Monday, December 2, 2013

Growing trees in orchard

Recently during visit to farm of Tony Thomas, he mentioned that growing trees in one area, improved the yield coconut trees in that area. I have heard similar observations while visiting Josephettan's farm in Trichur.

Here are some points from 'Natural Way of Farming' and 'The Agricultural Testament'. Both books suggest to plant trees so that fertility of the soil can be enriched.

Here are some points from 'The Natural Way of Farming' by Masanobu Fukuoka.

"Up to about 10 of Black Wattle trees shall be planted per quarter-acre among the fruit trees.

After five to six years of growth, Fukuoka felled these and buried the trunks and tops in trenches within the orchard.

Along with growing cover crops, Fukuoka started early on to dig trenches and fill them with organic matter to speed up the process of soil enrichment. He 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, he found that hay, straw and ferns were quite costly, while wood chips were not. The only problem was hauling this material in. The best material was lumber, which was relatively inexpensive, but this too was at times, difficult to carry in. Fukuoka first decided to produce lumber right there in his orchard. Figuring that the easiest and most beneficial way was to return to the orchard what had been grown there, Fukuoka tried planting various type of trees, and found black wattle to be the best for the purpose.

Five or six years after planting acacias, an area of more than 100 square yards of what had been hard, lean soil about each tree had become soft and porous"
Here are some selected points from Sir Albert Howard's 'The Agricultural Testament' in my own words.. for exact words, refer page 3 - INTRODUCTION.

"Even in soils where there is deficiency of phosphorous, trees have no difficulty in getting this. Potash, Phosphate and other minerals are collected from subsoil and used by green leaves. This gets deposited on the forest floor and becomes part of humus."

"The soil carries a large fertility reserve. This enormous reserve is realized when trees are cut down and virgin soil is used for agriculture. Plants like tea, coffee, rubber and bananas can be grown on recently cleared land, good crops can be raised without manure for ten years or more."

From page - 139 "The living roots comb upper 20 feet of soil for minerals phosphates and potash and used by green leaves. For example soil of north Bihar is low in available phosphates, but yield heavy crops without any additional minerals"


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Visiting Soorya Narayanan's farm

Some time back I had blogged about 'Soorya Narayana's weed controlling style' - Today I just visited to him to show the scythe which I had bought recently.

He is a complete natural farmer and cultivates coconut, banana, rubber and paddy. His farm also has suppota, lemon, mango etc. He does not have any animals, and does not use any manure, but just mulches with coconut leaves, husk etc. He does not have enough water for watering throughout the year. He has around 530 coconut trees which are harvested and last month got around 7000 coconuts. This month coconut is less every where after the severe drought of the last summer. But before that he got around 22,000 coconuts. Here are some photos..

Lemon has lot of fruits

Banana  is an intercrop, and variety mysore pooval (palayamkodan) does very well

Mucuna is seen some places, according to him it just came by itself

Mango saplings are planted in between coconuts

Coconut trees with ground cover

Sappota tree with full of fruits

Base of the coconut trees are not mulched, mulching is done just outside the canopy

Little guard among weeds

Soorya Narayanettan with scythe

Visited this farm as part of a Jaiva Karshaka Samithy meeting. Also wanted to check about the last summer effect on his farm. Last summer was very severe and I had lost 5-6 coconut trees.

His coconut tree looked very healthy and in some trees, there are only a few coconuts, but some have many. Banana plants also looked extremely healthy and ground cover plants changed...

Some photos...


Visited his farm as part of the farmer friends meeting. Since it is summer, weeds have reduced, the long grass is not seen. His harvest of 620 coconut trees is around 21000 coconuts. Bananas also doing well, he has maintained only couple of the bananas in each group. He gets around 3000-4000 rupees every week by selling bananas. He applies goat pellet 1 sack (costs around 160 rupees) each for each coconut every year. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Meeting Mathai M Mathew - Zero budget farmer (Subash Palekar model)

Mathai Mathews is a farmer from Palakkad (Gomathy,Nenmara),Kerala. He is retired from Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) and lives on his farm doing zero budget farming. His farm is around 6 acres and has coconut, arecanut, nutmeg, pepper, banana, coco, mango trees, jack fruit and various other vegetables. In addition to this he has some chicken, fish and has one cow which is of Tamilnadu 'kankayam' variety.

He started zero budget farming around 9 years back after attending Subash Palekar's zero budget farming workshop. He has met many farmers and has read many books on the farming and knows lot of theory and has real experience in farming.

He has made trenches in the farm between coconut trees and mulches with coconut leaves, husk and all other materials available. Watering is done here in the summer season and it looks like all the roots of the trees comes to this trench for food. If mulching is done, just around the trunk, then the roots just gets stuck to this area and hence roots become limited to this area. Using this method, humas gets created here and it retains lot of water. According to him 1 litre of humas holds around 6 litres of water and hence trees will have always water available in this trench. He retains one area without trenches to compare the results. He showed two mango trees, one planted in non-trench area and other one in trench area, and the one planted in trenched area has grown really well and is in blooming stage.

He plants mangoes from seeds and then stone grafts it, he says, this way the trees gets good life compared to the saplings bought from nursery. Subash palekar has suggested a method in which four mango seeds can be planted nearby and each one stone grafted with a new variety and then tie them together and ultimately, they will become a single tree with 4 different mangoes.

Nutemeg trees are also watered only when their leaves show signs of withering. Chilli plants are planted here and there, and this can grow well in coconut orchard under shade, since their light requirements are less. Coco is planted he showed saplings planted under shade doing well, compared to the ones planted in direct sunlight. He says tapioca, chembu, ginger etc are good intercrops.

In his pond, he left some 20 small fishes and even after 8 or 9 years, he still have enough fishes for his own use. Similarly he grows chicken in a confined place and uses its egg and meat.

He is able to get decent income from farming and he is very helpful, explains all the basics of farming.


An article published about Mathai M Mathew in a daily, with detailed about the trench method of water conservation.


Another article about Mathai M Mathew sir....


Monday, October 14, 2013

White clover in Kodaikkanal

Fukuoka san had used while clover as a leguminous cover crop for grains and for orchard. He had choosen aftr experimenting with many other cover crops. For grain farming he used to sow the clover seeds with grain and white clover remains at the ground level while the grain grows high. If he feels that while clover is blocking sun light for grains at the initial stages, he used to flood the field which weakens clover and grain grows well during this time. Once the grain is established he drains the water so that white clover remains at the foot of the grain, which fixes nitrogen and also avoids grass.

Like many I was also searching for white clover when I started natural farming. But couldn't get the seeds of white clover. Later many suggested that it won't grow in kerala climate, so just left it. Later one friend in Japan sent me some seeds of white clover and tried it in different seasons but couldn't see it germinating.

Couple of days back, went to Kodaikanal with family/friends for a two trip. On reaching the hotel Stonycroft, I was really surprised to see white clover in the lawn. It was reasonably established in some parts and later found that it in road sides and other parks also. I had checked its name with couple of local people, but they never knew its name. Kodaikkanal being a hilly area has a very cool climate and that may be the reason why it grows there. I liked its feature,it is very low height and establishes well in the grass.

Here are some pictures

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Rice farming - Season 2 - 2013

For season 2 (Sep-Oct to Dec-Jan) also, I am going for tilled organic farming since one area of the farm. Doing no-till farming for this area is not possible since there is heavy grass in the area. In my observation, if there is already grass established, there is no way you can establish another grain crop which is also a grass variety.  So I am planning to use cow dung and grass grown in that area as manure and doing rice.

I tilled the land on Sept 14 after flooding the area with water. The tiller was used for around 3 hours and he charged me 700/- for this. Since there was lot of grass, it took this much time. I put Vysakh (upland rice) in one part of the field after draining water from this on 21-Sept. I had put the seeds in water and removed all the floating seeds to get the heavy seeds so that seedlings will be stronger.

Field after preparation.

Rice seedlings coming out.

October 31,2013
Initially after transplanting seedlings were having a yellowish colour, now they are turning more green. Twice a week, field is flooded now.

November 13,2013

In some area, plants are little weak. In one area where I had dumped cowdung in the last season, plants are more taller 

December 16,2013

flowering started hasn't reached full height (4 feet) as earlier. 

Felt extremely happy about getting a harvest - Peacocks didn't take much..and insects were less with Vysakh

Harvest completed on 18th Jan 2014 - Got around 40Kgs of paddy..Paddy was boiled and dried for 3 days and took to a rice mill. Got around 23Kgs of rice, it cooks well and very tasty, even children liked it much

Straw was put back after broadcasting cowpea