Saturday, June 23, 2012

Visit to Manoj's zero budget farm

Visited Manoj's zero budget farm in Kanjikode,Palakkad. I had visited this farm in 2008 and that time it was more at the begining stage and now it is a complete farm. He had started with chemical farming but he could make out that the fertility of the soil is loosing and expenses are becoming more. He was looking for alternative solution and finally adopted zero budget farming of Subash Palekar. His farm is around 12 acres and main crops are sugar cane, coconut and banana. He has 4 or 5 local cows and used to make Jeevamritham earlier to bring back the fertility. Now he is planning to pump cowdung and urine through out the farm. In one area of the farm he has coconut, banana, coco, glyrecedia, coffee, cardomom etc. This area has trenches and completely aligned with Palekar's methods. He is also planning to introduce nutmeg and according to him with sufficient mulching watering can be reduced. After intercropping the coconut yield also has increased and he gets banana bunches with average weight of 8Kgs.

Trees need mositure not water, aeration is an important factor in getting good yield. He says if tea is given in a glass you can drink it, but if it is given in a pot it can not be and same is the case with plants. His main problem now is water logging and it reduces the yield so he is looking for solutions for that. He is using the same sugar cane variety used by Krishnappa Dasappa Gowda of Mysore, but he doesn't get the same yield, so he feels sunlight is one of the major factor in deciding the yield. He tills the land and sow seeds of many legumes to make the land fertile. I felt if he can achieve the same without tilling there is a chance that fertility increases much and also water logging also may be reduced with more aeration for the soil. There are earthworms all around the farm. His farm has got organic certification from Indocert and it takes 3 years to get the certification. The cost of this certification is 9000/- per year. His main farm produce is coconut oil, sugar cane jaggery and banana.

Here are some photos of his farm - 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

About local varieties of mangoes

When I bought the farm, there were around 22 big mango trees, some are local varieties and some are from other states which is mainly grafted varieties. I just keep cutting the grass around them and no other work. Typically farmers here spray upto 7-8 pesticides and hormones on the trees in the season. Farmers says without this mango yield will be less and most of them will be affected by pests. So initially I was confused about what I have to do, since anyway I was not planning to spray hormones or pesticides.

Later after two years of mango farming,I came to know that most of the local varieties were not affected by pests. I have never seen any worms in local varieties Moovandan, Chandrakkaran and Perakka varieties. All these varieties has good fiber content and to me there are very tasty. But lot of people does not like the local varieties and go for exotic varieties. There are some exceptions where some local varieties also which are affected by pests, but most of them are resistant.

So basically for me the problem looks to be going against nature and cultivating varieties which are not adapted to the local climates.

Paddy farming June 2012

For this season, I tilled the field even though in natural farming tilling is not done. After couple of failures without tilling, in this season I thought of doing tilling to control weeds and once I have sufficient mulch, planning to do no-till in the next season. Also in this season I had collected three traditional varieties of paddy namely - Chuvanna Modan, Kalladiaryan and Thavalakannan. In the above Chuvanna Modan and Kalladiaryan are upland rice, which is typically cultivated in the upland area where there won't be any standing water.Another variety is Vysakh which is a high yielding upland rice.

Since seeds were limited, I just dibbled the seeds at a distance of around 10cm. Dibbling was done using sickle and initially I had put 2 seeds, but later my helper told to put 5 or 6 seeds and I was little hesitant for it so went for 3 seeds at one point. This is the first time I am trying dibbling, so the lack of experience showed up. I was careful so that the opening made with sickle is not deep so that germination is good. Also earlier I had experienced with transplanting that if distance is more, weeds will come in the free space and it is difficult to control.

Even after all the precautions, what didn't work was bad germination and gap between plants became more because of no germination. Some lessons...

1. Sowing was little late and was done when the rain had actually started. From the earlier experience I had seen that when the rain is heavy, germination is bad. Typically farmers do sowing along with the first rains which is probably we should do

2. Number of seeds at one dibbling point should be more, may be 5 or 6 seeds. In this case at least one two atleast will germinate. Even if all germinate later removing is still OK, but if none comes at one point, the gap becomes more 

3. Be prepared for low germination and make a back up plan, by making a nursery so that at points where it does not germinate, plants can be transplanted

Here are some photos...

July 29,2012

Grass has grown in some places and overtook the paddy. I wanted to do weeding, but it looks it is little late since grass has grown thick, now pulling is not easy..and thorns on the touch-me-nots are strong and it hurts. So without cover crop, I shouldn't have tried this. Earlier I was thinking, if paddy grows well, then grass may not be a problem, but if there is a gap, grass will grow and they grow much better than paddy. In one side of the bund, there is a subabul tree and saplings of this tree is growing under this, very thickly. But in this place, paddy has grown above it, so it does not look like a problem, I would have used Subabul as a cover crop??

The two photos below are weeded by women and they make it like a ground, pulling and removing all the weeds. I did one part by myself just by cutting the tall grasses and asked them to do that way.

Aug 11, 2012

Sept 02, 2012

Rice has come over the weeds now..but still there are more gaps between the plants and hence peacock can be a threat since they can easily walk between the plants. Some of the plants started flowering

Sept 9, 2012