Tuesday, March 2, 2010
A Snapshot of "Do Nothing" Farming
I wanted to throw this out to highlight some of the positive actions going on that counter the destructive nature of mass-farming. Almost 60 years ago now, in Japan, a guy named Masanobu Fukuoka was weeding the family farm. He noticed a rice plant growing on its own in a ditch, coming up earlier than the rice that had been planted in the surrounding fields. The thing he noticed, besides it's early sprout, was that it was growing in a patch of fallen rice stalks, not on the bare, cultivated field.
Over the next 30 years he took this observation and molded it into one of Asia's premiere sustainable farming techniques. He's learned to maintain his farm with almost no labor while its yields are among the highest in Japan.
Starting with a standing rice crop, he seeds the soil with clover. A little while later he seeds the same area with barley and rye. When the rice is ready, he harvests it and throws the rice straw on top of the field. The clover is well-established at this time, and it works to keep weeds in check and maintain nitrogen levels in the dirt. Rye and barley come up through the straw and clover. Fukuoka then seeds the field with rice and harvests the rye and barley. Then the rice comes up and he repeats...and blammo! - he's got a self-running system that fertilizes and cultivates on its own.
No time spent weeding, cultivating, or fertilizing, Minimal water use. Fukuoka brings in 22 rice bushels and 22 bushels of winter grains each year on a quarter acre of land. Other farmers have picked this up and this method is used throughout Japan and on over a million acres in China.
This method works just like nature. His soil is rich, not depleted. The plants healthy, not in need of new chemicals every year. The dirt holds in the water, so the soil does not erode off the fields. And he's saved his own personal time, money and effort while he yields crops equal to or greater than conventional methods. Win/win all the way around.
It's odd that even though this technique is 30 years old, most of us are just hearing about it in the United States recently. But the good news there is that this method can be done on a small scale, in backyards and small farms around the world. It could also be done on a large scale, if there was a will to do so. Would provide a lot more labor jobs that could be paid for with money saved on fertilizers and chemicals.