Our Farm Philosophy
The basic “toolkit” of the natural farming methods was put together by Subhash Palekar. He is a former agricultural scientist, disillusioned by the ill effects of the green revolution on his own family farm, who drew from extensive research to recover traditional Indian farming practices, carried out during the early 1990’s (see Palekar’s website: palekarzerobudgetspiritualfarming.org/Natural Farming.aspx).
The farming philosophy is based on the four pillars below:
1. Jeevamrut is a fermented microbial culture. It provides nutrients, but most importantly, acts as a catalytic agent that promotes the activity of microorganisms in the soil, as well as increases earthworm activity; During the 48 hour fermentation process, the aerobic and anaerobic bacteria present in the cow dung and urine multiply as they eat up organic ingredients (like pulse flour). A handful of undisturbed soil is also added to the preparation, as inoculate of native species of microbes and organisms. It also helps to prevent fungal and bacterial plant diseases.
2. Jeejamrut is a treatment used for seeds, seedlings or any planting material. It is effective in protecting young roots from fungus as well as from soil-borne and seed borne diseases that commonly affect plants after the monsoon period. It is composed of similar ingredients as Jeevamrut – local cow dung, a powerful natural fungicide, and cow urine, a strong anti-bacterial liquid, lime, soil.
3. Acchadana – Mulching. There are three types of mulching:
a. Soil Mulch: This protects topsoil during cultivation and does not destroy it by tilling. It promotes aeration and water retention in the soil. Palekar suggests avoiding deep ploughing.
b. Straw Mulch: Straw material usually refers to the dried biomass waste of previous crops, but as Palekar suggests, it can be composed of the dead material of any living being (plants, animals, etc). Palekar's approach to soil fertility is very simple – provide dry organic material which will decompose and form humus through the activity of the soil biota which is activated by microbial cultures.
c. Live Mulch (symbiotic intercrops and mixed crops): According to Palekar, it is essential to develop multiple cropping patterns of monocotyledons (monocots; Monocotyledons seedlings have one seed leaf) and dicotyledons (dicots; Dicotyledons seedlings have two seed leaves) grown in the same field, to supply all essential elements to the soil and crops. For instance, legumes are of the dicot group and are nitrogen-fixing plants. Monocots such as rice and wheat supply other elements like potash, phosphate and sulphur.
4. Whapasa – moisture: Palekar challenges the idea that plant roots need a lot of water, thus countering the over reliance on irrigation in green revolution farming. According to him, what roots need is water vapor. Whapasa is the condition where there are both air molecules and water molecules present in the soil, and he encourages reducing irrigation, irrigating only at noon he entire Natural Farming method is centred on the Indian cow, which historically has been part of Indian rural life.