Monday, March 26, 2012

Raggi cultivation - some experiments

I tried Raggi in one small portion of the paddy field in December 2011. I had bought the seeds from Sahaja Samridha, Bangalore.

Palani (my farm worker) and myself prepared the field for the nursery using the spade, the field was having enough moisture content, and put the seeds and with spade the land was worked so that seeds gets into the soil.

The transplanting area was cut with Honda brush cutter and a small area was mulched with dried grass, seedlings were transplanted after 3 weeks. It reasonably established well through grass and grains were there, but couldn't harvest since it was completely eaten by peacock, it took around 3 months to mature. But the experiment gave me confidence in raggi cultivation and also it was watered once in 10 days. Even though field is not having water, plant didn't show any water stress. Even though I didn't get any raggi for harvesting, experiment gave me great insights into raggi growing and I will be doing it in more large scale in the next season. Also it looks like cultivating millets are much easier than rice, so my option for crop rotation after rice is clear, as part of this experiment.

Here are some photos..

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Visit to Jayadevan's farm (Alanellur, Mannarkkad, Palakkad)

Organic farming in Kerala is promoted heavily by an organization called 'Jaiva Karshaka Samithy'. Jaiva Karshaka Samithy has district bodys and they have monthly meeting in that district typically in one of the organic farm. As part of the meeting, there will be discussions about the farm and issues faced by farmers. This month's Palakkad Jaiva Karshaka Samithy's meeting was held in Thrikkadiry Jayadevan's farm in Alanellur. Alanellur is 10KMs from Mannarkkad.

Jayadevan is full time into farming and has more than 20 acres of farm where rubber is the main cultivation. He cultivates completely in organic methods since last 6 years. He also has coconut, arecanut, nutmeg and rice field of about 1.8 acres. It looks like he is the only farmer who is still doing rice in that area. Rubber is the main source of income for him and the next higher part is from
70 fully grown up nutmeg trees which gives around 4 lakhs per year. He has 5 cows and a biogas unit and the slurry is pumped to different parts of the farm. He used to bring two loads of chicken manure from Tamilnadu and apply it every where. Some of his coconut trees were lost due to some disease called 'Thanjavoor Vattam' and the reason was finally diagnosed to chicken manure which typically has hormones in it. He has drip irrigation in most part of the farm. He has one area where there is coconut and with cover crop as mucuna which is typically used in rubber plantations. He mulches this area with coconut leaves and make trenches and bury husks in that. This area does not have watering facility but still the trees are looking really healthy and yield is very good. The mucuna was still green in the summer and Tony chettan (legal cell - One earth one life - magazine of Jaiva Karshaka Samithy) was pointing out that they have roots 2-3 feets deep and sucks water and make the area dry. This happens with all the trees which are green in the summer tree called 'Ung' belongs to this category. Mucuna once established is difficult to remove and he is looking for options to remove this. He does not get labour to harvest coconuts and some one was pointing out that the yield may be less in non-harvested fields and the trees where tender coconuts are harvested there is more yield, may be the tree does not spend much of its energy if it is early harvested.

He grows three different varieties of paddy in his 1.8 acres of field so that each mature in different time. He prefers it this way since it is difficult to get labour and hence most of the work is done with couple of women and men laborers. The paddy field has become risen over the years because of the eroded soil comes with water and gets deposited. He cultivates just once in a year and rest of the time, field is left fallow. He grows daincha and once it is grown up, he puddles and leaves it with water for 1 month and then transplants. He gets around 3 tons of paddy, and he uses HYVs Jyothi, Uma and Aiswarya. There was some grass in between the rice and this does not affect him, he does not weed because of labor shortage and some time they press the weeds down with foots. Some body asked what he does with 'Chazhi' (Rice Sapper) which drains the milk at milk stage. He says chazhi does not survive since his is the only rice crop and also because of just one time cultivation of rice. Another opinion was that in fields cultivated with organic methods this pest does not attack.

One Narayanan master (86 years - retired school teacher) was commenting that the rubber plantations are green in the summer and hence they drain water and make the area dry. Some people were of opinion that rubber plantains should be avoided, but Tony chettan had the opinion that rubber plantations are done in monoculture way and people first cut all the trees from rubber plantations before planting. This method is not correct, rather we should start planting trees in between the rubber trees so that mono culture is avoided. Coconut is not giving any money for the farmer and farmers live in the society and they need money, and hence rubber is attractive. Also at some point Tony chettan was saying, glyricedia fixes excess nitrogen and plants grow more and they are affected by disease, so planting more glyricedia is not advised rather 'Uzhunnundi' also should be planted which has broad leaves and better to cut its branches also so that organic carbon content increases in the soil. Cow dung should not be considered as a manure, it has just 2% nitrogen but it has lot of microbes and hence if applied along with mulch, lot of elements becomes available to plants.

Tony chettan also talked about his water conservation in the farm. He walks through his farm when it rains and where ever water flows he makes a pit and allows water to sink in. This way no water is allowed to flow out from the farm.