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.

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..

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

Monday, February 17, 2014

Amazing natural farm of Masanobu Fukuoka

Amazing natural farm of Masanobu Fukuoka
Here are some photos of amazing natural farm of Fukuoka. These photos were given to Raju Titus of Hoshangabad,MP during Fukuoka's first indian visit. Not sure,how does the farm looks now.

Fukuoka had rice,wheat,rye, mandarin oranges and vegetables. He didn't plough his field and applied straw and chicken manure as fertilisers. There was no need for any insecticides and his rice field was one of the top yielding.

Fukuoka had cultivated happy hill rice which he had developed in his fields. According to Fukuoka, "I have created, together with the insects in my fields, a new strain of rice I call "Happy Hill". This is a hardy strain with blood of wild variants in it, yet it is also one of the highest yielding strains of rice in the world. If a single head of Happy Hill were sent across the sea to a country where food is scarce and there sown over a ten-square-yard area, a single grain would yield 5000 grains in
one years time. There would be grain enough to sow a half-acre the following year, fifty acres two years hence, and 7000 acres in the forth year.This could become the seed of rice for an entire nation. This handful of grain could open up the road to independence for starving people".

Fukuoka cultivates Rice from May to October and Wheat from November to May, basically two grain crops which takes the entire year so that there is no gap between crops. It is important that there is always crop in the field, so that weeds does not get a chance to comeup. Some weeds are OK, but it should be minimal.

In early or mid-October, clover seeds are sown over standing heads of rice, then about 2 weeks before harvesting rice, Barley/Wheat seed is sown. White clover is used as a leguminous cover crop which enriches soil with nitrogen and also checks the weeds. Being leguminous white clover can be controlled by holding water in the field and this weakens clover but does not affect rice/wheat/barley which belongs to the grass class. Sowing Barley/Wheat before harvesting of Rice is very important since it allows the Barley/Wheat to germinate early so that weeds are held back. If Barley/Wheat is sown after harvest, then weeds also will be germinating along with Barley/Wheat. Once the weeds are established controlling them is difficult. Also the most care is needed for crops at the young stage and at this stage if there is competition from weeds, then crop will affected badly.

Similarly rice seeds in clay pellets are sown over the wheat/barley before harvest along with white clover.

Fukuoka cultivated orange with just using white clover as leguminous cover. Vegetables also were cultivated in the orchard.

From the photos you can find that it is an extremely productive farm, even though there was no-tilling, no-fertilizing, no-weeding and no-insecticides.