Fukuoka-closeup

Masanobu Fukuoka

Credit: Larry Korn
P.O. Box 2384
Berkeley, CA 94702
(510) 530-1194
FAX (510) 530-1194

Masanobu Fukuoka is a farmer/philosopher who lives on the Island of Shikoku, in southern Japan. His farming technique requires no machines, no chemicals and very little weeding. He does not plow the soil or use prepared compost and yet the condition of the soil in his orchards and fields improve each year. His method creates no pollution and does not require fossil fuels. His method requires less labor than any other, yet the yields in his orchard and fields compare favorably with the most productive Japanese farms which use all the technical know-how of modern science.

Full Text:

Masanobu Fukuoka is a farmer/philosopher who lives on the Island of Shikoku, in southern Japan. His farming technique requires no machines, no chemicals and very little weeding. He does not plow the soil or use prepared compost and yet the condition of the soil in his orchards and fields improve each year. His method creates no pollution and does not require fossil fuels. His method requires less labor than any other, yet the yields in his orchard and fields compare favorably with the most productive Japanese farms which use all the technical know-how of modern science.

How is this possible? I admit, when I first went to his farm in 1973 I was skeptical. But there was the proof – beautiful grain crops in the fields, healthy orchard trees growing with a ground cover of vegetables, weeds and white clover. Over the two-year period I lived and worked there his techniques and philosophy gradually became clear to me.

I had not heard of permaculture at the time, but I can see now that Fukuoka’s farm is a classic working model of permaculture design. It is remarkable that Fukuoka and Bill Mollison, working independently, on two different continents with entirely different environmental conditions should come up with such similar solutions to the question, “How can people on live this planet sustainably and in harmony with nature.” Both claim that the principles of their system can be adapted to any climatic area.

Mollison and Fukuoka

Perhaps Fukuoka, in his book The One Straw Revolution , has best stated the basic philosophy of permaculture. In brief, it is philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system.

–Bill Mollison in Permaculture 2

Mollison and Fukuoka took entirely different routes to get to essentially the same place. Permaculture is a design system which aims to maximize the functional connection of its elements. It integrates raising crops and animals with careful water management. Homes and other structures are designed for maximum energy efficiency. Everything is made to work together and evolve over time to blend harmoniously into a complete and sustainable agricultural system.

The key word here is design. Permaculture is a consciously designed system. The designer carefully uses his/her knowledge, skill and sensitivity to make a plan, then implement it. Fukuoka created natural farming from a completely different perspective.

The idea for natural farming came to Fukuoka when he was about twenty five years old. One morning, as he sat at sunrise on a bluff overlooking Yokohama Bay, a flash of inspiration occurred. He saw that nature was perfect just as it is. Problems arise when people try to improve upon nature and use nature strictly for human benefit. He tried to explain this understanding to others, but when they could not understand he made a decision to return to his family farm. He decided to create a concrete example of his understanding by applying it to agriculture.

But where to begin? Fukuoka had no model to go by. “‘How about trying this? How about trying that?’ That is the usual way of developing agricultural technique. My way was different. ‘How about not doing this, and How about not doing that?’ – this was the path I followed. Now my rice growing is simply sowing seed and spreading straw, but it has taken me more than thirty years to reach this simplicity.”

The basic idea for his rice growing came to him one day when he happened to pass an old field
which had been left unused and unplowed for many years. There he saw healthy rice seedlings sprouting through a tangle of grasses and weeds. From that time on he stopped sowing rice seed in the spring and, instead, put the seed out in the fall when it would naturally have fallen to the ground. Instead of plowing to get rid of weeds he learned to control them with a ground cover of white clover and a mulch of barley straw. Once he has tilted the balance slightly in favor of his crops Fukuoka interferes as little as possible with the plant and animal communities in his fields.

This is not to say that Fukuoka did not experiment. For example, he tried more than twenty different ground covers before noticing that white clover was the only one which held back weeds effectively. It also fixes nitrogen so it improves the soil. He tried spreading the straw neatly over the fields but found the rice seeds could not make their way through. In one corner of the field, however, where the straw had scattered every which way, the seedlings emerged. The next year he scattered the straw across the entire field. There were years when his experiments resulted in almost a total crop loss, but in small areas things worked out well. He closely observed what was different in that part of the field and next year the results were better. The point is, he had no preconceived idea of what would work the best. He tried many things and took the direction nature revealed. As far as possible, Fukuoka was trying to take the human intellect out of the decision making process.

His vegetable growing also reflects this idea. He grows vegetables in the spaces between the citrus trees in the orchard. Instead of deciding which vegetables would do well in which locations he mixes all the seeds together and scatters them everywhere. He lets the vegetables find their own location, often in areas he would have least have expected. The vegetables reseed themselves and move around the orchard from year to year. Vegetables grown this way stronger and gradually revert to the form of their semi-wild ancestors.

I mentioned that Fukuoka’s farm is a fine model of permaculture design. In Zone 1, nearest his family home in the village, he and his family maintain a vegetable garden in the traditional Japanese style. Kitchen scraps are dug into the rows, are crops rotated and chickens run freely. This garden is really an extension of the home living area.

Zone 2 is his grain fields. He grows a crop of rice and one of barley every year. Because he returns the straw to the fields and has the ground cover of white clover the soil actually improves each year. The natural balance of insects and a healthy soil keep insect and disease infestations to a minimum. Until Bill Mollison read The One-Straw Revolution he said he had no idea of how to include grain growing in his permaculture designs. All the agricultural models involved plowing the soil, a practice he does not agree with. Now he includes Fukuoka’s no-tillage technique in his teaching.

Zone 3 is the orchard. The main tree crop is Mandarin oranges, but he also grows many other fruit trees, native shrubs and other native and ornamental trees. The upper story is tall trees, many of which fix nitrogen and so improve the soil deep down. The middle story is the citrus and other fruit trees. The ground is covered with a riotous mixture of weeds, vegetables, herbs and white clover. Chickens run freely. This multi-tiered orchard area came about through a natural evolution rather than conscious design. It still contains many of the basic permacultural design features. It has many different plant and species, maximizes surface area, contains solar sunlight “traps” and maintains a natural balance of insect populations.

What is remarkable is that Fukuoka’s natural farming and permaculture should resemble each other so closely despite their nearly opposite approaches. Permaculture relies on the human intellect to devise a strategy to live abundantly and sustainably within nature. Fukuoka sees the human intellect as the culprit serving only to separate people from nature. The “one mountain top, many paths” adage seems to apply here.Fukuoka invites visitors from Zone 4 anytime. Wild animals and birds come and go freely. The surrounding forest is the source of mushrooms, wild herbs and vegetables. It is also an inspiration. “To get an idea of the perfection and abundance of nature,” Fukuoka says, “take a walk into the forest sometime. There, the animals, tall trees and shrubs are living together in harmony. All of this came about without benefit of human ingenuity or intervention.”

Natural farming and permaculture share a profound debt to each other. The many examples of permaculture throughout the world show that a natural farming system is truly universal. It can be applied to arid climates as well as humid, temperate Japan. Also, the worldwide permaculture movement is an inspiration to Fukuoka. For many years he worked virtually alone in his work. For most of his life Japan was not receptive to his message. He had to self-publish his books because no publisher would take a chance on someone so far from the mainstream. When his experiments resulted in failure the other villagers would ridicule his work. In the mid-1980’s he came to a Permaculture Convergence in Olympia, Washington and met Bill Mollison. There were nearly one thousand people there. He was overwhelmed and heartened by the number and sincerity of the like-thinking people he met. He thanked Mollison for “creating this network of bright, energetic people working to help save the planet.” “Now,” he said, “for the first time in my life I have hope for the future.”

In turn, permaculture has adopted many things from Fukuoka. Besides the many agricultural techniques, such as continuous no-tillage grain growing and growing vegetables like wild plants, permaculture has also learned an important new approach for devising practical strategies. Most importantly, the philosophy of natural farming has given permaculture a truly spiritual basis lacking in its earlier teachings.

Fukuoka believes that natural farming proceeds from the spiritual health of the individual. He considers the healing of the land and the purification of the human spirit to be one process, and he proposes a way of life and a way of farming in which this process can take place. “Natural farming is not just for growing crops,” he says, “it is for the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”

Text and images copyright 2003 Larry Korn

white-clover-living-mulch

6 Reasons Why I Chose Clover as a Living Mulch

6 Reasons Why I Chose Clover as a Living Mulch: (click to read more)

So essentially, what I’m doing is allowing the clover to grow on the edges of my raised beds initially.  If it travels its way into the beds, that’s OK with me.  Here’s why:

  1. Less Weeding: It will prevent most weeds and grasses from forming on the walls of the raised bed
  2. Retains Moisture: Just like normal mulches, the clover will retain moisture in the soil by absorbing all of the sun before it hits the soil
  3. Withstands Traffic: It should be able to withstand the occasional traffic involved in reaching into the garden beds
  4. Nitrogen Fixer: It will fix nitrogen into the soil, which in turn benefits the plants in the raised bed
  5. Improves Soil Tilth: Clover’s root system improves friability of soil almost immediately
  6. Attracts Pollinators: Clover attracts bees, who will hopefully stick around and pollinate my fruiting vegetables as well as my nearby fruit trees & bushes
OutdoorClassrooms

How the garden works in educating children

How the Garden Works in Educating Children

Carol Nuttall and Janet Millington
Wednesday, 20th April 2016

A child’s surroundings influence their learning. Education in the garden leads them to be more inquisitive, more hands-on, to become highly motivated, goal-orientated and aware.

Teachers in schools throughout the country are choosing the food garden to foster children’s awareness of environmental issues. First, it moves children into a landscape that many children have forgone for an indoor life. Gardens are about plants and animals and the non-living elements of the landscape; the rocks, soil, water and energy – essential topics for learning for environmental awareness. Then there are the sensitivities that we all draw from a garden that have to do with the workings of nature and our connection to it.

When a child’s knowledge of nature’s elements, its rhythms, patterns and laws is diminished, or never fully developed, we may not be able to expect a level of responsibility towards the environment from this child.

It may fall upon schools to provide this outdoor experience for the young. Schools are accepting this challenge and we are working to support them with our resource materials and workshops.

The Best for the Children

Children’s gardens celebrate childhood and their world of play and curiosity about all things. They are places in the school ground for work and play among the playthings of the earth; where the dirt, sticks and stones are abundant and where they can enjoy growing gardens to learn, in a hands-on practical way, the secrets of the natural world.

Teachers will find benefits for themselves as much as for the children when they switch on children’s learning faculties in the outdoors. The journey to find joy and inspiration in the future is upon us all.

New Demands in Education

Food issues, economic concerns, human and planetary health and future sustainability are all under intense scrutiny today. These issues are manifested in the school setting as food and health choices, obesity, teaching and learning strategies, discipline issues, environmental awareness, values and attitudes training and essential learnings to mention a few.

In a world that is being reshaped with unnerving speed, teachers will be called upon to adjust their programs to meet the goals set down by the authorities who are promoting an education for sustainable development. The message is clear. Children need new skills and attitudes for life in the 21st century.

These attributes are outlined as, “the reflective and deep thinker, the autonomous learner, the ethical and responsible citizen, and the relevant and connected learner.” (Educating for a Sustainable Future, Australian Government, 2005,18).

They are high level skills indeed and we got glimpses of them developing in the children who were engaged in gardening projects at school.

How the Garden Works

The garden works as a transformative teaching and learning device. Where children learn influences how they learn.

The garden is an opportunity for teachers in primary schools to re-instate wisdoms about teaching and learning that have been set aside in many schools today, except perhaps, for the very young in the early classes.

These experiences include experiential and inquiry learning, both intrinsic parts of an outdoor activity such as gardening and both characteristic of the way children naturally learn. These techniques are central to the development of higher order thinking skills, deeper understanding and deeper questioning.

Hands-on, direct experience in a context relevant to the child, a maxim for early childhood educators, is an appropriate learning technique for all children in all classes in the primary school. Children need to continue to explore the world around them throughout their years at school. This form of learning has its place alongside the books and computers.

Children as gardeners can become highly motivated, goal oriented and aware of where they are going and how to get there. At this stage they are likely to self-direct and initiate projects for the group. They are on their way to be autonomous learners.

In the garden, teachers can slip easily into the role of facilitator and put aside the mantle of authority in deference to the children’s sovereignty over the garden. This sharing of authority empowers children to lead and be responsible for themselves and others. The benefits for a class working together with their teacher in this way are considerable. It is the seed for democratic action.

The garden fits seamlessly into the curriculum. The garden is the curriculum. Every action in the garden has its roots in some school subject whether it be science or maths or art. For the teacher-facilitator, finding the connections is not difficult.

There is no doubt that children learn well when they are put in charge of a garden. They work in the outdoors but more often in the indoor classroom, doing the research, organising the meetings, making the decisions, documenting their work and defining skills to be learnt before the next project can begin.

Moving Learning Outside

Many schools are prepared to invest heavily in their grounds to improve the facilities for learning. For example, some schools are using The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation’s concept, which is an excellent model for getting the children gardening and cooking, but it does require considerable funding that is beyond the capacity of most schools’ budgets.

In most schools, the food garden is set up for moderate cost. The exercise need not be expensive though I do see an advantage in a capital works project that would benefit everyone at school, not only the gardeners, and that is a ‘classroom without walls’ structure in the grounds. Here teachers could gather their classes outdoors for any number of activities.

Whatever the project, big or small development of the school ground for learning is a good use of a resource that is, on hand, and largely untapped. There is great opportunity here for schools to shift direction and go forward with new vision.

We began writing Outdoor Classrooms with the following statements in mind: the modern child would need new experiences at schools to develop new skills. Teachers would need to revisit the wisdom that children learn by doing. Children would need to learn new behaviours in the outdoors and that the focus of learning would be child-centered.

We drew upon our experiences in classroom teaching, environmental education and permaculture, to produce ideas for teaching and learning for what was emerging as a new era in education.

By late 2008, the long awaited Outdoor Classrooms was ready and we moved into promotion mode. We handled book sales, ran workshops for teachers, visited schools and continued to work as we had done for many years, speaking at meetings, seminars and conferences and handling a great number of emails and calls from teachers and parents. The book is abundantly illustrated to carry the message that children need environmentally enhanced places to work, learn and play and moreover, to compensate for the ever-decreasing opportunities that they have to explore natural environments in the local area.

It contains 168 pages of authoritative insights into curriculum-connected ideas for the development of the schoolyard for learning. It leads teachers through the process of engagement and management and onto linking the outdoor activities throughout the curriculum.

It sets out skills and knowledge across twelve learning topics; Earth Resources/ Water/ Living Soils/ Climate/ Energy/ Plants/ Animals/ Trees / Landforms/ Patterns in Nature/ Buildings and Structures/Permaculture Design, at three sequential levels that will take the learning from observation and play through to understanding and research of the real world.

The book is reaching its targeted groups and the message that a school garden is a powerful teaching and learning tool for every school is spreading.

It’s All About the Children

The outdoor classrooms model is proving to benefit all children. However, there is a group who have responded to the activity in ways that are important. These are the learners, who are in every classroom, and who disengage from the activities set by their teacher. Often they are the same children who disrupt the class with bad behaviour. The stimulus and relevance of the garden, together with the physical work of handling tools is having a significant influence on these learners. They like to learn this way and they behave well. The improvement in discipline has been welcomed by teachers.

Daily Job Wheel pic

matoke-and-groundnut-sauce-9-e1461196615367

How Banana is good for you.

Boil Bananas Before Bed, Drink the Liquid and You Won’t Believe What Happens to Your Sleep

Credit: http://womansvibe.com/boil-bananas-before-bed-drink-the-liquid-and-you-wont-believe-what-happens-to-your-sleep/

matoke-and-groundnut-sauce-9

We’ve all had those restless nights of tossing and turning, staring at the ceiling, unable to get more than a couple hours of shuteye. The more you worry about not sleeping, the more your mind races, and next thing you know, the sun is peeking through the window. I’ve spent one too many nights this way and needed to put an end to my poor sleeping patterns. I came across this delicious tea recipe and it improved my cycle completely.

Irregular sleeping patterns or even insomnia can stem from several different things like depression, stress and anxiety. Almost every night, I would get into bed and my mind would be racing. Whether I was thinking about work, family, or simply the things I needed to get done the next day, I just couldn’t allow myself to relax. If your mind is active, chances are you won’t fall asleep.

Certain medications can also cause insomnia. Pain medications, antihistamines, and heart and blood pressure medicines are among the many that contribute to sleep loss. Yes, some meds might actually make you drowsy at first, but they can also trigger frequent bathroom trips or anxiety which can further disturb your rest.

Whether it’s one of these issues or maybe it’s that you’re addicted to your phone when you should be sleeping, something needs to change.

Banana Tea

Using only a couple items that are likely already in your kitchen, you can whip together a banana tea in no time! This organic, banana-infused sleep remedy works wonders and tastes so good. How does it work? Bananas, especially the peels, are loaded with potassium and magnesium. While magnesium helps prevent sleep disturbances, both magnesium and potassium work together to help relax muscles. In fact, magnesium is one of the best minerals for relaxation! Keep in mind, this recipe calls for 100% organic bananas. Bananas that are not organic are loaded with harmful pesticides and since we encourage you to eat the boiled peel, it must be chemical-free.

Natural-Banana-Tea-Medicine-For-Insomnia

This tea takes less than 10 minutes to prepare and can be enjoyed every night before bed.

Ingredients

1 organic banana

1 small pot of water

a dash of cinnamon (optional)

All you need to do is cut off both ends of the banana and place it, peel and all, into boiling water. Boil it for around 10 minutes. Using a colander, pour the water into a mug. If you’re feeling adventurous, sprinkle the cinnamon into the tea. Drink it one hour before bed time.

If you’re worried about being wasteful, you’ve clearly never had a boiled banana before! After the banana has been boiled, sprinkle some cinnamon over it. Eating the warm, gooey fruit and its peel along with the tea will increase its soothing effects… Not to mention it makes a yummy dessert!

food_forest_layers

How Nature grows plants

source: http://permaculturenews.org/2011/10/21/why-food-forests/

How Nature grows plants

We look at Nature’s system, and we copy them, so nature does our work for us, just like using earthworms to dig! That’s the spirit of Permaculture. No need for hard work

Nature grows in a highly optimised pattern, utilising multiple layers and making the most of both horizontal and vertical space.

A food forest typically is comprised of seven layers, the uppermost layer being the canopy layer. The canopy layer is comprised of tall trees — typically large fruit and nut trees. Between the tall canopy layer trees, there is a layer of low growing, typically dwarf fruit trees. Mind you, a dwarf fruit tree can be up to 4m (12’) tall, so don’t think these are necessarily very low trees! Nestled between all the small trees are the shrubs – which are well represented by currants and berries. Filling the remaining space are the herbaceous layer, these are the culinary and medicinal herbs, companion plants, bee-forage plants and poultry forage plants. Any remaining space is occupied by ground cover plants. These form a living mulch that protects the soil, reduces water loss to evaporation, and prevents weeds growing. We can still go a level deeper to the rhizosphere, or root zone, the underground level which is occupied by all our root crops, such as potatoes, carrots, ginger, yacon, etc. While that might seem like a lot of plants in one space, we still have one more to fill, the upright vertical space. This is filled by climbers and vines, which can be run up trellises, arbours, fences, trees or any other vertical support. This category includes grapes, climbing beans, many berries, passionfruit, kiwi fruit, climbing peas, chokos and many other species that love to climb.

Now there are a lot of misconceptions about what a food forest actually is that I would like to clear up.

  • Rows of trees are not food forests. They are instead what is described as an orchard.
  • Rows of trees with some other plant underneath are not food forests,  they are orchards with under-plantings.
  • Rows of trees with rows of other plants alternating between them are not  food forests, they are orchards employing intercropping.

A food forest my not necessarily have all seven layers, but it does have multiple layers, and even more importantly, it is a virtually self-sustaining living ecosystem.

In terms of form, the very thing that differentiates it from a two dimensional field of lettuce or any other monoculture is that it is a three dimensional structure.

In terms of function, being a living ecosystem gives it properties and attributes that are not present in agricultural systems and many gardens.

The benefits to be realised from food forests are as follows:

High Productivity

  • High density planting ensures high yields.
  • Biodiversity ensures continuous food supply throughout the year.

Natural Mulch, Compost & Fertilizer

  • Just like a forest, food forests are self-mulching and cover the soil on their own to retain moisture.
  • With such a high plant density, a high volume of fallen leaves accumulates and rots down to add organic matter to the soil.
  • Decomposers, the class of insects that break down organic matter, such as earthworms, wood lice (pill bugs, slaters), and  millipedes, work to help the natural composting process.

Natural Pest Control

  • No chemicals required! Food forests use natural predators to get rid of pests – letting the experts do the work, naturally.
  • Predatory insects have a permanent home (a natural ecosystem) and abundant food sources (nectar rich flowers) in a food forest. Provide these and they will come on their own! A regular veggie patch is a home only for pest insects, there’s nowhere for good bugs to live!
  • An abundant, living ecosystem will attract birds and other larger predators, further contributing to natural pest control.

Resilience Through Biodiversity – Strength in Numbers

  • Nature does not grow large areas of one plant species (or plants in neat rows either!), Nature prefers biodiversity, not monocultures! Mixing different types of plant together makes them grow better, period. It creates a natural synergy that benefits all the plants involved. The plants as a result are more resistant to pests and disease, and are more productive (and nicer to look at!).
  • The use of Companion planting allow us to recreate nature’s biodiversity to gain these benefits

Easy Soil Repair – Chop n’ Drop

  • In Nature, when plants die off, they stay in place. They’re not uprooted and binned! Don’t uproot annuals that have finished, cut the stem at soil level. The roots rot away to create thousands of intricate air and water channels in the soil. The tops of the chopped plants create a natural sheet compost system like the forest floor
  • Preserve your soil, build paths. Don’t step in your garden beds, the soil is alive!!! (It’s actually a more complex ecosystem than anything that exists above ground). Stepping in your garden beds compacts the soil, closing all the air and water channels, making it harder for water and air to reach plant roots, which impairs the growth of plants.

Putting it all together…

A Food Forest is built to emulate a real forest — only we fill it with the food plants and trees that we want.

Real forests don’t need any work, they self-maintain — no pesticides, herbicides, weeding, crop rotation, mowing or digging. Food forests don’t need any of this either! Less work, more food, all natural! Why would you do anything else?

In conclusion, if we look beyond our modernised culture to Nature’s most advanced and life-abundant plant growing systems, it is clearly evident that working with Nature is the wisest and most productive path to sustainable food production.

1446-system-of-rice-intensification-introduction-in-taiwan-9-638

SRI-The system of rice intensification

Prepared by Association Tefy Saina, Antananarivo, Madagascar, and Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development
INTRODUCTION
The system of rice intensification (SRI) has already helped many hundreds of farmers in Madagascar to at least double their yields. With good management of plants, soil and water, yields can be increased possibly to 6, 8, even 10 tons per hectare, or even more.
• This self-help book will share with you the basic ideas and practices that can make this improvement possible. This information is not presented as a recipe to be followed mechanically, but as a guide for farmers’ own testing and evaluation of new ways to help rice plants grow more productively.
• If this book and this method of production help you, we hope that you in turn will share these ideas and practices with other farmers, so that families and communities throughout Madagascar can become more prosperous and secure.
SRI was developed in Madagascar by Fr. Henri de Laulanié, S.J., who between 1961 and 1995 worked with Malagasy farmers and colleagues to improve the possibilities of rice production in this country. He wanted Malagasy people to have happier and more secure lives. It is now being studied and evaluated by scientists and rice growers in other countries.
SRI begins with a philosophy, that rice plants are to be respected and supported as living creatures that have great potential. This potential will only be realized if we provide plants with the best conditions for their growth. If we help plants to grow in new and better ways, they will repay our efforts several times over. We do not treat them like little machines to be manipulated and forced to do things that are not natural for them to do.
• Some of the things that have been done for hundreds of years by farmers in Madagascar and in countries around the world to make rice plants grow have unfortunately reduced their natural potential. This new system of rice intensification changes these traditional practices to bring
out of the rice plant significant possibilities for increasing production.
• The yields that can be achieved by each individual farmer will depend on many things: on the careful and timely transplanting of seedlings, on the preparation and management of the soil in the field, on the control that is maintained over water, on the quality of the soil itself, on whether the variety of rice that is planted is really suitable for the growing conditions.
• No purchase of new inputs — neither new seeds nor chemical fertilizers — is necessary for farmers to get much increased yields. The increases can be very great as rice plants grown with SRI methods have a very different structure than usual, with several times more tillers and much larger root systems that can absorb more nutrients from the soil.
• The plants also have many times more grain per panicle. It has always been possible to get this different structure and this much greater productivity from rice plants. But this potential has not been elicited by the most appropriate practices to manage the plants, soil, water and
nutrients.
HOW SRI CAN IMPROVE A FARMER’S PRODUCTION AND LIFE
One of the first farmers to make use of SRI methods was Honoré Randrianarasana near Ranomafana, who started working with Tefy Saina in the 1994/95 season, planting just 25 ares (.25 ha) using SRI methods. He got a yield of 9.5 tons/ha the first year, compared to his previous yields of 2 to 3 tons/ha. The next year he expanded his SRI area to 1.25 ha and got 10.95 tons/ha, which encouraged him to expand further his use of SRI methods, to 2 hectares and then 4 hectares, with still higher yields (12.7
and 13.7 tons/ha). In 1998-99, he planted 5 hectares, but his yields were around 7 t/ha because the season was bad for all farmers in the region.
In 1999-2000, Honoré planted 8 hectares with SRI, and by this time his economic situation had improved enough to buy 9 hectares of paddy land (he started with rented land) and three houses, one of them in the regional capital of Fianarantsoa. Not all farmers will be this successful or able to manage such large extents with this methodology. But Honoré has shown the potential that SRI can have to improve farmers’ lives.
THE BASIC IDEAS
The system of rice intensification has discovered and demonstrated some important methods for helping rice plants to achieve their real potential. This potential has been obscured by previous practices. We begin by presenting the ideas on which SRI is based.
• Farmers should first understand these ideas. Then they should choose and evaluate specific practices that are most beneficial for their own conditions. Every farmer is already — or should become — an experimenter.
• SRI changes the structure of rice plants — the density and number of their roots and tillers — by changing the practices used to manage rice plants, the soil they grow in, and the water they receive through irrigation, so that the plants can become more productive\For rice plants to be more productive, they need to have:
• More tillers per plant,
• More fertile tillers (panicles) which form from the tillers that a plant puts out,
• More grains per fertile tiller, and
• Larger grains.
If rice plants are spread out and not planted very close together, they have more room to grow. They will get more sunshine and air and can produce more tillers. More of these tillers will become fertile and produce grains of rice. With more space in which to grow, rice plants’ roots become larger and are better able to draw nutrients from the soil. This enables rice plants to produce more grains, which is the reason for growing rice.
• Although it may be surprising, it is possible to get many more grains of rice from a field by planting fewer plants and by putting them farther apart, so that each plant is healthier and more vigorous in its growth. That “less” can be “more” seems strange, but it is true.
• For the plant to grow successfully above ground, it needs a healthy and vigorous root system below ground. The “trick” of SRI is to have both a larger root system for each plant below ground and more growth of tillers, leaves and grains above ground.
Planting rice plants densely and close together wastes seeds. The individual plants will be smaller and less productive. Having more rice plants is not as beneficial as having fewer plants that are very
productive. Transplanting older seedlings also wastes potential.
• With SRI methods, you can easily get 50 tillers on a single rice plant, and some farmers using these methods well have been able to get over 100 tillers from a single seedling.
• Farmers can get 200 grains per fertile tiller, and the very best farmers have gotten as many as 400 grains on a single tiller. One farmer in Sri Lanka says with SRI he has had one panicle with 600 grains.
This is not a miracle. It results from good management of the plant and of its soil and water conditions, so that the plant’s potential for growth and production gets fully expressed.
HOW CAN WE GET PLANTS TO PRODUCE MORE TILLERS?
The key to success with SRI is the early transplanting of seedlings, as explained below. This usually means transplanting seedlings before they are 15 days old, and as early as 8 or 10 days — when only the first small root and tiller, with two tiny leaves, have emerged from the rice seed. When you plant older seedlings — 3, 4, 5 or 6 weeks old — they have already lost much of their potential to produce a large number of tillers.
• When seedlings are planted with much delay after being removed from the nursery, they suffer a lot. Once removed from their seedbed, seedlings should be replanted in the field within half an hour, and preferably within 15 minutes.
• When seedlings are pushed into the ground, rather than gently laid into the soil, they also must expend a lot of energy to resume root growth. This disturbs their development. Transplanting rice seedlings early and carefully helps plants resume their growth in the field without reducing their potential for high yields by harvest time. But more must be done to capture that potential. It is especially necessary to promote strong root growth.
HOW CAN WE GET RICE PLANTS TO GROW STRONGER ROOTS?
The first thing is to plant single seedlings, one by one, rather than to plant them together in bunches of 3 or 4 seedlings,or even more, as is usually done.
• When several seedlings are planted together, their roots must compete with each other. This is a similar problem for rice plants as when they grow close together with weeds and must compete with them for nutrients, water and sunlight. It is important, as discussed below, that the seedlings be spaced wide apart, usually at least 25 centimeters from each other, and preferably in a square pattern. This facilitates weeding at the same time it gives the rice more access to sunlight and air above ground.
• When the rice plants are set out far from each other, and if the soil conditions are good, their roots will have plenty of space to spread out into, especially when they are not competing with each other.
• With wider spacing and with single planting, there will be many fewer plants in a field. Indeed, there may be only 10 or 16 in a square meter instead of 50 or 100. The highest yield has been achieved with only 4 plants per square meter, spaced 50 cm by 50 cm so the plants grow like bushes. Wide spacing saves seed — as much as 100 kilograms per hectare — at the same time that it contributes much greater production at harvest time because the rice plants produce many more tillers and grains.
Planting seedlings with precise spacing can be one of the more difficult aspects of SRI at the beginning, when farmers are not used to this. Two different methods have been developed.
• Farmers can stretch strings across their field, tied to sticks stuck into the bund at the edge of the field, spaced at 25, 30 or more centimeters, with the strings marked (knotted or painted) at whatever interval has been chosen (25, 30, or more centimeters), and then these sticks and strings (parallel to each other) are moved across the field; or A kind of “rake” that has teeth the desired distance apart (25, 30 or more centimeters) can be constructed simply from wood. It is pulled across the surface of the prepared muddy field, scratching lines onto the surface at desired intervals. Drawing the rake across the first set of lines perpendicularly (at a right-angle) to them creates the desired square pattern, on which
seedlings are planted at the intersections of lines. The first method is more precise but the second is quicker and saves considerable labor time.
A very important influence on the size and health of the roots is how the tiny seedlings are placed into the soil when they are transplanted.
• When seedlings (or the clump of several seedlings) are thrust straight downward into the soil, the tips of their roots will be pointed up toward the surface. The shape of the transplanted seedling will be like a J, with its root bent upward.
• The rice plant root grows from its tip. If the tip is pointing upward, the root must change its position in the soil to get the tip pointed downward before it can resume growth. This requires a lot of energy and effort from the tiny root, at a time when it is still weak after transplanting, especially if it has been allowed to dry out by delay in getting it from the nursery and into the field.
• With SRI, one does not thrust seedlings downward into the soil. Rather, each seedling is slipped sideways into the soil, very gently and close to the surface, so that its root lies horizontally in the moist soil. This makes the shape of the transplanted seedling more like an L than like a J.
• With this shape, it is easier for the tip of the root to grow downward into the soil. When the plant is shaped more like an L than a J, less energy is necessary for the plant’s root to start growing quickly downward and to begin putting out more roots at the same time that it is sending tillers upward.
A major departure from usual rice-planting practice — an innovation as important as transplanting tiny young seedlings — is to grow rice in soil with no continuously standing water. The rice plant during its growth stage only needs to have soil that is moist, but not saturated. Indeed, the field should occasionally be dried even to the point of cracking. This goes against what most people believe about rice, but it is true.
• An important discovery of SRI is that rice is not an aquatic plant. Although it can survive when its roots are continuously submerged under water, it does not thrive in this situation. Rice does not grow as well underwater as when its roots are able to get oxygen from direct
contact with air.
• Rice plants that grow in standing water will adjust to this environment. Their roots develop small air pockets (known as aerenchyma) that permit oxygen from above ground to reach the roots. But this is not an ideal condition for plant growth. It interferes with transfer of nutrients from the soil to the plant’s tillers and leaves.
• With SRI, we have discovered that the soil only needs to be kept moist during the period of growth when the plant is putting out tillers and leaves, before it begins to flower and to produce grains. During this reproductive stage, the rice plants should be given a thin layer of water (1-2 cm) on the surface of the soil.
• Surprisingly, rice plants’ growth will benefit if occasionally, even once a week, the soil is permitted to dry out, at least on the surface. This permits more oxygen to enter the soil and reach the roots. When the soil is not saturated, the roots need to grow longer to seek out water. When the soil around rice plants’ roots has abundant water, they can be “lazy” and need not grow very much. This limits their ability to acquire nutrients from the soil
• Once the rice plant reaches its flowering stage, as note already, farmers should maintain a thin cover of water (1-2 cm) on the field to support grain formation. The field should be dried completely about 25 days before harvest. When rice fields are not kept flooded continuously with water, this will give weeds a chance to grow. So efforts must be made to eliminate weeds, so that they do not compete with the rice plants and cannot take away nutrients and water from the rice.
• A very simple mechanical weeder, called a rotating hoe, pushed by hand has been developed to enable farmers to eliminate weeds easily, quickly and early. It reduces the hard labor of pulling up individual weeds by hand once they emerge. The weeder by churning up the soil destroys weeds before they absorb many nutrients. By leaving them in the soil to decompose, it returns their nutrients to the soil
• This weeder, which has rotating wheels mounted vertically in the metal plate that is pushed along the ground, is not expensive. It can cost as little as 25,000 FMG (US$5) if locally made. It may take as much as 25 days of labor to weed a hectare of rice. However, each weeding can add one ton or even two tons of production to the yield, so that the payoff to the
farmer from each additional weeding can be very great.
• The first weeding should be within about 10 days after transplanting, and at least one more weeding should follow within two weeks. This will dig up weeds at the same time that it puts more air into the soil for the roots to utilize.
• Doing one or two additional weedings (3 or 4 weedings in all), before the plants have completed their growth and begin flowering, will provide still more oxygen to the soil. This is more important than removing any remaining weeds. Extra weedings can greatly increase yields.
Because chemical fertilizer is often not available in villages when the farmer needs it, or is available only at a price that farmers cannot afford to pay, SRI recommends using compost or manure to add nutrients to the field.
• Because the yields from SRI methods are so great, most soils need to be enriched by the addition of nutrients. But healthy rice plants with large roots can access much better the nutrients already in the soil as well as those added through compost or manure, and thus the plants can get more benefit from these.
• Soil that is enriched with compost or manure will usually have better structure so that plant roots can grow more easily in the soil. Compost releases its nutrients more slowly than does fertilizer so plants get more benefit from this source of nutrients.
• Making compost and working it into the soil of the field is usually a lot of work. But experience shows that this is a good investment for the farmer because the better quality soil supports better root growth and performance. Adding chemical fertilizer if it is available and the farmer can afford this can often add to yields. But fertilizer is not as good as adding
organic material to the soil. These are the basis ideas for transforming the production of rice. Once you understand how to help plants product more tillers as well as how to get a larger root system, the natural result will be to produce more grains from your fields.
TECHNIQUES
With an understanding of the potential of rice that we want to achieve, and of the ideas behind this strategy for growing more productive rice, specific techniques make more sense. As we stated in the introduction, these techniques should not be implemented mechanically. Instead, farmers should always keep in mind the principles discussed above, such as:
• Help the small seedling to achieve its great potential by getting it established in the field at a young age — quickly and in an L shape from which the root grows easily.
• Prepare the soil so that it has a good supply of nutrients and keep the soil well aerated. SRI soil management practices — no flooding, and the use of compost — help microorganisms in the soil to produce more nitrogen for the rice plants, and it is well known that plant roots require oxygen.
• Avoid competition between rice plants so that each can grow efficiently because it has good access to air, sunlight, nutrients, and water.
Preparing the Nursery and Starting Seedlings Fr. de Laulanié emphasized that the nursery for growing seedlings not be regarded as a miniature field
— to be kept flooded — but rather it should be treated like a garden, where the soil is kept moist but not saturated. Watering by hand is sufficient if there is not enough rainfall to maintain moisture in the soil and for the seedlings. With SRI, the nursery is quite small. It can be only a small fraction of the size of the field to be planted. The following steps are recommended for a modified “dry bed” method of nursery development for SRI seedlings.
• Rice seeds should first be soaked in temperate water for 24 hours. Any that are irregular or float should be discarded.
• Next, put the seeds in a sack (burlap or other) and place it in a warm compost pile or in a hold in the ground that has been warmed by fire. Cover the sack completely with either compost or soil and leave it for 24 hours for slow warming of the seeds.
• The seedbed should be prepared as closely as possible to the field that will be planted, so as to minimize transport time between seedlings’ removal from the seedbed and their transplanting in the field.
• Compost should be mixed into the soil of the seedbed at a rate of 100 kg per are (10 m x 10 m). Prior to seeding, lay down a fine layer of “ripe” compost or black soil in the seedbed to give the seeds good nutrient-rich material to begin their growth in.
• Farmers in Sri Lanka have found that building up the seedbed, about 10 cm, with lengths of bamboo, putting in compost or animal manure (chicken manure is very good) along with soil, gives the seedlings an excellent start and makes them easy to remove. Also, the organic nutrients are contained within the seedbed better this way.
• Broadcast the pre-germinated seeds onto the bed at a rate of about 200 grams for every 3 square meters, and then cover the seeds with a fine layer of soil.
• Water the seedbed every day in the late afternoon, or as often as needed to maintain a moderate level of soil moisture. The soil should not be saturated or kept continuously wet. If there has been rain during the day, no watering may be needed. How much to add to the bed
depends on whether the soil has become dry.
• Transplanting should be done when the seedlings have just two leaves — and before they have more. This usually occurs between 8 and 15 days.
• Seeds should not be sown all at the same time. Rather, appropriate batches of seed should be sown on successive days, so that the plants when they are put into the field can be all a uniform age, all between 8 and 12 days.
Field Preparation
The land preparation does not require special steps, though the soil should be well worked as it would be to get the best results from any method for growing rice.
• Make sure that there are adequate drainage canals either through the center of the field or along the edges of the field to ensure proper water control. With SRI, one does not want to have standing water in the field or saturated soil. In general, we have found that compost is quite sufficient as a source of nutrients. Chicken manure, for example, is very rich in nutrients, but sometimes too rich. Farmers have found that they get best
results by working compost made from diverse sorts of biomass into the field during the preceding cultivation season, when they are growing a crop between their rice crops, such as potatoes or beans or onions. The compost applied then helps that crop grow better, and the further decomposition of the compost provides adequate nutrients for the rice crop that follows.
The steps for preparing the soil for planting seedlings are not described here, including how best to work the compost or (if available) manure into the field. SRI does not require any special preparation,
only good normal preparation for having best results. Having cattle trample the soil when it has been puddled both breaks up clods and forces air into the soil for later plant use. Leveling the field is important but need not be as precise as when one is trying to maintain a uniform
layer of water on the field. It is more important to ensure that the soil can be well drained, by constructing channels or furrows around sections within the field and around the whole field. Simply putting furrows in a fishbone pattern across the field does not evacuate water as evenly from the whole area. Keeping root zones moist most but not all of the time is the main requirement. Taking Seedlings from the Nursery
Seedlings should be lifted out of the seedbed gently and WITH A TROWEL, rather than being pulled up. It is important that the seed sac remain attached to the infant root. Seedlings should be removed
from the seedbed as one would cut sod for landscaping purposes. The sod cutting should then be moistened, and a single seedling (with two leaves) should be gently removed from the cutting with the thumb and forefinger.
When transplanting the seedling, the root should LIE HORIZONTALLY, so that the plant’s shape (including the root) is like the letter L, with the root tip able to grow downward easily and quickly. Planting the seedling with a vertical motion, plunging it into the soil in a downward movement, is
liable to leave the root tip inverted upwards. This will delay the root’s resumption of downward growth, a delay that must be avoided if the plant is to reach its full tillering potential.
• Seedlings should always be transplanted from the nursery into the field within half an hour, and preferably within 15 minutes. The roots should never be allowed to dry out. They should also not be handled roughly or slammed or hit with the palm of the hand (as some farmers in Madagascar do before transplanting the seedlings).
Transplanting
To plant in a uniform square pattern, with regular spacing, one method is to use lines (strings or ropes) tied between sticks on the edge of the field, spaced 25 cm apart — or 30 cm, or 40 cm, or possibly 50 cm if the soil is very fertile and well managed. The lines should be marked (or knotted) at similar intervals to match the width of the rows so that there will be uniform spacing that facilitates weeding. Or one can use a specially constructed simple “rake” that has teeth spaced the desired distance apart.
• Spacing is a variable to be tested and evaluated. It is usually best to start with 25 x 25 cm spacing, possibly increasing the distance between plants as farmers’ gain skill and confidence, and as soil fertility is enhanced by compost.
An alternative is to use a special rake to score the surface of the field in a “grid” with a square pattern for planting seedlings at the intersections of the lines. Farmers find that this can be a faster method than using strings or ropes. Opinions differ as to whether this method of transplanting takes more time or not, and whether it is more difficult. At first it make take more time, but because so many fewer plants are put into the field, once some skill and confidence have been gained, SRI transplanting should be quicker. Some farmers have also reported that it is less arduous, with little or no back pain. Farmers are often worried, when planting, about some seedlings dying. In fact, with SRI methods well used, we find very little mortality, maybe 2%, so that it is not worth the effort t replace them, as surrounding plants grow a little larger to take advantage of the open area. Farmers who are concerned should plant some seedlings along the edge of the field that they can transplant into any vacant spaces at the time of the first weeding.
Water Control
Little has been written about water application and management for SRI, possibly because there has been little systematic experimentation and evaluation of this. The importance of keeping the soil unsaturated to get more air to plant roots is evident. But how long can a field be left without water? How dry can they become? What is the role of rainfall in providing water for field? What differences in practice will be necessary with different kinds of soil?
The addition of water should occur on or about a week after transplanting, and then the first weeding (using the rotary hoe) should be done after soil is sufficiently moist, within the first 10 days. If there is intermittent rain, sufficient to keep the soil moist, no water additions are needed. The best time to add water is before the periodic weedings.
During the growth phase, roughly the first three months, water should be applied only to the fields for weeding purposes, being left to dry out even to the point of surface cracking. This will contribute to soil aeration. This drying should be done at least 3 or 4 times before the phase of flowering and panicle initiation. We find that an increasing number of farmers who practice SRI are following an alternating schedule for water application. Instead of trying to keep the soil continuously moist but aerated (well-drained), with some periods of complete drying, one can flood the field for 3-5 days and then drain it and keep it dried for 3-5 days. We do not have any research to show what is the best length of time for wetting and drying under such an alternating pattern of water application, and in any case, what is best for a particular field will depend upon soil texture and other factors.
and drying under such an alternating pattern of water application, and in any case, what is best for a whether or how much this might lower yield below an optimum with moist but aerated soil. We encourage farmers and others to experiment with different water application methods, noting what serves best the plants’ growth needs. The physical design of fields for good control over water — drainage as well as inflow — needs to be considered, matching design to soil, water and topographical conditions, as well as methods for getting greater aeration of water, e.g., applying water to the field through a bamboo pipe that lets water fall onto the field. Farmers are encouraged to experiment with water management according to their understanding of the desirability of ensuring aeration of the soil for better root growth. Rather than recommend a specific schedule, we emphasize the principle for farmers to adapt to their needs.
Weeding
The justification for this has been discussed already, but the techniques need to be made clear. How does one use the weeder to get best effect for both weed removal and for soil aeration? The practice of planting seedlings in a square pattern (25 by 25 cm or wider) permits weeding in both directions, up and down rows and across them. This should be done until the growth of plants’ canopy makes it difficult to pass the weeder between them.
We can showing the benefits of weeding from the resulting yields for farmers using SRI in Ambatovaky during the l 997-98 season, comparing yields with the number of weedings done. Under the growing conditions in that community (high elevation, well-drained soils), there were dramatic benefits from doing more than two weedings, adding about 2 tons/hectare for each additional weeding. Two farmers did no weedings and got 6.0 tons/ha.; eight farmers did one weeding only and got 7.7 tons/ha.; the 27 farmers who did two weedings got about the same (7.4 tons/ha.). But the 24 farmers who did three weedings averaged 9.1 tons/ha., and the 15 farmers who did four weedings got 11.8 tons/ha. This information gives justification and encouragement for doing more than the minimum recommended number of weedings.
Pest and Disease Control
Pest and disease problems appear to be less with SRI methods, perhaps because the fields are kept less humid. It is known that healthier, more vigorous plants have more capacity to resist pest and disease attacks. Farmers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Philippines, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, as well as Madagascar, have reported fewer pest and disease problems with this method, making use of agrochemical not necessary or economical. More needs to be known about how farmers using SRI can best deal with any pest or disease outbreak affecting crops.
Management after Flowering
SRI focuses most of its efforts on getting the rice plants well established in the soil and on encouraging their active increase of roots and tillers during the vegetative growth stage. The water management strategy changes once flowering begins, with a thin layer of water (1-2 cm) being maintained continuously on the field, though there can be some interruptions in this. It is recommended that farmers drain their fields about 25 days before harvesting, to let the soil dry out and encouraging the plant to transfer as much of its nutrient supply to the grains as possible. Some scientists think draining should come later than this. Farmers are encouraged to experiment to see what works best for their soil and other conditions.
Harvest
SRI rice is harvested just like any other rice, except there should be much more rice to harvest. This makes the farmer’s task more difficult, but this is the kind of difficulty everyone should wish for: a bountiful harvest. Some farmers find that the way rice grows with SRI management makes harvesting easier. For one thing, there is almost never any lodging, even with larger panicles. Also, the panicles are easier to collect off the plants.
Experimentation
Throughout the whole process, farmers should be observing their rice crop and their rice field carefully, looking for any signs of stress or poor growth. Farmers should feel free to make some adjustments in practices like timing, spacing, soil preparation, weeding, or to try any other thing they think might give their rice a better chance to grow vigorously. Innovations should be tried first in small areas rather than for the whole field.
One of the main things that needs to be evaluated by each farmer according to his or her particular field conditions, is the spacing of the rice plants. What density of rice plants per square meter will produce the best total yield from that area will depend on the farmer’s soil, on temperature and climatic conditions, as well as the variety of rice used.
We suggest starting with plants set out in a square pattern 25 by 25 centimeters. Sometimes wider We suggest starting with plants set out in a square pattern 25 by 25 centimeters. Sometimes wider ainage conditions. Sometimes narrower spacing produces more total rice, though probably plants should not be closer than 20 by 20 cm, or 25 x 14 cm. Enough space must be left for the weeder to be passed up and down the rows between plants in both directions. With good soil and water conditions, very wide spacing is likely to be most productive — 40 by 40 cm, or even 50 by 50 cm.
Farmers are also encouraged to experiment with different varieties of rice. Sometimes certain improved varieties respond very well to these management practices, but sometimes, under other conditions, certain local varieties will produce more. We have seen some varieties such as x265 and 2067 perform very well at higher elevations (over 1,000 meters), producing 11 to 12 tons per hectare. But when these varieties are planted at lower elevations (400 to 600 meters) just 20 to 25 kilometers away, their yield may be only half or a third as much. (Variety 2067 produced rice at a rate of 21 tons/hectare for the farmer Ralalason in Soatanana, Madagascar, who used all of the SRI methods to their best advantage, including excellent compost, applying 5 tons to his 1/8 hectare. He applied it to the vegetable crop that he grew between rice crops, so it had a long time to decompose.)
• Farmers can often get a much greater return from their land and labor if they can find one or more varieties that are very well suited to their growing conditions. This requires experimentation and evaluation by farmers and will be more efficient if a number of farmers cooperate in evaluating varieties. If a large number of them operating rice fields under similar conditions test many different varieties, they can usefully share information about their experience with each.
LABOR REQUIREMENTS
One of the main reasons cited by farmers and others for not adopting SRI methods is that SRI requires more labor. This is true in the sense that any intensification will require more work and certainly more management effort. However, the increased labor requirements for SRI are not simply a matter of needing to invest more labor, and in some respects, farmers will find that SRI requires less labor. In fact, some Sri Lankan farmers now report that SRI requires fewer days of labor per hectare than their conventional methods, which include time for spraying their fields with insecticides, no longer needed.
First, when any new method of production is used, there is some time requires for learning how to use the method correctly and quickly. Some of the increased labor needed for SRI is simply a matter of learning time. This is an investment that should be repaid within the first season.
• One study of SRI labor requirements found that it required about two-thirds more days of labor per hectare when using the methods in the first or second year. But after farmers had become better acquainted with the methods, and had become more comfortable with them (particularly the transplanting), the labor requirement dropped by about one-third, so that SRI required only about 25% more labor per hectare. A more recent study with 108 farmers in Madagascar who used both SRI and conventional methods on their farm found that the difference in labor requirements for SRI was 25% greater. Since yields with SRI were at least doubled, the amount of rice produced for each day of work invested was increased greatly.
• The field preparation is essentially the same for SRI and usual methods of production. As the nursery is much smaller, there can be a saving of time on this part of the process.
• The amount of time initially spent in setting up a field for planting with SR1 is greater, as lines need to be laid out for planting seedlings in rows carefully and well-spaced. Although the amount of time spent for putting each seedling into the field is several times greater, there will be many fewer seedlings to be planted. The number of seedlings transplanted with SRI is only one-tenth as many as with conventional planting, and possibly even fewer if wider spacing is used.
• Once farmers are skilled in organizing SRI transplanting — which requires a handful of seedlings for a field where before a headload full of seedlings was needed before — the transplanting may take no more time or only a little more.
The biggest difference in terms of labor required is for weeding. But doing the minimum of two weedings with a weeder take little more time than two hand weedings -and this work is much less difficult and tiresome than bending over to pull up weeds. Some farmers consider weeding for SRI to be easier than with traditional methods.
• How many weedings a farmer will do beyond this minimum is for each to decide for himself or herself. Farmers should experiment to see how much increased yield they get from doing additional weedings. We know some farmers who have been able to get one ton or even two tons more rice from each additional weeding.
• There can be a very great return from the labor invested, worth 10 times and even 20 times more than the cost. So each farmer can decide for himself or herself how much effort to invest in raising his or her production. One big difference in labor requirement between SRI and conventional rice production can be for harvesting because yields are so much higher. But no farmers complain about having to bring in more rice from their fields and thresh it, since this means that the household will get much more benefit from the labor they have already invested. Also, because the panicles are bigger and sturdier, with less dropping of rice, some farmers find that harvesting even for a larger volume of grain is easier with SRI.
One study of SRI experience on the west coast of Madagascar found that for farmers who were reasonably acquainted with the methods, using them required about 500 hours per hectare. Given the prevailing price/cost of labor, an increase in yield of 500 kilograms per hectare, at low harvest-time prices, would repay the extra labor. Average yield increases with SRI were about 2,000 kilograms per hectare. If the farmer could wait to sell his rice for three months, when the price had gone up, yield would need to increase by only 250 kilograms per hectare to cover the increased labor cost, producing 2,000 more kilograms per hectare. (The reference is to research by Frederic Bonlieu during the 1998- 99 season.)
Some farmer households will not have enough labor to be able to cultivate the full extent of their rice fields with SRI methods. In this situation, they should experiment with SRI on a small area to satisfy themselves that this technique will increase their production by a substantial amount. We suggest that they then cultivate only part of their available fields with SRI, reserving the rest of their land for growing other crops at some other time when they are not limited by the amount of labor time available.
• If farmers can get much greater returns from their land and their labor by using SRI methods,it is a waste of their land and their labor to continue cultivating the whole extent of their fields with less productive methods. It will be more profitable to cultivate just part of their land with SRI methods, and then to grow other crops on the remaining land when time permits.
• If there is a particular operation for which a farm household does not have enough labor to use SRI methods, it will be worthwhile to hire additional labor to assist with this operation. If the household does not have enough money in hand to hire labor, it can offer to share the greater harvest with those who provide labor or to pay for the labor with rice after the harvest rather than with money.

Farmers should not let labor limitations keep them from experimenting with and using SRI methods. There should be some way that they can benefit from this new technology by making the kinds of arrangements described above. SRI is one of the few technologies that can increase simultaneously the productive of land, of labor, and of water. The goal is not so much to increase yields by several times as to make all of the factors of production more productive, so that farmers can get more return from whatever resources they have, starting with labor.
CONCLUSIONS
SRI was developed by Fr. de Laulanié with farmers as friends and as students. Their purpose was to improve the quality and security of life for all people in Madagascar who depend on the soil for their livelihoods. Others will also benefit if rice can become more abundant and available at a lower price. The essential initial step toward success with SRI is to think about the rice plant in a new and different way. The previous ways of understanding and cultivating rice have served millions, even billions of people well for many centuries. But with some new management practices, it will be possible for farmers to get many more grains of rice returned for every grain they plant by doing this carefully and by providing better conditions for the growing plants.
There is now experimentation going on to adapt the concepts of SRI to growing upland (unirrigated) rice. One initial experiment at Zahamena, not using fire as an agricultural practice, produced 16 times more grains of rice per rice seed planted — double the yield with only one-eighth as many seeds — as with traditional slash-and-burn production. During the 1997-98 season, some trials were undertaken adapting SRI methods to upland conditions. By using compost instead of burning, and by planting seeds widely spaced, 30 by 30 cm, with leguminous plant cuttings (tephrosia and crotelaria) used as a thick mulch to suppress weeds, unirrigated fields yielded 4 tons/hectare. The mulch conserved water in the soil as well as suppressed weeds, almost totally, and provided some additional nutrients. We think that other crops may also be able to benefit from drawing on these concepts for improving plant growth.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON SRI
Association Tefy Saina is a non-governmental organization established to improve agriculture and the human condition in Madagascar. Tefy Saina, which was established by Malagasy colleagues of Fr. de Laulanié, has been promoting and evaluating SRI in many different parts of the country since 1990 (B. P. 1221, Antananarivo; Tel: 222-0301; e-mail address is: tefysaina@simicro.mg ) Please address inquiries to: Sebastien Rafaralahy, President; or Justin Rabenandrasana, Secretary.
The Institute de Promotion de la Nouvelle Riziculture (IPNR) based in Antananarivo is also involved in experimentation and demonstration of SRI and is another source of information on SRI (B.P. 8417, Antananarivo; Tel/ Fax: 227-8660; e-mail: ipnrg@ simicro.mg) Patrick Vallois is the director of IPNR.
The Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD) has been working with Tefy Saina since 1993 and cooperating with IPNR since 1997 to achieve a better understanding of this new method for increasing rice production. CIIFAD can be contacted in Ithaca,
New York, through its director, Norman Uphoff (Tel: 01-607-255-0831; Fax: 01-607-255-1005; or email:NTUl@cornell.edu), or through CIIFAD’s representative in Madagascar, Glenn Lines (e-mail:GAL@chemonics.mg).

Bambooshoot

Health Benefits of Bamboo Shoots

Credit: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/other/health-benefits-of-bamboo-shoots.html

The health benefits of bamboo shoots include healthy weight loss, control of bad cholesterol, strengthening of the immune system, possible cancer-fighting properties and anti-inflammatory properties. It is heart friendly, contains protein, a sufficient supply of vitamins and minerals and a negligible amount of fat. It also contains a significant amount of dietary fiber.

What are Bamboo Shoots?

Bamboo shoots are the sprouts which spring out beside the bamboo plant. These sprouts or shoots are edible and they belong to the Bambusoideae subfamily of grass. They are the largest and tallest in the grass family. Bamboo is also known to be one of the fastest growing plants in the world. The fastest growing species of bamboo is Chinese Moso. It reportedly grows up to 100 cm per day.

Some of the bamboo species whose sprouts are harvested include phyllostachys edulis, winter shoots, ‘hairy’ shoots, phyllostachys bambusoides, dendrocalamus latiflorus, bambusa vulgaris, bambusa oldhamii, andbambusa odashimae.

Every part of the bamboo plant is put to use by Asian cultures and various ethnic groups. Bamboo is used for various other purposes ranging from construction, support for buildings, simple housing, bamboo furniture, musical instruments such as flutes, dizi, xiao, shakuhachi, and in paper production. Thus, bamboo is one of the most utilized and versatile plants on the planet.

Bamboo shoots are available in either fresh or canned varieties. Fresh bamboo shoots can last for up to two weeks when they are properly refrigerated and away from sunlight or else the shoots will develop a bitter taste. On the other hand, canned versions can be stored for a long time. It is recommended to cook them as quickly as possible when eating them fresh. However, before cooking fresh bamboo shoots, it is highly recommended to boil them partially or soak them in water overnight, as some species may contain cyanide, which can be eliminated by either of these processes.

Nutritional Value of Bamboo Shoots

According to a study conducted by Nirmala Chongtham, Madho Singh Bhisht and Sheena Haorongbam from Punjab University in Chandigarh, India, bamboo shoots are rich in various nutrients.

BambooshootLow Caloric Content: A 100 gram serving of bamboo shoots contains only 20 calories. Also, the carbohydrates found in bamboo shoots do not amount to more than 3-4 grams per 100 gram serving.

Low Sugar Content: The amount of sugar found in bamboo shoots is about 2.5 grams per 100 gram serving. This is less than the  amount of sugar found in many fruits and vegetables.

Negligible Amount of Fat: A serving of 100 grams of bamboo shoots contains less than 0.49 grams of fat. This fat consists of both saturated and unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are needed by the body and they can control the spread of bad LDL cholesterol throughout the body.

Source of Protein: A 100 gram serving of bamboo shoots would have about 2 to 2.5 grams of protein. The proteins found in bamboo consists of seventeen essential amino acids and two semi-essential amino acids.

Vitamins and Minerals in Bamboo Shoots: Bamboo shoots contain vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate and pantothenic acid. Minerals found in bamboo shoots include calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium and iron.

High in Dietary Fiber: Bamboo shoots are high in dietary fiber. The amount of dietary fiber contained in bamboo shoots make up 6-8 grams out of a 100 gram serving.

Appetizing effects: Bamboo shoots contain high cellulosic material which stimulates the appetite. The taste and texture of the bamboo shoots also make them a good appetizer.

Health Benefits of Bamboo Shoots

Bamboo shoots are an exotic food that is consumed in many countries in Asia and now it is slowly growing in demand from western countries. Bamboo shoots are known for their various health benefits, including those explained in greater detail below.

Helps in Losing Weight: Bamboo shoots are weight loss-friendly. When we look at the amount of calories, carbohydrates and sugars contained in bamboo shoots, it is shocking to find that their presence is almost negligible. This makes it an ideal food for people who want to lose weight, but also who want their stomachs to be full.

Heart Health: According to research studies, phytosterols and phytonutrients found in bamboo shoots are ideal for dissolving harmful LDL cholesterol in the body. This eases cholesterol out of arteries for the smooth supply and movement of blood throughout the body.

Fights Cancer: Research studies conducted on bamboo shoots have indicated that leaves of bamboo shoots consist of phytosterols such as flavone, amylase and chlorophyll. Out of these, chlorophyll showed properties of controlling mutations and cancer.

Strengthens the Immune System: The vitamins and minerals in bamboo shoots are ideal for improving the body’s immune system. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants present in bamboo shoots are essential for strengthening the body from the inside out.

High Supply of Dietary Fiber: The amount of dietary fiber in bamboo shoots is high. Consuming sufficient amounts of dietary fiber is essential for easy digestion and healthy bowel movements. Including bamboo shoots in your meals can be a very good idea for losing weight as well. With lack of any physical activity during the night time, taking food with less calories and high fiber helps lose weight easily, even while you sleep!

Anti-Inflammatory Properties: According to research conducted by Muniappan and Sundararaj, bamboo shoots possess anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-killing) properties. It helps in the healing of ulcers as well. Juice from bamboo shoots can also be used as a medicine for external wounds and ulcers.

bambooshootsinfoRespiratory Disorders:Bamboo shoots have been known to be effective against respiratory disorders. A decoction of the shoots can be prepared by boiling the shoots twice. The first boil should be for 5 minutes followed by a second boil for about 10 minutes. The decoction can be taken along with honey for the best effect.

Possible Cure for Poisoning: In Ayurvedic medicine, the ancient Indian science of medicine and lifestyle, it is believed that bamboo extracts contain anti-venomous properties. They are useful in cases of both snake and scorpion bites.

Uterotonic Properties:Traditional Chinese medicine believes that bamboo shoots can cause uterine contractions. It is used as a medicinal supplement during the last month of pregnancy when the delivery date is still pending. According to the research papersubmitted by Gruber and O’Brien at the University of Vienna, bamboo is one of the many plants which have been listed among uterotonic plants.

Stomach Disorders: Bamboo shoots are useful in treating stomach disorders. Apart from bamboo shoots, bamboo leaves are also suggested as a remedy for intestinal worms and stomach disorders as well.

Wound Cleaning: Bamboo shoots are also used for cleaning wounds and sores.

Lowers Blood Pressure: Bamboo shoots contain high amounts of potassium. Potassium is highly beneficial as an electrolyte and is also very good for lowering and maintaining blood pressure.

With all of these benefits from bamboo shoots, they are highly recommended for a healthy lifestyle.

A Few Serving Ideas for Bamboo Shoots 

Bamboo shoots can be boiled and then used for making various dishes. Boiled shoots can be served with butter and soya sauce as a vegetable accompaniment.

Bamboo shoots can be added to soups, stews, salads and gravies.

Pickles made from bamboo shoots are available and can be consumed as a delicious snack!

Chrysopogon-zizanioides-1-300x266

3 GRASSES THAT ARE EFFECTIVE IN REHABILITATION OF THE ECOSYSTEM OF TAILING DAMS

Source: http://permaculturenews.org/2016/01/05/3-grasses-that-are-effective-in-rehabilitation-of-the-ecosystem-of-tailing-dams/

These days, mining has become a terrible threat to nature with its widespread damaging impacts on environment and ecosystem. The noxious impacts of mining are mainly due from mine tailings. The mine tailings are highly acidic as well as toxic with a number of heavy metals including Cu, Zn, Mn, Ni, As, Fe and Hg.

The abundance of heavy metals along with other harmful effects in the tailings and very low pH of the tailings degrade the natural ecosystem of the tailing dams to a problematic state. Among various techniques for rehabilitation of the ecosystems on tailing dams, introducing various grasses at mine tailing sites is the most efficient and healthy management technique.

Here are some grass species which can be introduced on tailing dams to rehabilitate their ecosystem.

CHRYSOPOGON ZIZANIOIDES

Chrysopogon Zizanioides
Chrysopogon Zizanioides

Chrysopogon Zizanioides or vetiver grass, a perennial bunchgrass, is a unique grass variety used in many countries in the world for its numerous beneficial effects on soil and ecosystem including-rehabilitation of the ecosystem on tailing dam, soil and water conservation, sediment control, pollution control, waste water treatment, infrastructure stabilization etc.

Height: Up to 1.5 m or 5 ft.

Stem: Tall, erect and stiff stems.

Leaf: Long, thin and rigid leaves; grow up to 5 ft long and 0.3 inch wide.

Flower: Brownish-purple colored flowers.

Root system: Finely structured and very strong root system. Roots grow downward, generally 7 ft to 13 ft in depth.

Distribution: This grass is native to India and cultivated intensively in tropical regions.

Resistance: Resistant to frost and wildfire; highly resistant to drought.

How it helps in stabilizing the ecosystem: The roots of vetiver grow almost exclusively downward, in some cases deeper than some tree roots, which make it a very effective erosion control plant and a great stabilizing hedge for stream banks and terraces. Its deep root system binds the soils tightly and thus it cannot dislodge which ultimately prevent erosion, while its root system penetrates the compacted soils and make them loose. It is also effective in runoff alleviation and water conservation.

Vetiver Grass Technology (VGT) is highly effective in rehabilitation of the ecosystem on tailing dams; as vetiver grass has a strong finely structured and deep root system along with excellent tolerance to extreme climatic variations including submergence and extreme temperature, prolonged drought, flood etc. Vetiver grass is also tolerant to a wide range of soil pH, Al an Mn toxicities, and various heavy metals including As, Pb, Zn, Hg, Cd, Cr , Ni, Cu etc. In Australia vetiver grass has been effectively used to stabilize mining overburden and highly sodic, magnesic, saline and alkaline tailings of coal mine. Using this grass is also effective in stabilizing highly acidic and high As tailings of gold mines.

CYNODON DACTYLON

Cynodon Dactylon
Cynodon Dactylon

Cynodon Dactylon is a fast-growing and widely cultivated grass variety in worm climates. This grass is capable of quick recovering from damage, and highly tolerant to heat and drought. It is a great grass species to rehabilitate the soil and ecosystem.

Common Names: Bahama Grass, Couch Grass, Indian Doab, Devil’s Grass, Wire Grass etc.

Distribution: The grass is originated in Asia, especially in India; it has now become pan-tropical.

Stem: The erect, slightly flattened stems are tinged purple in color and grow 1-30 cm tall usually.

Leaf-Blade: Leaf-blades are short (generally 2-15 cm long), blades are grey-green in color having rough edges.

Flower: Flowers occur on 3-7 cm spikes; time of flowering is late summer.

Resistance: Resistant to heat and drought.

Root system: A deep root system; greater portion of the root mass is less than 24 inches under the surface but under drought the root system is capable of growing to over 2 m deep in a penetrable soil.

How it helps in stabilizing the ecosystem: This grass species is highly useful and is being used as lawn grass, pasture grass, and anti-erosion cover on dams in many countries. Cynodon dactylon is useful as a forage resource for milk cattle for the places where the soil is not suitable for growing crops like soyabean, maize etc.

Cynodon Dactylon is a great tool to rehabilitate the ecosystem on tailing dam, as it is capable of absorbing a wide range of metals and heavy metals of the dams including Mn, Zn, Cu, Pb, Cd, Co; it can grow well in the very low pH of the damaged soil. It can grow in dry season and wet season and also in times of heavy rainfall as well, when the toxic tailings are eroded and deposited on it.

HYPARRHENIA HIRTA

Hyparrhenia Hirta
Hyparrhenia Hirta

Hyparrhenia Hirta is a tufted and wiry perennial grass. It is an invasive variety which can be used productively to rehabilitate the ecosystem on a tailing dam if managed carefully.

Common Names: Tambookie grass, common thatching grass, thatching grass, Coolatai grass.

Distribution: This grass is common in southern Africa. It occurs throughout Africa and also occurs in Pakistan.

Stem: It has upright flowering stems which are hairless. Stems may be covered with in a whitish powdery substance during their young stage.

Root system: Deep root system.

Resistance: Extremely tolerant to drought.

Flower: Whitish flowers occur throughout the year especially in the summer.

Leaf: Leaves are green to bluish green in color, generally 2-35 cm long and 2-4 mm wide. The hairless leaves are often tufted at the base of the plant.

How it helps in stabilizing the ecosystem: An excellent grass which efficiently protects the soils and stabilizes eroded soils, and hard gravelly soils. They are self fertile and drought resistant grass.

Hyparrhenia Hirta is an effective tool to rehabilitate the ecosystem on tailing dam, as it is capable of absorbing a wide range of metals and heavy metals of the dam including Mn, Zn, Cu, Pb, Cd, Co; it can grow well in the low pH of the damaged soil. Hyparrhenia Hirta is an efficient hyper-accumulator for heavy metals like Cu and Zn and thus it is useful in selecting grasses on the basis of target toxic metals. It also has a limitation in growing on the tailing dam, that is- it cannot grow under heavy rainfall.

Caution: Hyparrhenia Hirta is an invasive variety and must be managed with extreme care.

1807936

Fukuoka Food Forest

SOURCE: http://www.perennialsolutions.org/fukuokas-food-forest

Many of us in the permaculture and organic movements have read Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukuoka’sOne Straw Revolution, which lays out his ingenious (though hard to replicate) no-till organic rice production system. I was surprised and pleased when, in my job as librarian for the New England Small Farm Institute in the late 1990s, I stumbled on his Natural Way of Farming, a translation of his 1976 book Shizen Noho. At that time he had already been running his orchard as an organic polyculture food forest for over three decades – since the 1940s! Natural Way of Farming offers much detail about Fukuoka’s methods of grain, vegetable, and fruit production. It was a major inspiration to me as I worked on writing Edible Forest Gardens.

1807936

Fukuoka’s food forest (he refers to it his orchard) is a fantastic example of a warm temperate/subtropical food forest featuring multiple layers, abundant nitrogen-fixers, a diversity of fruits, nuts, and perennial vegetables, with sophisticated use of self-sown and broadcast annual crops. There is much for us to learn from his lifetime of experimentation in his humid, warm-temperate to subtropical climate. This is a good-sized operation, covering ten or more acres. In the 1980s Fukuoka was shipping 200,000 pounds (about 90 metric tons) of citrus annually from 800 citrus trees.[i]

The book is full of fantastic color photos of his no-till grain, vegetable, and food forest systems. I don’t have rights to them, so get a copy of the book and check them out! Used copies of several editions are available online.

Mandarin_tree_closeup

Mandarin orange, a main crop of Fukuoka’s food forest. At one time he was shipping an impressive 90 tons of citrus fruit annually. Image wikimedia commons.

Food Forest Design

Fukuoka recommends diverse polycultures, starting with mixing deciduous and evergreen fruits. “Never forget to plant green manure trees[ii]”. Fukuoka’s nitrogen fixing trees include acacias, alders, autumn olive, wax myrtle (Myrica) and podocarpus. He advocated maintaining a productive and diverse understory. “Using the open space in an orchard to raise an undergrowth of special-purpose crops and vegetables is the very picture of nature.[iii]” “A natural orchard in which full, three-dimensional use of space is made in this way is entirely different from conventional orchards that employ high-production techniques. For the individual wishing to live in communion with nature, this is truly a paradise on earth.[iv]

Food Forest Establishment

“When starting an orchard, the main goals initially should be prevention of weed emergence and maturation of the soil[v].”(144) Fukuoka also advocates for terracing and the use of contour berm-and-basin systems (known as contour swales to many of us in permaculture).

Fukuoka set out his orchard in forest land he had recently cleared. Trunks and branches from land clearing were laid out in windrows on contour – like the hugelculture technique popular in permaculture today. “To establish a natural orchard, one should dig large holes here and there among the stumps of felled trees and plant unpruned saplings and fruit seed over the site, leaving these unattended just as one would leave alone a reforested stand of trees[vi].” Resprouting stumps and weeds were cut or coppiced with a sickle.

He offers some sophisticated ecosystem mimicry advice, listing weed crops by family and replacement crops in the same family. For instance, wild morning glories might indicate planting of sweet potato. Fukuoka advocates a minimal pruning strategy (see below). At establishment, he aims to set up the tree for a lifetime of minimal pruning by establishing a form like its wild character. After 5-6 years, Fukuoka came in and built terraces uphill from each tree row. Then he transitioned the understory to ladino (white) clover (Trifolium repens).

Food Forest Understory

“What helps to rehabilitate depleted soil? I planted the seeds of thirty legumes, crucifers, and grasses throughout my orchard and from observations of these came to the general conclusion that I should grow a weed cover using ladino clover as the primary crop and such herbs as alfalfa, lupine, and bur clover as the secondary crops. To condition the deeper strata in the hard, depleted soil, I companion-planted fertilizer trees such as black wattle, myrtle, and podocarpus.[vii](188)” Fukuoka found that ladino clover would fully suppress weeds within 2-3 years, and would not need to be reseeded for 6-8 years. Drawbacks included less shade tolerance than he wanted, and the requirement for regular mowing. In winter he sowed brassica vegetables, and in summer legume vegetables and millets. Perennial vegetables were introduced and annual crops seed broadcast, with some annuals allowed to reseed themselves, producing strong-flavored feral offspring.

IMG_2217

White or ladino clover, Fukuoka’s preferred nitrogen-fixing groundcover in the food forest understory.

Table: Fukuoka’s Companion Crops

Adapted from table on page 144, Natural Way of Farming.

Crop Type Sample Crops Understory
Evergreen Fruit Trees Citrus, loquat Fuki (Petasites), buckwheat
Deciduous Fruit Trees Walnut, persimmon, peach, plum, cherry,  apricot, apple, pear Devil’s tongue (probably an aroid), lilies, ginger, buckwheat
Fruit vines Grape, kiwi, akebia Millets
Nitrogen fixing trees Acacia, wax myrtle, alder Green manures*, vegetables

 

Table: Fukuoka’s Green Manure Crops

Annual crops (mostly) broadcast seasonally. Adapted from page 144, Natural Way of Farming.

Crop Spring Summer Winter
Ladino clover, alfalfa Yes Yes Yes
Bur clover Yes
Mustard family vegetables Yes
Lupines, vetches Yes
Soybeans, peanuts, adzuki beans, mung beans, cowpeas Yes

 

Management

Black wattle trees (Acacia mearnsii) were his favorite nitrogen fixer as they were evergreen and grew to the size of a telephone pole in 7-8 years. At this point he cut down the wattles and buried them in trenches (morehugelculture). The wattle trees, fast-growing and evergreen, always served as a home for aphids and scales, and as a home to their predators like ladybugs, which provided pest control through the food forest. He ran poultry and other livestock in the orchard understory once it was established.

1280px-Acacia_mearnsii_flowers

Black wattle acacia, Fukuoka’s primary nitrogen-fixing tree speces. Image wikimedia commons.

Pruning

Fukuoka has a lot to say about pruning in Natural Way of Farming. He sought minimal pruning styles to allow his fruit and nut trees to grow as close as possible to their natural shape. To this end he grew many seedlings of citrus and other species to observe their natural form. Almost half of the trees he inherited from his father died in his quest for a low-maintenance, natural pruning regime, about 400 trees!

Fukuoka’s Food Forest Today

Masanobu Fukuoka died in 2008 at the age of 95. Today his children and grandchildren maintain the farm, including the food forest area. Citrus and ginkgo are thriving, and mango, avocado, and feijoa have been added. Shiitakes are cultivated in the understory on logs. Wild vegetables still grow beneath the orchard in some areas[viii].

Masanobu-Fukuoka

Masanobu Fukuoka in 2002. Image wikimedia commons.

 

Species in Fukuoka’s Food Forest

I’ve done my best to extrapolate from the translated common names in Natural Way of Farming. Some were nailed down with assistance from my Yama-Kei Pocket Guide to wild edibles of Japan. Surely there were many, many more which did not make it into the books, but this is a pretty good start.

LARGE TREES
Latin Name Common Name Uses Functions
Acacia mearnsii Black wattle Nitrogen fixer
Alnus japonica Japanese alder Nitrogen fixer
Castanea spp. Chestnut Nuts
Ginkgo biloba Ginkgo Nuts, medicinal
Juglans spp. Walnut Nuts
497px-Ginkgo_Nut

Ginkgo nuts, still producing well in Fukuoka’s food forest today. Image wikimedia commons.

MEDIUM TREES
Latin Name Common Name Uses Functions
Amygdalus communis Apricot Fruit
Aralia elata Japanese angelica tree Shoots and young leaves
Citrus maxima Shaddock, pummelo Fruit
Citrus reticulata Mandarin orange Fruit
Citrus x. sinensis Orange Fruit
Cydonia oblonga Quince Fruit
Eriobotrya japonica loquat Fruit
Malus domestica Apple Fruit
Prunus avium cherry Fruit
Prunus persica Peach Fruit
Prunus salicina Plum Fruit
Pyrus spp. Pear Fruit
Zizyphus jujuba Jujube Fruit
Eriobotrya_japonica_JPG1b

Loquat, a tasty evergreen fruit tree. Image wikimedia commons.

 

SHRUBS AND SMALL TREES
Latin Name Common Name Uses Functions
Eleagnus umbellata Oleaster, autumn olive Fruits Nitrogen fixation
Ficus carica Fig Fruit
Fortunella japonica Kumquat Fruit
Myrica rubra Wax myrtle, yumberry Fruits Nitrogen fixation
Podocarpus spp. Podocarpus Nitrogen fixation
Punica granatum Pomegranate Fruit
Ribes spp. Currant Fruit
Myrica_rubra5

Wax myrtle or yumberry, a Japanese native nitrogen-fixer with edible fruit. Image wikimedia commons.

 

VINES
Latin Name Common Name Uses Functions
Actinidia deliciosa Kiwifruit Fruit
Akebia quinata Akebia Fruit, shoots
Dioscorea japonica Japanese yam Tubers, aerial tubers
Dioscorea polystachya Chinese yam Tubers, aerial tubers
Peuraria lobata Kudzu Tuber starch Nitrogen fixation, weed suppression
Sechium edule Chayote Squash, shoots, tubers
Vitis vinifera Grape Fruit
DSC01961

Akebia, another Japanese native with edible fruits and shoots.

PERENNIAL HERBS
Latin Name Common Name Uses Functions
Allium fistulosum Welsh onion Scallions
Allium sativum Garlic Garlic
Allium tuberosum Chinese leek Greens
Aralia cordata Udo Shoots
Asparagus officinalis Asparagus Shoots
Colocasia esculenta Taro Tubers
Crambe maritima Sea kale Leaves, broccolis
Cryptotaenia japonica Honewort Culinary
Dactylis glomerata Orchardgrass Weed suppression
Lilium spp. Lilies Bulbs
Medicago sativa Alfalfa Nitrogen fixation
Mentha spp. Japanese mint culinary
Panax ginseng Ginseng Medicinal
Petasites japonicus Fuki Stalks
Phleum pratense Timothy grass Weed suppression
Zingiber mioga Mioga ginger Shoots
Zingiber officinale Ginger Spice, shoots
IMG_6640

Fuki, a Japanese native perennial vegetable for full shade and one of the traditional “seven herbs of spring.”

 

GROUNDCOVERS
Latin Name Common Name Uses Functions
Ipomoea batatas Sweet potato Tubers, leaves Weed suppression
Medicago spp. Bur clover Nitrogen fixation, weed suppression
Trifolium pratense Red clover Nitrogen fixation
Trifolium repens Ladino clover, white clover Nitrogen fixation, weed suppression
Vicia spp. Vetches Nitrogen fixation
IMG_5143

Sweet potato, an excellent weed-suppressing groundcover as well as a food crop.

 

ANNUALS: SELF-SOWN AND BROADCAST
Latin Name Common Name Uses Functions
Arachis hypogaea Peanut Peanuts Nitrogen fixation, weed suppression
Brassica napus Rapeseed Oilseed Weed suppression
Brassica rapa Turnip Roots, greens Weed suppression
Brassica spp. Indian mustard Greens Weed suppression
Echinochloa spp. Japanese barnyard millet Grain Weed suppression
Fagopyrum esculentum Buckwheat Grain Weed suppression
Glycine max Soybean Beans Nitrogen fixation, weed suppression
Hordeum vulgare Barley Grain Weed suppression
Lupinus spp. Lupine Nitrogen fixation, weed suppression
Melilotus spp. Sweet clover Nitrogen fixation
Panicum mileaceum Proso millet Grain Weed suppression
Perilla frutescens Shiso Culinary
Pisium sativum Garden pea Peas Nitrogen fixation, weed suppression
Raphanus sativus Daikon Roots, greens Weed suppression
Setaria italica Foxtail millet Grain Weed suppression
Trifolium incarnatum Crimson clover Nitrogen fixation
Trifolium subterraneum Sub clover
Triticum aestivum wheat Grain Weed suppression
Vicia faba Broad bean Beans Nitrogen fixation, weed suppression
Vigna angularis Adzuki bean Beans Nitrogen fixation, weed suppression
Aster Family crops Burdock, lettuce, edible chrysanthemum Greens, roots
Brassica Family crops Chinese cabbage, cabbage, leaf mustard, potherb mustard, black mustard Greens
Carrot Family crops Carrot, parsley, celery Culinary, greens, roots
Chenopod Family crops Spinach, chard Greens
Cucurbit Family crops Watermelon, cucumber, melons, winter squash, bottle gourd, wax melon Fruit vegetables, some greens
Legume Family crops Kidney bean, asparagus bean, sword bean Beans Nitrogen fixation
Potato Family crops Tomato, eggplant, potato, peppers, tobacco Fruit vegetables, tobacco
1280px-Gardenology.org-IMG_2984_rbgs11jan

Shiso is a Japanese native culinary herb that is almost excessively well-suited to the food forest understory. Image wikimedia commons.

cattle_laneway_Nick_03

PERMACULTURE LIVESTOCK SYSTEMS AT ZAYTUNA FARM

by Nick Burtner

Cell grazing is not a new option when it comes to large animal management. However, brewing at Zaytuna Farm is a dynamic and advanced cell moving method that combines age old and newly discovered techniques and strategies.

It has been said before, and most of us permaculturists have used our power of observation to see, that nature will opt for balance. This becomes apparent when we see an overgrazed pasture begins to degenerate and before long the cows and/or sheep start getting intestinal parasites. Or we see this when we over plow soil and the result is that we get an abrupt influx of weedy legumes to accumulate nutrient. In the end nature wins.

The Zaytuna Grazing Method (ZGM), invented by Geoff Lawton, hybridizes a multitude of different animal management systems from Allan Savory to Joel Salatin and Regen Ag. The ZGM then incorporates a permaculture twist that will regenerate landscape and grow both productive food, crops, and even vegetation for other uses such as timber, nutrient accumulation, and wildlife habitat.


Click for larger view

The method starts with the construction of a permanent solar powered 9000 watt electric fence called a “laneway” (see photo above, red lines are the laneway), which was also created according the features of the land, much like a swale is created on contour. If possible the laneway should be preplanned in the earthwork stage (at the beginning) of a farm’s creation. On this 66 acre farm the laneway travels through a very diverse landscape of food forest, pasture, swales, ponds, river flat, road frontage, and regrowth forest. The diversity of such landscape provides a multitude of benefits to the grazing animals such as biodiversity in their diet to ensure animal health and proper nutrition. Ideally the grazing cells, after a herd has grazed on it, should remain fallow (left alone) for up to 70 days at a time for regrowth. This cuts down on pest and disease infestations.

It is important to note that if you take in an animal that was not born on this type of diverse landscape and has only had grain feed its entire life, then it would be wise to carefully wean the animal onto the new, more diverse diet or the animal may get shock and die.

The laneway has a series of gates about every quarter acre to half acre and also has switches about every five acres that turn large portions of the laneway on or off to consolidate energy when not in use. The gates allow access to grazing pastures that are created using spindles of electric fence woven through pigtails to create temporary grazing cells (see photo above) where the animals stay two, four, or seven days at a time before being moved to another pasture. Keep in mind that with 25 or more acres you can have two or more groups of large animals being moved across the property at the same time and still not compromise on the amount of time allowed for the cells to regrow after grazing. If you’re working with a smaller property, then use your own judgment on the amount of land and the quantity of animals with your diversity and your landscape in regards to whether it’s suitable to use one or more grazing herds at a time.


Click for larger view

Permaculture, with all of its practical techniques, has another dimension of strategy. When we add the element of time we are allowed to be creative to plan for soil rehabilitation and even reforestation using grazing animals. The image above portrays an example of stacking a laneway, a swale, a food forest, pasture, slope, and time. This is doing something very clever. By using the slope of the land we are allowing the manure from the grazing animals to be washed into swales where their nutrient is then spread via rain that fills the swales — causing it to travel and infiltrate across the property. Below the swales are food forests which take up some of the nutrient for the production of food and biomass. The area below the food forest and before the next swale is called the interswale. In this system the interswale is a grazing cell where the animals are eating fresh pasture and depositing more manure for even further nutrient penetration further down slope. (Example in diagram below.)

It is important to note that the diversity of animals and manures that hit the pastures and swales will have a great beneficial impact on the soil. If we were to move a chicken tractor over the cells after the cows have grazed on them then we will deposit a different diversity of nutrient and also clear the area quickly of pests and even greatly diminish conditions favourable for unwanted vegetation (weeds). It is also important to note that large animals typically enjoy tree leaves and the cells should be placed just out of reach of the food forests, unless we are wanting to thin them holistically with the herd.

By using these methods a farm can maintain a healthy, disease- and pest-resistant landscape that benefits all life in both created and natural ecosystems. Savings on purchases of food, antibiotics, and medical treatments for the animals will be of great value using the ZGM as well. Many farmers are also looking for multiple income streams and gaining the best possible yields while improving the soil structure and resale value of their land. This system allows for just that. With swales and ponds on the property there is the additional option of aquaculture. The food forest systems can grow food for not only aquaculture, but also the grazing animals, and for humans that live on the farm or to sell in markets. The pastures produce beautiful organic and lush grasses that provide for a healthy herd that can be used for dairy or meat — products that will call top dollar as this method of grazing far out-produces organics in nutrients. And a large crop can be planted in an interswale. The crop can be rotated every growing season which will allow the grasses in the interswale to regenerate when not being used for a crop or grazed on.

This system also allows for just a few employees or ranch hands, because once set up, moving the cattle between cells is the hardest part of the job – which isn’t that hard at all.

Credit: http://permaculturenews.org/2013/07/16/advanced-cell-grazing-permaculture-livestock-systems-at-zaytuna-farm/