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Experimenting With Rice: Part 2 – 2020

“Trees are the guardians of the soil.
Even in flooded paddies, growing large and small trees on mounds right in the fields themselves is an excellent idea.
The paddies near Sukhothai, Thailand, are filled with such trees. Those fields are among the finest examples of the natural farming method for growing paddy rice
anywhere in the world since they join the farmers with a diversity of plants and animals—including draft animals, fish, and amphibians—into a harmonious whole.” – Masanobu Fukuoka

For part 1 see: Experimenting with rice Part 1 – 2019

I tried to find millet seeds in town at a poultry supply shop. They had white and black millet seeds imported from Australia. I asked the shopkeeper if it can be planted, but they did not know.
So I bought 1 kilogram of white millet and sowed it during a rain between the wild grasses and weeds on 23 October. It is now 16 November and I do not really see anything growing. I think the seed was bad and I need to find millet somewhere else.


Its now about 9 months later June 14. Sadly the millet did not work out and I was not able to find any in time. This year (2020) I was looking for upland hill rice to buy, because before I bought paddy rice and it did not grow too well. Because I am want to grow rice on a dry field its much better to have upland hill rice which neighbour also uses.
I asked around and even asked the Department of Agriculture, but nobody could help me. Then June was already coming and I still had not found the rice I needed.
My neigbour said that if he had rice left over after sowing his own field he would give the left overs to me, but he said it probably would not be enough for me.
Then luckily after the neighbour sowed his rice he came to me and said he still had enough rice left over to sow my field, so I was very happy.

I payed my neighbour to plow my rice field, which is the only part that is plowed on the entire farm, this will also be the first and last plowing that will ever happen.
If you are shocked about why I plowed my land please read the post Plowing in natural farming?! In short because of the burning of the land 2 years a go the soil became very compacted and overcrowded with 1 meter tall weeds, if I would sow rice on it not much rice would grow. That is why I plowed it for first and last time to loosen and activate the soil.
Before the plowing I asked my neighbour I could collect some buffalo manure and he agreed. I got one wheelbarrow full of buffalo manure at what I call “Kalabaw station”. It is a small area at the edge of the village where all the buffalo’s are ‘parked’. Its a flat area surrounded by many big mango and coconut trees that cast a shade for the buffalo’s. In the kalabaw station are many heaps of manure with lots of mushrooms growing, the soil there is rich, and black with good structure. Farmers that passed by were surprised seeing a white man shoveling up buffalo shit.

Before I was able to put the manure on the field my neighbour had already plowed a small portion. He told me the soil I had was very good and that my rice would grow better than his rice field even tho we are using the same seeds. And indeed the soil of my land was slightly darker in color than then the soil of my neighbour, not only that but the whole soil was filled with the roots of plants and it was obvious organic matter had increased significantly in 1 year. This is a clear proof how weeds and chop and drop improve the soil. 1 year a go my soil was worse than that of the neighbour. There was no vegetation and no organic matter. For 1 year I did “nothing” to the field… The weeds grew over 1 meter tall and I chopped and dropped the weeds only twice (once every six months). I grew a little bit of mung bean between the weeds, but it was not much. For the whole year the field was permanently covered with weeds and mulch.
In that 1 year my neighbour grew corn and rice on his field (note that the corn and rice were grown in 2 separate periods, not at the same time.), but vegetation of those crops was only for about 7 months of the year, for the other remaining 5 months the soil was bare and exposed without any vegetation. Weeds never grew and the field was plowed over 10 times in a year. His soil looks pretty much dead. There are no roots, no mulch, no organic matter and the color is dark yellow like sand, even tho this soil is clay.

My rice field is unusual in that it has a 3 small lemon trees growing in the middle surrounded by a few nitrogen fixing trees and on the borders are 15 small moringa trees with young mango and coconut trees.
My neighbour was so impressed with how good the soil was that he suggested to add 2 lines of corn in the rice field so that the rice field is divided into 3 sections. I thought this was a good idea. As the rice was about to be sown I told him I also wanted to sow mung bean and nitrogen fixing trees at the same time with the rice. Earlier I collected about a 100+ seeds of Ipil-ipil (Leucaena leucocephala). He was shocked by the idea of growing rice, mung bean, corn, and trees all in the same field at the same time, but since it is my field he agreed to help me sow the seeds and so it was done.

Now that all the seeds are sown I am just waiting for good rains to come in. Because of the plowing now the soil is exposed and bare to the sun until the first crops sprout. I have not added mulch so that the seeds have better chance of pushing trough and to not step on the freshly plowed soil as to not compact it. I might have a small fertility lose because of it, but I am sure that natural farming will make up for it and the fertility will only increase in the next years, especially cause it is last time of plowing.

What is the future of the rice field?

As I said this is the last time the field is plowed. To not let the weeds dominate the field again the important thing now is to never have a gap between sowing and harvest. Then as planned I will try to sow Millet maybe 1 or 2 weeks before the rice is harvested. After the rice is harvested I will put all the rice straw back on the field as mulch. I might also sow mung bean again to add a nitrogen fixing crop and to suppress the weeds. I know Masanobu uses white clover as a groundcover for his rice, but its not possible to grow white clover in the tropics as far as I know. The other alternative is alfalfa clover which can grow in the tropics, but I have been having a hard time sourcing good alfalfa seeds. Personally I think mung bean is a good tropical alternative to white clover also because it does not grow like a vine. The only problem is that mung bean is short lived and its roots do not form a mat like white clover to suppress weeds. Mung bean has more of a deep tap root which could also by beneficial in other ways. In any case I will try it out and see how it goes.

Once the millet is harvested I will turn back the straw as well and maybe after that I can grow corn or a different dry season crop and then back to rice again to complete the cycle. Maybe I can skip the corn, but it depends on the length of time the millet is growing and the length of the dry season. Millet is harvested rather quickly so then there might a gap between the harvest of millet and the sowing of rice.

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