Subhash Palekar Raises Agriculture to Spiritual Levels
For over sixty years, Indian agriculture was in a slumber. Our lands were scandalized by an unknown thing called as synthetic fertlizer. This was done to help the farmer get a 'better' harvest.
As the farmer started using it, he immediately noticed that, his soil had become infertile and could no longer bear crops for the next season. He was advised to add more and more fertilizer to the soil to compensate for the nutrient loss. Soon he was faced with another threat. The plants that grew with fertilizer needed pesticides. Soon, he started using these pesticides, which are deadly poisons. He noticed that the pests had become resistant to these chemicals as time went by. He was puzzled.
Our farmer forgot the ancient lesson that the soil HAD LIFE. He forgot that there were natural laws that governed the soil which his ancestors had obeyed from time immemorial. By thus obeying the laws , they had taken bumper harvests and had kept the land well cared for and transferred the land intact for posterity.
It was at this time that a great mind set out to work in this field. He himself was a graduate of Agricultural science from a 'modern university'. He set out to work in his field using the British devised ways of Fertlisers and Pesticides and became an utter failure. He also ruined his land.
Then he set out to research on how our ancestors did so well in Agriculture without any of these chemicals. He consulted the Vedas, and the ancient wisdom literature. The result is a revolutionary, path breaking method, which Sri Subhash calls as 'Zero Budget Natural Farming'. Sri Subhash tried his method in his own soil and replicated it in various other fields tasting success every time.
An inspired Sri Subhash set out to teach this method to his countrymen. He has so far conducted not less than 1000 workshops, all heavily attended, to spread this new way of life for farmers.
The fundamental concept in Sri Subhash's work is that 1. Soil does not need nutrients to be added. 2. The soil has micro organisms which GENERATE NUTRIENTS for the soil. 3. It is possible to revive a fertliser damaged soil back to the natural ways. 4. That the new method require no money to do Agriculture.
Fascinating, is it not ? Read on for some more.
Sri Subhash says the pivot of 'Zero Budget Natural Farming' is the desi cow. He says that the desi cow's Urine, Cow dung and Milk have all the qualities required to rejuvenate the soil. Just ONE desi cow, says Sri Subhash, is all that is required to maintain a 30 acre Farm. He laments that the Desi- Jersi hybrid cows are of no use in his scheme of things.
What a sad thing ? The desi (country) cow is now has such a dwindling population that we need to revive them on a war footing. I wondered why the hybrid Jersi cow is unfit. A publication of 'Govardan', a voluntary organisation for Cow protection, says that the high yield Jersi was produced by crossing a wild pig and an Australian cow breed !
Sri Subhash has some formulas to revive the soil. One is 'Jeevamrutam'. This is not a replacement for Fertlizer , he says. Jeevamrutam is only a catalyst for the soil to generate its nutrients. He says that the 'organic manure','earthworm manure' are fads and are another recipe for disaster.
Sri Subhash condemns the university taught concept of burning the leftover plants after harvest. He says that these are to be left over in the soil itself by turning them over into the soil. This process of 'Mulching' helps the soil prepare its own manure.
And what about pests ? Subhash maintains that a naturally grown plant fights pests. But the plants in transit in chemical ravaged field can be protected by simply prepared 'natural pesticides' which arwe usually buttermilk, pepper and such simple combinations.
The Government Sponsored Chemical Mafia
A govermental survey states that the fertliser subsidy alone was abot Rs 13,000.00 crores in the year 2000. Add to this the pesticide subsidy and the farmer's burden. A report says that the pesticide business in India is the fourth largest in the world! Imagine what would have happened if the money is spent on raising desi cows, strengthening ponds and lakes, and protecting the village fiorests !
There are some criminal agricultural scientists who sit and lord over every governmental commission on Agriculture. These are the very people who are in hand in glove with the synthetic mafia and have been the cause of so much decline in production. Sri Subhash has alleged that our country imports foodgrains of about 5 million tonnes every year. This fact is not known to many Indians. The governments cheats here also.
Recently, a central minister went on record stating that poor Indians are eating more and this is causing problems. It is no wonder with such people at the helm, our Agriculture remains without policy.
Allianz Knowledge on Environment: Ahead of the Rio+20 UN conference on sustainable development Allianz Knowledge talks to Dr. Ina Porras of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) about how Costa Rica's environmental protection policies protect forests and biodiversity and tackle climate change through payments for ecosystem services.
The tractors at Weatherbury Farm are a little fancier than the old ones, and a $65,000 compost and manure spreader purchased last year puts down fertilizer evenly.
The organic farm in Avella is doing pretty well these days. A big reason is thousands of dollars in monthly royalties from Range Resources Corp. to pull natural gas from beneath Weatherbury's 100 acres.
“It has allowed us to keep farming,” said Marcy Tudor, whose family has owned the Washington County farm since 1986.
The shale boom has injected cash into agriculture, which leaders consider one of Pennsylvania's key industries. Farmers who in recent years have struggled to turn a profit on produce, milk and beef discovered a source of income from leasing mineral rights or land to natural gas companies.
It's difficult to know how many farmers hold natural gas leases in the state, or what financial compensation those leases provide, because each was negotiated privately. But as the largest single landowners in most counties, farmers stand to disproportionately benefit, and there is evidence that Marcellus shale activity has boosted incomes where drilling is most prevalent, said Timothy Kelsey, a professor of agricultural economics at Penn State University.
In 2004, before the boom, rents and royalties accounted for 1.3 percent of total income in counties that had at least 90 wells, on par with counties that had no drilling, according to a study of state tax data that Kelsey co-authored last year. By 2010, royalties were 8 percent of income in counties with the most activity, compared with 1.4 percent in counties with no wells.
Fences, blacktopped driveways, barns and outbuildings have appeared on farms perched atop the resource-rich shale play. Suddenly, dairy farmers struggling to get by on unreliable income from milk production could pay off a $200,000 mortgage in cash, bankers say. And though some farmers chose to take the money and retire, many are doubling down and expanding operations.
“It's fairly widespread that the dollars are allowing farmers to invest in new buildings, new equipment. They're shifting production from what they were doing previously to something else,” Kelsey said. “Largely, what I've heard is that the dollars are allowing farmers to make more choices than they were before.”
The money John Grice receives in royalty payments each month will enable him and his brother, Bruce, to buy out their other four siblings' share of their dairy farm.
John and Bruce Grice together own two-thirds of the 400-acre Folly Hollow Farm in South Franklin in Washington County, and have made payments to their siblings for the remaining third, which they inherited when their mother died two years ago.
Washington and Greene counties account for the most shale gas in Western Pennsylvania. Susquehanna and Bradford counties lead the state.
Range has five wells on the Grices' property. When the wells began producing last year, the farm's first monthly royalty payment was $70,000.
Grice didn't pocket all the cash, though. Taxes took a third of it, Grice said, and the siblings divided what was left. His share was about $15,000.
The checks won't always be that big. Payments are tied to the royalty percentage in the contract — which can be as high as 18 percent — but fluctuate with production volume and the price of gas. Folly Hollow Farm's royalties have gone as low as $6,000 a month.
“Just like the dairy business, you don't know how much money you're going to get from the gas. It fluctuates tremendously,” Grice said. “And it's really hard to plan because you don't know how much you're going to get.”
However welcome the royalties may be, farmers cannot afford to treat the payments like found money and must budget wisely, Kelsey said.
“This is a little bit different than lottery winnings,” he said. “If you make mistakes early on in how you manage the resource, it's a big problem.”
That is, farmers should not squander money on luxury items that do nothing to improve the long-term value of their farms. Capital investments such as building barns, upgrading equipment, or expanding into other agricultural products can sustain a farm for decades when the royalty payments run thin, Kelsey said.
Besides tractors and the compost spreader, Weatherbury purchased a stone mill to grind organic grain into flour and sell it.
“The flour mill allows us to take our grain and add value to our grain ourselves,” said Nigel Tudor, Marcy's son.
That $12,000 investment has doubled the value of the grain because the organic flour sells at a premium, he said, providing a sustained income boost even when payments from the natural gas activity decline.
The farm has been fortunate to avoid environmental damage that would ruin its organic crops, Marcy Tudor said. She has had the groundwater tested several times and found no change. Regulators have documented about 240 instances in the past decade in which gas drilling has negatively affected well water supplies statewide.
As long as Range pulls gas out of the ground and pays the Tudors for the right to do so, the Tudors are pleased to put the money back into their farm.
“The gas was from the land,” she said. “So we're putting the money back into the lan
Nitrogen fixation is a pattern of nutrient cycling which has successfully been used in perennial agriculture for millennia. This article focuses on legumes, which are nitrogen fixers of particular importance in agriculture. Specifically, tree legumes (nitrogen fixing trees, hereafter called NFTs) are especially valuable in subtropical and tropical agroforestry. They can be integrated into an agroforestery system to restore nutrient cycling and fertility self-reliance.
On unvegetated sites, "pioneer" plants (plants which grow and thrive in harsh, low-fertility conditions) begin the cycling of nutrients by mining and accumulating available nutrients. As more nutrients enter the biological system and vegetative cover is established, conditions for other non-pioneering species become favorable. Pioneers like nitrogen fixing trees tend to benefit other forms of life by boosting fertility and moderating harsh conditions.
NFTs are often deep rooted, which allows them to gain access to nutrients in subsoil layers. Their constant leaf drop nourishes soil life, which in turn can support more plant life. The extensive root system stabilizes soil, while constantly growing and atrophying, adding organic matter to the soil while creating channels for aeration. There are many species of NFTs that can also provide numerous useful products and functions, including food, wind protection, shade, animal fodder, fuel wood, living fence, and timber, (see chart for specific species yields) in addition to providing nitrogen to the system. Nitrogen: From the Air to the Plants
Nitrogen is often referred to as a primary limiting nutrient in plant growth. Simply put, when nitrogen is not available plants stop growing. Although lack of nitrogen is often viewed as a problem, nature has an immense reserve of nitrogen everywhere plants grow--in the air. Air consists of approximately 80% nitrogen gas (N2), representing about 6400 kg of N above every hectare of land. However, N2 is a stable gas, normally unavailable to plants. Nitrogen fixation, a process by which certain plants "fix" or gather atmospheric N2 and make it biologically available, is an underlying pattern in nature. (See box below for details on how nitrogen fixation works). How to Use NFTs in a System
In the tropics, most of the available nutrients (over 75%) are not in the soil but in the organic matter. In subtropical and tropical forests, nutrients are constantly cycling through the ecosystem. Aside from enhancing overall fertility by accumulating nitrogen and other nutrients, NFTs establish readily, grow rapidly, and regrow easily from pruning. They are perfectly suited to jump-start organic matter production on a site, creating an abundant source of nutrient-rich mulch for other plants. Many fast-growing NFTs can be cut back regularly over several years for mulch production.
The NFTs may be integrated into a system in many different ways including clump plantings, alley cropping, contour hedgerows, shelter belts, or single distribution plantings. (See figure below). As part of a productive system, they can serve many functions: microclimate for shade-loving crops like coffee or citrus (cut back seasonally to encourage fruiting); trellis for vine crops like vanilla, pepper, and yam; mulch banks for home gardens; and living fence and fodder sources around animal fields. NFT illus feian01Ways to integrate nitrogen fixing trees in your plantings
Planting Nitrogen Fixing Trees
A survey of your area will be helpful in determining the habit and vigor of local NFTs. Some are small and produce edible shoots and pods, ideal for home garden use; others are large and fast growing for fuel wood or poles. Decide on what yields you want from your NFTs, and choose a diversity of species. For some characteristics of many nitrogen fixing trees, this chart may be of use.
Seed Pregermination Treatment (Scarification)
In many NFTs, the hard seed coat must be scarified in order to allow absorption of water, hence germination. There are several methods: hot water is the most common. Water temperature should be approximately 70-90 C° (160°F). The volume ratio should be 5-10 parts water to one part seeds. Seeds are placed in hot water for 1-3 minutes, then rinsed. Seeds may be soaked overnight at room temperature. A useful chart is given on the FACT Net website.
After scarification, a sticking agent such as vegetable oil or plain water is applied sparingly to seeds, and inoculum dusted into the mix. Seeds should be sown immediately. Do not expose inoculated seed to extremes in temperature or direct sunlight.
Plant material in the form of bare root seedlings, stump cuttings and branch cuttings should be kept moist and protected until planting. Punch a small hole in the ground with the same diameter as the plant material. Seedlings should be placed in the hole with the root/shoot collar of the tree at soil level. Stump cuttings are handled likewise. Branch cuttings should be scarified in several places with a sharp knife to promote rooting and put in the ground about one third of their length.
Initially NFTs require moisture and adequate nutrients, as well as protection from weed competition. The best way to achieve these conditions is to amend the soil and sheet mulch at the time of planting.
As the goal in agroforestry is to foster a productive and stable ecosystem, rather than simply to add nitrogen to the system, NFTs should be used with due care and oversight. Too many nitrogen fixing plants can overnitrify the soil and pollute ground and surface waters. NFTs are not a panacea. Most will not thrive in shade or fertile conditions. Because of their ability to thrive under poor conditions, they can easily become weedy. Therefore, if possible, use only NFTs which are already established in your area, or that have a history of not becoming weeds. NFTs can also become competitive for available soil nutrients, especially in arid areas-careful and informed management practices are advised.
Also, be aware that there are many other significant avenues for nitrogen fixation in nature, such as free-living nitrogen fixing bacteria, which should also be incorporated into a design. How Biological Nitrogen Fixation Works in Legumes
Working with a group of bacteria called rhizobia, legumes are able to pull nitrogen out of the air and accumulate it biologically. The bacteria, which are normally free-living in the soil in the native range of a particular legume, infect (inoculate) the root hairs of the plant and are housed in small root structures called nodules. Energy is provided by the plant to feed the bacteria and fuel the nitrogen fixation process. In return, the plant receives nitrogen for growth.
There are thousands of strains of rhizobia. Certain of these will infect many hosts, certain hosts will accept many different strains of rhizobia. Certain hosts may be nodulated by several strains of rhizobia, but growth may be enhanced only by particular strains. Therefore, when introducing hosts to a new area it is extremely important to also introduce a known effective symbiotic rhizobia strain. Such effective strains have been identified for thousands of the important nitrogen fixing legumes, and can be purchased at low cost for the value returned. The best method for ensuring effective nitrogen fixation is introduce a known effective strain of Rhizobium to the potting medium at the time of sowing. Large, healthy nodules may also be used to inoculate seeds. To determine if the nodule is effective, it may be cut open. Effective nodules will have a pink to dark red pigment inside.
In conventional cropping systems it is estimated that 50-800 kg of nitrogen per hectare per year are accumulated by nitrogen fixing plants, depending on species, soil and climate, Rhizobium efficiency, and management. Equivalent quantities of manufactured nitrogen is produced using an energy intensive process, and the end product is high-priced nitrogen in a form which can be detrimental to soil ecology.
NFT illus feian02 References and further reading:
FAO, 1984. Legume Inoculants and Their Use, FAO of the United Nations, Rome. Excellent practical handbook for inoculation.
MacDicken, Kenneth G. 1994. Selection and Management of Nitrogen-Fixing Trees. Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development, Morrilton, Arkansas, USA.
National Academy of Sciences. 1979. Tropical Legumes: Resources for the Future, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C..
Nitrogen Fixing Tree Association (Currently the FACT Net). 1989-1994. NFT Highlights. Nitrogen Fixing Tree Association, Morrilton, Arkansas, USA.
Craig Elevitch and Kim Wilkinson P.O. Box 428, Holualoa, HI 96725 USA agroforestry.net
In a ground-breaking decision today, Federal District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice ruled that manure from a dairy poses an ”imminent and substantial endangerment” to the environment and to the thousands of residents of the Yakima Valley.
Citing data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Rice pointed to some basic raw numbers. The dairy, Cow Palace, manages 11,000 cows that produce 100 million gallons of manure annually. EPA tests from 2012 found that 20% of the wells tested had levels of nitrates above current standards.
Each cow produces 120 pounds of wet manure daily. Most is stored in 15 foot trenches that leak roughly 500 gallons per day per acre.
Attorneys defending the dairy argued that septic tanks from residents contributed greatly to the pollution in groundwater. The other factor is the standard practice of fertilizing crops – including application of manure and compost.
The data from US EPA indicated the septic tank input was less than one tenth of 1 percent (0.1%) of the pollution. Judge Rice has placed blame directly at the feet of the dairy industry. Our nation’s dairymen are scratching their heads. It’s a first.
In the 111-page opinion, Judge Rice reflected that he "… could come to no other conclusion than that the Dairy's operations are contributing to the high levels of nitrate that are currently contaminating — and will continue to contaminate ... the underlying groundwater."
"Any attempt to diminish the Dairy's contribution to the nitrate contamination is disingenuous, at best," the Judge opined in the face of arguments by the defense.
"Alarmingly, Defendant Cow Palace's briefing seems to suggest that this Court wait to act until a young infant in the area is first diagnosed with methemoglobinemia, a health effect that occurs at the lowest dose of nitrate consumption," the judge quipped.
Known as Blue Baby Syndrome, methemoglobinemia results from mixing baby formula with water with nitrate levels slightly over the current standard. Babies turn blue as their bodies adjust to a deprivation of oxygen-carrying ability of blood resulting from the nitrate concentration in their bottle.
The nitrate concentration in soils and groundwater has introduced for the first time in farm animal waste management issues the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which addresses how solid waste and hazardous materials are managed.
According to Jessica Culpepper, the attorney representing Public Justice, an environmental organization, this case is the first federal court to rule on improperly managed manure as a solid waste, rather than as a beneficial farm product. Repercussions will be felt nationwide.
She joined several environmental organizations who sued on behalf of thousands of families in the lower Yakima Valley. Most families in this rich agricultural valley depend on groundwater wells. Many neighbors support the dairymen, too.
Their lives and families' health are inextricably tied to the quality of water. Some have built methane digesters to ameliorate the problems - reduce the effluent to a pathogen-free sludge, eliminate some odor and extract the methane to convert the gaseous resource into electricity. Attorneys for the dairy spoke of appeals as likely.
Unfortunately, many locals today are choosing between drinking bad water or spending up to $200 a month on something better – bottled water. Nitrates are linked to a wide variety of health problems, including cancer, birth defects, reproductive problems and immune disorders.
Mark Shepard has created something of an environmental oasis at his Wisconsin homestead, New Forest Farm. Shepard, a farmer and author, is a long time proponent of restoration agriculture, the practice of recreating healthy, naturally occurring, economically viable perennial farms.
It's a tantalising question that one farmer has been researching and scientists have been exploring.
Glenn Morris is passionate about humus and believes what you do to the soil on your farm, can affect the rain.
"The humus is the home for the biology, and recent scientific reports coming out of the United States are saying that the biology actually increases up to 160 per cent in the first five minutes following rain, so it's actually an ice-nucleating agent for forming rain," he said.
"We're basically talking about biological cloud seeding."
Mr Morris, an organic beef producer in northern NSW, won a Landcare award last year.
He did his Masters thesis on the link between humus in the soil, the release of rain-forming plant pathogens and how both those things can help to rehydrate the landscape.
A decade ago he was managing a property that was unusually dry.
"The water cycle was breaking down, not so much due to a lack of weather systems coming through, but the fact there was no moisture being held in the system," he said.
"The soil had lost its ability to hold the water and that was due to a lack of organic matter and humus.
"I did a Masters on that subject and tried to quantify how much water we could hold in the landscape by increasing humus."
It took Mr Morris two years to get a number.
"The figures were basically a 1:4 relationship, which equated to every one per cent humus we could increase in the landscape, we could hold an extra 160,000 litres of water."
Mr Morris says grazing management is the way to increase humus in the soil.
"Manage your pasture so that it has the optimum chance to rest, just before the late maturity phase and just before seeding.
"They've got their energy requirement [by then], so they really start dumping sugars into the root zone [and] that's when you start to get really good humus gains."
Grazing cattle is also important, because it allows the organic matter to be broken down into a density that makes a difference.
Mr Morris believes that if farmers band together to increase soil humus, they could effectively seed the clouds and make it rain.
"It's a big call to say that you can make a difference just over your property, but at a regional level, if a few farmers come on board, you are actually cloud seeding."
So is it true? Can farmers band together and attract rain to their farms?
Dr Lachlan Ingram from the University of Sydney is based in Cooma in southern NSW and has also been researching soil organic matter and water holding capacity.
He confirms there is definitely a relationship between humus and the water that soil can hold and also that plants release spores which become nuclei for rain.
But can farmers make it rain by increasing the humus in their soils? Dr Ingram says probably not.
"It's part of a larger process," he said,
"We know that clouds and raindrops form as a result of these small aerosols or nuclei which water binds to, and we know that spores are a really critical part of that.
But, he says, high winds at high altitudes will blow it away.
"The reality is that they're probably going to be hit by winds and perhaps taken downstream a hundred or a thousand kilometres."