Saturday, August 6, 2011

Natural Farming Models

Dr Abe V Rotor

Farm Life in acrylic by AVR

The other name of natural farming is organic farming. In the United States and Europe, the trend now is for people to reach for organically grown food. In malls and large groceries, we find rice labeled "organically grown."

Mere substitution of fertilizer from chemical to organic is not enough. The organic fertilizer must be free from pathogens, toxic waste and metals.

The crops and animals must not be products of genetic engineering, meaning they should come from natural gene pools.

Natural farming also requires the absence of chemical spraying. If it cannot be avoided, the spray must be biodegradable, using botanical derivatives like derris, neem and chrysanthemum.

Here are scenarios of natural farming in the country.

1. Payatak method (Samar) - This is a local version of zero tillage. No plowing, no harrowing is done. A herd of carabaos trample over the soil until it turns into puddle, then the one-month old rice seedlings are transplanted. There are no sprays or fertilizers. This is natural farming in the marginal sense, a carryover of age-old tradition.

2. Mixed orchard (Zambales) – This is a stand of several kinds of trees, where orchard, firewood trees and forest trees grow together. These trees follow a natural pattern of arrangement. They have no common pest and need soil fertility differentially. The trees have their own niche and grow into layers resembling storeys. Management is simple and practical.

3. Multiple cropping model (Sta. Maria. Bulacan) - The farmer engages in the production of three commodities. A two-hectare farm may produce fruits, vegetables and rice, plus several heads of carabao and cattle. A pond supplies irrigation and produces tilapia and hito.

Why three commodities? It is because these commodities are closely integrated. First, the animals produce, other than meat and milk, manure for the plants. The plants produce food for the family and market. Plant residues are made into animal feeds and compost. The pond is source of irrigation. It is a waterhole for wildlife conservation, too. Because of its integrated structure and management the farm becomes a balanced system. This is the key to sustainable agriculture, otherwise known as ecological farming.

4. Sloping agricultural land technology or (SALT in Bohol). Call this natural farming even if the farm is a logged over area. The idea is for the farmer to revert the land to its natural state as much as possible. How does he do it? If one sees the model, the land has a slope of around 20 degrees. The steeper the grade the more difficult it is to apply the system. It does not work for slopes above 30 degrees.

In SALT, the contour of the slope is marked and outlined. The contours are spaced uniformly, and the rows that follow the contour are planted at intervals with annual and permanent crops. The idea is for the permanent crops (like fruit trees and firewood trees) to be sandwiched with annual crops (like peanut, rice, corn, and vegetable). The ipil-ipil herbage is used as organic fertilizer. The Neem tree is used for pesticide, while Lantana (L. camara) is a natural pest repellant, so with Eucalyptus. Legume intercropping and crop rotation replenish the soil of Nitrogen and other elements.

5. Modified models (rice and corn areas). Rice farming can be modified to suit the conditions of natural farming. There are farms today that rely entirely on homemade or commercial organic fertilizers. An equally important aspect of successful farming is cleanliness. This means effective weed removal, trimmed waterways, properly disposed of farm wastes, efficient drainage, well arranged rows, and properly scheduled farming activities. All these activities require low technologies that are also affordable. Together they contribute to good health for both the producer and consumer - and the environment.

As more people go for organically-grown food, agriculture becomes more environment-friendly, which is the essence of ecological farming.~~

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