Thursday, August 2, 2018

Natural Farming Models

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog

 Rice-based farming, monoculture, one crop a year .  Painting by AVRotor. 

Let me give you scenarios of natural farming.

1. Zero tillage. Ratooning of sugarcane requires no plowing, new shoots from previous crop are raised with irrigation and fertilization. Tillers of rice may also comprise the second crop. Pineapple farms are sustained by subsequent suckers.

2. Payatak method (Samar) - This is a local version of zero tillage. No plowing, no harrowing. A herd of carabaos trample of the soil until it turns puddle, then the one-month old seedlings are transplanted. No spray, no fertilizer. This is natural farming in the marginal sense, a carryover of traditional farming.

3. Mixed orchard (Zambales) - A mixture of several kinds of trees, orchard, firewood trees, forest trees grow together without any apparent planning. Yet these trees follow a natural pattern of arrangement. They have no common pest, they need soil fertility differentially, they have their own space niche, they make up several storeys. Management is very little. Nature takes care of everything.

4. Multiple cropping model (Sta. Maria. Bulacan) - Here the farmer engages in the production of three commodities. For Narciso Santiago, national outstanding farmer, his 2.5-ha farm produces frults, vegetables and rice. He has several heads of carabao and cattle grown on homelot, pastured between the orchard trees. A pond supplies irrigation, as it produces tilapia and mudfish. Why three commodities? It is because they are closely integrated. This is the key to natural farming where there are a number of products to be desired. 

First the animals produce, other than meat and milk, manure for the plants, the plants produce food for the family and market, and they together with their residues give feeds to the animals. The pond is source of irrigation for the plants, principally rice and vegetables. It is a waterhole for wildlife for biological control. Because of its integrated structure and management. the farm itself becomes a balanced system. This is the key to sustainable production. This is ecological. farming.

5. Sloping agricultural land technology or SALT (Bohol) Call this natural farming even if the farm is a logged area. Precisely the idea is for the farmer to return the land to its natural state as much as possible. How does he do it? 

Agro-ecology model, watershed area. Painting by AVRotor 

If one sees the model, the land has a grade of 20 to 40 degrees. The steeper the grade the more difficult it is to apply the system. 

Over and above 45 degrees the model may not work at all.) Here the contour of the slope is marked and outlined so that the sole of the plow, so to speak, will be level at all times. The contours are spaced uniformly, and the rows which follow the contour are planted at interval of annual and permanent crops.

6. The idea is for the permanent crops like fruit trees and firewood trees to sandwich the annual crops like peanut, rice, corn vegetable. The herbage of, say ipil-ipil, is used as organic fertilizer. Neem tree is used for pesticide. Lantana is a natural pest repellant, so with Eucalyptus. Legume intercropping and crop rotation replenish the soil of Nitrogen.

7. 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. These are contracted farms to supply organically grown rice.

An equally important aspect of successful farming is cleanliness. This means no weeds, trimmed waterways, properly disposed farm wastes, efficient drainage, well arranged rows, properly scheduled farming activities, and the like. All this requires but low technology that is also affordable, and contributes to good health to both producer and consumer, and the whole community.

Genetically resistant varieties are chosen. Proper time of planting and harvesting is needed. We should know that clean farms, healthy plants and good management, are basic. What we are saying is that the use of chemicals is dispensable. To a single farmer, this is easier said than done. There is a need for collective and community effort, in which case farming , especially if it intends to shift to organic, likewise becomes more efficient as cost of production can be brought down.

8. Coconut farms (Southern Tagalog and Bicol). Seldom do we hear of coconut cultivation that follows the agronomic practices of other major crops like sugar cane or corn. Perhaps there is no plant more resistant than coconut. It is because it perfectly fits our soil, climate and latitude. It is indigenous to us. In fact it evolved with our islands and our culture. Evolutionarily and historically what I am saying is that natural farming is not new. And more importantly, it is a product of long years of development. It is not just acclimatization. It is co-evolution.

The message is that let us explore the richness of our biodiversity and our culture as a people to be able to understand the working of nature. Nature shows us the way. Nature, the way our ancestors knew then, is the nature we know today, except that we have embraced many changes in farming as well as in life style. Many of these changes had not passed the test of time.

In Laguna and Quezon, coconut is the dominant species of an ecosystem. The presence of man in the ecosystem has modified it to suit to his needs. For example, he has chosen only the trees and plants that grow between the coconut trees. Unknowingly he raises animals, which reduce the richness of plant species diversity.

We still see around well-established, stable coconut areas where man's intervention is kept low, but my fear is the current practice of logging old coconut trees for lumber.

Natural farming then is important as a way of farming. It is also important in sustaining economic production, and above all, the continuity of our ecosystems that we have placed in our hands. Given these premises the farmer today faces a new challenge worthy of the title, "the backbone of the nation."~

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