Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Natural Way of Farming

This is a section taken from The One Straw Revolution, a book by the inspirational Masanobu Fukuoka. It is taken from a chapter entitled “Four Principles of Natural Farming”.

Make your way carefully through these fields. Dragonflies and moths fly up in a flurry. Honeybees buzz from blossom to blossom. Part the leaves and you will see insects, spiders, frogs, lizards, and many other small animals bustling about in the cool shade. Moles and earthworms burrow beneath the surface.

This is a balanced rice field ecosystem. Insect and plant communities maintain a stable relationship here. It is not uncommon for a plant disease to sweep through this area, leaving the crops in these fields unaffected.

And now look over at the neighbour’s field for a moment. The weeds have all been wiped out by herbicides and cultivation. The soil animals and insects have been exterminated by poison. The soil has been burned clean of organic matter and micro organisms by chemical fertilisers. In the summer you see farmers at work in the fields, wearing gas masks and long rubber gloves. These rice fields, which have been farmed continuously for over 1500 years, have now been laid waste by the exploitative farming practices of a single generation.

The Four Principles

The first is NO CULTIVATION, that is no ploughing or turning of the soil. For centuries, farmers have assumed that the plough is essential for growing crops. However, non cultivation is fundamental to natural farming. The earth cultivates itself naturally by means of penetration of plant roots and the activity of micro organisms, small animals and earthworms.

The second is NO CHEMICAL FERTILISER or PREPARED COMPOST.[1] People interfere with nature, and, try as they may, they cannot heal the resulting wounds. Their careless farming practices drain the soil of essential nutrients and the result is yearly depletion of the land. If left to itself, the soil maintains its fertility naturally, in accordance with the orderly cycle of plant and animal life.

The third is NO WEEDING BY TILLAGE OR HERBICIDES. Weeds play their part in building soil fertility and in balancing the biological community. As a fundamental principle, weeds should be controlled, not eliminated. Straw mulch, a ground cover of white clover interplanted with the crops, and temporary flooding provide effective weed control in my fields.

The fourth is NO DEPENDENCE ON CHEMICALS.[2] From the time that weak plants developed as a result of such unnatural practices as ploughing and fertilising, disease and insect imbalance became a great problem in agriculture. Nature, left alone, is in perfect balance. Harmful insects and plant diseases are always present, but do not occur in nature to such an extent which requires the use of poisonous chemicals. The sensible approach to disease and insect control is to grow sturdy crops in a healthy environment [Note: these same principles are applicable in natural medicine].

[1] For fertiliser, Mr Fukuoka grows a leguminous ground cover of white clover, returns the threshed straw to the fields, and adds a little poultry manure (poultry roam free in fields).

[2] Mr Fukuoka grows his grain crops without chemicals of any kind. On some orchard trees, he occasionally uses a machine oil emulsion for the control of insect scales. He uses no persistent or broad spectrum poisons, and has no pesticide ‘program’.

By North Utsire

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