a very simple man and says his wife and himself lives on 30/- per day.He was a teacher earlier and worked in Kerala and Oman. He had visited Malasia, Singapoore, Thailand - seeking a solution for the coconut virus called 'Mandari'  He has also been to Illinois, USA.

It is impressive to see the cows there - all Indian breeds. There is Vechur,Gir (from Gujarat),Kasargod dwarf,  Kankayam (from Tamil nadu), one from tribal people of chimmani estate, one from Andhra which is supposed to be Krishna's cow (This looked like the cow seen in pictures of Krishna) etc..Kasargod dwarf is about 80cms tall and gives 2.5 litres of milk. These local varieties are small cows slightly higher than goats and does not required much food and easy to manage. The Gir looks really big, but they are quite loving type.

He does not give the cows any artificial foods, pellets etc..He allows them to graze in the farm and gives water from rice cooking etc.. He also has a canadian pigmy goat, local tamilnadu variety dog, different varies of hen etc..

He says, he spends around 15,000/- per month on animals..but it looks like return is less. Urine of these cows are said to be very costly, but obviously there are no marketing channels and gets wasted.

He has some kind of flower throughout the farm and that looks to be the most income generating stuff. These flowers are sent to five star hotels, marriages season.

He has around 12 ponds in the farm and has fishes in all of them. He does not eat non-vegetarian and when some guests come some are used. He showed one bunch of banana and it was not very big, but it reflected the same size of one seen in my farm.

Coconut trees in this farm is affected by some virus disease and hence not yielding fruits. There is enough mulch at the base of each coconut tree, but still the disease exists. To me it looked like the number of cows exceeds the acreage and hence fertility of the soil is lost. One thing is that he does not mention about productivity, profit etc..he is a natural farmer in true sense. He mentioned that he follows Fukuoka method after the coconut trees were affected, but problem is not solved even after 20 years. Even though there is sufficient mulch at the base of the trees, in other places grass and mulch is missing. P.Sainath was supposed to visit him for some documentary and it looks like he is known every where because of his cows.

During conversation he also mentioned that Jeewamritha should be applied only when the land is wet, otherwise it won't have much effect. Showed him some photos of Fukuoka farm and he wanted that in a CD along with videos, promised to give him in the next visit.

A nice blog and video about Chandran Master, thanks to Jason Taylor

1st -December-2014

Met Chandran mash today when he came to meet me to collect Fukuoka videos. He came by catching bus and then walking tomy wife house. Apparently he had visited this house, when my father-in-law was keeping some Jamunapari goats.

Right now he has sold all other varieties of cows and just keeps 22 vechur cows. He also cultivates 6 acres of paddy (pokkali) with fish and he says it is extremely profitable and not much labour and no fertilizers are required.

He is in good spirit and found it very interesting to listen to his talks.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

No-till transplanted rice

I have been trying to grow rice using Fukuoka San's no-till method, but hasn't been successful completely. Since field is not completed ready with mulch, competition from weeds is more, so direct broadcasting is avoided. In transplanted system, weed pressure will be less since rice seedlings are already established.

But first time I had cleaned the field and removed all the mulch and then transplanted into the field and grass grew quickly and took over the control. Also the distance between seedlings were more than 1 feet and hence crowding out weeds didn't happen.

This year after seeing Raju Titus sir's method of no-till tranplanting of rice, thought of trying it out. Please see the link\

In my opinion,we may not be succssful like Raju sir since his field has thick mulching from many years and weeds will be much less and that also will be less strong weeds.

Some similar methods on planting millets into mulched beds can be seen in the following link

I cut the grass using Honda Brush cutter and transplanted the seedlings using the dibbling stick. Since there is mulch in the field grass is controlled to some extend, but now the grass is taking controll in some places. May be next time with more mulch, grass problem may be less or may have to weed once. I had tried broadcasting horse grams after transplanting but it didn't establish well. Probably may have to sow it in lines between the transplanted paddy.

Overall it looks fine so far..  here are some photos

Since the weeds were becoming more and more strong, did some weeding. One person was used half day, but the lady was complaining about the touch me not. Here are some photos after weeding done.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Starting an orchard - from Masanobu Fukuoka's Natural way of farming

Lot of people think that natural farming is about just cut and mulch with the grass growing in your farm and fertility of the land will improve. I was also doing that but as the fertility was not improving fast and also discussions with many people led me to the conclusion that, natural farming is not just cutting and mulching what naturally grows. I have the habit of referring 'One straw revolution' and 'The natural way of farming' again and again, and I get more clear picture.

Here are some details from page 114 of 'The Natural Way of farming' written by Masanobu Fukuoka.

"When starting an orchard, the main goals initially should be prevention of weed emergence and maturation of soil. These can be accomplished by growing buckwheat during first summer, and sowing rapeseed and Indian mustard that same winter. The following summer, one may plant adzuki bean and mung bean and in winter hairy vetch and other hardy leguminous plants that grow well without fertilizers. The only problem with these is that they tend to inundate the young fruit tree saplings. As the garden matures, it will support any type of crop."

Page 158 - Establishing an Orchard talks about -

"Rather than carting the trunks, branches, and leaves of felled trees off a contour-cleared orchard site, it makes more sense to arrange this material along contour lines and wait for it to decompose naturally. The branches, leaves, and roots of the trees decompose after several years, becoming a source of organic fertilizer that supplies nutrients to the growing fruit trees. At the same time, a cover of organic matter helps to curb weed growth, prevents soil washout, stimulates the proliferation of microorganisms, and serves to enrich and otherwise improve the soil."

"After preparing the orchard soil, the next concern is planting. Fruit saplings should be planted at equal intervals along hill contours. Dig a fairly deep hole, fill it with coarse organic matter, and plant the sapling over this."
"Upto ten of black wattle leguminous trees should be planted per quarter acre among fruit trees. After five or six years of growth, I felled these and buried trunks and tops in trenches within the orchard"

Fukuoka san also talks about growing a permanent ground cover in the orchard, and he was growing clover which reseeds and is leguminous. So all these things are required as part of natural farming.

Along with growing cover crops, I started early on to dig trenches and fill them with organic matter to speed up the process of soil enrichment. I tried using a variety of organic materials such as straw,hay,twigs and small branches,ferns,wood and bark chips and lumber. After comparing the results, I found that hay,straw and ferns, which I would have expected to be least expensive,were in fact costly, while wood chips were not.The only problem was hauling this material in. As it turned out, the best material was lumber,which was relatively inexpensive but this too was at times, difficult to carry in. That is when I decided to produce lumber right there in my orchard. Figuring that the easiest and most beneficial way was to return the orchard what had been growing there, I tied planting various types of trees and found black watlle to be the best for the purpose.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dibbling stick for rice transplanting through mulch

I was trying rice transplanting into the cut grass mulch for 2nd crop cultivation of rice in Nov 2011. Then I realized it is difficult to plant through mulch when Palani and his wife started the planting. Using spade through mulch was difficult and also soil was disturbed and I feared that this might bring more weeds. Also it was taking long time, and it was boring to do the work since it was difficult to work through mulch.

Later my helper Palani went and brought a dibbling stick and he started making holes through mulch just pressing it and his wife was planting the rice seedlings. All of us felt happy that the method was working very well. But one thing to remember is that the mulch should be in decomposed state otherwise planting is difficult since finding mud to fill the hole created using dibbling stick becomes tricky.

One thing which went wrong with this is that the hole was deeper and hence plants didn't develop much since nutrients are less at deeper levels. Normally while transplanting plants are planted at a lesser depth. Jacob Nellithanan sir told me about this later and advised a depth of 1-2 cm. One reason why in SRI plants develop more is that it is planted at a lesser depth. Also planting deeper causes the water requirement to be more. They say transplanted rice needs less water compared to broadcasted since depth is less in transplanting.

Here are some pictures  ..

Saturday, November 19, 2011

No-till rice farming in Alappuzha,Kerala

Yesterday talked to Jacob Sebastian of Kuttanad,Alappuzha,Kerala, after coming to know that he has been doing no-till rice farming. Traditionally in Kuttanad, rice field is submerged in water and they do one crop of rice in October-November time, after pumping out water. Lot of people do tilling and do normal cultivation in the land. Jacob Sebastian allows drains out water and then allow the weeds to grow, which comes out in 1 week time. Once weeds come out, he again allow standing water and all weeds are killed, by allowing water for 2-3 weeks and after that rice is sown in the field. He uses Uma and Jyothi varieties. Earlier he used chemical fertilisers and pesticides but now he uses only organic fertiliser, especially using 'Kadala pinnakku (ground nut waste after taking oil) ' mixed with compost. He knows Fukuoka's method and asked me to grow cow pea along with rice and later allow standing water to weaken cowpea.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Weed control in natural rice farming

These are the important aspects in weed control in natural rice farming. This is the summary taken from 'One straw revolution' and some from others experience and some taken from my own experience. I haven't mastered these techniques yet, but think these are the things to be taken care of.

1. No-tilling - Tilling brings out the buried seeds back to surface and this has better germination capacity. So without tilling, seed resources on the field will be exhausted and hence weed population will decrease eventually. But there are other sources of seeds like rain water, wind etc. Flooding of rain water from other fields has to be prevented for better weed control.

2. Mulching - Mulching with remains of previous crop reduces weed, since mulching does not provide sunlight and hence the weed population decreases. Considerable amount of mulching will be required for better weed control. So when you are staring, mulch with as much as you can. Twigs, branches etc..provide good mulch and weed control.

3. Leguminous cover crop before - Have a leguminous cover crop in the field before planting grain and it is said that grass varieties does good in leguminous cover crop. If the grain is sown in leguminous cover crop, and then cover crop is cut and mulched, good weed control can be assured.

4. Leguminous cover crop along with rice - If there is another cover crop which grows along with grain, it is the best. Like Fukuoka san used clover along with rice. Clover does not interfere with rice, and if it takes control flooding the field weakens the clover and once the rice takes over, clover will grow beneath the rice. Once the clover is weakened and rice comes out, he later Fukuoka drains water so that clover again establishes underneath. This kind of water control is required to control the cover crop. Clover does not grow well in all the climates, so for each region a suitable cover crop has to be found out.

5. Rice that can compete with weeds - Rice also was a wild growing variety in the past, but after cultivating in controlled environment with all the extra care, they are no longer wild. But while selecting the rice, if we can use the variety which is not hybrid, rather local variety they will compete with weeds more effectively. See the video - where Thiru. Karikalan explains his rice cultivation using local variety called 'Kattuyanam'. This takes 6 months to mature and grows 7 feet tall. It is pest resistant and gives good yields without applying any manure. Till 1 feet there will be weeds, afterwards the rice still grows tall and weeds loose the competition. This variety is supposed to be drought tollerant as well as flood tolerant and has medicinal values.

Fukuoka san used a variety which he had developed called Happy Hill. According to his words in Natural farming book.

"I have created, together with the insects in my fields, a new strain of rice I call
"Happy Hill." This is a hardy strain with the blood of wild variants in it, yet it is also one of the highest yielding strains of rice in the world. If a single head of Happy Hill were sent across the sea to a country where food is scarce and there sown over a ten- square-yard area, a single grain would yield 5,000 grains in one year's time.". Not able to find the source of its seeds, so if anyone knows please report back. - According to the following source..these are the variants of the Happy Hill rice..

Fukuoka invented and registered three varieties of rice.
Fukuoka 1 gou(Fukuoka No.1)-fast growing,
Fukuoka 2 gou(No.2)-late growing,
Fukuoka mochi 3 gou(glutinous No.3).
There are not much information available on this, but it is said to have wild strains in it.

6. Timing of crops - Depending on the season, the crop should be sown, so that it emerges first before the weeds. For e.g in kerala, weeds will start emerging heavily as the rain starts. Before the weeds start germination, rice should be sown and established. Once the crop is established, later weeds won't come that easily. A few sentences from 'One Straw Revolution' - Coping with Weeds - If seeds are sown while the preceeding crop is still ripening in the field, those seeds germinate ahead of weeds. Winter weeds sprout only after the rice has been harvested, but by that time winter grain already has a head start. Summer weeds sprouts right after the harvest of barley and rye, but the rice is already growing strongly. Timing the seedling in such a way that there is no interval between succeeding crops gives the grain great advantage over the weeds.

7. Continous coverage - Once the field is left uncultivated after a season, weeds take over. It is better that field is continously used for one crop or other. When there is no crop, better to use a cover crop so that there is no chance for weeds to emerge. Again, depending on climates, the cover crop for that region has to be selected.

8. Crowding out weeds - The crop should be planted dense so that it can crowd out the weeds. In my first rice planting experiment, I maintained 1 feet distance between seedlings and weeds came up strongly in the vacant spaces. This kind of distance may be OK for SRI rice, since there field is completely ploughed and seasoned so that weeds are not given a chance at all. But in natural farming, we have to crowd out weeds using crops.

9. Allow weeds to germinate in summer - In one of the book Fukuoka san mentioned to water the area in the summer so that weeds germinate and then stop the watering, and weed seeds gets destroyed.

10. Weeder Ducks. Fukuoka used ducks to control weeds in his rice paddy in the initial days. The following link also talks about this. Ducks don't eat rice, but young weeds, may be this is applicable in transplanted fields where the rice plants are more mature.  Links -

11. Consideration for weeds - As some body told, weeds are sown by god and crops by man. Control weeds only when it tries to control your crop, otherwise allow it to grow, change your attitude towards weeds.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rice cultivation update - 2nd Crop 2011

This is the update about my rice cultivation and planning to update it as and when some events occur in this activity.

October 28,2011
Yesterday night there was rain and land was reasonably wet. This is called 'Thulamazha' or North east monsoon. Typically it will be there in October and November. Cut the paddy field 2 using Honda brush cutter with blade attachment. One session in the morning and another session in afternoon each around 2.5 hours. My mother had accompanied me to farm this time, so gave the broadcasting paddy seeds and horse gram work to her and she was happy to do that. As and when I cut the field she broadcasted the seeds and when I complete that area, she will again broadcast the seeds. Used around 2Kgs of 'Poonkar seed' with 700gms of horse gram, but it was not sufficient for the complete area. The rest of the area will be transplanted.

Paddy field 3 has some grasses already grown, but since Honda cutter is there, one more round of cutting can be done very quickly. This is the advantage of the cutter, manual cutting is just impossible. The places where mulching was done with sunhemp only a few creepers were seen and grass was under control as of now.

This time I am planning to get rice seedlings from the organic farm of Thanal in Erimayoor, Palakkad. The person in charge, Illias has promised to give enough rice seedling, to be seen.

November 05,2011
Yesterday collected 20 bundles of rice seedlings from Illias of Thanal. They have a farm in Padayatti, Erimayoor. They were transplanting seedlings and they don't get canal irrigation water and depends on rain for the 2nd crop also. They have at well and they will pump water from it, if there is a need at the end. Illias told about an interesting thing about fertilizing the rice fields. There are people who has got big number of goats and if asked they will keep the goats in your field for a night providing a temperory fencing. By morning the field will have pellets and their urine and it is a good fertilizer. These people charge the owner of the field at 50 paise per goat. Illias is an active person, I asked him how does he spends his evening in the village and he says he is too busy with reports, organising meetings, travelling etc..

When I visited, previously sown rice and horse gram had germinated in some
 areas well and in some areas it was not seen at all. But in some places it
  is grass which is dominating !!!
Today plan was to transplant the rice seedlings, in remaining area. I had my helper and his wife working along with me. We were using spade to put the seedlings and found that this was disturbing the soil and effort was too much. My helper friend went and made a dibbling stick and using that he made holes and started transplaning the seedlings and work was completed quite faster. This is a really good tool for transplanting without disturbing the soil. The depth of the hole has to be controlled by controlling the size of the sharp end. Also it is better that the stick is little thicker so that we get a wider hole.

  In one portion where I had cut the grass/sunhemp 2 weeks back, grass had
  grown back, after getting some good rains.So I cut this grass once again
  with brush cutter, otherwise there is no chance that rice will survive the
  grass. Here the timing is very critical..if I had sown a week or
  immediately along with cutting, then this problem wouldn't have beenn
  there. But if I miss the window, then to recover in NF, it is a problem.

  In one portion of the field I have broadcasted rice + horse grams and here
  there is standing water, so not sure what will happen and it is raining
  heavily. May have to make provisions for draining water from field by
  tomorrow. Last time when I tried broadcasting seeds after ploughing,
  peacocks ate most of the seeds, but this time since seeds are put in the
  mulch, it may not be completely visible to them. Earlier I was thinking
  sunhemp mulch will be too thick to handle, but after 2 weeks of drying, it
  was nothing in the field..

Another 2 fields are still left out, will be doing some thing soon on

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Planting of banana on my home garden

In 2010 september, one old person brought some banana suckers for selling. He was very old and weak and he was carrying the suckers on a sack and was coming from a long distance (Kozhinjampara in Palakkad,Kerala). Myself and my wife thought we can experiment with 2 banana suckers and bought it for 20/-. It was a very thin one and he had cut it and shaped it, but he assured that it will grow nicely.

The rented house where I stay now, has some backyard space and since all the kitchen and other wastes gets accumulated here, the soil is black and fertile. Also there are lot of earth worms/castings so aeration in the soil looks very good which is an important factor for good plant growth. As Bhaskar Save points out, the aeration is the most important factor, since you can not even live after holding the breath for long time.  No strong grasses (like crab grass grows there), but some grasses which can be easily cut or uprooted grows there. I made two pits so that the sucker almost completely goes in and mulched with grass and watered it. The land was already wet after the rains.Both the plants came up well and in hot summer we again mulched around it and poured some water.

In summer we watered it some times and since there was mulch around, moisture was there. In summer we were not there for close to a month still they survived. Once the rain started they started growing vigorously and finally it flowered. There were squirrels running around and taking honey from there. When mother-in-law visited us, she gave a support using a plastic rope so that it can withstand winds. We thought to cut it only after squirrels taste the first riped one, but today morning it had bent finally cut it. It was having 59 banana's and totally weighing around really looked big for us, especially since we didn't put much effort for it. But the credit goes to the good soil which were built up probably over the years from the kitchen waste and all other organic wastes which get accumulated.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Meeting of some people related to One Straw Revolution

I was lucky to met some of the people related to one straw revolution and here are some details about it. Here is the experience of meeting some such people..

The first book which I read on organic farming was 'Urvarathayude Sangeetham' (Song of fertility) by K.V.Dayal. This book mentioned about Masanobu Fukuoka and internet search gave me details about One Straw Revolution. I picked up the malayalam version of One Straw Revolution called 'Ottavaikkol viplavam' from Altermedia Trichur. This book gave a good understanding about natural farming and talks about general philosophies about life and concludes that the farmer's life is simple and rewarding. The way Fukuoka experimented and reached the 'Do nothing' farming was quite interesting. I felt that these are the kinds of books which will interest me.

In one of the visit to Palakkad looking for a land, was talking about 'Ottavaikkol viplavam' (malayalam translation of 'One straw revolution') and friend's  father mentioned that he has read this book long back and he knows the person who had translated it, his name was C.P.Gangadharan from a place called Chengaloor which is just 5KMs away from my house. I searched in the BSNL web site and could get the phone number of  C.P.Gangadharan.

I called C.P.Gangadharan and when I introduced he asked where I had done my schooling and he was a malayalam teacher in the same school. I couldn't recollect him, I had studied sanskrit in school instead of malayalam. I checked with my sister who had done schooling from the same school and she remembered him well and finally from the descriptions I also could get him. Later went and met him and was interesting to hear his experiences with the translation, his friendship with Partap Agarwal and his experience of meeting Fukuoka when he had come to Pondicherry Aurobindo Ashram. He also talked about his experiments with natural paddy farming where he had put the seeds in the field using a stick. His experiment had failed since rats came and destroyed the crop since there was no standing water. But he was practicing natural farming in his small farm. He also mentioned about some one experimenting with rice with cowpea so that cowpea crowd out grass.

C.P.Gangadharan master at his home

                                          C.P.Gangadharan master at his farm

From Gangadharan master I came to know about Partap Agarwal who had taken initiative to bring 'One straw revolution' to India. Came to know that he is part of Navadarshanam ( and got his number. Called him and he was staying in whitefield, Bangalore and just about 4-5KMs away from where I was staying in Bangalore. Met him at his house in white field and came to know about his activities and Navadarshanam.

According to him all the civilizations were found under sand and the reason is that even though there were doing organic cultivations the land is depleted and ultimately it turns to sand. There were lot of buildings, drainage systems in the old civilizations but it finally gets destroyed. As hunter-gatherers there was no impact on ecology and people do work for just 2 hours and there is sufficient food. The solution to this is Natural farming and we should not till the land. Rishi’s used to live on fruits and vegetables and the grain was stored for emergency situations. Rishi’s also never used to till the land.

                                   With Paratap Agarwal

On a US visit to San Fransisco just checked in the internet to see if I can contact Larry Korn. Larry Korn was one of the translators of One straw revolution to English and also introduced Fukuoka to other parts of world. He has stayed in Fukuoka's farm for one and half years. Got his email ID from the web and sent him a email and also talked to him over the phone. I was staying in Town place suites , Marriot in Newark and he was at a driving distance from my hotel. He was eager to meet me and he came to the hotel in Newark and I was thrilled to meet him. My colleague Rohit also was with him and both of us chatted with him for about an hour.
                                                With Larry Korn

In the college Larry had studied soil science, once a professor came and he was in bad mood. He said he will talk about agriculture and was telling that tilling causes gases to be released, soil fertility gets reduced. But he was indicating that, even though tilling is a problem no solutions were found.

Larry traveled to Japan after his studies and was working with his Japanese friends in their farm. He learnt agriculture, rice farming there and he heard about Fukuoka’s farm and visited. On the first day, he was looking at his rice field, and paddy was much shorter and it was fully green, with lot more grains on it. Fukuoka was 60’s that time and fully energetic. He asked Lary if he has seen such rice and he said the field is not ploughed for 25 years and still getting the yield of other farmers.

Fukuoka had seen that the grains falls from the paddy naturally and then the new seeds come after a season. From this he got the idea of how nature farms. He grows the clover which has the roots spread on the surface and does not allow the weeds to come on, while rice roots grow much inside. If you mulch in packed form, the seeds may not germinate while in scattered form it germinates well.

In the citrus orchard, the weeds they used to cut it with sickles and control. The mud hut was without doors and a fire place in the middle where people cooks food, and then they use some mats for sleeping. Chickens will be going around and water used to bring from a nearby well. Along with Larry there were another 10 interns, but he was the only American at that time. Fukuoka approached many publishers to publish his books and no one was ready for that. In 1970’s there was a big oil crisis and there were big queues.. During this time one publisher came to publish his book..He has written many articles to local newspapers and he later compiled this articles into the book called as OneStrawRevolution. During the tour in US, there were multiple enquiries on whether to publish the book in different languages and Fukuoka never bothered about the royalty and was ready for publishing it. During his visit to Washington, Partap Aggarwal came to meet him to publish the book in Hindi. Larry had met him ..

As per the Japanese tradition the eldest son is supposed to take care of the ancestral property and in Fukuoka’s case also it happens like that. Many years they lived in the hut and when he got old, he moved to the house in the village which was half a mile away.

He had been to Nevada city and he was indicating that the bushes found over there are actually helping the land to recover and people were surprised by these thoughts. Also in some part of US, they consider white clover as a weed while Fukuoka told them that he loves white clover and it is natures gift to improve the soil.

Also Fukuoka felt that no need to plant the local trees and any tree which grows in that area should be fine if nature decides that. What is more important is having trees.

According to Fukuoka observe the nature and do the cultivation as the nature prefers and don’t try to control the nature. When you scatter a set of seeds, nature will select the best seeds and allow that to grow it.. Similarly you closely watch the nature without prior knowledge and then learn..

Japanese spiritual leaders give some very difficult questions to the students which actually does not have any answer. They think, and think and finally they realize things exists beyond their intellect and then they get answer for that which in turn is an approach to god.

Fukuoka suggested that the bomber planes will be the ideal ones to be used for sowing the seedballs in the desert.

Japan is about the same size of California and has 120 million people while California population is 20 million. In cities, everywhere you can see people, totally crowded but crime rate is very less. Typically people follows all the rules as rituals and these are built into their tradition.

According Larry Korn, people in US are very scientific and hence natural farming does not suit them. But India is spiritually oriented and hence it will pick up here.

As per Fukuoka it is god who had given him the message of natural farming, and the only credit he takes is that he took it to the world. Similarly Larry came to know about Fukuoka and after seeing it he felt he should take the message to the world.

Came to know that Santhosh Koulagi had translated 'One Straw Revolution' to Kannada and he is based in Mysore.
                       Santhosh Koulagi with my family - Sindhu,Sharika and Hariprasad

Called Santhosh on previous day and he was very pleased for me to visit the place. His place is Melkote and his new village is Ramapura, 6Kms away from Melkote. The trust has another farm which is 30 acres. His farm is around 10 acres now.

He was doing E&E in engineering and in the final semester he happened to read One straw revolution and he quit his studies and stayed in the 30 acres farm alone. Then he translated One straw revolution to kannada.. He was with his father’s trust for long time and recently moved to his own place.

In the trust farm, there is a house and a small factory and also a round hall where various activities can be held. They train people in weaving clothes, now the factory was shut down.

The farm has coconut, mangoes, some other trees, avara kai (amara payer – bushy type) etc. There is a cow shed where cattles are kept. The coconut trees gives reasonably good yield, 100 coconuts per year, while national average is only 32. He has mulched using coconut leaves, etc..but since the climate is very dry, not much humas can be seen. The rain is only 450mm and he says they can only grow mainly trees.

Mango orchard is ploughed at some places, but he says tilling can be easily avoided in orchards, but not in paddy.Avarai, horse gram is very drought resistant crops, they just need moisture for germination, but otherwise don’t require much water.

He also makes compost and then applies it… he says mulching is good, but there are not enough material to mulch.

His farm is 10 acres and there is about 5 acres of paddy. He uses Rajamudi (small white rice), Selam Sannai (red rice) and another two varieties. All the variesties are long one and produces enough straw for the cows. He keeps the seeds by himself. For 5 acres paddy, he had spent around 30,000/ and he will get the return of 75,000/-. They have an association of 10 organic farmers and they sell the products through outlet in mysor.

For green manuring horse gram is better than daincha since horse gram is a mild one with one watering it will decompose, while daincha is a very hardy bush. He uses SRI method of cultivation and used 9” gap between paddy and instead of the 4” gap in conventional system. Also he has used direct seeding and has put 2 or 3 seeds in one point. The place where he stays, there is more water from ponds etc. compared to the farm which belongs to the trust. He also cultivates, beans, onion etc..  In fields they use horse gram as cover crops..He is doing SRI in some place as an experiment and next time he is planning to return the straw back to the field. He maintains cattle for milk and also for ploughing the field.

He had attended the class of Subhash Palekar, he says subhash is giving ready made formula and that is why people are interested. He also indicates, Subhash and Krishnappa makes false allegations that in 2 years they can do wonders, which is not possible. According to him, there were people earlier promoting organic farming but they didn’t succeed much, because of lack of formulas. If people find something useful they will adopt it, like mobile phone, farmers are intelligent for that.

His banana field has completed two years and now the Ratoon crops are not going good. So he is planning to replant it….He says, Subhash palekar indicates that ratoon crops can go year after year…

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Koottu-Mundakan - A unique paddy cultivation method

This is about Koottu-Mundakan method of paddy cultivation which is done in some areas of Kerala. The report about this came in Kerala Karshakan, June 2011 and March 2012.

In Kerala there are three seasons of paddy -

Virippu (1st crop)         -      April-May to Sept-Oct
Mundakan (2nd crop)   -      Sept-Oct to Dec-Jan
Puncha (3rd crop)        -      Dec-Jan to March-April

In some areas because of flooding, sowing of paddy in Mundakan is not possible. In those areas people follow this method, where in short-term-variety and long-term-variety of paddy seeds are sown in 60:40 or 70:30 ratio. Once the land is prepared for sowing, for the second crop there is no need to again spend money/time in land preparation. When 1st crop is harvested 2nd crop paddy also will be cut, but it will grow back and mature..found it amazing. As per the report - 1st harvesting is done in Aug-Sept and 2nd harvest in Dec-Jan.

Traditionally paddy varieties Kattamotan-Chettiadi, Chenkazhama-Chettiadi, Thavalakkannan-Chettiadi were used. Chettiadi when cultivated alone matures in 2nd crop season. It has the biological clock set in correctly so that even when sown during the first crop season, it matures in the 2nd crop season. It grows tall to a height of 5-6 feet. Another combination using HYVs - Samyuktha and Makaram. Samyuktha is red rice with 112-117 days, 125cm-130cm height and does not lodge. Makaram is taller than 'Samyuktha'' and lodges. Samyuktha gives 1.5-2 tons of paddy and 4 tons of straw per hectre. Makaram gives 5 tons of paddy and 5 tons of straw per hectre. These combinations are tried out in Pattambi, Palakkad.

Another combination is Thavalakkannan and Kuttadan varieties. Kuttadan is a traditional rice with 10 months duration. This is cultivated in some paddy fields where there will be always standing water, once the monsoon starts. This does not require any fertilizer, weeding, but still gives around 1.5 to 1.8 tons per acre. The rice seed has 2 inch long awn with it and rice is red rice and is very tasty. The porridge (kanji) with this rice tastes like 'Pal kanji' (Rice porridge with milk).  When cultivated in Koottu-Mundakan system thavalakannan will be harvested in September and during the harvesting, Kuttadan will be stamped, but after the harvest it comes back. This is particularly called as 'Chavittikuttadan'.' Chavitti' in malayalam means stamped.

Talked to Sreekumar who is a poojari in Vettikottu Nagaraja Swami temple who had done this type of cultivation. ( . He used 'Bhagya' paddy seed for the 1st crop and 'Dhanu' for the 2nd crop. Harvest details from 1 acre.

1st crop - 1000Kg paddy and 1500 kg straw
2nd crop - 1500Kg paddy and 2000Kg straw

Straw fetches 1000/- rupees per 100Kg and total cost of cultivation is 5000-6000/ rupees.

Later talked to one friend and he confirmed this is practiced in Vellinezhi, Palakkad.

Recently visited one farm where 'Chettiadi' is cultivated in Koottumundakan. Chettiadi coming up after the first harvest is over.

Suresh (9744482450) from Kannur district, Kuttiattor village, Kuruvottu moola does Koottu-Mundakan using Mundakan and Kayama variety. He got into this since there is labor shortage. Mundakan variety is 10 months duration and Kayama is 4 months duration. Using tiller land is tilled and seeds of Mundakan-Kayama is sown in 10:4 ratio, by April 2nd week. Seedlings of 40-45 days old is transplanted with 5-6 seedlings so that at least one Mundakan seedlings, at a distance of 15cms. After two weeks weeding is done and he also applies factomfose chemical fertilizer. Kayama will be harvested in September and Mundakan also gets cut during harvest, but it comes back fast. There will be 10-20 tillers in Mundakan.
Kayama gives a yield of 1300Kgs and Mundakan 1800Kgs per acre. Total expense per acre is 10,000/-

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Few experiments with sun-hemp

I have been thinking about replacing the grass in my farm with some legume. Ferility in my farm was improving with just grass growing all around. Fukuoka san advises this in one straw revolution and he had clover in the mandarin orchard which made the land fertile quickly. Recently had gone through presentation by B.N.Nandish and he concludes that a few monocot grasses won't make land fertile and hence advises legumes.Organic farmer Manoj from Wayanad told in one conversation that if we keep mulching the plants may develop a yellowish color for some time and it will vanish by itself later. The yellowish color is because of the nitrogen deficiency which gets created on adding more carbon and microbes consumes nitrogen from soil. But they don't take it way, once they die, it again becomes available for plants.

Some information which I got from an article on looking for this specific information.

The amount of nitrogen available for plants is determined by the net balance between the rate of nitrogen mineralized from decomposing organic matter and the rate of nitrogen that is immobilized by growth of soil microbes.
Microbes are considered to be stronger competitors than plants for nitrogen . In soils where nitrogen is limited, microbes generally outcompete plants for nitrogen, resulting in plant nutrient deficiencies and decreased plant growth. In fertile soils, there may be enough nitrogen to adequately support both microbial and plant growth. 

So I thought of trying some legume, my earlier experiments with cow pea/black gram was not that successful. So thought of trying daincha or sun-hemp. Got 3 Kgs of these from coimbatore and since I read sun-hemp can grow in drought condition also, so broadcasted some in summer among grass, which didn't sprout. A few seeds were put in soil and watered it once and it sprouted well and grew up. It is growing really tall, not it is around 5.5 ft height. Made some raised bed for planting ginger, turmeric etc and broadcasted some seeds, this was done after rain had started. On three raised beds they are growing thick and green and no competition from grass and they produce enough mulching material. Typically turmeric and ginger is planted with hay or coconut husk as mulch which is brought from outside. If farmers can grow sun-hemp for two months and then plant ginger/turmeric this can be avoided. This is easily possible in permanent raised beds.

Recently on one paddy field I broadcasted sun-hemp and then cut and mulched the grass above this. This also has sprouted well and I am looking to grow rice on this place in the next season. There is a threat from cow grazing, if this doesn't happen I will be able to try paddy on sun-hemp legume.

I also have bought 10 Kgs of sun-hemp and planning to put in coconut orchard... will come up with this experience later.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Paddy experiment in Monsoon 2011

After failing two times, I thought of doing the paddy in small area. When my first experiment in monsoon 2010 failed, I thought it will be good that if I till the land it will become alright. After harvesting (just got 4Kgs) the paddy of monsoon 2010, I tilled the land using a tractor and broadcasted the seeds and allowed water to stand. But the next day, water was less and lot of the seeds were eaten by peacocks and seeds germinated in only some area. I wanted to try seed balls, but couldn't make it in large scale.Where there was more water, some came up and grew well and it was about to mature it was eaten by goats which some one let free for grazing. My tilling experiment also failed so thought of trying no-till on small area.

Below is  my experiment in Monsoon 2011

In the January had made some raised beds and kept it mulched. The reason for going for this was since I thought small area means I can manage it all alone and also will have sufficient mulching material. If it is successful can replicate it to more area. My paddy field size is about 0.7 acres and I just used around 4 cents (0.04 acre) for this experiment. Also I wanted to see if paddy grows well on the mulched beds and to check if mulching controls the weeds sufficient for growing paddy. On some beds I transplanted paddy seedlings of around 13 days old, but planting on the raised bed was difficult because of mulch. So had to keep the top mulch on one side and then plant. Worked for a day and could complete only couple of beds and it was very tedious job. On another 4 beds sown the seeds and cut and mulched the grass around.

On some beds I am growing sun hemp so that in the next season I can grow paddy. Sun-hemp is growing well and no grass is seen on these beds. Generally I feel, if there is enough mulching done and do not till the land, growth of weeds is less and paddy can be grown. Also there is some minimal grass, cutting and mulching that is much easier. I will keep all posted about the development and will share some photos soon.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Correct mulching method for weed control - Bhaskar Save's way of farming

I am reading Vision of Natural farming by Bharat Mansata about Bhaskar Save's way of farming. Mulching method followed by Bhaskar Save..

**** Begin ****

Weeds cut from a plot of 100 sq.ft will never provide a thick enough layer to fully cover entire 100 sq. ft. It may be adequate for 40 sq. ft or for 25 sq ft or perhaps just 10 sq.ft, depending on density of weed growth.If sunlight penetrates through a layer of mulch that is too thin (less than 3 inches), weeds may grow back vigorously again.More over, with light mulching, cut weeds will not come in close, direct contact with the soil, to enable the soil organisms to do their work of decomposition.In such condition weeds will just dry up in air,without getting integrated in the soil as humus (My opinion about this statement is that it will happen, but may take more time??)

Thus, if 25 sqft is the area that can be adequately mulched, at least 3 to 4 inches thick, with the weeds from 100 sqft that is what the farmer should stick to, unless additional biomass can be obtained from an external source.The fresh weed growth from balance 75 sqft would again need to be mulched on a quarter of that area.....

********* end **********

This made sense to me, since in my paddy field the mulching was not sufficient and weeds growth were more. If I had focussed on a smaller area from grass from other areas and slowly convert the whole area, it would have been much better.

Recently I made some raised beds and kept on mulching them with weeds from nearby places, walkways and they are building up nicely. If everything goes well, I may plant paddy on these raised beds.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Making friends with dogs

This is not exactly farming related..but some experience in dealing with dogs on the way to my farm. It has been 3 years since I bought the farm, but since last year after moving to Palakkad,Kerala my visits are more frequent, at least 2-3 days in a week. Earlier it was once in 2/3 months and that time I used to take my sister's car and never realised the issues with dog.

On the first day I got down from the bus and started walking towards the farm and had a big-shopper (kind of a bag made out of cloth) with me with my lunch/water. A pomeranian came barking at me and it was really ferocious, I some how defended with my bag and I came to know that I got some extra courage to deal with the situation. This house had 3 pomeranians and two were tied but one was roaming around freely, there was no one at the house and they had no gates, but there is a fencing for the compound. I was really angry that they don't tie the dogs, but there was no one to shout at. On the way back, I carried a stick to defend the dogs. The same dog again came barking at me and but since I had the stick, it didn't come that close. The owner of the dog were there, I complained to him about the dog and he said, it does not bite,just barks. I had a heated argument with him and he asked me, even if he ties the dog, there are more on the road, so it is not useful. But strongly argued to him he should take care of his dogs.

Later I realised that there are more dogs on the way. There is one black dog which is very old but will bark at me and he does not come out of his boundary so I was not much bothered at him. Then I found another two dogs one black and white pomeranian another local variety and both come out of their boundary and comes directly at me barking. Then there is one more old dog which also does not come out of his house, even though there is no gate for that compound also. All this made my life miserable and I carry a stick and some day they come barking at me and I defend them with sticks. The white pomeranian comes running at me and I  became very scared. I also heard that the same dog had bitten one person a month back. 

But with the stick I was able to defend them nicely. 6-7 months passed and still dogs didn't get familiar with me or since I carry the stick they were always in the hostile mood. I again had some arguments with the owner of the white pomeranian and once with his wife. Some people started making fun of me, seeing me carrying the stick.

Later a friend told me he used to throw bread pieces to calm down the stray dogs which comes attacking. I thought of trying this and bought one packet of  'Sun Feast' brand biscuit which comes at 3 rupees. I gave one biscuit to the black old dog and it ate that, next day onwards it stopped barking at me. It started coming to me wagging his tail for biscuits. White pomeranian also got adjusted to my biscuits now they don't even bark at me. There is one reddish colour dog which now comes running on seeing me and some time water drips from its mouth on seeing me at thought of biscuits. Finally I have some good friends and some time some escort me to the bus stop. But still carry the biscuits and give them one each and even if I find some new dogs I throw some biscuits and my mind has calmed down a lot while walking to my farm. The owner of the pomeranian started smiling again at me which he had stopped after I had the argument with him.