Friday, June 26, 2015

Masanobu Fukuoka on timings of crops

Timing of crops is very important in natural farming since establishment of crops before weeds establish is very critical. To me road side healthy rice plant getting established because of right timings and also the pumpkins which germinate of their own establish well and fruits, again because of the right timings. Just scanned through One Straw Revolution once again to pick up the crop timings related information and here are some of Fukuoka's statements.

"At that time, passing an old rice field in Kochi Prefecture which had been left unused and uncultivated for many years, I saw healthy young rice sprouting up through a tangle of weeds and straw which had accumulated on the field’s surface".

"If seeds are sown while the preceding crop is still ripening in the field, those seeds will germinate ahead of the weeds. Winter weeds sprout only after the rice has been harvested, but by that time the winter grain already has a head start. Summer weeds sprout right after the harvest of barley and rye, but the rice is already growing
strongly. Timing the seeding in such a way that there is no interval between succeeding crops gives the grain a great advantage over the weeds."

"The important thing is knowing the right time to plant. For the spring vegetables the right time is when the winter weeds are dying back and just before the summer weeds have sprouted. For the fall sowing, seeds should be tossed out when the
summer grasses are fading away and the winter weeds have not yet appeared."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Natural falling and germination of seeds

On the way to farm, there are plenty of paddy fields and I like watching different phases of paddy cultivation. In one part of the paddy field which is uncultivated, I used to see some daincha plants which grows very tall. In the summer it will get dried and now in the rainy season, there are daincha plants growing luxuriously. The fallen seeds germinate at the right time and establish well by the rain. This is a fundamental principle of natural farming. We have to observe nature and see which seeds gets fallen in nature and if we mimic nature this way, by putting seeds when they naturally fall in nature, then they will establish well.

For e.g to cultivate a vegetable in natural way, you have to see when it germinates well naturally and establishes. If you look at your surroundings, then you will be able to figure it out. Some of these plants will come up and if you can put those seeds without getting eaten by insects or birds, then there is a good chance that they establish. Ideally make seed balls with these seeds and then put them under field.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Natural farming paddy experiment - 2015

After many failures with natural farming paddy experiment, I am doing regular tilled organic paddy cultivation. But this year onward, one small portion of land is dedicated for no-till Fukuoka style paddy cultivation.

In the last season, I had cultivated rice in this area and afterwards grown cowpea. Cowpea was grazed by cows and nothing much was left towards the last. I cut the existing grass using scythe and wanted to sow rice seeds in a row so that weeding if required can be easily done. But sowing seeds in straight line was difficult since I had to bend a lot for this, which I don't like, so left that and broadcasted seeds in normal fashion. While broadcasting I was walking in a line and putting seeds, just to make sure that all area was uniformly covered. I should have done this with seed balls and then could have completed this sowing in peak summer so that rice seeds would have sprouted with first rain, and chances of success was much better.Will try this in the next summer.

Also wanted some cuttings of Arachis Pintoi (Wild peanut) just to see if they establish as a cover crop.

A few photos...


Like many experiments, this also has failed, couldn't see a single rice plant, none of the seeds germinated. Has to test the germination capability of the seed used and may put some more seeds.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Adaptation of crops to weedy environment

I used to wonder how some of the rice plants on the road side comes up so well and produce good yield. Similarly had seen pumpkin plants which was not planted by anyone giving many pumpkins. While thinking about this felt that these plants germinate at the first rain along with other weeds and they fight for their survival and establishes well. This is different from crops which we plant, since in this case, timings will be chosen by us when to germinate and in lot of case it will be using artificial irrigation. Similarly there is no use of cutting weeds and then sowing crops, since weeds already has their root system established and they come back strongly. If we till the land and then put seeds then weeds get the vigor.

When I clear the field with all the weeds and then transplant rice, weeds take over the crops. But if we introduce the crop seeds at the summer and these seeds germinate along with weeds, definitely the crops will adapt to this environment and will try to fight with weeds and win. If the seeds from this type of environment is used again and again there is good chance of crops gets established well.

In farms where there is artificial irrigation is provided, natural farming is difficult. In my rice fields, I used to irrigate crops and weeds establish in all conditions and hence crops find it difficult to establish later.Typically in summer all weeds die and if crops are established with first rain, then there is good chance of establishing a crop. Probably after establishing crops, artificial irrigation to some extend may be fine.

Fukuoka san knew all these well and established crops before the weeds take over..Knowing the timings of weeds and meeting the timings is very very important in natural farming.

Traditional lady's finger

Traditional vegetables are tasty and plants are adapted to local conditions and grows very well. I have been looking for traditional seeds which are not easily available now a days. People started buying seeds from shops and agriculture departments and does not keep their own seeds. Recently during a visit to one farmer called Gopu Kodungallur, got a very long lady's finger which is called 'Anakomban'. This was growing very well and produced good vegetable in my hugelkulture bed.

Recently a neighbour grandma gave a very peculiar lady's finger and it was very tasty. She has been cultivating it for many years. Last day she gave that seeds and will be cultivating it soon.


First set of seeds given by grandma didn't germinate...tried it many times..gave it to another friend, but it failed to germinate..Later this year, she gave some more seeds, that one germinated and these plants are growing in the hugelcukture beds in farm..There are few plants which I am growing in my backyard with lots of cowdung slurry, they haven't fruited, but it looks very healthy...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Interesting rice cultivation practice

This is an unusual should be raining cats and dogs now, but it just drizzles once in a while. There was good summer rains and paddy fields have all the last harvests fallen seeds germinating which is a usual scene. But since there is no sufficient rain right now, farmers are not able to start the rice transplanting activities. Paddy nursery is ready and some lacks water and started getting a pale yellow color.

While waiting for the rain, some farmers observed that paddy fields is already has rice growing, why not utilize that. They are weeding that rice plants and planning to grow them. If it succeeds they have saved the cost of ploughing and transplanting. This is a true natural cultivation. I had read a similar report from some other area, last year.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Seed balls for planting vegetables

Monsoon is going to start is delayed by 10 days now, very unusual and we had very unusual summer rains and at that time it really looked like a monsoon season.

When rains starts heavily seeds does not germinate well. Seeds which is present in the field with summer rains, gets a good start and then they thrive in the monsoon. I was little late, but made some seed balls of toor dal, ash guard,chilly and lady's finger and put them after cutting grass. Planting is easy this way since no bending and putting seeds in soil, and works gets completed ahead of time and seeds will be safe in the seed ball waiting for the rain. Once they germinate, they will normally survive even if the rain is delayed a bit.

This time seed ball was made from earth worm castings which is a soft soil. Took some soil and each was rolled using is bit time consuming. If the work is separated into tasks and each task is done repeatedly it is much more easier. That is, to making a big mud ball and then keep forming small portions of muds and when that task is completed, keep putting the seeds on them and once that is completed, keep rolling one by one.