I received notice you are accepting suggestions for reviews, so here is one.
I have just started Masanobu Fukuoka's fascinating "The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming" (Other India Press, Mapusa, Goa, India, 2004; originally pub'd by Rodale Press in 1978)and would really like to see this reviewed. As Green Revolution techniques run out of gas (literally as well as figuratively) this zero-tilling form of farming needs not just a closer look, but a wider audience.
Following is am excerpt (Pp xviii-xx) from the excellent preface to the book by Partap Aggarwal:
"Invariably our peasant visitors were puzzled about our opposition to
ploughing. I would dig up some soil and show them how many more insects and
worms we had. Farmers had no difficulty understanding that those were our
ploughmen. I used to ask them, with so many millions of tireless ploughmen
in the soil, where was the need for us to plough? Some observant visitors
used to point to weeds, cobwebs, frogs, algae, and other signs of untidiness
in our fields. I used to tell them that if they compared their own crop
with ours they would find our input costs lower and yields much higher. The
choice was theirs. This muted most of them.
A genetecist friend, Dr. R.H. Richharia, explained the mystery of our
success with rice. He pointed out that since central India is the home of
the rice plant, it is comfortable here and adapts easily to any change in
growing conditions. He told us that there were probably 40,000 varieties of
rice in a 200 mile wide belt from Surat to Cuttack. Of these, 20,000 were
collected and catalogued in a government seed bank with which he was
associated all his life. The high yielding varieties we were growing
happened not to be too badly damaged by engineering. They still had the
genetic potential to develop a suitable root structure to feed on organic
matter. That is why our rice stopped asking for fertilizer on finding the
foolish newcomer to the community obstinate.
In the course of our experiments at Rasulia we learned many other
interesting things. A couple of examples will give the reader a hint of the
kinds of things nature revealed to us.
All over the world, among civilized (sic) people, 'weeds' are regarded as
enemies. Enormous amounts of energy are spent to eliminate them. Weeding
is regarded as the most tedious task in agriculture and also perhaps the
most beneficial. People wasnt to see bare and 'clean' earth under their
crops. They think, if the ground is bare, their vegetables will get all the
nutritiion from the soil without competition from weeds.
One of the lessons we learned at Rasulia was that the poplar beliefs about
weeds are false and we should think of weeds as friends, not enemies. When
the earth is dug up and exposed to rain, sun and wind it begins to erode.
Then, nature's most effective tool to check erosion is a mulch of dead
leaves or living plants. It has been found that one reason weeds come so
persistently to cultivated lands is because they are cultivated. As soon as
we stop cultivation weeds become redundant and lose vigour.
As Rasulia we found that all crops benefited from a ground cover whether it
were made of straw, leaves, or the right types of living plants. Often, the
so-called weeds in fact feed their hosts by fixing nitrogen in nodules on
their roots. They soften and aerate the soil; often they also repel harmful
insects. We collected seeds of suitable weeds and planted them with our
crops to provide ground cover. Wherever I go I advise people to mulch their
vegetable and flower plots. If people learn this simple useful habit they
can save themselves an enormous amount of labour. Huge amounts of oganic
material will be recycled. Piles of 'garbage' will disappear. Vegetable
production will increase. Soil will become healthier. even flowers will be
Domesticated food plants lose their natural vigor. To continue to survive,
they require human intervention in the form of ploughing and weeding. That
is why farmers start by ploughing their fields. But there are many other
ways to plant and raise a crop. One that we found very effective was to
take advantage of hardy leguminous plants such as clover, tur, and
We would broadcast clover seed in an uncultivated field in November. Clover
will grow amidst any weeds if the ground is wet and weather cool. When the
clover was six to eight inches high, we would cut the field clean. Clover
likes to be cut and most other weeds don't. After the third cutting, all
the other weeds would have gone, onlly clover would be remaining. iIn late
April when the weather turned hot, the clover would quickly go to seed which
could be gathered towards the end of May. Cut clover is excellent cattle
feed and clover seed has a good market.
At Rasulia clover became our most lucrative crop. In the same field in
which we used to plant rice in July, sometime in November, about two weeks
before rice harvesting time, we would plant clover in the standing paddy.
In some of our fields we carried out this rotation for 4 years. Our crops
were excellent and our soil improved. We returned most of the straw and the
cowdung back to the soil.
Tur can be similarly used to clear a field of weeds. Tur seeds may be
dibbled manually, say, three feet apart. When the plants are eighteen to
twenty inches high, cut and drop the weeds. Repeat this a month or so
later. By then tur is well established and able to shade everything else
I must conclude with a word of caution. What worked at Rasulia may or may
not work elsewhere because soils and environments vary widely. Farmers
everywhere must do their own research by closely watching and listening to
nature. Natural farming teaches us to become receptive to nature's wisdom
which is generously offered to us all the time through plants, animals and