Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Broadcasting next crop in an already existing crop

Fukuoka San always broadcasts next crop seeds 3-4 weeks before the harvest of an existing crop. That is wheat seeds in an existing rice crop or rice seeds in an existing wheat crop. Idea is to have the field covered with some crops all the time, without giving weeds a chance.

I wanted to try this in my no-till field, but since my no-till experiment is not successful, this was postponed. Now in my organic rice field which is done using ploughing, this time wanted to try this method. Anyway after the 2nd crop, typically field is left fallow, sometime I do cowpea and once tried sesame.

Finally I could not do this on right time, just 1 week before the harvest I just broadcasted 2Kgs of cowpea seeds and 0.25 Kg of sesame seeds. While lot of the cowpea seeds germinated and was not affected by the trampling by women workers during harvest. Even they told lot of the cowpea plants may get trampled, but to my surprise, I could see most of them were intact.

Sesame didn't germinate at all, I think, it should have been broadcasted much earlier. Fukuoka San says, if the seeds are broadcasted 3-4 weeks before, germination will be good since there is good moisture content. If there is better moisture content, germination is always good.

Going further would like to experiment with this method more, it looks to be a quite effective method.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Hill Rice - 2018

I am continuing cultivation of happy hill rice, just to keep the seeds and distribute to people who are interested. There is a pending list of 5-6 people to whom I will be sending seeds soon.

This time, I took some seeds from my old cultivation which is 1.5 years old now. I kept in water for 1 day and then kept in a wet cloth. After 1 day there was no germination seen, and I could see that cloth gets dried soon, so kept it under the cot and kept wetting it. After 3 days, some seeds were germinated. I also tried with last year's seed, which is around 6 months old, and it germinated much faster.


Applied some dried cowdung powder collected from farm, rice seedlings has healthy look now.

Sunhemp cover crop for root vegetables

I have a small area where I have kept some raised beds for root crops like turmeric, ginger, taro etc. While I was looking for mulch to cover it now so that I can grow them in rainy season, could not find enough mulch. Since water is available here, thought of growing Sunhemp for 3 months and cut and mulch so that it will fix some nitrogen also.

I first cut the grass and then broadcasted sunhemp seeds and then slightly tilled it using a fork, so that seeds go inside the soil. After this I mulched it lightly so that moisture will be retained better. Asked Palani to water it, after a week when I visited to my surprise, they have germinated well.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Tuber Seed Varieties Collected from Vinod

Recently met Vinod from Puthanchira, Thrissur in a meeting where he was presenting his tuber collections. Apparently he has a wide collection of tubers - taros, elephant foot yams,air-potato,tapioca, ginger, turmeric, kachil (malayalam name,english name to be found out). There is another tuber farmer in Wayanad called Samuel, and Vinod is a disciple of him.

I gave him the variety of taro I had, and he gave me a set of tubers in return. It is a big responsibility to preserve them, had asked him to provide only one or two, but he just gave me a number of varieties. Will be starting planting them with rain.

Some varieties ...

    Kuzhi Nirayan Chembu

 Kappa Chembu, Vinod says it can be eaten raw

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.

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.