Successful Paddy Harvest for Actor Sreenivasan with Zero Budget Farming

Sreenivasan is a Malayalam cinema actor, director and screenwriter. His most movies illustrate problems in the society which are portrayed satirically or through comedy.
He has taken up the declining paddy cultivation of Kerala in real life. Wish he succeeds.
His grand parents were famous farmers, Karoothoty gurikal was among them based in P.K House, Vayanthode, Mattanur, Kannur. No wonder he has nostalgia of  growing produce.

Zero Budget Organic Rice cultivation by Actor Sreenivasan

He is not the first to get into the paddy or organic food wagon there are few others celebrities and notable people in Kerala.  Long time friend director Sathyan Anthikad is one among them.
Sathyan Anthikad and Sreenivasan are using Jyothi rice seed variety. Jyothi, Uma, Athira are high yielding dwarf variety of rice seed developed in late 60’s and 70’s popular in most part of Kerala. All these hybrid seeds are developed by transferring dwarf genes to high yielding Indigenous varieties of Kerala. Hybridisation was also done by farmers without any technology in the olden days.  (will post about this some time later)
Sreenivasan has employed zero-budget farming concept of Subhash Palekarji.
More on Srinivasan’s paddy harvest can be read here.
Popular believe here  in Kerala is nothing grows without English-valam(synthetic fertilizer). I feel this is a sick attitude, what ever is imported or used globally is good. This may be some what true, I have first hand experience in growing rice and vegetables using cows urine and dung Palekarji’s way. However I can only boost of good rice, cheera (type of Spinach)and tapioca harvest. This is because there is absolutely no organic matter and earthworms in the soil.
Let me tell you paddy cultivation is a back breaking process. It requires immense labor effort. And if it pours heavy all the paddy would get submerged underwater. Few decades back water would clear out after the rains from the fields. However the scenario has changed because of excessive roads and bunds build at various intervals on the paddy fields. Water clearing from the fields delay and ultimately decaying the rice crop(please note when water is above or on par with paddy).
One of the benefits of dwarf variety they don’t fall and stick to the ground during heavy pours. Traditional variety is normally big and the rice yield is less compared to hybrid because native breeds have to concentrate on building strong and bulky straw as well. Thavala kanana and Neevra nellu are just the two among the tall rice variety which I grew this season. Neevra nellu being the best rice it is normally used for medicinal propose, famous Kizhi Massage is done with neevra rice.

Native Rice(Paddy) Variety compared to Hybrid Paddy Seeds

Indigenous rice-straw are very good cattle feed. straw is soft and big it keeps cattle satisfied for a long time. Its is clear since bulls, oxen and cows have reduced as compared to the past, malayalees don’t need the old traditional variety of rice. Rather they need more rice. Same goes for milch animals, no one needs oxen and bulls people only need milk.
Paddy cultivation requires lot of water, water and some more water. Fact is paddy plants can adjust their water intake by the means of osmosis. It takes up correct amount of water in its cells when ever required and then stops the process when not needed.
So why is excess water required? This is to control weeds and pest control (specially rats). In Kerala along with the water from the rivers it gets all the essential nutrients, minerals up from the high lands. Today every crop is feed with high doses of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium. Factomphos is a common fertilizer used every where,  it is a mixture of all the above mentioned nutrients.
If you are unsure why plants need all these nutrients read this link.
Most of the hybrid rice seeds are designed to survive in very less water. Uma is a popular variety which can be grow on high land with rain water feed or irrigation. It is also successful in water logged paddy fields.
However I feel if you compromise on certain aspect of a seed it will adversely affect other function. So it is good to stick with indigenous rice breeds. Pest attack and crop failure is very common in Hybrid.
Indigenous rice breeds can also most of the time predict climate change and adjust their harvest time. It has been documented. On the other hand hybrid can be a total failure. This season most farmers in Kannur lost their second harvest because of less rains.
Another concern with paddy is all the sowing and harvesting has to be done together. Different pest attack at different stages of paddy. If every farmer sows rice in their fields together attack is spread across every one and the damage to individual farmers is less.
To conclude celebrity farmers get so much exposure and media hype. Ultimately it creates a spark and some take up the task be it farming or some thing else. It is the need of the hour. However I feel more people will only get in traditional farming or agriculture if there is actually food crisis. I mean when people desperately need some thing to eat(Actual food shortage and not one which is present globally by corporate and government agencies to generate money) along with unavailability of crude oil.
Comments and suggestion are welcome. It will help me and other readers to learn new things.
This article has 7 Comments
  1. Namaskaram Anoop!

    Really great to know about what you are trying to do. Keep it up. Btw are you on Farmnest too by any chance? Just wondering.

    Am also trying to be a farmer and learn farming from nature. Farming had been a long standing dream but never had the courage to take the plunge on my own. Now thanks to few friends decided not to get back to a job, after my sabbatical. And now am farming near Thrissur Palakkad border. We run a small diary ( mostly cross breeds and one Gir) and paddy. Would like to shift entirely to native breed in a year or so.

    My life partner’s father also has a small farm near Kuthuparambu and he’s also trying to do it the natural way. The land was in quite a degraded state when he bought it and now it’s slowly recovering.

    I really liked your article about Paddy and really feel sad seeing the state of paddy farming today. I really wonder sometime if in a decades time if any paddy would be grown at all in Kerala. I wish the people of this blessed land are taught a lesson by nature once. And hope we learn something from it.

    Take care and hope to meet you someday soon.

    Joe
    —————-

    Dear Joe,

    Thank you. Yes I am on Farmnest.
    great. god bless. Yes but before you shift please study the market and other aspects about Indian cows. Since you have Gir, you would have idea.

    Yes. Paddy cultivation is in extremely bad shape. Hope people understand it. Specially all our native variety. Its only few people in their 60’s and 70’s cultivating paddy and few people like me are doing in different pockets of Kerala. But its no good. Whole community has to get involved to preserve seeds and the traditional practices.

    1. Anoop,

      Glad to see your reply.

      Yeah absolutely we have to study it in detail before taking the plunge. But preliminary assessment shows that there is good demand for native cow’s milk though it may not be a very high yeilding one. But then it’s not a high input cow too.

      My father in law is based near Shankaranelloor….Kadakottillam. Sh KVV Sharma. Pl go and meet him some day. Or when we come then we can meet.

      We are trying Paddy again this time. The yield has not been all that great in the previous years…partly because of our mistakes. Hope we have learnt some lessons.

      Could you please reply to my mail id and my number is 07598300201

  2. I don’t understand why people are growing hybrids given how poor performing and wasteful they are? They attract rodents, you over consume water to deal with the rodents, this causes water drainage issues, and despite all this they fail because they can’t adjust to unpredictable weather. They’re creating a viscous cycle or chain reaction of costly problems. How are we gaining money from this? Tax payers are bearing the burden of these costs. Western society is against big government and government spending and yet its their own western model that is the cause for the growth of heavy spending, bureaucratic governments managing these western caused problems.

    Even if you fertilize with all this over consumption of water the fertilizers and natural nutrients in the soil are probably getting washed away and now the soil is constantly undernourished and weak. Then I would assume lots of fungal, and mosquito issues develop along with this over consumption of water that’s siting around not draining well. Can you please stop planting this stupid thing to stop this chain reaction?

    One of the reasons why rice performs poorly is that, traditionally it was grown into a small sized plant then transplanted into a bigger field. According to ancient text this helps develop a strong plant. Yet many farmers throw seed down directly without transplanting and this develops into a weak plant.

    In my flower garden I don’t use fertilizers and get great results. The key is compost. Compost remains in the soil for a long time. Tilling compacts the soil and destroys the micro organisms in the soil needed to break down the compost due to the excessive heat tilling produces. I use to go to my grocery store and buy their compost made from unsold produce that gets thrown away. After all this farming a lot of produce still remains unsold. How many apples can a person eat? Half the produce section is just apples. Unless people are eating junk food and not the apples despite their abundance? People are mixing good garbage with bad garbage, the majority of household garbage is good but the bad garbage is contaminating it. It’s like the poison that spoils the whole pot of milk. Then we get a landfill problem which tax payers have to pay for. Once the good garbage is contaminated its hard to separate it from the bad.

    This is what’s needed for soil. Without it soil becomes hard like clay and difficult to work. Now we have another problem. See how its a viscous cycle, short term gains are long term losses. The western system is not holistic in thinking. It’s not ecosystem oriented, it is ego oriented.

    1. The problem with fertilizers is that they are not applied the way they are in the west. I think in the west they use GPS mapping or satellite mapping of the farmers land to determine which areas of the land actually need the fertilizers. Yet Indian farmers just apply it everywhere. Thus they might be over applying it.

      Moreover, Some grasses or plants that are negatively termed weed, are actually coming to the soil to correct an imbalance in the soil nutrition, like maybe a lack of nitrogen or too much nitrogen. They might be helping to remove the excess nitrogen from fertilizers, or fix nitrogen to the soil. So actually they’re trying to talk to the farmer to tell him the imbalances going on in his soil that he is causing. Or to help rectify it for him. If the soil is too sandy a so called weed is sent by nature to hold the soil in place to prevent erosion. It’s trying to tell the farmer hey your soil is too sandy let me help you correct this.

      “Although erroneously assumed to compete with neighboring plants for food and moisture, some “weeds” provide the soil with nutrients, either directly or indirectly.”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beneficial_weed

      The traditional way of farming is to intercrop, to plant a diverse variety of crops together that act as helpers to each other. So the so called weed are actually trying to teach the farmer the need to intercrop. The weeds were sent by nature to take the place or space of the traditional plant that is suppose to be intercropped with the rice.

      ——————————-

      weeds are sown by GOD and seeds by humans. 🙂

      1. Traditional farming was ecosystem farming. A farm has to function like a mini ecosystem or be connected to one. On example is called forest gardening. People would grow their own food within a forest environment. The fallen forest leaves would act like its own natural fertilizer without needing outside outputs like commercial fertilizers.

        The problem is people are not demanding more rice to be eaten, it’s that traders want to sell more rice up front in 25 pound bags to make more money up front faster, especially in foreign exports often sold in jumbo sized bags in order to fill up export ships. That is why you find many housewives complaining they are forced to over buy one years supply of rice up front, and so they’re stuck having to finish off this rice that just sits around in their homes. If a company can make a person buy that much rice upfront, that is almost like behaving like a monopoly, forcing the consumer to only buy from him.

        It will really help if consumers get into the habit of buying only what they need for that week or month so farmers are not forced to produce high volumes upfront which goes against nature, thus drugging these plants with fertilizers to grow at abnormally fast rates. These bizzare plant behaviors are the literal manifestation of a bizzare rajasic consciousness or thinking behind these farming ideas.

    2. People are using tractors more and more, but the tractors are generating too much heat destroying microbial activity in the soil. These bacteria, fungus etc are needed for proper seed germination. In an orchid exhibit I attended, orchids can’t germinate without a fungus specific to the ecosystem it comes from.

      All waters are not created equal. Just like I mentioned below, not all proteins are equal. There are foods that are sold as high in protein, high in useless form of protein that is. The marketing people leave that part out. Same idea can be applied to water.

      I spoke to am Indian rice farmer. He said the best quality basmati only comes from a field irrigated by special Himalayan water from Himalayan mountains. I assume this water is very nutrient rich, creating an outstanding rice. So people keep talking about water, but water has to be good quality water, to serve its nutritional use to us. This can also explain why we have nutritional deficiencies.

      Many people these days have arthritis or joint pains. One reason why this might be happening is traditionally water was stored in copper and for some reason, drinking water from copper vessels prevented the arthritis. It also helped eliminate harmful bacteria by disinfecting the water. The vessel imparts small amount of copper to the water. With the rise in western plastics, aluminum, and steel for water storage and drinking we see a rise in water contamination and joint pain and inflammation. Its possible that nutrient rich water from mountains helped ward off negative energy that cause these problems, which is why Indians have a belief in bathing in holy rivers, consuming such water and growing food with such water. So water quality is very important for nutrient rich food and for overall health. Agri “culture” is our culture.

      1. Many people have dark circles under the eyes. I think this is due to zinc deficiency. Well, zinc often comes from whole grains. I assume rices grown in nutrient rich soil and water absorb these nutrients like zinc and store it in its bran layer or outer colored skin called thavidu in tamil, which is often polished off to make rice white. In traditional rices we see amazing spectrum of color given its ability to absorb water and store water very well and the minerals within it, which might be responsible for imparting its rich colors to it.

        When we eat, cook or drink with brass we also get zinc because brass is a mixture of copper and zinc. These vessels impart bits of these to us. So water is a very important carrier of minerals and traditional rices have better water absorption and storage properties. So they will be I assume more nutrient rich. They help prevent problems like dark circles under eyes due to zinc deficiency because they are having zinc.

        People these days get dehydrated and tried easily, because the rices of today aren’t hydrating and keeping us full longer. We get hungry more easily. Traditional rices keep us hydrated and full longer. We get more stamina from them. This is due to how they absorb water and how they hydrate us. They release a slow steady stream of energy. People don’t realize that their lack of energy is due to poor rice quality they are eating, and so they drink energy drinks, coffees, teas, sodas, sugary and caffeinated foods for energy. But the real reason for their problem is poor carbohydrate quality or poor rice quality they eat.

        ————-

        Radha,

        Thank you for the excellent info about rice and hydration.
        As per some old folks I spoke to say there were certain type of rice which would keep you full for the whole day even if you do any sort of hard physical work.

  3. In situations of low rainfall millet is a great choice to grow, there are also varieties of dry land rices too. I think millet can grow well on their own without heavy fertilizing and grow well when inter cropped with pulses. I think, the pulses help fixate nitrogen to the soil and nourish the millet. I don’t see fertilizer used in this model.

    I know more about millet than rice.
    In an academic article I read it seems organic millet is better from a nutritional point of view. there are low quality and high quality proteins. When millet is given commercial fertilizer high in nitrogen it develops a high amount of low quality protein called I think prolamin. So the millets protein quality degrades. So its not how much protein we eat but what is the quality of that protein? does it give a good range of essential amino acids we must have? So high nitrogen fertilizers can be problematic they are altering the nutritional value of the food. This same thinking could be applied to rice, that the fertilizers are decreasing the nutritional value of the food, creating low quality protein to develop in the rice.

    I just attended a talk by a plant breeder. He said plant breeders don’t breed for
    nutrition, they breed for yield because companies dictate how they want the plant to be bred so they generate maximum profit. This could explain why many people are developing nutritional deficiencies despite eating the food sold today. My theory is people are especially developing protein defiencies. Gluten from wheat and casein from milk are a lousy source of protein, the body can’t digest it. Yet, wheat for bread baking is developed to have high amount of low quality protein, gluten protein. So just because you are eating something with protein, doesn’t mean its a good quality protein and you can get into protein deficiencies. The fertilizers along with weak plant genetics is producing inferior quality food and thus famine in a different form.

    Full and complete protein is needed for pigment production, which could explain why youth are developing gray hair and spots on the skin. They are rapidly aging even though they are young. They are not producing proper skin and hair pigment which helps protect us from heat and perhaps helps us produce Vitmain D a necessary nutrient produced when our skin is exposed to the sun. Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption and healthy brain function. Even though people drink milk, milk is useless unless you have vitamin d to absorb the calcium. See how everything happens like a chain reaction.

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