The soil in our rice fields is full of millions of micro organisms, mould, fungi, bacteria, earth worms, insects, small animals and a host of other forms of life. Ploughing these fields would exposes the soil to severe heat and light, thus compromising the fertility of this highly delicate soil eco- system.
When we plough, fertility is reduced and the addition of prepared composts become necessary. We have found that by using green manures, returning all the organic matter back to the soil (including the rice straw), and not ploughing, we are using less and less compost.
In some cases we are not using it at all. This year we grew peanuts in July, sowed rice directly into the peanuts, harvested the peanuts and after a small weeding we returned all the peanut waste to the field. We added no compost. It is not easy to get a homogonous germination like this, so invariably there was a little transplanting here and there.
Then we did a weeding and now we are harvesting. Some years we use a very dense ground cover called black velvet bean as a ground cover prior to sowing the rice. It is so dense that there is no need for a pre- weeding and just a very brief weeding is needed while the rice is growing.
One variety of rice we are growing is called china pooni. Rice farmers talk about good yields of 30 to 35 bags (75kg) of this rice per acre. We have a quarter acre this year and it is looking very promising. And it tastes very good, maybe due to a more diverse nutrition.
We had a funny mistake occur when we found that two varieties of rice got mixed up in the field. One was ready to harvest before the other. In permaculture, stacking crops based on their duration is a standard practice, but I never thought about it applying to rice. I am wondering if this stacking has helped with what looks like an impressive harvest? I have heard that tribals do this with up to twelve different crops in one field.
Anyway, farmers don’t like to talk about yields until the crop is in, so I will just say that if you would like to help with the harvest and be a part of this beautiful experiment that we have been working on in Solitude for the last 8 years please come at 8am on the 2nd of March and try and bring a sickle!
This naturally farmed rice will be offered in our CSA along with the other grains (i.e. ragi and varagu), peanuts, sesame, and black gram. Those who come for the harvest are invited to join us for lunch, and with the vegetable production in full swing, that is a reason enough to come! See you there! yours, krishna