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Experimenting With Rice Part 1 – 2019

Last week  I bought 9 kilograms of rice for 315 PHP or 5.25 Euros. 3 kilograms each of per variety, so 3 varieties in total. I would like to buy a lot more, but I got to use the resources available to me.
It takes about 40 kilograms of rice to sow 1 hectare with transplanting method according to the Philippine Rice Research Institute.  Altho some farmers use up as much as 150 kilograms of rice per hectare.
The plot of land  I designated for rice is only about 0.1 to 0.2 hectares so hopefully I am good with the amount of rice I bought.
The varieties I have are called “Japanese, 300, and 80”.  These probably aren’t official names, but more likely the names the local rice farmer gave them. They have been grown with insecticides and flooded paddies, so I am not sure how well they will adapt to my growing methods.

I will try to grow the rice without plowing; without flooding the field nor irrigation (rain only); without pesticides nor insecticides; and without any chemical fertilizers.
I will inter crop the rice with mung bean which is a nitrogen-fixing legume.
Our neighbor is actually going to grow rice too. We see him every morning plowing his field with the water buffalo to prepare the soil. He will grow the rice without flooding, depending on rain only, and he will presumably use animal manure fertilizers and pesticides.
My crop rotation will consist of growing rice during the rainy season and millet during the dry season. Millet is a heat resistant and drought resistant cereal grain.

One big challenge is that the plot of land for the rice/mongo is next to a river (which I do not own), which all the farmers in area use for their waterbuffalos. They just leave them in river for bathing, drinking, and relaxing. The problem is that the waterbuffalos regularly go on my land for grazing.
A barricade will be constructed, but this might only be built many many months from now. I am worried the water buffalo will not only eat the rice or mongo, they will also trample the seedlings and harden the soil with their hooves.

I will update this post more as the rice will (hopefully) grow.

UPDATE:

Grasses the height of 2 centimeters are growing on the rice field. (I haven’t sown rice yet). First I was worried the mongo (mung beans) and rice would not be able to grow between the thick grasses and that I would need to plow the field to remove the grasses, so the rice can grow. (even tho I do not want to plow the field). I took some pieces of soil out with the hoe and checked if there was any spaces in between the grass and if the roots of grass are thick or not. To my surprise there was more than enough space in between for crops to grow. So I decided not to plow and just leave the grass as it is.
First I spread some rice straw over the field. I didn’t have enough rice straw to cover the entire field, but every little bit helps to suppress the grasses and add fertilizer.
The next day a small portion of the rice straw caught on fire from the intense tropical afternoon sun. When I saw the smoke coming from the field I immediately knew it was the straw so I quickly ran over to put it out with a pitchfork. The damage was minimal and insignificant. Only a very small pluck of straw was burned.
That event reminded me of my grandfather who was a farmer too. He had a big pile of straw which caught on fire in summer. He had to rush with buckets of water to put it out.

As I said earlier in the post our neighbour wanted to grow rice too. His has sown the rice a few months earlier than me and his rice is now about the height up to my hips.
His rice field is about 5 times bigger than our field.
He grows rice without paddy, he depends on rain only. Tho he does spray his rice regularly with pesticides and he has plowed the soil too. Even tho it is the rainy season, one week it did not rain for over 4 days and the neighbours rice was drying out a bit. He complained that if it did not rain his rice would die and his crops lost. In the meantime I was waiting for rain too to sow monggo on my rice field.
At the end of the 4 days it finally rained and in the middle of the rain me and my girlfriend (Thank you for the help, it was fun being in the rain with you throwing seeds) direct-seed broadcasted mongo on the field.
I said earlier in the post I was worried about the waterbuffalos that might come on the field, but they have not come anymore, because the farmers here now know I am using the field to grow vegetables and if any animal will come on the field it will be send away by me by throwing stones at it. Also the barricade is being constructed this week, so that’s good.

I have sown the mongo on 9 July and as of writing this it is 28 July. The mongo is growing very well, starting on their 3rd set of leaves. It is even overgrowing and suppressing the grass.
Other older farmers here are telling me that I have wrongly planted the mongo, that I should have carefully placed each seed with enough space from each other so that they have room to grow, but this is because I am using the technique of high-density planting, which I try to use in almost all planting I do.

High-density planting simply means I grow the plants with almost no space between each other. This prevents weeds growing in between the crop and retains moisture as much as possible while also shading the soil
I will not do any thinning, instead I let nature do the thinning. Some plants will be eaten by insects, and some plants simply die because they are weak. In the end there will still be enough space for the plants to grow.
I actually discovered high-density planting on my own just by walking in and observing forests, especially tropical jungles. In there you will find that plants and trees grow in such high densities that there is literally no place to walk anymore, nor can you see through it, every space possible is occupied by some plant, tree, or vine. And yet the plants and trees thrive and grow well. Only later I found out more about high-density planting through a couple of books and articles. As a natural farmer I will of course follow what nature is doing and I am now convinced that the idea of having adequate space between the plants is nothing more than a farmers myth.

Recently it rained a lot during the night and by a lot I am mean a lot. As explained earlier there is a river flowing next to the rice field, the source of the river comes from the forests up in the mountain. In the dry season the river is dry and empty and during the rainy season it flows. But this rain made the river overflow. When I looked in the morning the river partially overflowed on the mongo and some portions of mongo got washed away by the river. But no worries. The damage was very small. Only about 1% of the mongo got washed away so it is of no concern.
I think this level is the maximum the river can overflow, if it would overflow more it would be bad, but I do not think that will happen unless there is a huge hurricane.
Altho since we live in the mountains the worst effects of a hurricane would be dissipated by the mountains.

Next week I will be broadcasting rice in seedballs through the growing mongo. To be honest I am kind of too late with sowing the mongo and rice. I should have started sowing around June, but it is already August and I have not sown rice yet. This is because I was busy with constructing the house and moving into the place. Hopefully next year I can do all planting on time.
But of course late planting is still better than no planting at all.

The process of my planting is as follows:

1. Rice straw is spread over the field. The rice straw provides fertilizer, suppresses weeds, and retains moisture. Edible paddy straw mushrooms might also grow in the rice straw which can be harvested.
2. Mongo is direct-seeded broadcast over the rice straw during a rain. Sowing during rain allows for quick germination of the mongo, so that it won’t be eaten by insects or birds; and so that the seeds won’t dry out in the sun. The mongo is a nitrogen-fixing legume which will provide fertilizer for the field.
3. Rice is made into seedballs and then broadcasted in between the mongo. The mongo hides the rice from birds and prevents the rice seeds drying out from the sun.
4. Mongo is carefully harvested, trying not to damage the rice.
5. Rice is harvested. And the remaining mongo cut down. The cycle repeats. Or…
6. Millet grown on the field in the dry season with either another round of mongo or a different legimous cover crop.

With this set-up I can potentially have 3 to 4 harvests per year on the same field: Mushrooms, Mongo, Rice, and Millet.

UPDATE:

I tried to put the rice seeds into seedballs, but it did not work. I have a “seedball machine” which is basically a blue round drum spinning on 4 cart wheels welded on a frame.
I tried several methods of making the seedballs. One was to first put dry powdered clay mixed with soil in the machine, then wet it with a sprayer/mister. Then add the rice seeds and spin the drum around. The drum is spun around by hand. The problem is that no seedballs are forming. A few large balls did form but most of the rice is on the outside, not on the inside of the clay.
Another method I tried was to first put the rice seeds then wet them; then add soil and spin the drum; then add clay and spin again, but alas no seedballs were forming in this method.

Instead I coated the rice seeds with chili powder (to deter insects) and then direct-seeded broadcasted the rice seeds over the field in between the monggo.

I could have hand rolled the seedballs, but hand rolling 12 kilograms of rice with 1 seed per seedball is way too much effort.
There are many factors in making the perfect seedball, so I am not sure what went wrong with the seedball machine, but here are some of the factors listed.

1. Drum is not spinning fast enough.

– I am not sure, but this might be a likely cause. I spin the drum by hand which even tho it looks quite fast, might not be fast enough for balls to form. I may need to spin the drum with a motor or a bicycle.

2. Drum is not spinning long enough.

– Might be another cause, spinning by hand is really tiring. Altho in my desperate attempt I have been spinning for quite a long time.

3. Mixture is not wet enough.

– I experimented with different kinds of wetness, from barely dry to almost soaking wet – none worked.

4. The ratio of seeds to soil to clay is not right.

– This may be another cause. It is really hard to get the right ratios in the mixture just right. I experimented with different ration, but none worked so far. I used visual observation for the ratios and guessed by feeling, but maybe next time I can use a scale to get accurate measurements.

5, The powdered clay or/and the soil is not the right consistency, maybe too rough.

– I doubt this is the cause. I made the powdered clay by drying out the clay for a few days until it became brittle, then hammered it into a powder, and then filtered/sieved the powder to make it finer. The filter/siever I used is also used for filtering sand for making cement. In the past I have also made good seedballs by swirling in a bucket with even rougher clay.

There may be more factors, but I have yet to found them out.

UPDATE:

I no longer use the seedball-machine. Instead after much experimenting read my new post: How to make seedballs

UPDATE:

After several more failed attempts of making rice seedballs I decided to direct broadcast the rice without seedballs, altho before I did I first covered the bare seeds with chili powder to stop animals from eating it. Altho in the future I might coat them with a mix of chili powder and cinnamon powder. I have sown the rice on August 22. Which is way too late, but as explained earlier I had to wait for numerous things to happen like the construction of the house before I was able to sow the rice. In comparison the neighbour’s rice field is being harvested in October. only 2 months after I have sown my rice. My plan was to sow my rice at the same time as the neighbour, but sadly that did not happen. I forgot when the neighbour sowed his rice, but I think it was somewhere around June.
In any case it is September 10 now as of writing. As I mentioned in a different post, my monggo/rice field expanded in size because the borders of the land changed. Because I had already sown monggo, but not yet the rice there was a big area of new land with no monggo growing, just some weeds. I cut the weeds and then sowed the rice between the monggo and on the field without monggo. On the field without monggo the rice has sprouted and is groing well; around 10 centimeters in height at the moment. I can not really see any rice between the monggo, but maybe once the monggo is harvested and cut the rice will push through.
Speaking of harvest… The monggo is ready for harvest now. I had sown the monggo on 9 July and now on 10 September its more than ready for harvest. So about 2 months between sowing and harvest. I am actually a bit late for harvest mostly because Philippine cobra snakes were spotted by farmers (not by me) around that area so I was afraid of going into the monggo.
Altho not all bean pods on the mung plats ripen at the same time so there is a continues harvest.

UPDATE:

Sadly another hurricane swept by, which caused the river to overflow dramatically and the entire mung bean field was washed away in the river. No harvest was obtained. A few of the rice that was growing slightly more up hill did survive tho.
I realized now that it was a bad choice to grow anything besides the river area. I can not grow anything in that area, but maybe it can still be used for grazing a few goats there.

So I have decided to move the mung bean / rice field to a different area. This area is situated more up hill in front of the house and next to the neighbours rice field.
First I used this area to plant trees for forestry, but it turned out this area is almost constantly flooded in the rainy season. The neighbours rice field constantly leaks water on this area and hurricanes the pass by drop heavy amounts of rain on this area. Nearly all the trees that I planted there started drowning. One pomegranate tree already died, because of it.
I had to dig up several trees and plant them somewhere else even higher up hill on a slope where there is no risk of flooding, the water there drains easily.
So while this area may not be perfect for trees, it is perfect for flood resistant plants such as water spinach(kangkong) and rice.

At the end of the rainy season after the rice harvest I will plant mung bean there together with millet(altho its hard to find millet seeds). And in the rainy season I will plant rice and water spinach (Kangkong)

As this post is becoming too long, and because I moving the rice field to a different area I

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2 thoughts on “Experimenting With Rice Part 1 – 2019”

  1. Pingback: Experimenting With Rice: Part 2 - 2020 - Jihatsu Eco Farm

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