Green manuring- the best way to improve soil health

Conditions were not very encouraging when I started farming in the year 1998 – water shortage, pest and disease attack, rising costs of cultivation and decreasing yields and income. That was the time when I came to know about natural farming and organic farming through books by Fukoka. This created interest in me and I started trying out alternatives on my farm. Magazines like LEISA India further reinforced these ideas.

I have shifted to green cultivation from clean cultivation from the past five years. I have stopped using pesticides and fertilisers from the last five years. I adopt zero cultivation and do not resort to weeding in my farms. I strongly believe in green manuring for enriching the soil. Cover crops build balanced ecosystem and develop the right kind of micro climate for the plants. There are over one hundred green manure species on my farm, including some perennials. Cover crops also restrict direct sunlight on to the ground, thus, restricting the growth of weeds over 2-3 years time. Presence of weeds in a way is an index to soil fertility. All the weeds act as host plants for soil microbes, which build up the soil health. Instead of trying to eliminate weeds, it is better to raise cover crops, especially the leguminous ones, restricting the growth of weeds. Cover crops not only fix huge amounts of nitrogen in the soil but also help in managing the pests.

Following is my experience of using green manuring in paddy. Two types of green manuring can be followed in paddy cultivation.

a) Pre rice green manuring – Plowing the green manure crops just before flowering. Plants would have reached a height of about 8 feet. As the plants are tender at this stage they get easily decomposed into the soil. After these plants are ploughed, paddy cultivation could be taken up.

b) Post rice green manuring – Soon after the paddy is harvested in Nov-Dec, I broadcast the green manure seeds (for eg. green gram) without cultivating the soil while the straw and residues of paddy still remain on the field. The seeds germinate making the straw as a base. By April, I harvest the greengram seeds. I leave the crop, which is about 2 ft, on the field itself. Crops like Daincha keep growing and reach a height of about 14 ft, after monsoon commences. These are again incorporated into the soil using cage-wheel tractor.

I have been doing “post rice green manuring” for the last seven years. In two years, it is possible to improve any type of degraded soil into healthy soil. It is also the cheapest and fastest way of reclaiming degraded soils. In one year of green manuring, this way, we can add 4 inches of organic matter to the soil.

I have been growing paddy on 15 acres without fertilizers and pesticides – not even organic manures, but only incorporating green manure crops. I transplant 14-18 day old seedlings and carry out weeding twice. Weeding is done mainly to aerate the soil. I do not flood the field. Presently, I get about 25 quintals of paddy per acre from traditional varieties. Water management and biological nitrogen fixation are the key factors in improving productivity and maintaining soil health.  I have conserved around 25 rare indigenous varieties of paddy. In my view, the source of profits lie in minimising the inputs and LEISA is the key to sustainable agriculture.

B. N Nandish

Shikaripura Taluk , Shimoga District

Churchigundi – 577 214, Karnataka , India.

Recently Published Articles

Women-led farm initiatives

Women-led farm initiatives

By using organic farming methods, developing connections with markets, generating income, and enhancing their own...


Call for articles

Share your valuable experience too

Share This