Friday, September 22, 2017

Getting some traditional rice varieties from ICAR-NBPGR-Thrissur

Received a call from ICAR-NBPGR (Indian Council Of Agriculture Research - National Bureau of Plant Genetic Research) regional station Trichur a week back if I am interested to attend a paddy field visit/seminar. Today attended the meeting with a few farmers and scientists from Tamilnadu Agriculture University. The place is on the way to Chirakkalkode from Mannuthy and bus stop name is 'Pineapple Stop'

I had seen details of this institute some time back while searching for details of some vigorous growing upland rice varieties. 

Please see the document which describe the traditional varieties they preserving


and yet another presentation about Kerala traditional varieties by Dr. Rose Mary, KAU, Trichur who had developed upland rice Vysakh teaming with Dr. Giji


It was a quite a good list and never thought such an institution existed, but could get their numbers and talked to Dr. Joseph John and he promised to help with some varieties, I didn't take up that seriously and after that came with this opportunity to attend the field visit and seminar.

This institute started collecting traditional varieties of rice and other vegetables since 1976, if it had started seriously then we would have much more varieties. Right now they cultivate and preserve around 265 Kerala varieties but they have totally samples of around 3000 rice varieties.

While collecting the varieties, they got least varieties from Trivandrum and Pathanamthitta and according to Mr. Abdul Nizar, it is because since these districts had more literacy and they went behind the high yielding varieties, ditching the traditional varieties. While farmers and tribals from Wayanad and Palakkad preserved much more varieties.

They cultivate in a single area with all varieties located close by, and this time it was mostly upland varieties from different parts of India. According to Dr. Joseph John, upland varieties should be put with the first rain and the timings plays a very important role. They put all the varieties by 25th of May and most of them are ready for harvest.

These people are quite enthusiastic about preserving the traditional seeds and quite helpful in answering all questions. I selected three varieties and they will be sending those seed samples which we have to multiply and use it.

Some abbreviations and meaning of them - Katta - dwarf - non-lodging, Kodi - tall, Mullan - awned

Some photos...












Thursday, August 17, 2017

Taro Cultivation

I have been doing Taro cultivation for the last 2 years, I like the taste of this root crop. I got this variety from my native place, since I knew that local variety is very tasty. We used to cultivate it in my childhood at the starting of monsoon and I really loved those activities and the taste of this crop. Even though it was not cultivated at my parents place, I could get some seeds from my relative who cultivates this every year. 

First year the yield was not that good, 2nd year I applied cowdung and it improved. Another thing I noticed is that we have to put this at the beginning of the first monsoon shower, so that they germinate and grow early. I used to delay the planting operation and realized that once it is delayed, its natural growth will be affected. 

At home, I put 4 small seeds after putting lot of mulch and dried cowdung and this was done in summer, just before the rainy season. They germinated with first shower and started growing well. I put more mulch and also some fresh cowdung. At farm, I put them it 3 different places and all was started late and they are not looking that healthy and big as of now. Also in the farm, they are growing in places where there is shade.




26-Aug-2017


This is under shadow and also was put after the rain had started well.


This is under heavy shade, also started late..



This has enough sunlight, but started late.All are given adequate cowdung and mulch.

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.

29-June-2017





27-July-2017

So far growth is fine, except in some area, where water was not reaching. There is a small channel flowing on the boundary just allowed to pass water through this field, but since the field was not levelled properly in some area water didn't reach.



26-Aug-2017

Time to cut it, some haven't reached good height, but one area where it gets good water grows well.





13-Sept-2017

As it was getting taller, cut it as per the usual practice. I employed a worker, she did one portion and I did it using Scythe, it was OK, but collecting the cut portion and keeping it near the bunds is a hardwork, worked for a half day, but exhausted.




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.

5-June-2017
Broadcasted seeds of Kunjukunju and then tilled once again so that seeds go inside the soil.




17-June-2017




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

25-June-2017
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.

29-June-2017
Not many weeds this time, may be use of walk behind tiller reduced it?







26-Aug-2017

Plants are not so healthy...this time, I had broadcasted and it looks like there are more plants per unit area and also water holding is less since land was not puddled.





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....



18-April-2017
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 



9-June-2017
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.

29-June-2017
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.



18-July-2017

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.





1-Aug-2017
Sunhemp outgrew the weeds, in a few places, they didn't come up and grass were growing. Cut the grass here and sowed cowpea, could have kept some sunhemp seeds and sowed it in places where germination was poor.






26-Aug-2017

Sunhemp growing tall, not sure if the field is ready for rice planting.



13-Sept-2017
Beautiful yellow flowers around..