Monday, December 31, 2012

Cows in the farm

It has been 4 years since I started my natural farming now and so far I haven't made any compost or applied any cow dung in the farm.Once I made 200 litres of Jeewamrithm and applied to banana and coconut. But it was just once, can not say it was effective or not.

Every time I fail in natural farming I go back to 'One straw revolution' or 'Natural Farming' book since there is a model in which Fukuoka san demonstrated success with natural farming and some times I watch the videos. We can see that Fukuoka san applied around 650-900 pounds of chicken manure before the rice cultivation starting and some time he adds another 200 pounds. Getting chicken manure is difficult now a days and also lot of chemicals are injected to them and given along with the foods and hence it is not safe to use chicken manure from outside.

My rice yields were not attractive in the last season, I just got around 15Kgs of paddy from close to 0.5 acre. There are many reasons why the yield was less - germination was poor and hence plant density was less, weeds were more and some places they took control and paddy was out grown, in some area cows ate some portions of my crop..But effectively I thought some kind of manuring also will boost the production like Fukuoka san did with chicken manure.

Bought two calves from a nearby market where farmers from different areas bring cows, buffaloes etc and sell it. I went there in the early morning at 7AM and should have reached there by 6AM to get the proper ones. Looked for some indigenous varieties of calves, but could get only one and the other one was a hybrid variety. I had to spend 7000/- Indian rupees for the two calves, including the transportation to the farm.

I am pretty much sure that if the number of cows in a farm increases, the fertility will definitely go down. I am hoping that with 2 cows and 9.25 acres, I should be able to achieve some balance. I will try it out for some time and if it does not work out, will have to sell the cows.

My family is all thrilled to take care of the calves...






May 27,2013

Both cows are enjoying the natural farming grass from the farm and they have become more healthy and beautiful. There is visible difference in their skin, one becoming more whitish and red one's skin is more glossy.





Aug 14,2013

In the rainy season, they have enough to eat and looks better. Just grass/water is fed, no other artificial food so far.




Feb-2015
my son with local cow..it withstands summer well and eats dry leaves, and whatever it can and remains healthy


She gets affected by drought badly..




26-Sept-2015

Artificial insemination was given to her by local veterinary doctor as of Aug 17-2015.



27-December-2015




17-May-2016

The red cow has given birth to male calf. My kids were excited to see him and initially the calf was uncomfortable with us, later he became good friend.





27-May-2016

White cow also has given birth to a male calf....She is quite concerned about his son...when moved to another place for grazing, she just looks for him and does not eat any thing..if you touch the calf, she makes some sound....



Sunday, December 30, 2012

Small hand held weeder - for natural farming

Recently bought the weeder (Nejiri Scraper) from www.hidatool.com. This was introduced by Jason Stewart of Fukuoka farming group and on seeing found it useful and bought online by making payment through Paypal. The cost of one weeder was 10.9$ and international priority mail charge was 40.9$, I bought two such weeders and totally it costed me 62.7$. Hidatool sent the tracking information and hence could track it till it reached Indian airport, it entered customs clearance and after clearance complete there was no tracking and after a silent period, the parcel reached me. It took around 23 days to reach the parcel from US.

This tool is useful for me for weeding in the paddy field, when there is grass in between paddy plants. Since it is small in length can be used to weed between the plants, it is very sharp and cut the weeds very effectively. Only issue is that since the handle is small, we have to bend and do the work.  I haven't used it extensively, so more report on this later.

Here are some pictures....








Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Kuttadan - A traditional variety of paddy


Recently visited a paddy field in Choolissery, Trichur where farmers cultivate a traditional variety called 'Kuttadan'. The speciality of this variety is that, farmers just sow it after ploughing the field, and then come for harvest. In between some times,when the paddy grows tall, they cut and feed the cows and paddy again grows back. I thought this variety is suitable for Fukuoka style of natural farming, since it grows tall, compete with grass well, no manuring required.

The paddy field in this area, has water from June to November. This variety is broadcasted in April-May and matures in December-January begining, typically in 8 months. Farmers plough the field and broadcast the seeds and never transplant this variety. Later farmer comes for harvesting, no manure is given, no weeding is done. So labor requirement is very less. My friends Santhosh and Paul told me that the field which I had seen was ploughed and then seeds were not broadcasted, but the seeds which was left from the last harvest came up and it was enough. Kuttadan is a tall variety and grows to 5 feet and there is no attack from pest. The rice is slightly different from normal rice and gets cooked fast.

This variety has good potential areas where farmers leave the field uncultivated because of high labor/input costs.

Here are some photos...











Recently heard about another farmer named Indira, who cultivates rice in 50 acres organically. She is from Kodakara, Trichur, Kerala. Her daughter Adhina who is in 6th standard helps her. In 30 acres she cultivates 'Mattathriveni' and Jyothi. In 20 acres, Basumathi, Kuttadan and Navara is cultivated. Here is the description about kuttadan in an article which came about her in a monthly 'Vanitha'.

"Kuttadan is cultivated in areas where water stagnation is there. Kuttadan grows as water in the field increases, it will stand above the water. As water recedes, it will fall and will touch the ground, new plant will come from this point where it touches the ground. Yield is less for this variety, but taste is very good. Once cultivated, there is no need for sowing seeds for another 5 years."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cutting tall grass with string trimmer

Some time back I bought a honda brush cutter (string trimmer) to cut the grass. During the monsoon period, the grass grows very thickly every where in the farm, cutting it using sickle was taking long time and for any sowing, it should be cut very low, hence bought the honda cutter.

While I was cutting tall grass with string trimmer, I realized it takes long time to cover. I used to cut from one side and make it powder and then cut the other area. While seeing the video of Scythe in youtube, found that they cut the tall grass in a particular style and that also from one side. I tried the same method with string trimmer, ie. cutting with a swing and moving the tall grass to one side with that cutting force and then cutting in a particlar line and keeping the grass aside. I don't try to powder the grass since it takes lot of energy and time. Hence kept the heaps of cut grass and then later spread it in the field. I am able to cover close to 0.25 acres per day. See some photos.








Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Discussion with Kailashamurthy on natural paddy

Since I am about to start one more round of natural paddy cultivation thought of discussing with Kailashamurthy http://the-anf.org/) who had done natural paddy cultivation earlier.

He had done paddy farming in natural style for 5 years and stopped now and planning to restart soon. The rice variety should be a wild one or tuned for that, after 3-4 years of cultivation in natural paddy style. Otherwise they can not compete with grass effectively. Also if we have irrigation water wild weeds will come with water and they grow very vigorously..so problems are different in each area.

He asked me to put horse gram first and then put seed balls onto it first horse gram is established.If you allow water for 5-10 days, horse gram will turn yellow and its leaves will be wilted and will go away, it is easy to control it. Also according to him all the other grass like touchme not etc..should be manually removed. Also it is important that paddy establishes before the weeds.


From all these discussions it is not going to be easy..so has to figure out..





Grain farming - 2nd crop season - 2012

People around are busy with 2nd season rice crop, with the north-east monsoon. As per the schedule planting of rice crops should be completed by October 15, but since the rains were delayed it is still going on. 2nd crop at Palakkad area is largely dependent irrigation water from dam, except for initial preparation people depend on rains.

Even though my 1st crop was not completely successful, I have enough seeds, probably around 15Kgs of upland rice variety called Vysakh. This gives me more freedom with my experiments, so thought of trying upland rice again for 2nd crop also. Consulted argiculture university and according to them there is a dormancy period of 15 days for the seeds, after that it can be sown.

This time I was more comfortable with seed ball making and hence made seed balls for for rice. Broadcasted the seed balls and cut and mulched the grass using honda brush cutter.At times I felt, the seeds will be blown away by the brush cutter, so wanted to find a solution for that. Tall grasses were pressed to ground by my helper and then I cut it using the honda cutter. But later I found that once the tall grasses are fallen on the ground cutting is more difficult. Work was moving very slowly since grasses were tall and cutting and making them thin so that seeds can grow through them. I completed sowing of two small paddy fields each measuring probably at 15 cents. I had broadcasted horse gram also along with paddy.

Germination was not proper at all places,mostly because of less rain after the sowing. This time monsoon was very weak. I should have watered heavily using motor after sowing, but expected rain will come which didn't happen.

In one area I put finger millet in seed balls, and because of less rains, germination was very poor. Watering happened little late so not sure about the results.

In another 5 cents I have put Kattuyanam in seed balls. Kattuyanam is a traditional variety of rice grown in some parts of Tamilnadu. This grows to a height of 6-7 feet and gives reasonable yield without much attention and tollerates flood and drought. I had got the seeds from Karikalan who conserves and cultivates this variety.

In this area, I first cut the tall grasses at the base and kept them aside on the bunds. This way cutting and making small pieces is avoided, but cutting and keeping them side and then spreading them back has to be done. Right now it looks this is much easier than cutting them into small pieces. After all the grass were moved to the side, I put seed balls in the field. This make sure that seed balls can be seen and distribution will be uniform and contact with ground is proper. After sowing the seeds, put the grass back and this work was not difficult. On the same day, I watered that area. Now have to see, how the germination is....One thing I have done in this case is that work was done with more attention..ie cutting and removing the grass and removing extra grass from the field so that ground contact is proper and watering on time.

If I look back, I see that I am able to plan and do the farming work more effectively and with the Honda cutter, I could finish most of the work by myself. My next aim is to get a Scythe and if I can do this much using Scythe, it is going to be much more enjoyable.

November 11,2012
Upland rice Vysakh has germinated well, horse gram also has germinated well. In one area, even after a week rice plants were not seen, but received a good rain and after that rice plants started coming. I was very happy to see that the germination was good. Some grass and creepers have started coming and they have to be cut and controlled at early stages, since after some time the effort get multiplied by many fold. But because of mulching in lot of areas, grass is not there.

Kattuyanam seeds hasn't germinated and could find that it is because of lack of moisture. Even though there is moisture inside the soil, outside is relatively dry. Released water and to be seen, if the seeds germinates. Even though seedballs were used, it was very thin seedballs and hence could see that some were eaten by ants or insects. In coventional farming, in one method, after puddling and making muddy field, farmer broadcasts the seeds and they germinate lying on the top. Since the field is muddy and sufficient water, with weight of seeds itseld, they will be sinking in the ground little bit. Hence seedballs just put in the field, and with enough water it should germinate well.

Put seed balls of 'Kallundai Samba' rice variety in one portion. This is a 110 days variety and is suitable for sandy soils, Mr. Karikalan had sent this free along with Kattuyanam. In this case also, grass were cut and kept aside and then seedballs were put and then mulched with grass.

In one area, finger millet seedballs are also put and mulched with grass.





Nov 22, 2012






Nov 28-2012








Above 2 photos are Kattuyanam which grows above 6 feet ..germination was poor, watering was not proper and on time, and seed ball was very thin and some insect/ant had eaten the seeds, some husks were seen.






Dec 09,2012
Paddy looks to be little more strong now. This always happens with paddy and I think with the most of the crops, in the early stages they look to be very weak and barely notice, after a period, they are quite noticable and strong. But in the initial stages, they have to be taken care like a child, but in natural farming, idea is to take care of them by creating a natural environment so that they co-exist with other plants. But still some time, external help is needed, like Fukuoka san used to flood the field, when clover becomes strong, to weaken it and give paddy an advantage.

Some creepers are there which chokes paddy, these were removed with one woman labor. Also applied cowdung mixed with water and sprayed it over the paddy, planning to do this once in a week. This is not labor oriented, since water is collected from the paddy field and mixed with cowdung and directly sprayed. Probably took around 30 minutes to cover paddy field of 0.3 acre.






Jan-01-2013








07-Jan-2013

The below photos are Kattuyanam which I had cultivated in around 5 cents. Kattuyanam is a traditional rice variety cultivated in Tamilnadu. The most difficult thing which I face now is the non-uniform germination of seeds and big gaps left in the field. The seed balls were not proper, some seeds were eaten by insects. But I am happy to see its growth...it grows above the weeds. So who ever tries to do natural farming with grain should select the traditional seed varieties which grows tall.




This one has grown really tall, compared to the grass.


Update - Feb 17-2013
Harvested the Vysakh paddy, but it was pathetic yield. Towards the last stage, there was rat attack and lot of good heads were eaten by them. Probably just good 0.5Kgs of paddy.

To make a conclusion....

1. Natural farming of rice on second season is not probably advisable. It requires lot of watering, so probably crops with less water is suitable for natural farming. Some options available are - Pearl millet, Sesame, Corn etc..

2. Fetility of the soil is still bad, lot more improvement has to be done. Couple of cycles of leguminous crops are required which produces large bio-mass, couple of different varieties so that there is good balance of nutrients.

3. Even with all these, some good amount of cowdung or chicken manure has to be appied. Fukuoka san himself suggested 600-900 pounds of chicken manure per quarter acre, this has to be taken very seriously, natural farming is not just leaving everything to nature