Sunday, July 24, 2011

Few experiments with sun-hemp

I have been thinking about replacing the grass in my farm with some legume. Ferility in my farm was improving with just grass growing all around. Fukuoka san advises this in one straw revolution and he had clover in the mandarin orchard which made the land fertile quickly. Recently had gone through presentation by B.N.Nandish and he concludes that a few monocot grasses won't make land fertile and hence advises legumes.Organic farmer Manoj from Wayanad told in one conversation that if we keep mulching the plants may develop a yellowish color for some time and it will vanish by itself later. The yellowish color is because of the nitrogen deficiency which gets created on adding more carbon and microbes consumes nitrogen from soil. But they don't take it way, once they die, it again becomes available for plants.

Some information which I got from an article on looking for this specific information.

The amount of nitrogen available for plants is determined by the net balance between the rate of nitrogen mineralized from decomposing organic matter and the rate of nitrogen that is immobilized by growth of soil microbes.
Microbes are considered to be stronger competitors than plants for nitrogen . In soils where nitrogen is limited, microbes generally outcompete plants for nitrogen, resulting in plant nutrient deficiencies and decreased plant growth. In fertile soils, there may be enough nitrogen to adequately support both microbial and plant growth. 

So I thought of trying some legume, my earlier experiments with cow pea/black gram was not that successful. So thought of trying daincha or sun-hemp. Got 3 Kgs of these from coimbatore and since I read sun-hemp can grow in drought condition also, so broadcasted some in summer among grass, which didn't sprout. A few seeds were put in soil and watered it once and it sprouted well and grew up. It is growing really tall, not it is around 5.5 ft height. Made some raised bed for planting ginger, turmeric etc and broadcasted some seeds, this was done after rain had started. On three raised beds they are growing thick and green and no competition from grass and they produce enough mulching material. Typically turmeric and ginger is planted with hay or coconut husk as mulch which is brought from outside. If farmers can grow sun-hemp for two months and then plant ginger/turmeric this can be avoided. This is easily possible in permanent raised beds.

Recently on one paddy field I broadcasted sun-hemp and then cut and mulched the grass above this. This also has sprouted well and I am looking to grow rice on this place in the next season. There is a threat from cow grazing, if this doesn't happen I will be able to try paddy on sun-hemp legume.

I also have bought 10 Kgs of sun-hemp and planning to put in coconut orchard... will come up with this experience later.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Paddy experiment in Monsoon 2011

After failing two times, I thought of doing the paddy in small area. When my first experiment in monsoon 2010 failed, I thought it will be good that if I till the land it will become alright. After harvesting (just got 4Kgs) the paddy of monsoon 2010, I tilled the land using a tractor and broadcasted the seeds and allowed water to stand. But the next day, water was less and lot of the seeds were eaten by peacocks and seeds germinated in only some area. I wanted to try seed balls, but couldn't make it in large scale.Where there was more water, some came up and grew well and it was about to mature it was eaten by goats which some one let free for grazing. My tilling experiment also failed so thought of trying no-till on small area.

Below is  my experiment in Monsoon 2011

In the January had made some raised beds and kept it mulched. The reason for going for this was since I thought small area means I can manage it all alone and also will have sufficient mulching material. If it is successful can replicate it to more area. My paddy field size is about 0.7 acres and I just used around 4 cents (0.04 acre) for this experiment. Also I wanted to see if paddy grows well on the mulched beds and to check if mulching controls the weeds sufficient for growing paddy. On some beds I transplanted paddy seedlings of around 13 days old, but planting on the raised bed was difficult because of mulch. So had to keep the top mulch on one side and then plant. Worked for a day and could complete only couple of beds and it was very tedious job. On another 4 beds sown the seeds and cut and mulched the grass around.

On some beds I am growing sun hemp so that in the next season I can grow paddy. Sun-hemp is growing well and no grass is seen on these beds. Generally I feel, if there is enough mulching done and do not till the land, growth of weeds is less and paddy can be grown. Also there is some minimal grass, cutting and mulching that is much easier. I will keep all posted about the development and will share some photos soon.