Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Chettiadi Rice Cultivation - 2017

This year brought one more area into rice cultivation, this area was left fallow since I bought the farm. Cows used to graze and tilling this area with tractor was not possible, this year got a tiller and also fenced it partially and trying a traditional variety called 'Chettadi' which is a 6 months duration crop. This area has enough water till January which rice loves.

One part was seeded with seed balls, germination is good in this part also.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Rice Cultivation - 2017 First Crop - Kunjukunju

Summer rains were less this year, received couple of rains in May 2nd week and starting of monsoon started around 5th of June. But still the rains were not strong, it does not continuously rain like it used to rain earlier.

Sensing less rain, lot of farmers started the cultivation with the first rain itself, by broadcasting seeds after ploughing. 

I waited for some more rain and used walk behind tiller this time, since it is not that damaging to the soil and also had added one more area for rice and in this area only tiller can be used.

Broadcasted seeds of Kunjukunju and then tilled once again so that seeds go inside the soil.


Germination was good and it has established uniformly. Still remains very dry, rain is avoiding this part.

Yesterday while going to farm could see that most of the paddy fields were dry since heavy rain was not there. But while coming back, scene changed completely, good rain and there was standing water in the paddy fields, felt quite happy to see that. It is raining heavily today, finally it looks like a rainy season.

Not many weeds this time, may be use of walk behind tiller reduced it?

Mangoes - 2017 season

Farm has around 20 big mango trees and some smaller ones. There are varieties from Gudadath, Kilichundan,Kolumbu, Moovandan, Jeeri, Sindooram, Neelam, Alphonso, Chandrakkaran and some local varieties. I never used to apply any fertiliser or insecticide, but they yield reasonably well. For couple of years, I had agreement with some retailer and they would take mangoes giving me some money. Later one trader didn't give the money promised so I stopped that deal altogether.

This year, I tried to sell the mangoes by myself. But once I harvest, it will be around 100Kgs and selling them is not an easy task. Finally Altermedia Trichur took some considerable quantity and gave reasonable price starting from 20 rupees per Kg to 60 rupees per Kg depending on the variety. At open market, we get throw away price, around 8-13 rupees per Kg. Since no spraying, mangoes mature at their natural time, and by this time, the market demand will be less.

Anyway, overall, this year we distributed lot of mangoes in the neighborhood and ourself had enough and earned some money too. By next year, some more good marketing had to be done.

Also some varieties are not preferred by customers for e.g - Kilichundan. While varieties like Sindooram, Kolumbu has good demand. So more focus should be done for these varieties. There is one variety which is extremely sweet, name of this variety has to be found.

Chandrakkaran variety - this is a very good variety

Kilichundan - Rose coloured one, small one - kolumbu, other big one - Gudadath

Neelam mangoes...ripes after the start of rainy season, but still tastes good and no pest attack. A single tree yielded around 150Kgs.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A talk by Devinder Sharma on silver jubilee meeting of Jaiva Karshaka Samithi

Today on May 14th 2017, I attended the silver jubilee celebration meeting of Jaiva Karshaka Samithi at Brahmanandodayam Higher Secondary School (BHSS) Kalady. This was started by CRR Varma and Prof. John C Jacob and had played an important role in popularizing organic farming in Kerala. Typically it used to be 3 days meetings, but this time it was just for a day and couldn't see many veterans like Dayal, Tony Thomas etc...But the next generation is pulling it along.

In the after noon session, there was a talk by Devinder Sharma, thought of sharing some of it which I still remember...The figures given here are from my memory, if there is any mistake can be corrected.

"Indian cow breeds are not given any respect here, but countries like Brazil has been exporting Indian breeds. Indian breed Gir produces milk of 75 litres per day, there"

"GDP growth means some destruction is happening, when trees are cut, GDP grows, rivers are polluted GDP grows, when you buy a car, fills the petrol and people get sick by environmental pollution GDP grows..."

Every year around 12,000-15,000 farmers commit suicide in India, but none of them are organic farmers. But if there is no decent income, soon even organic farmers will commit suicide. Minimum Support Price (MSP) of paddy for year 2016-17 was Rs. 1450 per quintal. Every year only a very nominal change was made, while goverment employer's salary is revised substantially. 

In 1970's MSP of paddy was around 50/ per quintal.Forty six years later, MSP is fixed at 1450/- per quintal. This is an increase of 29 times. In the same period salary of government employees has gone up by 120 to 150 times, college teachers by 150 to 170 times and that of school teachers by 280 to 320 times and that of corporate employees by 300 times. 

If we take up an 100 times increased, then the price of paddy should be 5100/- per quintal. Devinder Sharma is asking, why this is not done? Why the government is not protecting the interests of farmers while government employees are taken care of?"

He says, in the next election all parties should put this as the prime agenda. We all are responsible to make sure that this happens."

I found this to be an interesting thought....

Friday, March 31, 2017

Coconut seed planting - according to Subash Palekar

Last year I planted some coconut saplings and lot of them didn't survive the summer, especially rain was bad in the last season. This year planning to put some seeds and while planning for this, came across some details in Subash Palekar's book - Five Layer Palekar Model's, so thought of sharing it. 

The book gives lot of details about selecting mother tree, seed nuts with details of weight of the nut, size of leaves etc, those details are avoided here.

Basically the mother plant should be selected which is not near the compost pit or cowshed or near the well which gets extra water or manure. The tree should give good production of nuts consistently.

It is best to collect fallen coconuts so that they are fully matured. Keep the seeds under shade for 2-3 months with apex vertical and sprinkle water once in a while.

Towards June when rain starts, make small pits just to cover the seed. Treat the seeds with Bijamritha and insert the seed horizontally and cover it with mulch and 'Ghanajeevamritha'. Apply Jeevamirtha once in a month. It will take around 3 months for the seed to germinate. 

Here is the most interesting part which I am planning to follow in the next season...

Coconut plants grow well in shadow in its childhood and nitrogen also. It is better to provide shadow using dicot leguminous plants like pigeon pea or glyrecedia. At a 3 feet distance from the nut dibble seeds of Bijamritha treated pigeon pea mixed with creeper cow pea and Bajra millet. Before the coconut seed germinates, leguminous plants will grow to a height of 120-150cm and will provide good shade and also as a wind break.

I think the above method is quite an effective method to shield the young plants from hot sun.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

No-till rice experiment - 2017

In the no-till area, last year I tried cowpea followed by green gram basically to reduce grass weeds. It is not that clean, meaning still there are grass and some other creepers. Anyway, this year planning to do rice cultivation in this field when monsoon starts.

In one area, I dumped some dried leaves in order to control weeds, in another area planning to grow green gram, black gram combination for two months and then start rice. While rice is growing, planning to sow moth beans as a legume which will act as a live mulch. Started to make seed balls so that cover crop can grow with first rain and before grass grows strong.

Here are some photos...

Leaves collected in an old bed sheet..

Moth beans seed

Seed balls of green gram..used hibiscus leave juice as binding agent, it looks to be better...since seed is smooth, with water, soil does not stick well and peels off when dried..

Seed balls made in a basin ...white ant soil powdered using a hammer and then sieved it to get finer particles. Seeds were made wet using Hibiscus leave extract and then soil added slowly and then mixed seeds with soil in the basin, this process continued...1 Kg of green gram seeds were completed in 1.5 hours....

Waiting for rain, got only one or two drizzling...Mean while made seed balls of happy hill rice and wanted to put before the rain starts. When visited the field there were some grass growing, in some areas of the farm, all the grass has dried up, here may be because of no-till more moisture and hence grass still grows. So used my Honda brush cutter and cut the grass and sowed the happy hill rice seed balls and mulched using leaves. Since at this stage, not clear which plan will work, wanted to experiment with many trials. These are the different plans which I can think of now, may change as it goes....

1. The one which I did just now, cut the grass and sown happy hill rice seed balls and wait for rain. Idea of putting seed balls early is to make rice germinate and grow with the first rain, either ahead or along with weeds. 

2. Grow green gram and black gram for 2-3 months, sow seed balls of traditional rice seeds ,then cut and mulch, by this time rain would have started. 

3. Grow forage maize for 2-3 months, sow seed balls of traditional rice seeds,cut and mulch, forage maize is supposed to give better weed control since it decomposes slowly, but whether rice seedlings can push through the mulch to be seen.

In all these cases prepared to do some hand weeding and applying cowdung slurry.

Some photos of the field...

Happy hill rice seed balls, came out quite well... Since seed surface is rough, mud holds seeds well.

Field after cutting grass, sowing happy hill rice seed balls and mulching 

Sowing seed balls well in advance may not work in this climate, since termites are very strong in summer. No seed balls germinated, it may be wise to put seed balls just before the heavy rain.

Sensing that field is not ready for no-till, sowed sunhemp, when grass was already growing. In one part, sowed forage maize, but they are not seen yet.

Some sunhemp plants can be seen in between, hope they will outgrow weeds 

The broad leaf plant is locally called 'Appa' which grows in fertile land.


Sunhemp yet to get a clear lead compared to weeds, hopefully in couple of weeks, they will take the lead. The area seems to be very fertile, because of all the residues. Planning to start the cultivation of rice, in couple of months, just to see how it goes. If it fails, cow pea will be done.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Variations of seed ball method for rice cultivation

Read an article about the variation of seedball method used in paddy cultivation. In malayalam it is called as 'Kettinatti'. This was developed by Aji Thomas of Wayanad,Kerala. 

Complete translation...

This (Kettinatti in local language) method makes rice harvest double and reduces labor. Transplanting of rice seedling requires 20 laborer's while this method requires just 5 laborers. Instead of 30-35 Kgs of seed, this method requires just 1.5-2Kgs. Organic fertiliser mixes are made in tablet format with seeds put in them and allowed to germinated. Aji Thomas, Malikayil Kunnel of Wayanad Ambalavayal is the person who invented this.

Organic fertiliser for this is made using the following - cowdung, aloe vera juice or hibiscus extract as binding agent, one of black gram, pseudo monas, wam or PGPR 1. Methi, and coconut oil.

If rubber hollow mat or tray with 320 holes is used, then doing 200 times a day, we can make 64,000 of this Kettinatti. Once person in a day can make enough for an acre. This method doubles the yield. In conventional method one rice plant gives 27 panicles and 30 tillers and in this method we get 108 panicles and 157 tillers. Only a few laborers are required to install Kettinatti in the field. Typically an acre needs 10 laborers for pulling out rice seedlings and 10 laborers for planting them, Kettinatti needs 2 laborers for preparation and 3 laborers for putting them. Birds won't pickup the seeds. This method can also be used for upland rice cultivation.

Since there won't be any delay in putting the seeds, the crop will mature early.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Elephant foot yam cultivation

I had planted sorme elephant foot yam plants two years ago and last year it was not harvested, when it germinated, some cowdung was applied and soil was piled around it. This year I harvested some and used at home, and remaining was harvested and planted them after cutting them to smaller pieces. Digging them in the summer was hard since there is no moisture in the soil, but they say, it has to be planted in malayalam month 'kumbam' (which falls in february and march).

I dug them out, and some were damaged, cut them into pieces and planted them in the same place after applying dried leaves and cowdung. It was bit laborious and later when I dug some new holes, I made just small ones and later left that plan also and just loosened the soil around and then put the cuttings and applied cowdung and dried leaves over it. This was relatively easy, and in one place it was watered and their soil was quite loose, felt very happy about that. When water reaches soil, it becomes very loose since there are many earth worm holes.

Planting with minimal labor by loosening the soil and then applying cowdung and dried leaves is an easy task. Probably I can plant around 50 numbers in a day, may be typical laborer's can plant 100 numbers in a day. From my experience, if we apply some cowdung slurry once in 15 days or so, it should grow well. This year, planning for such activities, to be seen what works out.

Harvested ones... 

Cut pieces for planting 

Very hard ground, not easy to dig out in the summer..may be I have to wait for rain...

Just loosened the soil using digging bar...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Some good water conservation models

It is severe drought this year and water is very precious now. Conserving rain water and farming without irrigation always attracts me, since that is the sustainable way.

See the video in which Mr. Varghese Tharakan cultivates banana and rubber, just using rain water. He has taken deep trenches in the farm and even the water in the walking path is directed to the trenches, effectively not a single drop of rain water flows away from his farm. He has around 2000 bananas and gets very good yield.


This is an article about the farm of Raghava in Davengere, Karnataka. He has taken trenches and also has cover crop and mixed farming so that no soil is exposed to sun. His farm has water just 8 feet depth.


Farm of Mathai M Mathews where he has made 40 trenches which is 6 feet depth and filled with mulch. Humas created holds lot of water and provides water in the summer.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Summer activities - some preparations for rain

Usually on this time of weather,other than watering, there are no major activities. Earlier I used to cut grass, but this time, I stopped that since summer is severe, loosing ground cover is bad. 

As preparation to monsoon planting, I dig holes, put dried leaves and cowdung keeping it ready. Once rain starts, I can just plant, ginger, turmeric,taro, yam etc...Soil is very hard in some places, so making holes is difficult.

This was raised bed, and earlier taro was there, hence soil was little loose.

This is the hole digging tool, for hard soil, this is the proper tool.

I got exhausted after digging holes, so thought will leave that plan and just mulch with leaves and dried cowdung. This was relatively easy, collecting the leaves in small basket was more time consuming, so took one old bedsheet cloth and collected leaves in it and it was easy.

While digging out this taro which I had left as seeds, found them started germinating even though there was not any moisture. Felt they were expecting the rain soon, it rained in the next day.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Visting Farm of James and Swapna James


Visited farm of James and Swapna James as part of Palakkad Jaivakarshaka Samithy (Organic farmers association) monthly meet. The place is called Kolakkattukurissi around 4.5KMs from Kadampazhipuram on Palakkad-Cherpulassery route.

James is into Latex business and Swapna handles all the farming activities.

Totally it is around 8 acres (may not be accurate). It is mixed farming and cultivates rubber, coconut, nutmeg,tapioca,banana,coffee,jack fruit and vegetables. They also have indigenous cows, goats, chickens and honey bee. There are lot of things to see in the farm and they patiently explains it to the visitors and also give seeds/fruits to many.

They maintain many varieties of tapioca, banana, jack fruit trees and mango trees. Here are some photos..

Some of the bamboo varieties, they use the poles for some internal constructions like green house....

Tapioca, some gives around 100Kgs from a single plant

Lot of their vegetables are cultivated using grow bags, felt it will be difficult to manage the plastic waste after 5-6 years, can achieve the same thing in raised beds..

Jack fruit trees started yielding...these are grafted ones

Passion fruit...

Honey bee boxes in rubber plantaion

Peanut butter?

This is an indigenous variety called 'Anangan Mala dwarf', this is available in Ottappalam area under low cost. We can see that cowdung is not loose, it is quite solid.

Vechur calf...

Vechur cow..

Small honey bee..they make nest in basement of old houses and they put a funnel and when they make their exit through this, they cover it with a pot and puts a hole on this. They shift their operation to this pot and after some time, we can harvest the honey from this pot.

James talking to the audience

Irrigation system with tape stuck in the grow bag and water just poured on to the PVC pipe, it looks to be easier than drip, but can be used only in grow bags?

Wild bitter guard, very small fruits, but said to be very tasty, have collected some seeds of this.

Fish is grown here....rain water is used for this. Nutrient rich water is used later for irrigation

Wild bitter guard...

Awards received by James and Swapna James

Mucuna as cover crop