Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rice farming - June 2013 season

I have been doing rice farming since 2010, but failed miserably,so far, but had a great learning. To summarise, in 2010 it was transplanting into a field full of weeds which completely failed, because of weeds completely took over the fields and plant density was too low. From half an acre, I got just 4Kgs of paddy. In 2011, I did it very minimally on raised bed, it was completely grazed by cows. In 2012, I had tilled the land and put different varieties of upland rice, in two fields weeds completely took over and in another field, in some area it grew, and just got 16 Kgs of paddy. In this case, the failure was because of poor plant density and weeds had taken over. I did weeding, but it had delayed, so grass took over. This year I wanted to continue my experiments but minimally, documenting it in photos allow me to review the issues again and again.

In this season, I just tried on some areas...

1. Kattuyanam transplanting with light tilling

In one area of the farm I had grown sunhemp for a complete year and completely left it without doing anything. In the summer sunhemp/grass had completely dried and it was a good start for rice farming. This area is upland, water does not get stagnated so not ideally suitable for normal rice, not sure how kattuyanam will come up. In a small area, I just removed the mulch using a rake tool and slighly raked the soil and transplanted about 3 weeks old, kattuyanam seedlings. Around 375gms of kattuyanam was  put in the nursery for this. Seedlings were not enough for this complete area, and in a small area, just broadcasted the seeds and raked the soil. Chickens sensed this and they were eating the seeds, but since seeds were hidden in the soil, they couldn't get all, so some has come up. Since I removed the mulch and land was completely naked, I just planted a few leguminous plants - one is Desmodium Scorpiurus and other one is Wild black gram.

Seeds were put on the nursery on June 1st, transplanting done on June 22

Aug 2,2013

Field after 2 months..

Some weeds are seen at the ground, but anyway paddy has become tall so weeds won't compete

Aug 25,2013

Rains have stopped and field has gone dry, since there is no mulch at the ground, water retention is bad.
I had moved the mulch to the side to make the planting easier.

Of late, this area was not having enough water and plants were turning yellowish. Also since sunlight was less, it was not flowering, so it was not a good idea to do kattuyanam in this area. 
Because of lack of water this didn't give any yield

2. Upland rice Vysakh sown in grass growing area

In one area of the farm which has not been tilled for an year, I just cut the grass and creepers were removed and then sown Vysakh rice seeds densely. Weeds had started coming by this time. Rice seeds has come up, but as usual weeds has taken over. No weeding was done, just left it as it is, since weeding strong grasses like crab grass, bermuda grass etc are difficult to handle. Crab grass has a very strong root system, it is not easy to handle them.

The activities were completed by June 10th

Aug 25,2013

Here since there was mulch, moisture is not a problem

Sept 22, 2013

I will get some harvest from this completely no-tilled rice, but it will be far from a decent yield. But there are many things to improve on this - applying some cowdung or chicken manure, having a cover crop, and proper timing so that putting rice before any weeds come out.

Finally I was little late for harvest and peacocks harvested this completely.

3. Kattuyanam transplanting to tilled area

In around 10 cents, I and helpers tilled the land using spade and then transplanted the kattuyanam seedlings. When there was enough water, spading was easy. Similarly transplanting was also easy when there was water released from from irrigation pond. Transplanting was completed as of July 15th, seedlings were around 3 weeks old. I think it is better done at very early stages, like SRI method, since the seedlings were getting broken while transplanting. Two/or three seedlings were put at one place.

Aug 2, 2013

Since there is heavy rain, there is enough water and because of standing water, there is less weeds.

Aug 25,2013

Sept 22, 2013

There is planty of rain this time, so 6 months kattuyanam is doing well.

November 13,2013

By November 20, it will be 5 months, but still no flowers are seen. Checked with Karikalan and he says it will flower at 5th month and will mature in 1 month. So just waiting...

December 15,2013

strong wind was there and plants completely fallen down..rice in milky stage. Finally when harvested, most of the paddy seeds were void, as some insects had sucked the milk, just got some seeds.

 Have very thick mulch in the field

Kuttadan on raised bed

I just put a handfull of Kuttadan rice seeds in a raised bed...just wanted to see how they come up. Seeds were put on July 28,2013.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Cutting grass,creepers using Scythe

Here are some photos of grass, creepers cut using scythe. There are some obvious steps usually a person using scythe follows, since I am using this tool for the first time, figured out after a while.

Step 1: We have to start cutting from a side so that the grass fallen does not interfere with your further cutting. For e.g, if we are facing a field like this, it is better to start cutting from left hand side, since grass cut falls to left hand side and does not interfere with further cutting. Initially I was cutting here and there and cut grass was interfering a lot

Step 2:  Cutting using scythe is always, cut and step forward and cut. For e.g I started from left hand side of the field given below, after each cutting, step forward and reach other end of the field and start the next cutting again from adjacent place from where I had started.

The grass cut and grass still to be cut. Broadcasted sunhemp seeds into grass before cutting.

There was too much grass, so had to keep it aside using a rake tool, so that the grass does not interfere with germination of sunhemp

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Establishing a uniform crop

I always found that establishing a cover crop or grain crop is a difficult task since either germination will be bad or germinated seeds does not push through mulch. Initially when I started natural farming, I never used to spend more time in preparing field. Later I understood that more time and care has to be spent in preparing a field. In conventional farming where they do tilling, they spend lot of time in making field uniform and they prepare bunds and field will look really nice. May be since I am new into the farming, I didn't observe these things closely.

First few trials, when I tried to establish sunhemp, I just broadcasted sunhemp and then cut the grass, in some places mulch were very thick and some places grass was not cut properly and ultimately sunhemp was not established uniformly and lot of grasses also grew along with it. The issue is that when you want to grow a grain crop after sunhemp, that also won't get established uniformly.

Another problem was, the germination won't happen uniformly. Later I found that this is some thing even Fukuoka san had experienced. In one straw revolution in the chapter 'Farming Among Weeds' it says

"White clover is sown about one pound per quarter acre, winter grains 61⁄2 to 13 pounds per quarter
acre. For inexperienced farmers or fields with hard or poor soil, it is safer to sow more seed in the beginning. As the soil gradually improves from the decomposing straw and green manure, and as the farmer becomes more familiar with the direct seeding non-cultivation method, the amount of seed can be reduced"

"Between mid-November and mid-December is a good time to broadcast the pellets containing the rice seed among the young barley or rye plants, but they can also be broadcast in spring. Rice is sown 41⁄2 to 9 pounds per quarter acre. Toward the end of April Mr. Fukuoka checks the germination of the fall-sown seed and broadcasts more pellets as needed"

So ultimately it is better to use more seeds in the beginning and also check if germination has happened otherwise some more seeds can be sown. This is very practical and that is what I like about Masanobu Fukuoka and he was a complete farmer.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Importance of timing

There are two cases where I hit the real importance of timing in farming. One was weeding in the last june (2012) where I had put upland rice after tilling the land. After putting the seeds, and after the germination, the land was very clean and weeds started coming afterwards. Initially they were very small and I thought, I will deweed after some time or some time the rice may grow above that. But rice plants were not growing above them, rather weeds got very dense and rice plants were hardly seen. If I had deweeded at the initial stage, it would have been very easy since pulling out small weeds are much easier, but once they become established it becomes almost difficult.

Second time I realised about the timing was starting the cultivation, after growing sunhemp as covercrop. In one area, I had grown sunhemp for an year, and towards the end of summer the field was very clean, since sunhemp and grass all had dried well. I should have started the rice cultivation there with the first rain, but it got delayed and weeds started growing there. Once the weeds establish, it is impossible to start cultivation there. So a delay of 1 or 2 weeks spoils everything and one season is lost.

Land underneath green cover

In one part of the farm, I have stopped tilling for the last 1 year and I had grown cowpea as cover crop in the summer after cutting the grass with brush cutter and they had established fairly well. After the rain started, some of the cowpea plants were growing and some had perished. Grass also was growing in some places and today I cut that area using a scythe and since lot of mulch was there I had kept to one side and then put sunhemp seeds. Hopefully after this, I should be able to plant some grain crops, pearl millet or raggi.

I could see under the green cover land is fertile and overall weeds were less. Especially only a couple of weed species are there, while in some part of the farm, I could see many more varieties of weeds. I can see that the land is much relaxed and I could even take up a crop now, if I clean the existing grass more neatly.

Here are some pictures..