Japanese Advocate of Natural Farming Honored in a Film

Fukuoka, who died at 95 in Japan on August 16 this year, was a microbiologist. He returned to his hometown in Iyo, Shikoku Island in southern Japan when he was 25. Since then, he rediscovered how man could live in a symbiotic relationship with nature.

Experiments in natural farming

“He experimented on natural farming and practiced it for 70 years,” Izumi said. Izumi also did an independent film Abong (small house), which he said deals with Filipino farming, which is very similar to natural farming.

Fukuoka began not to do the things he learned as a scientific researcher when he came up with a farming method that satisfied his quest for peaceful co-existence with nature.

“It was not that he did not have a share of failures,” said Larry Korn, in an article on the web. He said Fukuoka also got ridiculed when his experiments turned out to be a flap.

What interested even Colting was Fukuoka’s method of sowing seeds. The method begins with collecting seeds from locally growing plants and trees, including those from kitchen scraps. One dries these and later wraps them in moistened clay to form clay balls.

“Kaman balatinaw,” (It is like glutinous rice balls) said one student. The kneading of the clay and seed mixture resembles that of preparing dough for breads, but the process of making the clay balls actually looks like a community is making bilu-bilo (native rice balls).

Earth dumplings

Fukuoka re-introduced the ancient technique of seed balls, his Japanese ancestors called tsuchi dango (earth dumpling). The seeds for next season’s crop are mixed with clay, which has been previously strained to take out any debris and formed into small balls, after kneading with just enough water.

The Fukuoka method uses clay balls to protect the seeds from insects, or bacteria attack. These are scattered in the field or forest and left to germinate naturally without plowing the field or watering.

“Plowing will encourage weeds as it disturbs their seeds down under the soil. Water makes the soil hot and rots the small plant,” Fukuoka told his Indian students.

As the assorted seeds germinate, a biologically diverse farm emerges under the tall trees. The result is a denser crop of smaller but highly productive and stronger plants.

For an alternate farming of rice and wheat, Fukuoka farmers usually scatter wheat seeds before harvest and cut the rice straw just as soon as the wheat seeds germinate. With rice straw scattered, white clovers grow underneath to control pests and balance the nitrogen content in the soil.

As the film progresses, Fukuoka visits a farm in India, which he considered the best in the world. The farm actually resembles many forest ecosystems in the Philippines.

Fukuoka method

Fukuoka practices a system of farming he referred to as natural farming. Although some of his practices are specific to Japan, the governing philosophy of his method has successfully been applied around the world. In India, natural farming is often referred to as rishi kheti.

The essence of Fukuoka’s method is to reproduce natural conditions as closely as possible. There is no plowing, as seeds germinate quite happily on the surface if the right conditions are provided. There is also considerable emphasis on maintaining diversity. A ground cover of white clover grows under the grain plants to provide nitrogen.

Weeds he called daikons are also considered part of the ecosystem, periodically cut and allowed to lie on the surface so the nutrients they contain returns to the soil. Ducks are let into the grain plot, and specific insect-eating carps into the rice paddy at certain times of the year to eat slugs and other pests.

The ground is always covered. Aside from the clover and weeds, there is the straw from the previous crop, which serves as mulch. Each grain crop is sown before the previous one is harvested. This is done by scattering the seeds among the standing crop.

Fukuoka’s method and philosophy is about small scale farming, yet he claims, “With this kind of farming, which uses no machines, no prepared fertilizer and no chemicals, it is possible to attain a harvest equal to or greater than that of the average Japanese farm.”

Besides The Road Back to Nature, Fukuoka also wrote The One-Straw Revolution, and The Natural Way Of Farming. Various websites feature Masanobu Fukuoka and his farming techniques. This article lifted selections from the Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. Northern Dispatch/Posted by Bulatlat.com

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