Thursday, October 1, 2009

Growing rice on the Terrace

Rice grown on bed of 8 inches Amrut Mitti mulched with sugarcane bagasse













It is said that to grow rice one needs to flood the feilds with water. How do we know? We in Mumbai have never seen rice feilds leave alone know whether the feild needs to be flooded or not.So we started our experiment to grow rice on a terrace!
And we succeeded! The lush green grass swaying in the stong wind filled our hearts with joy. We can only imagine the joy the farmers must feel while they watch the fruits of their hard labour in open feilds.

Well it is possible to feel this joy in urban areas too......
We are now watching the wonders of this crop drying , the rush of birds to feed on this crop, and our gardeners shooing them away, possesively gaurding their treasure!

Let us wait and watch the final yeild that we get... Patience! Patience!
After a month
Just as we were to harvest the rice .....On Dassehra day it rained cats and dogs in Mumbai......It poured......! My heart sank. It was a holiday and our kitchen was closed. The rice was all wet!
I deeply felt the pain of all the farmers who work so hard in the feilds and are faced with hardships in case of such calamities beyond their control.For us urbanites these calamities dont even cause a flutter. We only realise their impact when the prices of food touches the skies and we crib about them.All we do then is to blame the government in power.
The next day when we went on the terrace.....we realised there had been a party ! By Rats! They had eaten away the rice which was scattered all over the place......
WE SHOULD HAVE HARVESTED IT ON TIME ! A LESSON WELL LEARNT!
In spite of this all we did not have the heart to cut away the remaining parts so we retained the plants. In a few days there were new shoots which sprouted! But the root growth was not vigourous and we decided to cut away what was remaining. After the rats party what remained was about 50 gms.....
More than three times had been eaten away by them. So we can assume that about 150 gms of rice was cultivated in a bed of Amrut Mitti measuring 1.5 ft * 3 ft * 8 inch ht .
NOW WE HAVE DECIDED TO START ALL OVER AGAIN WITH A WINTER CROP ON A BIGGER BED....... : ) WILL GET BACK WITH RESULTS.........

Thursday, September 17, 2009

City Farming Workshop on 27th Sept 09

With the threat of Global Warming, the poison in our food, the decline in contact with Nature and rising stress levels, city farms have become the need of the day. If left to itself Nature will not leave a stone unturned in greening every inch of space. The bright green wild weeds growing even in the small spaces, nooks and corners: above our bus stops shelters, corners of the road are a testimony to this. Nature shows us the way and Natueco connects us to nature. So dear friends register for the workshop and take the initiative to create a city farm in your area. You will not only be rewarded with the sweet fruits of your labour but will also inspire and lead others. Register and participate in a workshop on 27th September 09 at Maharashtra Nature Park from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm.
For registration contact :
Suresh Paranjpe at sureshparanjpe@yahoo.com
Contact No: 9930440286 OR
Jyoti Bhave at bhave0709@gmail.com Contact No : 9819444905

View Photos of workshop here : http://picasaweb.google.co.in/preetisunil/HowToInitiateYourNatuecoCityFarmAWorkshopHeldByURBANLEAVESAtMNPOn27thSept2009?feat=directlink

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Workshop 'How to initiate you own City Farm" Events-- 7th JUNE 2009

A session on " How to initiate your own City Farm" was conducted at Maharashtra Nature Park on 7th June 2009 from 9.00 am to 1 pm. The session was organised by "Urban Leaves" an initiative of Vidya Varidhi Trust. Preeti Patil l conducted the lecture session and demonstration.
The photographs of the workshop can be viewed at
http://picasaweb.google.co.in/preetisunil/WorkshopAtMaharashtraNaturePark7609?feat=directlink
Date for next workshop will be announced in July 2009.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Farm fresh Recipes _ Herbal Tea

With Thanks and warm regards to Dr. Vijaya Venkat and Associates


I attended the course on nutrition Re-education programme at the HEALTH AWARENESS CENTER and the caption which read –
HEALTH CARE IS SELF CARE IS EARTH CARE
immediately connected with me. My experiences in Natueco City farming have made me realize the importance of sustainability in harmonious relationship with the environment.

At the center I learnt to use the farm fresh food in the most effective way so as to enable the body to make use of all the nutrition the food is capable ofproviding. I learnt – Quote “Nutrition is much more than food. In fact proper nutrition involves the whole sphere of living. It covers our basic needs like food, air, sunshine, rest and relaxation. It also involves our interaction with the environment, our relationships, and our capacity for creativity and activity. It is only through adequate nutrition that health and healthful living can be achieved.
Fitness can be achieved through exercise. But exercise is only one aspect of Health. Exercise is not restricted to muscular flexibility or supple tendons. Exercise can also be walking, dancing, gardening, singing, taking the stairs, yoga, meditation etc… exercising is the joy of activity – be it cooking or weight lifting or climbing a mountain. Activity is therefore one aspect of health.
Even eating the most perfect raw natural foods everyday will not magically conjure up health. Food is only the stepping stone aided by our choices, to attain good health. Health foods served in spas, gyms are manufactured in a factory that only serve to pollute the air, water, space land and her resources.” -- The handbook of Nutrition Re education Programme (The Health awareness Center)

These external factors are more important to health than anyone of us would believe. Even plants receive 98% of the nutrition from the atmosphere. Only 2% from the soil ! This 2% is what gives vital energy to our food. Damage to Earth and her resources directly inflicts damage on us.

“With growth of the science of ecology (including the various aspects of pollution) the connection between our own natural wealth (health) and health (wealth) of the planet has been established. Our body is the greatest ecological system ever designed. The human organisms symbiotic relationship within themselves and with all organisms within the environment is the biggest testimony to all this. The natural laws that all organisms in the world around us listen to are the same laws that we as humans are meant to abide by. These laws were crafted by nature for a healthy life. (There were no hospitals, no doctors, and no medicines in the wild) yet they are ruled by the same laws of creation that govern people.

Attuning ourselves and regaining our consciousness to this web of nature is what it also takes to be healthy. Here is an attempt to share some farm fresh recipes that we have learnt over the years from books, friends and teachers at the center.

Recipes with farm fresh produce.
HERBAL TEA

This month we begin with the Herbal Tea. Herbal teas can be made with fresh or dried flowers, leaves, seeds or roots, generally by pouring boiling water over the plant parts and letting them steep for a few minutes. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbal_tea

We make our herbal tea using ingredients shown below.

The photo above depicts how the ingredients can be planted on the terrace or a farm. Design courtesy my good friend Sabrina Modak.

Ingredients:

Lemon Grass
Mint (Pudina)
Tulsi (Holy Basil)
Ginger
Organic Jaggery (Optional)
Lime (Optional)

Also some red Hibuscus flowers if available

Mix the herbs and boil with water till you smell a fresh aroma of all the herbs. Strain and drink.

As I was making a catalog of the 150 varieties of plants on the MbPT terrace I realised that there is actually a whole pharmacy up there.

A few medinal benefits of the ingredients:

Lemon Grass
Botanical Name: Cymbopogon citratus
Common Name : Lemon grass
Family : Poaceae( Grass family)
Native to India
Propagated by division of clumps

Citronella is known for its calming effect that relieves insomnia or stress. It is also considered as a mild insect repellant. But more than scent, lemon grass provides a lot of health benefits. Studies have shown that the lemon grass has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Drank as tea, it is an effective diuretic.
A recent study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the department of Science and technology ( DOST ) claims that every 100g of lemon grass when boiled can contain up to 24.205 micrograms of beta-carotene the anti-oxidant that scientists believe can help prevent cancer. Another DOST study shows that lemon grass oil has the potential as a tropical eye medication against keratomycosis, an inflammation of cornea often associated with burning or blurring of vision.

Ginger
Botanical Name : Zingiber officinale
Common Name : Ginger
Family : Zingiberaceae
Native to Southeast Asia
Propagated by rhizome
Ginger has been revered in Indian and Chinese civilizations for over 5000 years for its powerful health imparting properties. In fact, Indian ginger is said to have the most potent medicinal properties. Danish researchers found that ginger can block the effects of prostaglandin - a substance that cause inflammation of the blood vessels in the brain and can lead to migraines.
nausea, digestive problems, circulation and arthritis. Nausea caused during pregnancy or by travelling is one of the benefits of ginger root. Ginger is also known to have the ability to calm an upset stomach and to promote the flow of bile. Stomach cramps can be eased and circulation can also be improved. Ginger supports a healthy cardiovascular system by making platelets less sticky which in turn reduces circulatory problems.Ginger oil used for massage can help relieve painful arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger is often included in many herbal decongestants and can help to minimize the symptoms of respiratory conditions, colds and allergies.

Tulsi
Botanical Name : Ocimum tenuiflorum
Common Name : Holy Basil
Family : Lamiaceae
Native to India
Propagated by seeds

The tulsi plant has many medicinal properties. The leaves are a nerve tonic and also sharpen memory. They promote the removal of the catarrhal matter and phlegm from the bronchial tube. The leaves strengthen the stomach and induce copious perspiration. The seed of the plant are mucilaginous.The leaves of basil are specific for many fevers.
During the rainy season, when malaria and dengue fever are widely prevalent, tender leaves, boiled with tea, act as preventive against these diseases. In case of acute fevers, a decoction of the leaves boiled with powdered cardamom in half a liter of water and mixed with sugar and milk brings down the temperature. The juice of tulsi leaves can be used to bring down fever. Extract of tulsi leaves in fresh water should be given every 2 to 3 hours. In between one can keep giving sips of cold water. In children, it is very effective in bringing down the temperature.
Other benefits include: Help heal Cough, sore throat, respiratory disorders, Kidney stone, heart disorder, mouth infections, insect bites, Headaches, skin disorders, eye disorders……

Pudina
Botanical Name : Mentha Arvensis.
Family: Lamiaceae
Native of America
Propagated by rhizomes

Mint is refreshing, stimulative, diaphoretic, stomachic, and antispasmodic. It helps in colds, flu, fever, poor digestion, motion sickness, food poisoning, rheumatism, hiccups, stings, ear aches, flatulence and for throat and sinus ailments.
.
References for medicinal Benefits:

http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/9-2-2006-107399.asp

http://www.healthandyoga.com/html/product/gteabeni.html

http://hinduism.about.com/od/ayurveda/a/tulsibenefits.htm

http://www.nutritional-supplements-health-guide.com/benefits-of-ginger.html

Farm Fresh Recipes - Eat what you grow and grow what you eat

Spinach Salad
Packed with nutrients.
Chop ingredients as shown below

Tomatoes from the farm
Fresh Spinach free from any pesticides, from your own little green patch

Green cucumbers, crispy and cooling

Sweet tender corn


Lime and lemony

Ingredients:

Spinach
Tomato
Cucumber
Sweet Corn
Peanut Powder
Rock Salt to taste
Lime juice

Chop spinach, cucumber and tomato finely. Steam (optional , can be added raw) sweet corn. Mix all ingredients together and add peanut powder, lime juice and salt to taste.
Enjoy the power packed meal and pave your way to a healthy CITY FARMERS lifestyle.....

How to use Amrut Mitti on the terrace farm

Material Required on the terrace
1. Sugarcane Bagass
2. Amrut Mitti
3. Aerated containers like Baskets, drums with base cut off and holes drilled on the side.
4. Organic kitchen waste
Method :
Take aerated containers as shown below.





Soak sugarcane bagass in Amrut jal and fill 40% of the containers with the same as shown below

Fill in Amrut Mitti



Plant the sapling in it.


Cover or mulch it again with Sugarcane bagass.


Now everyday add a fistful of pulvarised/finely chopped organic kitchen waste to it.


The waste can be finely chopped or pulverized and added on the bagass. After every 15 days a layer of sugarcane bagass should again be added.

A word of Caution :

There is no shortcut to this technique. It is important to make your soil for the following reasons.

1. This soil has a high microbial content which decomposes the waste that is added daily. If any other soil is used instead of Amrut mitti, the decomposition may not happen at a desired level .

2. The soil is rich in nutrition and has good structure, Right pH, and good % of organic carbon thereby making plants pest free, reducing water requirements.

3. Do not feed the plants with too much enthusiasm. The rate of decomposition has to match the amount of waste added. If one is more than the other one might see fruit flies etc. At such times stop adding waste and sprinkle with dry soil.

What are the sources of procuring the materials required?

Sugarcane Bagass can be procured from Sugarcane juice vendors…In Mumbai they are available throughout the year and the vendor is too happy to do away with it.
“Amrut Mitti” should be made at your own premises. The relationship developed with the growing local microbes makes for better sustainability of the microbes.

Aerated containers like laundry baskets, bamboo baskets can be purchased from open market. Scrap drums of Oil paint etc… can be recycled as containers for planting. Holes should be drilled towards the peripheral base for releasing heat during decomposition.

Plants and saplings can be planted directly on the slab by floowing the same procedure.


There is no cause of worry as roots do not enter the slab to any harm to the structure. They stop growing at the point where they do not get soil.




Sunday, March 1, 2009

Preparing Amrut Jal and Amrut Mitti

Ingredients for Amrut Jal

[1] 1 liter cow dung
[2] 1 liter cow urine
[3] 50 gms black jaggery
4] 10 ltrs water
(substitute ingredient for black jaggery: 6 over ripe bananas or 2 glasses of plain sugar cane juice or 6 pieces of over ripe jackfruit or other over ripe sweet fruit that is may be locally available).
Mix all the above together and keep for 3 days. Stir the mixture 2 to 3 times in a day, clock wise and anti-clock wise. On 4th day, take one liter of this concentrate mixture and mix it with 10 liters of water.
This preparation is called Amrut Jal/Water.
Role of each ingredient of Amrut Jal/ Water
Cow dung
1 gm of cow dung contains crores of microbes. These multiply when fermented for three days and accelerate decomposition. The microbial activity is highest on 4th day, after which it starts declining. Hence the Amrut Jal should be used on 4th day to give best results.
Cow urine
Cow urine contains 24 nutrients. Just as salt gives taste to our food, cow urine makes the compost tasty for the microbes.
Jaggery
Addition of jaggery aids fermentation.

Step 2: Collecting top soil


What we call topsoil can be found below big trees or under the bushes, in nooks and corners of the path of flowing water. The top soil should be collected by scrapping (only1 cm) the layers of any unturned soil and never by digging. This topsoil is a necessary ingredient, because it contains essential minerals along with dormant forms of microbes. By using this topsoil with the bio mass (leaves) we are providing an atmosphere to activate the dormant microbes. The microbes will become active when we mix the topsoil with the moist biomass.
The quality of topsoil will differ from area to area, region to region. Some regions have sandy soil, some clay, and some loam.
If the soil in our region has too much clay we need to add 10% river sand in it to avoid hardening of compost with time. Similarly if the soil in our region has too much sand we need to add river silt or clay soil in it in order to have a proper structure of soil. The ideal soil can be prepared with a balanced mixture of sand and clay.


Step3 a: Collect and use Green bio mass.

Collect different kinds of green biomass from surrounding areas. Chop green parts of plants, leaves and let them dry.

After the leaves dry, soak them in Amrut Jal for 24 hours. By soaking it for 24 hours all the veins in the leaves branches will get saturated with this Amrut Jal. This Amrut Jal also provides microbes, which help to accelerate the decomposing process.



Now, on the ground put one layer of this soaked biomass and then one layer of topsoil.



Sprinkle Amrut Jal to moist the topsoil. Keep on alternating the layers, until a height of one foot is reached, i.e. about 15 to 20 layers.

Alternating the layers helps to increase the surface area. This accelerates the decomposing process. Heaps should be 3 ft broad, 1 ft high and of any desired length. (The quantity of biomass in the layer should be such that it equals the mineral part after complete decomposition.) . Every seven days till the heap. During this period keep the heap moist (not soggy) by sprinkling it with Amrut Jal.

Nursery soil / “Amrut Mitti” is ready in 30 days.


Step 3 b: Collecting and using dry bio mass

While using dry leaves for composting, we also need to add greens. The reason for this is that dry leaves only contain 30% of nutrition (elements), the rest 70% have already been transferred to the mother plant before falling from the tree. Hence to fulfill the requirement for the remaining 70% of nutrition, through experimentation, we have discovered that we can manage by greening the heap with different types of seeds.

Method:
Crush dry leaves. This breaks the waxy layer on the veins and ensures seeping of Amrut Jal in veins of leaves. Arrange layers of bio mass with top soil sprinkled in between layers as explained above.
After 15-20 layers add a layer of 2 inches soil.

Greening the Heap

Easily available local seeds (preferably a mixture of seed as detailed below) are to be collected and soaked in Amrut Jal for 8 hours. These should be then spread on a dry cloth overnight for sprouting.

These sprouted seeds are then broadcast on heaps as explained above providing the layer of 2" nursery soil or top soil on the heap (of biomass.)

The ratio is 10 grams per square foot. The seeds are then covered by soil. The layer of soil used should be double the size of the seeds. Cover the heap by 2 to 4 inches of mulch i.e. dry grass or dry leaves. Sprinkle Amrut Jal in order to maintain moisture levels continuously. Remove the top mulch after the seeds germinate. Sprinkle with Amrut Jal time to time to maintain the moisture of the heap and microbial activity.

After the first 21 days interval



After 21 days, the seeds would have sprouted and grown to some height. Harvest (CUT OFF) 25 % of the greens, without disturbing the roots. Allow one inch of the stem to remain on the heap at the time of harvesting. Through this process, we are harvesting tender leaves of the plant and they are to be used in the compost heap. These tender leaves provide the nutrients zinc, boron, phosphate, molybdenum.


After the second 21 days interval


Let the cut sapling also grow for another 21 days. Then, again cut off 25% of the growth, which will consist of matured leaves. Put these green cuttings on the compost heap. These provide the nutrients nitrogen, magnesium and potash.

After the third 21 days interval


Let this second time cut sapling, grow for another 21 days along with not pruned plants. On the 3rd 21st day i.e. the 63rd day, some plants would have started flowering. On this day remove all the plants by cutting them from stem close to the soil. Chop them up into 2 or 3 inch pieces and spread them out on the heap of compost. Leave for 3 to 4 days till they become dry. Immerse them in Amrut Jal and then mix them into the heap. Composted heap is to be kept for 30 more days. However after every 7 days it should be tilled. These provide the nutrients Calcium, Silica, Boron, Iron, Manganese.

Highlights of this Process

· At the flowering stage microbial activity near the feeder roots zone is at its peak. The microbes facilitate maximum nutrition to the plant. As plant is in the flowering stage it needs and is ready to receive all nutrition, so up rooting it at this stage along with attached soil, feeder roots and utilizing it to make the heap will facilitate growth of many different varieties of microbes in our heap.

· Our heap (soil) will be rich bacteria and nutrition. Having bacteria of different varieties at different stages is beneficial in the same manner as utilizing parts of plant at different stages to get maximum nutrition.

· When plant is in flowering stage it contains nectar and pollen and special hormones, it also has the vital energy at this stage at higher level as plant also wants to exist and entire system is in the reproduction stage so it creates a system of microbial sources which protect the plant.
Through the greening process we start our search for plant nutrients, from our soil, and the growing parts of the plants which harvest the various nutrients necessary to build up necessary volume of fertile nursery soil. It is not important whether plants grow vigorously or germinate and die or are suffering in keen competition. We can recycle this whole biomass to build up the limited requirement of soil.
We are in sense repeating nature’s grassland and pasture eco system evolution in our limited space. Unless we raise such greening we will be loosing our daily opportunity of harvesting sunlight that is otherwise lost forever the very night.

Properties of Amrut Mitti

· It will have proper CN ratio
· It will have 7 pH.
· It will have maximum water holding capacity
· It will be airy soil, which will have carbon content of 5%
· This soil will be called nursery soil or “Amrut Mitti” or compost.
· Microbial count will be highest.
· It will have a sweet smell as emerges with the first rainfall on the soil

Life is infused into the compost heap through addition of cow dung and ‘Amrut Jal’.
The tender leaves and the matured green leaves render the soil full of nutrition. The fiber of dried leaves and stems becomes the structure of the soil.

The procedure of building soil must be done only once in the lifetime of the farm. Maintaining a proper balance of the elements ensures that the soil will continue to be the ideal soil.

How do we maintain nutrition in the heap?

The compost heap is subject to both loss of volume as well as a loss of nutrients. By the following methods the nutrient level of the compost heap can be maintained:

1. Dry Mulching
2. Live mulching
3. Providing it with roots leaves and branches harvested from this heap.
4. Providing the heap with ash can compensate the loss of nutrients.

1. Dry Mulching:

There is a loss of volume of 30% of the compost heap annually due to the conversion of carbon into carbon dioxide because of the heat. Covering the heap with grass cuttings and dry leaves can control the loss of volume. This process is called “Mulching”.

2. Live mulching
Erosion of the compost heap can be minimized by “live mulching” by planting lentils, sesame, and mustard, maize and “ragi”.


3. Providing it with roots leaves and branches harvested from this heap.

The volume of the Compost Heap can also be maintained by providing with roots, leaves and branches from the plant material harvested from this heap.

4. Providing the heap with wood ash can compensate the loss of nutrients.

By drying the wood from the trees that are pruned in one's own compound and then burning them we can obtain this ash. This ash will replace all elements in the heap, which the plants have extracted from the soil.
Every three months, ash is to be provided to the compost heap, this will help overcome any deficiency of minerals and also help in maintain the pH of the soil.
Twenty-five grams of ash can be given per square foot at intervals of 100 days.


Pitfalls that one must Avoid while using this Technique

1. Shortcuts : A common shortcut is to mulch and sprinkle with Amrut Jal rather than making the Amrut Mitti. This helps to some extent by nourishing the white feeder roots. However as the soil in contact, with the roots is of poor quality, it does not provide all the nutrients to the growing plants resulting in a poor canopy and thus low production.

2. Using EM Technology instead of Amrut Jal: This must be purchased or ingredients must be purchased, so it involves reliance on others. The microbes in EM are not local microbes. Local microbes are more sustainable. Microbes in EM may not be of optimum quantity depending on the age of the purchased solution.

3. Drip irrigation: to keep the soil moist instead of watering with a garden pipe. This results in over-watering in one place causing water logging and rotting of the roots and leaching of the nutrients out of the topsoil. At the same time the surrounding areas have too little water, which leads to microbial death. Thus this soil will not flourish. There is no control on the water supply. Using garden pipe demands awareness of the person watering, to the amount of water he is supplying.

4. Using chemicals along with this soil. This technique is in fact retrogressive as both the fertilizers and pesticides kill the microbes, and thus reduce the quality of the soil.

5. Keeping the “Amrut Mitti’, unmulched and open to sunlight. When the microbes are exposed to the sun even for a short period, they die, resulting in a loss of all the efforts taken to build them up.

6. Using cow dung or vermicompost instead of preparing nursery soil.
Cows generally eat dry grass, which does not have the nutritive value of a variety of biomass. As the cow takes the energy from the grass, the cow dung is devoid of energy. Also usually the cow dung is stored in a pile, which results in anaerobic decomposition. When this is placed on the field, it absorbs oxygen from the soil resulting in less oxygen supply to the plant. If it rains before the complete decomposition takes place, nutrients are leached out. Often cow dung is used before it is properly decomposed. This does not provide proper nutrition to the plant. In the case of vermicompost, if this is done only with dry leaves, it will provide only 30 % of the nutrients compared to Amrut Mitti. Also by composting away from the fields, the enzymes released during decomposition, which are essential for the formation of the white feeder roots, are lost. When the compost is put on the fields the worms are unable to survive because of the higher temperatures. On the contrary the microbes are acclimatized to higher temperatures. Finally, the use of earthworms results in the loss of energy as the earthworm uses up a certain amount of energy for its own purposes.

7. Tilling.
Tilling the soil results in loss of moisture and microbes, and increases the erosion leading to a loss of 10 – 80 tonnes per hectare per annum, depending on the slope, wind and rainfall. It also results in a loss of organic carbon resulting in a loss of water holding capacity. These losses are observed all over India.


8. Green mulching on the heap.
During the decomposition of green biomass methane is produced which retards the growth of the white roots. For this reason green biomass can only be placed on top of dry biomass in a heap, by which it will dry before the decomposition begins.

9. Providing too much water.
This results in the rotting of the root system. It also leaches nutrients out of the soil.

10. Biomass used is of one or a few varieties only. This will not provide all the nutrients needed. The soil will be deficient.

Providing nutrition to the heap through a mixture of seeds

Nutrition can be provided to mother earth through the six “rasas” as described in Ayurveda. This can be achieved when a mixture of following seeds is added to green the heap.

The sweet taste is provided through Varyali or Saunf
The sour taste through Ambadi , Amli ,Tomato
The pungent taste through Chilli
The astringent taste through “Gawar”
The salty taste through Spinach, Rajagara
The bitter taste through Methi, Bitter gourd.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Preparing Amrut Mitti - through whole plant use in our surroundings

Nature has originated and maintained the entire food chain with the evolution of green plants. These plants after death and decomposition by micro-organisms have accumulated through the ages a profile called soil. To build up soil, our best resource will be the plants that can grow or are growing in the vicinity and our farm. Nature on its own takes a long time to prepare soil. 1 inch of topsoil takes 500 years. But if we observe, understand and copy nature we can do it faster! Do we see nature going to the market to buy the raw materials required? Then even we need not do so!

As mentioned earlier the term Nursery Soil is used for soil that contains well composted organic parts and mineral parts in equal volume. Organic part refers to different parts of plants. Let us see how the different parts of plants fulfill the requirement of building up good soil.


Composition of different parts of plant.

Any newly growing part of plant will contain all micro-nutrients and phosphate contents in it because every new cell in the meristem needs all of these before it comes into existence. Thus all tender parts of plants are capable of providing these micronutrients to us to improve the necessary mineral contents of our soil.

When new growth begins to lose its tenderness and as leaves expand the mineral nutrients that are necessary for this growth are nitrogen, potash, magnesium, sulphur, iron manganese and copper. Since these are necessary for healthy leaves of the plants, on recycling these will yield minerals back to the soil.

As leaves mature with age, calcium is incorporated more and more in the cells. When these leaves age and die before falling from the plant 70% of the mobile contents of nutrients are carried back to the plant for further use or as a reserve for new growth. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulphur, zinc, copper are such elements. But 30% of the elements like iron, manganese, boron, calcium are not returned to the plant as these are immobilized in the system.
Therefore we can say that:

Tender leaves provide Zinc, Boron, Phosphate, Molybdenum
Matured leaves provide Nitrogen, Magnesium, Potash

Dried leaves provide Calcium, Silica, Boron, Iron, Manganese
To build up fertile soil one must learn these differences in materials composted at different periods of their growth.

So one can now learn how on decomposition of dried tender leaves and matured leaves one can get all the minerals nutrients back for the soil. As plant grows the cellulose and hemi cellulose components of its body begin to accumulate. With further maturity the lignin component also accumulates. The cellulose (tender) and lignin (tough and fibrous) parts of plants on decomposition yield humus and lignoprotein respectively. But if we return dead fallen leaves of a plant to the soil only iron, manganese, boron and calcium will be returned to the soil after complete decomposition.

With proper insight in whole plant use technique we can establish the lost balance in the fertility and in the form and structure of the soil through plant parts available from the farm or from close vicinity of the farm.


Preparing compost soil heaps.

While preparing compost heaps we have to remember the definition of Nursery soil which says:

Good nursery soil= 50% organic part (parts of plants)+ 50% mineral part(topsoil) BY VOLUME. The two are combined in proper proportion by alternating layers of biomass and soil in form of heaps. This heap on its own will take a long time to decompose. So we introduce a catalyst called Amrut Jal to accelerate decomposition.
Steps involved in Preparing Amrut Mitti
Step 1 : Preparing Amrit Jal
Step 2 : Collecting top soil
Step3 a: Preparing heaps by using Green bio mass.
Step 3 b: Preparing heaps by using dry bio mass
Each of these steps is given in detail in the floowing posts.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Components of soil

Structure:

Thick fibrous parts of plants (lignin) and cellulose (carbohydrate) are the structural parts of plants.
· Bacteria convert the lignin into humus under favorable humid conditions and presence of oxygen, nitrogen and temperature range of 15 to 25 deg cents.
· Cellulose provides energy to the bacteria.
· Under these conditions micro flora thrives and on their death their dead bodies form ligno proteins.
· Humus and ligno protein contribute towards stability and structure of soil.
· Balance in the presence of fertility elements like Ca, Mg, K and Na also enhances humification when pH of soil stabilizes at 6.5-7.5.
· This pH optimizes availability of all plant nutrients in the soil.
Fertility :
One can surmise the nutrients needed by a plant by determining the mineral content of the plants themselves. Typically, healthy plants are incinerated under controlled conditions and the mineral content in the ash is determined. This information is the basis for the formulation of complete soil.

Let us understand the nutrient content of plant, which is fulfilled through the environment.

Most plant parts are made up of carbohydrate

These come from
1. air 2. water
Now if we consider the dry weight of plants.
(This is the weight that remains constant after drying in sunlight)

If we were to consider fresh biomass, the weight of the same is called “fresh weight”.Allow it to dry under sun, weigh it on alternate days. In a span of five to seven days when no loss of weight is observed, that is the “dry weight”. (“Dry weight” includes some quantity of water called “constitutional water” which is equivalent to 60 % of the dry weight.)



Weight of fresh biomass “fresh weight”


Weight that remains constant after drying ‘dry weight’

If we consider:
100% dry weight of plants
44% --- carbon
44% --- oxygen
6% -- hydrogen
4% --nitrogen

98%


Therefore we can say that only 2% dry weight comes from soil.
The absorption of these nutrients by the plant are influenced by:

a. Cation exchange capacity or CEC

b. pH

c. Presence of micro flora:

Presence of microbes from plant kingdom like bacteria, actinomycetes, phungus, and algae and those from animal kingdom like earthworms, snails slugs, make the soil a live soil.

· One of the major benefits bacteria provide for plants is in helping them take up nutrients.
· Others break down soil minerals and release potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and iron.
· Still other species make and release natural plant growth hormones, which stimulate root.
· Few species of bacteria fix nitrogen in roots of legumes while others fix nitrogen independently of plant association.

In a live soil maintained by proper mulching and moisture, these microbes thrive, multiply, and die. The process is a continuous chain. The dead bodies of these microbes are nothing but Humus. Therefore if the soil is maintained, there is no need for manure to be added. All that is required to be done is to recycle the residue after harvesting the crop.

Further, there are two types of bacteria present in a soil.

· Bacteria which develop locally.
· Bacteria which are introduced through cow dung, decomposable material, polluted water etc.

The bacteria which are developed locally have capacity to sustain worst condition. In unfavorable conditions they become dormant and become active again when conditions change to favorable again. Bacteria introduced from out side do not have such a resistance and they die in unfavorable conditions.
Larger organisms in the soil include a variety of flatworms, earthworms, and nematodes. The various worms play several vital roles in maintaining soil quality as predators and as recyclers of nutrients.

FACTORS AFFECTING GROWTH
·
Aeration
: - Microbes consume oxygen from soil air and give out carbon dioxide. In the absence of such gaseous exchange, carbon dioxide accumulates in soil air and becomes toxic to the microbes. Rate of oxygen intake and simultaneous evolution of carbon dioxide are measures of microbial activity. Direct sunlight is injurious to most of the microorganisms except algae. Therefore for microbes to thrive, soil should be well aerated.
· Bacteria that need oxygen to live are called aerobic, and those that survive without oxygen are called anaerobic.
· Aerobic decomposition of organic material does not give out foul smell however anaerobic decomposition of organic material results in formation of toxic gasses in the air due to lack of oxygen.
· Moisture: - In the presence of excess water, water logging, anaerobic condition occur, the aerobes become suppressed and inactive. In the absence of adequate moisture in soil, some of the microbes die due to tissue dehydration and some of them change their form into resting stages of spores or cysts. Aerobic microbes need 50-75% humidity, in air and soil; some need 90%humidity to survive. Therefore for microbes to thrive proper moisture content is necessary.
· Temperature: Temperature is the most important environmental factor influencing the biological processes and the microbial activity. When the temperature is low, the number and activity of microorganisms fall. Most of the soil organisms are mesophiles and grow well between 150C and 450C. A temperature of 25-370C is considered to be optimum for most mesophiles.
· Those bacteria, which thrive in temperatures from 45deg-65 deg., are called thermophillic bacteria. They do not survive below 40 deg.
· PH Reaction: - Bacteria prefer near neutral to slightly alkaline reaction between pH 6.5 and 8.0. In acidic or alkaline soils microbes become inactive. Some bacteria do grow in pH of 3.In acidic soil if we add lime, bacteria increases. pH of 7 is ideal for growth.
· Food: Well-aerated soil rich in organic matter is an essential prerequisite for maximum number and activity of heterotrophic (deriving its nourishment and carbon requirements from organic substances; not autotrophic) microorganisms. The microbial cells undergoing senescence (growing old) serve as a source of food for the organisms.
· Soil factor: A soil in good physical condition has good aeration and moisture supplying capacity, which are so essential for optimum microbial activity.
· C.N. Ratio: All living organisms are made up of more amounts of carbon with small amounts of nitrogen. The content of these two is extremely important in how quickly bacteria decompose organic waste. Ideal ratio of C to N is 20:1.With this decomposition process can be very quick, roughly 6-8 weeks. But all things have different C: N ratio. So a balance has to be made to create this ideal ratio. Materials high in carbon include leaves, sawdust, wood chips and straw. High nitrogen materials include grass clippings, food scraps and manure. The optimum C-N ratio for bacterial decomposition is in the range of 25/1 to35/1 . The ratio of organic carbon to total nitrogen in a soil provides a measure of the quality and rate of decomposition of organic matter. The lower the ratio, the quicker organic matter will break down, and release nutrients (including nitrogen) in forms available for plant uptake.

Thus we see that the various components of soil i.e: organic matter, air, water, etc. play an important role in the effectiveness of the soil and are closely interlinked .For assured yields it is necessary to ensure that this delicate chain of components is not disturbed. Seems a daunting task? Does it mean that one has to move around measuring the pH, moisture, microbial count every time one wants to plant something?

Well it’s not as big a task as it seems to be. The best way to learn is to experiment and observe and understand. So what do we do? Where do we start? Hey! Just take care and pamper the microbes and they will look after the rest of the work and all the nitty gritties for you. Feed them rich organic food, keep them cool and well aerated and leave them to do their work in peace. They are excellent workers at no extra cost.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Understanding Soil - Lets stop treating it like dirt!

As we started practicing city farming, we started undersatnding soil more and more. We understood that it is not just dirt ! After a lot of browsing and taking notes this is what I have compiled.



SOIL


Forests or meadows survive in a natural system, year after year by recycling available nutrients. Leaves fall off and break down; grasses and flowers grow bloom and fade; animals die and decompose –all life adds organic matter to the soil.

The cycle of growth and decay is often depicted as a wheel, where birth, growth and maturity take place above ground in the light, and the process of decay below the surface in the darkness, giving birth to life anew. If growth is faster than decay the wheel is broken, destroying nature’s balance. What lives eventually dies, and its substance returns to the soil to be recycled into new life. This is nature’s law of return. This is the cycle we are trying to create in our farm.

“Growth has been speeded up, but nothing has been done to accelerate decay. Farming has become unbalanced. The gap between the two halves of the Wheel of Life has been left unabridged, or it has been filled by a substitute in the shape of artificial manures (chemicals). The soils of the world are either being worn out and left in ruins, or are being slowly poisoned. The restoration and maintenance of soil has become a universal problem”---Sir Albert Howard, Farming and Gardening for Health or Disease. Faber and Faber London.

It is proved beyond doubt that healthy soil means healthy plants. When you build and maintain fertile rich soil in organic matter, you lay the groundwork for thriving plants/crops that can develop quickly, resist pests and diseases, and yield a bountiful crop.


Shortcomings of chemical fertilizers
Can synthetic chemical fertilizers provide a short cut to healthy soil and healthy plants? After all plant’s needs are fairly basic: air, water, light, warmth and balance of nutrients and minerals. So why not put some seeds in the ground, and apply the appropriate chemicals and reap the harvest?

That’s one possible approach to chemical fertilizers; such as NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) formulations sold in garden supply stores. These fertilizers do provide most of the nutrients that plants need in an easy to use form. But these chemicals have a number of shortcomings.

1. Plants can absorb only a limited amount of nutrients at a time, much of these water-soluble products may be wasted and end up as run off during rain or watering.
2. Many chemical fertilizers provide a quick burst of nutrients but may leave the plants to draw on over the course of the growing season.
3. since petroleum products are needed to produce the fertilizers, they use up valuable non-renewable source of energy.
4. Chemical fertilizers don’t build or maintain healthy soil. Like a vitamin pill or injection they provide instant nutrition but none of the benefits that one would get by actually eating fruits and vegetables.


Soil has to be -- LIVE

If you watch carefully to see what nature does as she goes about her daily round of chores, it’s quite easy to start believing that the whole thing is a complicated, secretive conspiracy by soil micro-organisms to beget more soil micro-organisms. Nature’s first concern is always to build more topsoil, and protect it. It’s easy to see why: no topsoil, not much nature either. A single spade full of rich garden soil contains more species of organisms than can be found above the ground in the entire Amazon rain forest.
Although the soil surface appears solid, air moves freely in and out of it. The air in upper 8 inches of a well-drained soil is completely renewed about every hour. - Soil Factoids, US National Soil Survey Center.


The following article By Danny Blank, ECHO Farm Manager explains it all.
A fresh look at life below the surface


Too often farming and land use practices contribute to land degradation, resulting in food insecurity and poverty. This article takes a fresh look at what is going on in soil, especially in relation to soil organic matter and the organism it supports, how this life in the soil is impacted by our land practices and how it in turn impacts the productivity of our farms.


Soil Food Web Concept

The soil food web is essentially the community of organisms that live in the soil. Every agricultural field, forest, prairie or pasture has its own food web with a unique set of soil organisms. Healthy soils contain massive populations of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, soil arthropods and earthworms. A teaspoon ( approx 1 gram ) of productive soil contains between 100 million and 1 billion bacteria. It contains around 25000 species of bacteria and 8000 species of fungi.

Just as plants we see above ground differ from place to place the ratios and diversity of soil organisms change with region climate vegetative succession, and soil disturbance. Grasslands and agricultural fields generally have bacterial dominated food webs while forests usually have fungal dominated soils. Healthy highly productive agricultural soils tend to contain about equal weights of bacteria and fungi.( Soil Biology Primer)

Soil life is dynamic and complex. Understanding this complex soil food web- the life in the soil- is critical to understanding how the plant world grows and flourishes. It is the foundation for knowing how to restore damaged lands, improve agricultural production and ultimately improve the health and livelihood of people.


Soil micro-organisms play a big part in supporting healthy plant life through

· nutrient retention and cycling,
· disease suppression
· improved soil structure,
· Water infiltration, absorption and holding capacity.



SOIL FOOD WEB FUNCTIONS




Nutrient retention: The ability of the soil to hold nutrients is often measured by what is called cation exchange capacity
(CEC) - a measure of a soil’s negative charge. (Usually in clays and organic matter) Rarely is soil organism mentioned with regards to nutrient retention.However in a healthy soil food web vast reserves of important plant nutrients are stored within the bodies of bacteria, fungi and other soil organisms.


· Eg: no known organisms are more concentrated in nitrogen than bacteria. Fungi are typically the second most concentrated in nitrogen than bacteria. Along with nitrogen they contain other critical plant nutrients- high levels of phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, magnesium, calcium etc….

· Decomposition happens exclusively by these two sets of organisms which in turn store nutrients from the decomposed organic matter in their own bodies, immobilizing nutrients and thereby reducing leaching.

· Another example is calcium. Calcium is held incredibly tightly by fungal hyphae in the soil. Without healthy fungal biomass calcium is easily leached through the soil.

· The presence of decaying organic matter in the soil - broken down leaves, roots, dead organisms’ etc- along with diverse populations of bacteria and fungi are the key to immobilizing and storing nutrients in the soil. These nutrient rich organisms then become the basis for critical cycling of nutrients.
· The C:N ratio for bacteria is around 5:1 and fungi is 20:1
· Nutrient cycling happens when other sets of soil organisms (primarily protozoa, bacterial and fungi feeding nematodes, micro arthropods and earthworms) are present to consume nutrient rich bacteria and fungi and release nutrients in plant available form.
· A healthy soil contains diverse species and huge populations of protozoa, beneficial nematodes, micro arthropods, earthworms. Eg. I gram of healthy soil contains 1million protozoa. Single protozoa with a C: N ratio of 30: 1 can consume 10,000 bacteria a day.
· Because the protozoa need less nitrogen, the excess is excreted in the form of ammonium ions. Ammonium ions are held much tightly to soil particles than are nitrate ions, the most common (and leachable) form of nitrogen in commercial fertilizers.
· This predator-prey relationship between protozoa and bacteria can account for 40-80% of nitrogen in plants.
· A similar relationship has been documented with bacterial and fungal feeding nematodes. With a consumption rate up to 5000 cells / min these beneficial nematodes ( unlike plant feeding types) Are thought to turn over nitrogen in the range of 20-130 kg/ha/yr contributing immensely to plant available nitrogen
· These rapid interactions and countless exchanges of nutrients between soil organisms occur in root zones of plants where the highest concentrations of organisms exist (because root exudates provide food for the bacteria and fungi which in turn attract their predators) Protozoa, nematodes micro arthropods and earthworms.
· Nutrient cycling by these predators also occurs with other valuable plant nutrients such as potassium phosphorus calcium sulphur and magnesium resulting in a less leachable form than what is usually applied in synthetic fertilizers.
· Other soil organisms are also involved in more direct forms of nutrient cycling. Nitrogen fixing bacteria convert air nitrogen into a useable plant form as they colonize roots of legumes.



Improved soil structure: Air and water dynamics.


· As bacteria populations increase they secrete glue like sticky materials that bind sand silt clay and small SOM particles into micro aggregates.
· Fungi bind the micro aggregates to form larger soil aggregates structures creating air and water passageways.
· Larger passageways are created by bigger mites and earthworms that burrow through the soil looking for food. Earthworms glaze the passageways they create with nutrient rich and active microbial active slime layer that greatly enhances water holding capacity and soil structure.
· Earthworms and many soil arthropods also shred organic matter grazing on the micro-organisms present and then excreting the nutrients in plant available form.



Pest and disease Suppression


· Soil organism break down toxic compounds in soil, produce plant growth promoting hormones and chemicals, out compete and suppress disease causing organisms and buffer soil pH.
· When there is a healthy balance of microorganisms in the food web, pest and disease can be competed or preyed upon.
· When a balance is not maintained micro arthropods whose main foods source is normally fungi foods may attack plant roots instead.

If we only knew that life below the surface is what supports life above the surface, many would find that in short time damaged lands can be restored to their productive potential without expensive inputs. Land care practice would change to be truly that, care for the land patterned after the marvelous and elaborate design in the meadows and forests that causes them to flourish.

Dr Elaine Ingham claims that over 100,000 soil samples that have been analyzed from around the world there was no shortage of any mineral in any soil necessary for plant growth. Most modern soil tests only reveal the soluble and or exchangeable forms of nutrients present, not the total extractable nutrient pool. These extractable forms of nutrients which can exist as enormous reserves in soil are often only made available through the soil organism. When soil biology is missing, then soils will largely be defined by the chemical and physical structure and texture.

What has been learned about the soil food web strongly indicates that the measure of a healthy soil should include the presence of organic matter and of a full supporting cast of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, beneficial nematodes, worms and arthropods. Organic matter is the food. Soil biology is the life that makes it happen. The remedy for so many damaged agricultural lands, especially in the tropics where solar radiation is intense throughout the year, is to keep the soil covered, no tillage practice rotation, maximize organic matter and reintroduce needed soil biology to bring breath and life back into the soil.
WE CAN THEREFORE SAY THAT OUR SOIL IS A LIVING SOIL INVOLVING THOUSANDS OF DIFFERENT SPECIES OF MICROORGANISMS IN A HIGHLY COMPLEX ECOSYSTEM.

This living soil makes its presence felt everywhere! After the first rains, on both sides of tarred city roads, on vast wastelands…. wild weeds growing on our farms. According to seasons- they grow, get trampled over, and decompose and gradually a new type of soil mix of well-composted material grows above the original layer of soil.

If we observe carefully and listen we realize that there is no conspiracy at all but a beautiful symbiotic relationship where the tiniest microbe has an important role to play in this Cycle of Life. It’s a beautiful story waiting to be heard. So watch out pay your respects, and give tender loving care to the almighty microbe!

Prof Dabholkar observed keenly, listened and heard the stories that nature had to tell him. He simplified the complexities of nature so that they can be explained to the common man, the farmer in rural areas.

He firmly believed that by connecting natural resources with human resources, even the last person in the country can be made self sufficient. Thus people with help of resources found within one’s environment like Soil, Sunlight Water can enrich human life. Through results of his experiments Prof Dabholkar has enlightened the masses and shown that assured calculated results can be obtained if basic principles of preparing nutrient rich nursery soil, harvesting maximum sunlight through canopy management and monitoring proper root growth are followed. He termed this science Natueco Science.

What is Natueco Farming ?

Natueco farming means Natural eco-friendly farming. It follows the principles of eco-system networking of nature in our farming system. It is different from organic or natural farming both in philosophy and practice. It offers an alternative to the commercial, heavy chemicals used in farming. It emphasizes harvesting the sun through a critical application of scientific inquiries & experiments that are rooted in the neighborhood resources.


Natueco Farming emphasizes `Neighborhood Resource Enrichment' by `Additive Regeneration' rather than total dependence on external, commercial inputs. The three relevant aspects of Natueco Farming are as below.



1. SOIL

Enriching soil by --
· Recycling the biomass available in our surroundings
· Establish a proper energy chain.

2. ROOTS

Development and maintenance, of white root zones for efficient absorption of nutrients.

3.
CANOPY

Harvesting the sun through proper canopy management for efficient photosynthesis


Natueco Science is based on our current needs of farming in situations where the soil has been heavily depleted. This is one of the fastest methods for regenerating a dead soil into a live soil, full of nutrients in a tropical country like India. (For temperate countries please see below). Natueco farming emphasizes regeneration of the land using local inputs and minimizing the dependence on external, commercial inputs. Natueco farming improves the plant vitality and quality by understanding and enriching the health of the soil, the roots and canopy management to harvest the maximum sunlight. Natueco farming does not suggest usage of even herbal pesticides. Instead it depends on perfect plant health to keep away pests


The soil serves several functions to the plant. It gives support to the root, supplies nutrients and moisture and provides air circulation to the roots. Only a healthy soil will stimulate an excellent root system, leading to a healthy canopy and ultimately the maximum harvest. Natueco farming, if properly followed will result in the quickest regeneration of topsoil.

Let us study in detail how we can prepare our own soil by using the resources available in our environment.

The Natueco Principles of Soil Management.

In nature it takes 100 – 500 years for humus to be formed in natural forests. Today with erosion, the decline of natural forests and chemical farming, the earth has been depleted of humus. We can produce this humus, termed Nursery Soil, in just 30-100 days through the understanding and application of nature’s processes. A good Nursery Soil consists of 50% well decomposed black biomass (organic part) and 50% activated mineral topsoil (inorganic part) by volume.

. It is a black, light material containing ligno proteins that can be broken into small fragments or crumbs. It has a very good water holding capacity of twice its own weight. The Nursery Soil provides support and delivers water and nutrients to the plant in the most efficient manner. A liter measure of a good Nursery Soil should weigh about 400 grams. A greater weight implies that the mineral content is high.
Before learning and understanding the technique we need to understand the components of SOIL. Detailed in the next post.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mapping the bio diversity on the terrace farm

I have been mapping the bio diversity on the terrace farm. And one can imagine my excitement at having found this amazing spider , all with a moustach, eyes, and an Amir Khan like hair style! This was a beginning of the journey into the extra ordinary tiny kingdom of insects and butterflies. Would love to share some of the beauties.... Here they are!



Araneus mitifica ; my spiderman!

Fruit Fly

pentotamidae Eysarcoris guttiger (Stal)
Commonly called as TWO SPOTTED SESAME BUG

Gram blue

Tailed Jay
Life cycle of Common Mormon


Great eggfly
Its not possible to post all. But these were a few of my favourites. These beuties arrived only after we stopped the use of organic pesticides completely....

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Establishing a proper energy pool and food chain.

The word agriculture is also to be understood in a new context. Agriculture is agree-culture or agreement of all the neighbourhood cultures existing and evolving.To the Prayog Pariwar the term agriculture truly emphasises agreement of different resources in all instantaneous events going on in theneighbourhood domain.
"A Prosumer Society"
The term prosumer society is a combination of the words 'producer' and consumer. Only when a producer will also be a consumer , then a close link between wealth generation, distribution and consumption of wealth will emerge.
In natures ecological framework three biotic components emerge :
1. producer
2. consumer
3. decomposer
There is a macro link in all natures working and sharing is totally done through nutrient elements, through energy exchange carried through various organic and other compounds.A prosumer society will be not only of consumers or producers of one thing or another but will be basically a society in which each individual will be both a producer and a consumer of a) new knowledge b) new wealth c) harvester and utiliser of energy which in another sense means a producer of energy (in one form to another) and consumer of energy (to pump out and reduce entropy from system).
Recycling of resources.

In Natueco farming soil is built using neighbourhood resources. It is done by copying nature . Forests survive in a natural system year after year by recycling available nutrients. Nature creates no waste: Everything can be recycled: There is change of form, conversion of energy as well as mutual exchange. A mixture of well composted organic part and mineral part in equal volume imparts good form and structure to the soil. We call this soil Amrut Mitti ......

......(more deatils at Amrut Mitti)

Harvesting sunlight

If the incoming sunlight on earth is not harvested the very day, it is lost forever. Most of this is radiated back to the universe the very same night.
In India, every sq ft of area receiving 10 hrs daylight receives 1250 k cal of solar insolation. This if harvested the very day, will provide one time full meal to an adult. Photosynthesis is the main process by which solar energy is absorbed. However only mature green leaves of plant can harvest 1 - 1.5 % of this energy received. i.e. 12 - 16 cal. This corresponds to 3-4 gms of sugar. The distribution of the 3 - 4 gms of sugar is shown below.

The increase in canopy required to harvest maximum sunlight can be achieved by pruning and canopy management. For this the knowledge of 5 stages of growth in the life cycle of plants is very helpful.

The 5 stages in life cycle of plants are

Childhood, puberty, youth, maturity and old age.

These stages generaly are of equal duration. External intervention by humans at the proper stage such as pruning is most effective in increasing canopy and storage in stems.
For achieving this growth in canopy, soil ( Amrut Mitti) required in 1 sq ft area is 4 litres. As canopy increases Amrut mitti is added proportionately near the active root zone.

Plenty for all. Ready to receive it?
Natueco corresponds to 'nature' and 'ecology'. Natueco Farming is based on a belief that nature provides 'Plenty for all' we must know how to harvest it. Nature does so within the Laws of it's own making.
1. The first Law of Thermodynamics which states: "The sum total of all mass and energy in the system will remain constant". Matter can neither be created nor destroyed, but they may be transformed from one form or type to another. An example is the conversion of solar energy into chemical energy through photosynthesis.
2. The second Law of Thermodynamics also known as the "Law of Entropy". As per this law although matter can neither be created nor destroyed, it can be degraded into unavailable heat energy so that no work can be harnessed from it. Classic example is the Global warming.
Entropy or chaos means total loss of inter relationship which exists through some form of mutual exchange. Energy to remove entropy comes from the sun. However only mature green canopy of leaves of plants can harvest the sun energy. So GREENING IS THE FIRST PHASE FOR DEVELOPMENT at any place.
The major features of Natueco farming are
1. Harvesting the sunlight
2. Recycling of resources
3. Establishing a proper energy pool and food chain.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Background

The Mumbai Port Trust team
A brief background of the initiative.
Welcome to the city farm on the terrace of Mumbai Port Trust, Central Kitchen. A voluntary initiative to recycle waste generated in a kitchen, catering to 2000 employees. A terrace admeasuring 3000 sq ft area, houses 150 varieties of plants, including vegetables, fruits, herbal, ornamental and flowering. You will be surprised to see coconut, betel nut trees and sugarcane also.The team was inspired by the work of Dr. R.T.Doshi and Shri Deepak Suchde both members of the Prayog Pariwar.'Prayog' means experiment and 'Pariwar' means networking. 'Prayog Pariwar' is a network, for participatory learning of people who come together to solve their real life problems. Prof. S.A.Dabholkar (1924-2001) developed the ‘Prayog Pariwar’ methodology through a life time of research and experimentation in diverse fields. 'Natueco Farming’ is one important successful application of this methodology.

Introduction

A farm on the terrace.

I started the activity of city farming on the terrace of our Central Kitchen with the intention of recycling the kilos of garbage generated thereat daily. What ultimately motivated our team at Mumbai Port Trust and sustained the activity over a period of 5 years is the exposure to nature.The activity was initially started under the guidance of Dr. R. T. Doshi and it flourished with the teachings of Shri Deepak Suchde.

It was hands on education where we experienced and learnt about the beauty of life and life forces of nature.Its beauty and power overwhelmed us.When I say power I mean the strength of sustenance.A barren piece of cemented jumgle can get transformed into green farm bringing back the lost bio diversity in the area. We have witnessed a large number of birds butterfliesvisiting our terrace.Tailorbirds regularly sew a nest on leaves of plants.Watching the young ones hatch and prepare for life is an overwhelming experience.

Farming and spirituality cannot be seperated as both are interconnected and rekated to life and growth.Recycling taught me that only growth is not sustainable. In fact , uncontrolled growth can sometimes become carcinogenic.Growth has to be balanced by decay.Being a student of Vedanta, understanding the universal and relative self was a challenge. Understand the cycle of growth and decay helped me understand the mind's limitations, its place and value in our lives and give compassion to myself. Nature gives us space and unconditional acceptance, may be this in turn helps us to give it to ourselves. Our learning continues.....

The book by Shri S.A.Dabholkar " Plenty for all " describes how nature gives us in abundance. All we need to do is learn to harvest this gift gracefully without being greedy and snatching from nature.We have forgotten how to receive.... and to give back truely..... We have all seen that when we plant a seed, nature gives us a whole tree.We can never give back the way nature gives us but we can at least learn to respect and take care of our earth.City farming taught me the importance of interdependance.The activity of soil building showed me the fine connection and balance between the different elements in the universe.

On practicing city farming for 4-5 years I came across the work of Dr. Vijaya Venkat and her Health Awareness Center which teaches the concept of nutrition by understanding the bio dynamic cycles of the body.In spite of all the scientific advances made by man there still remain mysteries, which are as yet unexplained.So many elements are still waiting to be discovered. At the health awareness center, I learnt the importance of eating raw natural foods. A proper combination of eating fruits,vegetables,sprouts and nuts gives you all the required nutrition.That which is known and unknown.In fact this teaching connected so well to my recipe of soil building whereby all plant parts are recycled to build the most nourishing soil.Rather than focusing only on known elements.... N P K etc... we were working towards building a wholesome structure of soil . Just by putting all available elements in nature together we were ensuring sure supply of known as well as unknown nutrients in the soil.A plant attacked by pests lacks the nutrients due to poor soil, and is therefore vulnerable to attack.Similarly eating the right kind of foods and a healthy lifestyle enabled one to live a life free from medicines.

What motivates me to spread awareness and share the technique with as many people as I can is the sheer joy of watching another green farm, and a smile on the faces of the farmers involved.This sharing of joy is infectious.For me, personally, city farming also means bonding with like minded people.I have made a lot of good friends and learnt a lot through them during our association on projects etc... They are a very important part of my life now.


In the year 2005 we conducted a project on " Development of city farm at Rosary High School" with street children. The report of this project is detailed at http://www.cityfarmer.org/

The period during the work on the project was very rewarding for me in terms of the time I enjoyed with my team members and the children during the initial interaction with them.Their smiles and enthusiasm made me feel useful and very good about myself.

I learnt that as individuals we could only support and encourage others in their ventures by our unconditional accepatance of them as people and of their efforts.We cannot control, change their course of lives or their destinies. The unconditional acceptance on our part empowers them to take charge of their lives resulting in a raised self image , which is the sinequanon of a stable society.

Nature with its inherant flaws and perfections teaches you to accept things as they are without discrimination.It urges you to do your best and helps you in finding your life's true mission bringing you close to your ideals.It teaches you that one must act with humility when one is strong and powerful.When one has weaknesses and one works towards bettering oneself nature rewards you in one way or the other.In this search of " self " and our 'perception of our world' there are infinite treasures that we discover along the way.And however tedious and circuitous be this search one must bear in mind that the goal is always achievable and that if necessary efforts have been put in, despite all adversities, miracles do happen and you meet with success.

Best wishes

towards a greener and more serene environment

Preeti