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


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


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.

: - 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.


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.


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.

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.


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


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


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


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.


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

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