Sunday, February 17, 2013

Successful Fukuoka style no-till farms - Some examples

Masanobu Fukuoka had practiced no-till farming for rice/wheat/barley for many years and he was getting excellent yield. His system was maintaining clover as cover crop along with grain for weed control and broadcasting grain seeds over the existing crop. This is the most simple and less effort method of grain farming, but people who tried can tell that it is not easy. The main problem will be in weed control and also finding the right cover crop, equivalent to clover is another task. 

I have seen some people trying no-till grain farming, but majority of them has failed.  A few exceptions are - Raju Titus of M.P, Shyam Shrestha of Sunrise farm, Nepal, Krishna of Solitude farm and another French blog

Here is the link of Raju Titus blog and photos of no-till rice/wheat can be seen here.

Raju Titus does not use any specific ground cover, but uses local grass itself as ground cover. People visited his farm says, the soil is very fertile and no-tilling for years has reduced weed pressure a lot. So my feeling is that this may not be easily adapted for a new comer, he has to work his own.

Another example is that of Shyam Shrestha of Sunrise farm, Nepal. I had talked to Shyam Shrestha last year and they still do no-till farming.

Their method can be seen in the following link, since it is detailed I am not describing it again.

The complete book can be downloaded from

Here is how Krishna of Solitude farm does no-till farming. This is done by growing velvet beans as cover crop and then broadcasting rice and then cutting and mulching velvet beans above this.

Unfortunately yield obtained from these methods is not available.

Here is one French blog where no-till has been pictured, not able to contact this person.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Shallow tillage direct seeding

The challenge now I am facing with rice/sesame/cow pea cultivation is the lack of uniform germination. I felt germination is better with tillage and as part of this was reading the book 'The Natural Way of Farming' once again to see the initial experiments of Fukuoka San. He has done lots of experiments before coming to the success and here is a section from the


Shallow-tillage direct seeding: 22 pounds of each barley and rice seed may be sown together in the autumn and field raked. An alternative is to lightly till the field with a plow to a depth of 2 inches, then sow clover and barley seed and cover the the seed with rice straw. Or after shallow tilling, a planter may be used to plant seed individually or drill.Good
results can be had in water-leak paddy fields by using this method first, and then later switching to no-tillage cultivation. Success in natural farming depends on how well shallow, evenly sown seeds germinate.


The book clearly says uniform germination is the key and suggest to use 22 pounds (9.9Kg) of rice seeds per quarter acre, i.e - 39.6Kgs per acre which is a good quantity of seeds which will make sure, uniform germination. In conventional method locally they suggest to use 33Kgs per acre, while in transplanting using SRI method, just 3Kgs is used per acre, since only single rice plant is put in every 1 feet distance. 

In addition to this, book suggests to go for shallow tillage initially and later switching to no-tillage.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Seed ball experiences

I tried making seed balls in this season for finger millet, rice, cow pea and sesame. I was reasonably successful in making seed balls for finger millet, rice and sesame. For all these seeds I was able to make them wet and mix with white ant hill soil and after 5-6 iterations seedballs were ready, it was reasonable from effort and output point of view. For cowpea, making them wet, they started soaking water and seeds become large and the outer cover peels off and even if seed balls are formed, some time seeds come out since the outer cover of the seed is very smooth. Hence I had to roll individual seeds which was time consuming.

I tried rice seedballs and germination was very bad. There might have some issue with watering also, seeds being in seedball need more water first to soak the seedball mud and then seed. For finger millet, sesame and cow pea also the germination was very bad. All these seeds I had broadcasted and cut and mulched the grass. Other than moisture, I am not sure what other factors affect this. For cowpea and rice, I had seen the seeds eaten by some insects and some time the seeds were damaged and they just disintegrates on pressing. Probably some moisture was there, but it was not enough for healthy germination, but enough to damage the seeds. One thing strongly felt is that, in summer when moisture is less,using seedball is not that useful, since when you want to cultivate with available moisture, seedballs take extra moisture to soak the soil covering. I could see that after watering the field completely by next day, the field is dry at the top, but underneath there is moisture which is enough for the seeds to germinate.

When I tried sesame, and none of them had germinated, even after watering. Typically sesame is cultivated after rice using available moisture. They till the land and put the sesame seeds and again till it and the seeds germinate with the available moisture. Also I think, when the seeds are in direct contact with moist soil, the chances of germination is much better.

In the next trial, I made an opening in the soil using a sharp tool and put sesame seeds in this line. And I could see lot of them germinated. In some cases, where there was mulch, germination was bad, it looks like being very small seed, they won't be able to lift the mulch and come up. From my experience so far, germination is better when seeds are put inside the moist soil.

Making opening in the soil was time consuming and hence now wanted to broadcast the seeds and then rake the soil so that seeds go into the moist soil.

In Masanobu Fukuoka's 'Natural Way of Farming' in the picture 'Toward a natural way of farming' he says to follow 'Direct-seeding with shallow tillage' before going for 'no-tillage direct-seeding'.