Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Backyard Taro - 2018

I had planted 4 taro plants of a native variety, 3 were harvested and used for cooking and a last one was harvested today and wanted to replant that. It has quite a number of bulbs.

Bigger ones were planted in a small hole and mulched using straw and other grass. 13 were planted, wanted to check at what rate they germinate, if germination is good and no seed is lost, all such planting can be done in advance, that saves a lot of time since with the start of monsoon there are lot of activities, if somethings can be done early it is an advantage.

Planted areas with mulch.

The remaining seeds were dipped in cowung slurry and kept for drying in shade. They will be kept in jute sacks and will be planted before the start of the rainy season.


Out of 13, could see 12 of them growing, so it looks like, planting the bulbs while harvesting and putting a good mulch is a solid way of planting and saving time.

08-July-2018Even though the plants looks weak at the start of the rainy season, they recover once the rain picks up. Since no growth stage is lost, they really grows fast.


I published an article in 'Ore Bhoomi Ore Jeevan' about this, photos shown below.


There has been no rain for close to a month now, and soil has gone completely dry. Taro has been under water stress.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Traditional Seeds Development - Some future programs

Today attended a one day seminar organised by KSSDA (Kerala State Seeds Development Authority) which plans to develop and supply traditional seeds, right now they are supplying high yielding varieties.

For high yielding varieties, right now the procedure is they get breeder seed from university which they develop into Foundation 1 & Foundation 2 seeds and Foundation 2 seeds are given to state farmers for developing seeds which are distributed to farmers for cultivation. These seeds are called certified seeds which is inspected for physical purity, genetical purity and so on. Basically authorities inspect at multiple levels to make sure that quality is maintained. Next year again, the Foundation 2 seeds are given to farmers for cultivation, and certified seeds are not used again. The procedure is quite different from traditional seed maintenance where each year, farmers save the seeds and re-use them.

So one point to note that farmers also should be well aware of how to make the purity of seeds so that if any other seeds are found, in the field, it should be avoided, this is a quite important task.

As part of this program, a few people presented their experiences - K.P.Illias, Rajesh Krishnan Wayanad, Manuel Wayanad, Vinod Payyannur,Leneesh Thanal, Sreeja Arangottukara etc....might have missed some people

Some information which I gathered from discussions:

- We have to keep a distance of 3 meters, from nearby fields, so that there is no cross pollination with other varieties. If this distance can not be maintained, then we should make sure that seed collected is from 3 meters inside the field
- Seed authorities can take seeds from a field which looks uniform and healthy and take this as TLS (Truthfully Labelled Seeds) and distributes to farmers, but this won't be a certified seed
- Some seeds like Uma high yielding rice has a dormant period of 15 days in which it won't germinate, after this period, it will germinate
- KSSDA procures seeds at 28.7 rupees per KG and sells to farmers at 40 rupees per KG
-Traditional varieties can be procured as TLS at 50 rupees per kg and sold to farmers at 55 rupees per kg. This is a promising scheme, where farmers can sell traditional seeds at higher rates
- Kerala had around 3000 traditional varieties and India as whole had more than 1 lakh traditional varities
- Leena teacher of agriculture university had recorded 2000 varieties of Kerala
- Thanal cultivates 180 traditional varieties of Kerala
- Pattambi rice research centre has 700 varieties
- Traditional varieties Cheera, Kuruva, Rakthasali etc does not lodge
- Thondi variety is widely used in Wayanad for cooking and in Kannur area people prefer Kayama
- Kuttadan rice is put in April (Aswathy njattuvela?) and harvested in January. In between grass may be choking the rice plants and after some time, grass's life gets over and they whither and rice recovers. By the time of harvest, its stem will be very strong, and food cooked by Kuttadan gives lot of energy for people doing hardwork
- There is a variety called Kothandan in Wayand which gives good yield (upto 2 tons per acre), this was developed from Chomala and from the elder's it was identified that is is Kothandan and named like that
- There is a general concern that traditional varieties are for only organic farming and if seed authority develop seeds how it will be maintained, but authorities are open to address this
- Also farmers pointed out that seed should be with farmers, otherwise they will be dependent on external agency for seeds which is not a sustainable practice, again seed authorities seems to be very co-operative to address this concern

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