Friday, August 22, 2014

Nature's Cultivation

These are some questions which keep coming to my mind, I don't have answers..

Recently I was seeing rice plants on the roadsides which has come up on its own, but with many tillers and they were really healthy plants. Some of them stands where there is not much visibly fertile soils and still looks healthy. No body has tilled the land, no fertilizer and no watering (all rain fed), how can it be that these plants are so healthy? It is not that all the seedlings are growing well, so may be it is dependent on the seeds also?

Near my house construction area there was a pumpkin plant which came up on its own and spread on the bricks and workers found that, it has many big sized pumpkins. One was harvested, 4-5 people shared it. No body planted it, fertilized it, watered it, how can it grow so healthy and produce such big sized pumpkin?

On this season, I planted turmeric on raised bed and applied some cowdung slurry and dried cowdung. I am not really happy with the growth. One reason was that, after one or two rains there was a long gap and rain started again, so planting was delayed close to a month. In banana area, earlier there was turmeric cultivation and still some plants come up their own. To my surprise most of such plants are taller and healthier than the plants grown in the raised bed with so much care. How is this possible?

I don't have a final answer and may never find it, it looks like nature has its own ways and we can not fully understand it.

One thing I felt is that it since all these plants germinate at the most right time mostly with the first rain and during those conditions, competitions from nearby grass will be minimum and they establish well. I had seen this during my experiments with paddy, we have to put the seeds at the first rain or before that so that it gets an upper edge compared to grass. Once grass is established it is really difficult to compete with them. This is why Fukuoka makes seed balls and scatter them much ahead, so that they germinate at the right time.

Masanobu Fukuoka had mastered natural farming, by observing nature. I am following his teachings and see if I can learn from nature, so these are some steps towards it.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Farewell to my dog friends

I had three dogs in the farm, all looked after my worker Palani. They were Julie, Rugmani and Kuttus. When ever I go to the farm, Julie will be there, most of the time around me, and will definitely will have a portion of my lunch. She is very punctual at it, some time she goes away, but at the lunch time she will be there. Some times, they accompany me and they will just relax some where when I do my work. The fact that they are there, makes me more comfortable, since they sense snakes or any other creature much ahead.

Rugmani is Julies's mother and is more matured. Kuttus is Rugmani's son is very mischievous. Unfortunately all of them had eaten some poison which some nearby farmers had put in their ginger farms for killing rats. Julie and Rugmani was seen dead in the farm and Kuttus was not traced at all.  Recently Rugmani had given birth to 4 puppies and they are searching for their mother. Palani is taking care of them, by feeding with baby bottles, hope they survive.

Farewell to my friends .......





Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cover crop update

I have been experimenting with a few cover crops..recently added Desmodium Scorpiurus and Araches Pintoi. Desmodium Scorpiurus was spotted on the road sides and could see that they are establishing nicely in some areas and even though it is a creeper does not climb on to other plants. So thought this will be a good cover crop for rice and also at the coconut, banana area. If there is no competition they creep along the ground, but if there are other plants and if there is a competition for sunlight, they rise to around 1 to 1.5 feet. Its seeds are sticky and gets transported to other areas. Here is one photo where it is establishing in one area of the farm. I haven't seen this being used as a cover crop, but hoping it will do the purpose. If any one knows about this plant, please get back.

Another one is Arachis Pintoi and this one was seen in the lawn of some houses and later found that it is actually used as a cover crop. I could find it in local nursery and last year put 3 plants in the farm in the rainy season and all had survived the peak summer. This year cut some of them and propagated it and they are coming up. Not sure, if they compete well with local grass, they are less than one feet height. If successful will use this as a cover crop for my no-till rice experiment and hence establishing this in one small area of the farm. It looks similar to peanut plant and has 4 leaves in one stem.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Rice cultivation - Monsoon season - 2014

I am starting with rice cultivation in the monsoon season. I couldn't make the no-till method working, so moved to organic rice cultivation with tilling. I used a rotovator attachment with tractor and all the grass also was powdered in the process. I could use rotovator since there was not much water in the field, even though it is peak of rainy season. The field was not completely levelled and ideally should have used a tiller after watering the field to puddle the field. Since tiller was not available at proper time, one person was assigned to puddle the field with his legs and I also helped him in the process.

The rice used is Vysakh, an upland rice which does well in the muddy field also. I had kept some seeds from my last harvest. The seedlings were around 35 days old, while transplanted. I had applied some dried cowdung in the field to make it more fertile. Now planning to use cowdung slurry to promote the growth. The challenge is to control the weeds, have to keep the field in water so that weeds does not come up.

For last two days not much rain, field has grown dry.


Rain is back and field has enough water. Weeds were more and hence weeding was done with 3 women labourers.


Applied cowdung slurry, one women labourer was employed for 2 days. Small grasses are seen, probably to be deweeded once again.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Recharging open well

Open well in the farm dried up in the middle of April. I had made couple of rain pits for recharging it. 3 Rain pits were made around the well so that rain water gets collected in it and recharges ground water. Obviously  this was not sufficient to survive the peak summer. Along with rain pits, I routed my terrace water to the well using PVC pipes. With first rain itself considerable water falls to the well through this pipe, but since rain was not continuous this time, it dried up soon. After two weeks, some water is seen now, not sure how it appeared all of a sudden. Probably rain water takes time to reach this level. But I am hoping that in the next summer well will have more water. This time rain is very less so far, monsoon usually starts in June 1st, but this time it started by around June middle, which is quite unusual. After that rain just disappeared, land is quite dry for this season. Hopes that rain will come back, anyway we can just hope.


PVC pipe for routing terrace water

                                                      Some water is seen now

July 13,2014

Rain picked up well and well has good amount of water now..

Well has plenty of water now, it is not just recharging, rain has been good and all the wells in the area are almost full. The effect of charging will be known in the next summer.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Cherkady Crop - Feeding a family of five with one man's labour for 3 days in a season

Cherkady Ramachandra Rao was from Karnataka, a Gandhian and a farmer who had expired in 2010. He was a great man and his greatness can be seen from these words.

"I don't want you to think I am a poor man in money terms, either. My bank account is as rich as this land. And it grew without any clever skills. I have more than what many salaried people have at the end of long careers. The term, 'impoverished farmer' bothers me.

There are some articles in net about him.

Here is an interesting information about how he started rice cultivation and how his family of five was fed for forty years with minimal labour. The method is similar to Fukuoka's method, but Ramachandra Rao had developed this independently out of his own need.

I couldn't meet this great man, but would like to hear from people who had interacted with this great man and any other information about 'Cherkady Crop'.

Message on a straw:
"One morning, I stopped in my tracks. A sturdy plant of rice, ripe with grains stood in my way. How had I missed it all these days? Where had it come from? Where it stood was no wetter than other parts of the farm and my land was by means abundant in water. I had certainly, not planted it. It was unlike any paddy I had known. It had buxom grains on 16 strands, all on one stem. It stood alone glistening in the morning sun. 

"I was overwhelmed. I took it home and shook it. There was close to a kilo of grains from that one plant! And so began my rice harvest year after year. I scattered the seeds on unploughed land, spread leaves and manure and watered it by hand. There was no attempt at flooding the patch. Slowly, the patch grew wider but it was never more than a tenth of an acre. All it called for was one man's labour for three days in a season. That was enough to feed our family of five continually, for forty years. 

In another article it says..

He used to grow paddy without tilling the land or using other common farming practices; the land didn't even need irrigation. The method named "Sarvodaya paddy cultivation" became popular in the area as the "Cherkady crop"

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Summer 2014

Summer is very hot this year at 40 degree centigrade. So far no summer rain, hope to receive some rain in next week.Watering is the only major activity now.I use flooded irrigation and it wastes lot of water, but other solutions like sprinkler, drip irrigation being costly, still sticks to this method. I have some plans of trying trench method which is suggested by Bhaskar Save and Subash Palekar.Digging trenches against the slope of the land, will also preserve water. I also have heard that the plants near the trenches never gets affected by summer. In any case plans to small rain pits throughout the farm.
Ground cover and mulch has improved, water retention, but still a long way to go. I can see earth worm castings throughout the land and hence water retention of the soil has improved. In areas where watering was done, once in a while, that area remains really green. Open well has some water and I love the taste and smell of it.

Neighbour wells has dried and some of them take water from this well for drinking and I was so happy to see that. Since well is deep and it is stored in earth, water is very cool.

Banana area is under stress, since this area hasn't been irrigated for 3 weeks now.  Mangoes have fruited reasonably well..but lot of fruits are falling down because of heat? I could see that the local varieties of mangoes are yielding much better. for e.g the small 'chandrakkaran' another variety has good amount of mangoes.

As usual, in the summer, white ants are there in full swing and do a good job..

Coconut harvesting is done person single handedly did this task using a long pole, his wife and another boy collected and kept it at 4 different places...2700 coconuts in total..he charged 1 rupees per coconut for plucking and keeping it at one place..Coconut prices are good, one big coconut is sold at 15/- and per kg with water price is 26/- while in the open market it is sold at 34/-.

Harvested turmeric which I had cultivated in 3 raised bed. I did all the harvesting and maintained the bed so that it can be reused in the next season.
Vegetable area is being mulched and dried cowdung is put on this bed.

Cows are not having green grass..the hybrid one has become skinny but the local variety is eating even the dried grass and keeps healthy..both of them survived foot and mouth disease
House is almost ready for occupation except that there is no electricity..

Meanwhile some planning is going for next rainy season..last season's rice cultivation gave me 23Kgs of rice and it tasted very good and hence planning to go for 0.5 acre cultivation in the next season.

Interplanting of coconut still not happening, still lot of gap between coconut trees. so planning to put mangoes, cashew nuts, sitaphal, moringa and glyricedia etc.

                                                                Earth worm castings

                                         Chandrakkaran mango

Rice field

                                             Rice field
                                          Rice field with heavy straw mulch

                                           Rice field with cow pea grown as cover crop
Turmeric raised bed after harvest

                                                Local cow
                                                 Hybrid cow

                                          Banana under water stress

                                          Open well

                                         Still have some water - last time it  dried up in February

                                         Small mango tree started fruiting

House back side view

                                        House front view

                                        Coconut area

                                           Coconut area with no watering

                                         Coconut area with watering

                                           Tree with good yield

                                           Tree without any yield..summer affects some trees very badly

                                            white ants doing good job