Thursday, October 25, 2018

Handling thick mulch

Fukuoka san mentions that the straw should be scattered in all direction instead of neatly mulching. Even though this detail looks to be trivial, but is an important point. Natural farming consists of many such details.

From 'One straw revolution'

"Mr. Fujii, a teacher at Yasuki Agricultural High School in Shimane Prefecture, wanted to try direct seeding and came to visit my farm. I suggested that he spread uncut straw over his field. He returned the next year and reported that the test had failed. After listening carefully to his account, I found that he had laid the straw down straight and neat like a Japanese backyard garden mulch. If you do it like that, the seeds will not germinate well at all. With the straw of rye and barley, too, if it is spread too neatly the rice sprouts will have a hard time getting through. It is best to toss the straw around every which way, just as though the stalks had fallen naturally."

Recently while cutting heavy grass could sense that it is too thick for the seeds to germinate and push. In those cases, I kept the mulch aside and then after sowing cowpea scattered it, and when found to be too thick, left some mulch aside so that it can be used later. 

In US farmers terminate the cover crop and then cut open the mulch using no-till planter and then sow the seeds through the opening. All these are big machines which are not available for small farmers.

Most cases when you stand in the field, put yourself in the seeds position and think and you will get an answer if they can come through the mulch or not.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Some thoughts on natural cultivation

I am just summarizing the current thoughts on Fukuoka natural farming which I am planning to follow.

Starting on a grassy field

On a grass growing field, it is very difficult to get the rice/millet crop established, since grasses are well adapted to the environment will outgrow the rice/millets. It is relatively easy to grow leguminous crops in grass field. So it is necessary to get a legume cover established which can be sunhemp,cowpea, horse gram,green gram etc. Sunhemp is much better, since it grows tall and creates lot of biomass compared to other.

By the time I cleared one area for cultivation, which has not been cultivated with any crops for long time, the strong rains had receded, and there are only occasional rains. The land is moist, but seeds does not surface germinate. So if I leave the area free, weeds will grow again so thought of trying out cowpea. Since moisture was less and rains are not expected and no watering possible, just cleared the area and kept the mulch aside, sown the seeds and slightly tilled it using a fork so that seeds are inside the soil. Found that this gives better results in this kind of environment. Also the grass kept aside can be put over the seeds so that there is enough space for the seeds to poke through. If there is lot of mulch, then should not keep all of it for mulching since there are chances that most of the seeds won't get through it. Also keeping the mulch aside in 3-4 different places gives a clean weed free field and small weeds also can be cut and start on a good field.Another option is to use a brush cutter with wire so that all small weeds can be cleared quickly.

Starting rice/millet

If the field is wet or rain is in picking up stage, broadcast clay pellets of rice/millet one month before cutting the cover crop. This makes sure that the crop is already growing for 3-4 weeks after germination period of 1 week while cutting the cover crop.  If there is enough moisture, pre-germinated rice seeds also can be sown, provided, moisture is retained after this. Basically weeds should not be given any space for growing and there should be crops growing all the time.

If not sure about the rain and we want to complete the sowing while anticipating rain, make seed balls and sow it. If there are termites in the field, it may be better not to put clay balls much in advance since termites may eat the clay balls or some insects which are desperate for food will figure out the seed ball secret. Cut the cover crop and keep it accumulated in 3-4 places in the field and cut and clean all the weeds. Here also even if the main cutting is done by scythe, the cleaning can be done by brush cutter. Then spread the mulch so that there is room for seeds to poke through. Basically standing at the field, you should be able to feel how seeds will get through the mulch. Assume you are the seed and ask yourself, if you can get through the mulch, based on this spread the mulch to the required thickness. If you fail once, next time learn from the failure.


It may be better to spray cowdung/urine mix on thf field so that decomposing mulch will be faster and microbe population will increase in the field. Applying cowdung in large quantities will be costly, just applying filtered slurry/urine mix will be easier and effective. May be 3-4 times applying this will be enough for the crop. If we identify a proper sprayer and filtering mechanism of cowdung slurry/urine mix, this should be doable.


Till a certain maturity level is reached for soil, it will be good to de-weed the field depending on the weed density. It is always better to start weeding at the early stages, definitely weed pressure will be less, but don't go by theories such as weeds are friends, they will assist you etc, in no time, your crop can be over grown by weeds. Fukuoka san also says, initially composting, weeding etc can be done and it can be reduced and later can be managed without any of these. As I see, weeds are the major issues why the crop fails.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Finger Millet Cultivation - 2018 - Season 2

First season rice crop is not harvested, before that, just sow 12Kgs of 'Matta Champavu' another traditional variety of duration 90-100 days duration. Seeds were soaked in water for 24 hours, and sown. It will take another one week for the first season crop to harvest. 

Basically trying to do no-till cultivation for the 2nd crop, but the existing seed which is 'Kunjukunju' also will germinate, so it will be a mix, not sure if things will work out.

Total expenses tracking:

Seed bed preparation -1 hour job by Palani - 150/-
Tractor with rotovator - 2 hour 10 minutes - 2200/
Transplanting 4 womens - 2 days - 2200/-
Watering - 325/-

Total - 4875/-

Harvest of monsoon crop is completed today and could not see any rice germinated which was broadcasted around 10 days before. The reason could be the lack of moisture, since watering had stopped, the field dried up very fast, without giving the soaked rice seeds to germinate. The best option should have been do one more watering on the day of broadcasting and then broadcast pre-germinated seeds, after broadcasting watering is not possible since it may move the seeds here and there and causing distribution issue.

By the time the watering was stopped, the weeds started growing...ideally the rice should have been growing by this time, that is possible only if the pre-germinated seeds are put.

Decided to cultivate finger millet this time as the second crop, planning to crop rotate after rice, but since rice was not meeting the requirements, was forced to try it. Anyway since the sown rice didn't come up, so thought of trying finger millet, which requires less water.

Bought 2 Kgs of finger millet from Palakkad, Organic store called, 'Jaiva Kalavara', and my farm helper Palani tilled one area using spade and fork and put this seed and later watered.


Finger millet germinates quickly in 2-3 days..


It is growing just fine.


Irrigated the whole field and after 3 days rotovated it, took 2 hours to complete it. Moisture was little on the more side and some clumps have formed, may be could have done after 5-6 days.


Transplanting was done after making the field wet. 4 women laborers worked for 2 days. Seedlings was having shortage, a small portion of the field was left free.


Within 2 weeks, it started flowering...not sure why...finally got only a few heads..may be a seed issue, or timing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Planting saplings among weeds

By the time rain has made the land wet and ready to plant saplings, weeds also would be growing wildly. Some times I plant among weeds, and in no time, the saplings will be surrounded by weeds and later while cutting weeds, saplings also would be cut. When I was using brush cutter, in no time, the saplings will be completely cut, now a days I use only Scythe and it is much better now since the cutting pace is slow compared to brush cutter and also in between we look around, mostly saplings will be noticed.

Recently started putting sunhemp or green gram seeds around the the saplings, so that the patch of sunhemp or green gram plants will remind me of some saplings. Most of the time, when summer approaches, these guard plants can be retained so that they will provide some shade to the saplings,especially if it is sunhemp. Subash Palekar suggests to put pigeon pea while planting coconut saplings, so that they will provide nitrogen and shade in the summer.

Some photos...

Monday, October 1, 2018

Clearing and starting cultivation in a new area

In one area where there is no irrigation facility had been neglected for some time. This time decided to cut the weeds and clean it and make it ready for cultivation in the next monsoon.One possibility is turmeric since it does not need watering. Since some mulch is needed, in one area cowpea is put and another area browntop millet is put, not sure if there will be enough rain for these crops, but giving a try.


After putting cowpea, lightly tilled the area with a fork, so that seeds get into soil and it will germinate with available moisture. That light tilling worked.

brown top millet has started germinating.


Cowpea has established thickly...Browntop millet is also fine,may have to weed that area once



Clearing of weeds and light tillage helped a lot.


Flowered and grains are forming, peacocks and birds are feasting on this, that will be the bigger challenge

HappyHill Rice 2018-Season 2

I am left with just few seeds of Happy hill rice and carefully planted in 2 places after germinating the seeds. I am getting more requests for the seeds, hope to send after this harvest. Next monsoon, will be doing it on more area for sure.


Growing in 2 places,one in plastic bag 


have sown alfalfa under it