Saturday, November 23, 2013

How to Grow Wheat in Organic / Natural / Sustainable Agriculture

Scoping Comparable Yields, Rice-Wheat Cropping System, With and Without Agro-Chemicals, Punjab, India

An Experiment Protocol

This experiment is based on the discussion of  farmers associated with Kheti Virasat Mission and practicing Organic / Natural Farming in Punjab under the Chairmanship of eminent Agriculture Scientist Dr O P Rupela. It is focused on yield maximization without agrochemicals and does not have any control treatment. On an average most chemical farmers harvest above 18 Q per acre of wheat and 26 Q per acre of rice. If organic farmers achieve yield levels similar to these, it would be considered a success. Following package of practices are proposed for this experiment.

Present focus: Wheat crop of 2013-2014 season (part of the Experiment for rice season will be developed after learning lessons from the on-going rice season)

Wheat will be sown after the on-going Rice. Seed drill with one foot row to row spacing will be used. If one foot space is difficult, we can use the drill that has arrangement for row to row of 7 inches – to get spacing of 14” by closing alternate hole in the seed drill.  Wheat will be sown along with Chana as intercrop. It is possible to sow Chana along with wheat by separating the last hole using a wooden ply. This will allow paired row of Chana, after every 8 (in the case of 9 row drill) or 12 rows of wheat (in the case of 13 row drill). Also, we need to ensure draining of excess water in the field by making shallow ridges such that wheat is on top of ridge. This can be achieved using another ‘tine’ between every two lines of seed-drill. More details on the suggestions for sowing wheat follow. NoteIn case you have question/clarification, please call Mr Gurpreet Singh Dabrikhana at 9915195062.

Select a normal field (without the problem of Murk, salinity, flooding etc.) for the experiment. Select a suitable Seed drill that allows row to row spacing of one foot. Wheat will be intercropped with Chana which can be sown by the same seed drill - by separating the last hole (on right or left – whatever convenient) using a wooden ply. This will allow paired row of Chana, after every 12 rows of wheat (there will be 6 rows of wheat on starting side of the tractor). Also, we need to ensure draining of excess water in the field by making shallow ridges such that wheat is on top of ridges. This can be achieved by using another ‘tine’ between every two lines of seed-drill.
More details on the different suggestions follow.

Seeds – Selection, Procurement and Treatment – required before sowing:
i)     Obtain seeds of the two wheat varieties chosen by you – Importantone of the two varieties should be same as in the other fields of the farm
ii)   Seed rate: Wheat: 20 kg per acre and Chana – 8kg per acre. Important – more seeds means dense planting and we do not need dense population. Ideally we need plant to plant spacing also as one foot – both for wheat and chana. But suggested seed rate seems fine.
iii) We would need 250 g seed each of Metha (Fenugreek) and Alsi (Linseed) per acre for mixing with the entire 20kg of Wheat seeds. Mix about 50g seeds of Dhania with entire Chana seed. This may help in plant protection. NoteAdd these seeds in the seed drill, just at sowing.
iv)          Prime the seeds of the selected Wheat and Chana varieties. Method of priming is given in Appendix I. It may be noted that priming should be done about two days in advance of sowing to avoid last-minute tension.
Most Important:  Test germination percent of all the seeds (particularly the major crops wheat and Chana in this case). See Appendix II for the method.

Land preparation and sowing:
v)            It is hoped that rice will be harvested by combine by early November. Cut the stubble at ground level by using Reaper.  Note: We need two trolley loads of Living Compost for one acre area of the experiment. See Appendix III for the method of preparation.
vi)          Cut the standing stubble by using reaper (to mow it down at ground level), remove the loose plant biomass and collect it on two ends of the field by using a ‘Rake’ (a Jugad to be designed by you – it is essential for the future health of the farm).
vii)        Prepare the field (after irrigation, if needed), when soil is in Vattar, as normally done for sowing Wheat/Chana.
viii)      Apply two trolleys of ‘Living Compost’ per acre and about 20kg to 40kg of Ash (per acre) on soil surface, separately. Note‘Ash’ being less in quantity will require more care for uniform application, therefore do not mix it with Living Compost.
ix)          Sow the field using a seed drill to achieve 12” row to row distance and a sowing arrangement – 2 rows of Chana after every 12 rows of wheat. Within a row – ideally about 20 cm or 8” from plant to plant. Do following modifications at the time of sowing.
a.      Adjust the required pora at 12” (or one foot) distance.
b.      Please ensure that we do not sow more than 20kg wheat seed per acre and not more than 8kg seed of Chana per acre.
c.       Make changes in the seed box such that last hole on one end receives Chana seed.
d.      Attach a heavy duty tine with broad base (about 5” wide) between every two sowing tines – about 4” below ground level such that it should result in a light furrow between every two rows.
x)            One would get 6-rows (at start of drill) or 12 rows of wheat (in general) followed by 2-rows of Chana if we are using a seed-drill with 6 tines in front and 7 in rear row. Other row arrangements are feasible and OK, but choice is yours. My choice is 8 rows Wheat and 2 rows Chana. For example with a seed-drill of 4 tines in front and 5 in rear – we would get this combination.
xi)          Sow one row each of Sarson on all four sides of the field. This will serve as ‘Trap Crops’ for some insect-pests.
xii)        Soon after sowing, apply all the loose plant biomass back to the whole field manually to achieve at least 4” thickness. Note: (a) All these crops stated above have been noted to emerge out of this thickness of rice straw, (b) Never use broad leaves of trees such as Poplar as surface mulch because they can obstruct emergence. Broad leaves of any crop or trees can be used but only after crushing.

Weed management: One manual weeding at around 30 days, if needed, is recommended. After 30 to 40 days, if weeds are more, use ‘bioherbicide’ (see Appendix IV) - a need based action. Important: Bioherbicide can only be applied by using a Chatri sprayer taking care that no drop falls on base of the wheat-Chana etc. grown in the planted rows.

Water management: We should not irrigate, if the field is moist at surface. Need of irrigation of wheat can be judged by its wilting. If it is wilting during sunny hours, say at 2 PM but recovers at late evening hours – say at 6 PM, it should not be irrigated. But if it remains wilted at 6 PM, it should be irrigated. It is hoped that, with surface mulch, wheat will need about 3 to 4 irrigations only. Important: Apply 20L urine with every irrigation. It can be slowly poured into water channel as the water enters the fieldNote: Chana should not be irrigated, as far as possible. Chana rows can be blocked at ends so that water does not enter in the Chana rows.

Plant protection and nutrition: see Table 1.

Preparing for Rice crop (of May/June 2014): Broadcast 10kg seed per acre of the “Aurogreen” crops (see names of seeds/crops and method in Appendix V) just before last irrigation of wheat, say in March 2014.

Harvesting wheat: When the crop is almost ready for harvest, identify three representative spots each for Wheat and Chana. Cut the plants from one meter long three rows of Wheat and one meter long two rows of Chana, at ground level, using sickle. Sun-dry the bundles for one week. Thresh the bundles manually/separately to separate grains from rest of the plant biomass. Add the 2-types of grains in separate strong paper bags and the other plant parts in separate gunny bags of jute or cloth. Take their weights separately and record the yield data (both for grains and for biomass) in the ‘Field Book’ with the farmer. Attention: Mr Gurpreet Dabrikhana.

Harvest Chana manually before harvesting wheat by combine (hopefully by mid April). Record the number of gunny bags of grains of the two crops harvested from the whole of one acre. Also, take weight of each bag, if possible, and record data in the ‘Field Book’. Attention: Mr Gurpreet Dabrikhana.

Table 1: Different types of sprays for enhancing plant nutrition and plant protection
S. No.
When to Use (days after sowing–DAS)
Gurjal Amrit
30, 70 DAS
Promotes roots and shoot growth, see Appendix VI for method of preparation
Pathi Ka Pani
50, 100, 150 DAS
Promotes plant growth, supports flowers, Appendix VII for method of preparation
Khatti Lassi
40, 74, 110 DAS
Against fungi, Appendix VIII for method of preparation
Fertilizer, as a pesticide
90, 160
Against aphids , Appendix IX for method of preparation

CautionNo spray should be applied during flowering

List of Appendices
Append. No.
Page no.
Special Aurogreen for Broadcast in Standing Rice, Guar or Wheat
Method of urine application – a source of nitrogen
Converting Farm Yard Manure (FYM) into Living Manure
Seed Priming
Testing Germination of Seeds
Urine and Khaadi Soap Mix as a Bioherbicide
Method of Converting Oil-cake to Living Oil-Cake
Method of ‘Paata’ to rice
Method of Making Gur-Jal-Amrit
Extract of Dry Cowdung (Paathi-Da-Paani)
Method of Making Butter Milk as Pest Manager
Method of Making Herbal Extract
List of different inputs/activities for year 1
Application of ‘Ash’ as source of crop nutrients

Appendix I
Seed Priming*
Materials Needed:
Seeds of required crop in required quantity, Jeevamrit (without dilution)-sufficient to soak the seed, one kg powdered and sieved lime (or ‘Chuna’, widely used for whitewash of houses, do not use any modern/branded white-wash) for every 100kg seed.

1.      Take high quality clean seed from which chaff and broken seeds have been removed.
2.      Put the seed in a suitable size container and add Jeevamrit such that seed is fully dipped in it.
3.      Soak the seeds of a given crop for the period suggested in the table below.  Note: Number of hours of soaking is very important and it varies from seed to seed and is given below for some seeds for which experiments have been done. For seeds of other crops, farmers are encouraged to develop their own experience.
4.      Drain the excess ‘Jeevamrit’.
5.      Spread the seeds on a gunny sheet. Sprinkle it with required quantity of powdered/sieved lime. Dry the seeds in shade. They are now ready for sowing.

S. No.
Hours of soaking
Moong, Urd

Note: Sowing be completed soonest possible. The primed seeds should not be stored for more than two days.
    The method is based on the publication of Harris D.. 1999. Experimental Agriculture 35:15-29; Musa,A.M. 2001. Experimental Agriculture 37: 509-521.

Appendix II
Testing Germination of Seeds

1.      Take approximately 1000 seeds.
2.      Soak them in water for about four hours (20 hours in the case of rice).
3.      Drain the excess water and line-up the seeds on short side (width) of twin or double sheet of a newspaper. Wrap the seeds in the newspaper, in the form of a tube.
4.      Fold the newspaper tube and put in a polythene bag.
5.      Add small quantity of water in the bag and drain it after few minutes so that newpaper gets moist (not dripping wet).
6.      Drain the excess water again after about 30 minutes.
7.      Keep the polythene bag in a room for four days, if it is summer/rainy days, and for seven days, if it is winter.
8.      Take out and straighten the folded newspaper tube, unfold the paper so that the seeds are visible.
9.      Count the total number of seeds and record in the ‘Field Book’
10.  Count the germinated seeds and record in the ‘Field Book’. Calculate the percent germination.

Appendix III

Method of Preparation of Living Manure and its Use*

This is a method of adding value to the farm-yard-manure (FYM). Most of the agricultural scientists and agricultural research institutions measure value of FYM in terms of quantity of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potash (K) in it. Cattle dung and FYM have been noted to contain microorganisms of all the six types of functional groups of microorganisms – nitrogen fixers, phosphate solubilizers, cellulose degraders, plant-growth promoters, antagonists of disease-causing fungi and entomopathogens. Therefore the real value of FYM is in the population and diversity of agriculturally beneficial microorganisms it contains and not in the concentration of NPK. Its biological value can be further enhanced by the following method.

In the past about two years, we have been suggesting farmers in Punjab through a local NGO – Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM) to enhance the value of manure/FYM by further enriching population of agriculturally beneficial microorganisms before its actual use.

NoteWe are not talking of ‘compost’ prepared by using some standard procedures. For example, Nadep compost or Vermicompost.

Materials needed
1.      Half trolley soil, preferably of an organic field.
2.      Half trolley farm-yard manure (FYM), as prepared by most farmers in villages.
3.      100kg oil-seed cake of an edible oilseed, eg. Mustard, Groundnut, Sunflower, Safflower etc.
4.      30kg Gur (Jaggary) – old batch, so that its cost is less. Notemolasses, if available, can be used in its place
5.      5-basket full of soil from under canopy of a big Banyan tree
6.      100L of Gur-Jal-Amrit (concentrate)

Method of preparation of Living manure 
1.      Break all clods in the farm-yard manure (FYM) and soil separately.
2.      A day before this activity of making living manure:
(a) spread the oilseed cake on a plastic sheet and sprinkle it with 10-times diluted Gur-Jal-Amrit. Mix the contents once every about one to two hours till the Gur-Jal-Amrit gets soaked fully and cake becomes friable, (b) Soak Jaggary (or molasses) in a suitable container having about 100L of 10-times diluted Gur-Jal-Amrit – it would need mixing with a stick so that it gets suspended well and fully.
3.      Identify a suitable place for preparation of Living Manure in the field. Ideally, one should select area under shade of a tree. But any area is okay, so far as we can save the material from excess of rain and Sun. Spread the manure, say on an area of about 20 feet long and about 10 feet wide. Break the clods.
4.      On its top, uniformly spread about half trolley load of soil (preferably from a field where we are going to use the product. Break the clods, if present. After this, spread the moistened and friable oilseed cake, followed by 5 basket full of soil from under a Banyan tree.
5.      Now uniformly sprinkle about all the Jaggary water suspension.
6.      Using a spade mix all the contents of all the layers thoroughly. Add diluted Gur-Jal-Amrit, if needed, taking care that the mixture remains friable. If the mixture is dry and Gur-Jal-Amrit  gets finished, normal irrigation water can be used in its place. NoteIt will take at least 2 to 3 rounds of mixing before the contents get mixed thoroughly.
7.      After mixing, set the contents in 3 feet wide and one foot high bed. Length of the bed can be decided by the space one has. It can be a single length or in several beds, until the contents are finished.   
8.      Cover the beds with moist plant biomass as surface mulch. It can be crop residues, fallen leaves of trees etc. whatever is handy on a farm. 
9.      Keep the surface mulch moist by sprinkling water or diluted Gur-Jal-Amrit (if some still remains unused).
10.  At about day 5, remove the surface mulch and mix the contents. Sow all the beds with Aurogreen (see Appendix .. for details). Cover the seeds with about one inch layer of the same soil and cover again with surface mulch.
11.  If needed, the product is ready for use from day 15, but it is recommended keep the unused beds intact as long as feasible. NoteGrowth of root system of the diverse crops would further increase population of agriculturally beneficial microorganisms of different types. It is recommended to use the contents fully within 6-8 weeks of preparation.
12.  If the material is not used in 6-8 weeks, fill it in empty bags of fertilizers or of cement – whatever is available. Note: (a) Do not use jute bags because they would also get manureed and become weak with time, (b)  store the bags in shade, cover them with about 4” layer of foliage or crop residues, and keep them moist (not wet) by sprinkling water, until use.

Rate and method of using Living manure: 
1.      Apply two trolley load of the product in year one, one trolley in year 2 and there is no need to use it after this.
2.      This product should not be applied to dry field eg. at land preparation. Instead it should be sprinkle-applied just before sowing.
3.      For best results the soil-surface should be covered with about 4” thick surface mulch of crop residues.

Important: Innovation in mechanizing the preparation process are encouraged.


Appendix IV

Urine and Soap Mix as a Bioherbicide*
1.      Cow urine              = 15L [Note: it does not matter. if it is fresh or old]
2.      Soap powder         = 10 g per 15L
3.      Gur                        = 400g per 15L

Method of Preparation
1.      Take about 5L urine in a bucket and dissolve 15g powdered soap in it.
2.      Add 400g Gur in it and dissolve fully.
3.      Add it into a sprayer after sieving. Fill the sprayer with rest of urine, shake well and spray 

*Mr Inderjeet  Singh Soholi (phone no. 9915702440) of Punjab used 2 eggs per 15L sprayer in place of Gur and found this recipe useful in killing several different types of weeds. This recipe is not expected to kill Nutgrass (Murk in Punjabi) and Dub-grass (Khabbar in Punjabi).

Appendix V

Special Aurogreen for Broadcast in Standing Crop of Rice (to help following Wheat) or of Wheat (to help following Rice)
1.      Take total of six kg seeds of the following legume crops – Horse gram (Macrotyloma uniflorum, Gahat in Punjabi), Mungbean, Urd, Cowpea, Moth, Masar. Note: one can take about 1 kg of each type. Important: We strongly recommend that if and when needed, purchase these seeds from Grocery shops in the village and not from seed stores. But test germination and used seeds that have more than 80% germination.
2.      Mix all the seeds and add about 200g each of Saunf, Ajwain and Dill (Soi Aku in Telugu, Sava in Hindi, Anethum graveolens).
3.      Soak all the seeds in water, for about four hours. Drain excess water and spread the seeds on a gunny sheet in shade and dry them.
4.      Sprinkle 50 to 100 mL of concentrated cow-urine (see Appendix …  for its preparation) so that all seeds get smeared. Dust these moist seeds with about 500g dry ash (from kitchen) and mix well. The seeds are now ready for broadcasting.
Important: Sowing/broadcasting should be done about one month before harvesting rice (to help the following wheat), or about one month before harvesting wheat (to help the following rice). Braodcasting can be done just before last irrigation to these crops, -- say in September for Rice and in March for Wheat.

Appendix VI

Gurjal Amrit
Gurjal Amrit is a tested soil health enhancer and plant growth promoter by team members of Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM) in Punjab.  It was innovated by Mr Gupreet Dabrikhana (mobile: 9915195062, e-mail: of KVM.

1.         Fresh Cow dung                           30 kg
2.         Besan (Chane Ka Aata)                01 kg
3.         Bajra (Pearl millet) flour *          0.5 kg
4.         Rock Salt (powdered)                  0.5 kg
5.         Mustard Oil                                             125 mL
6.         Gur                                               1.5 kg
7.         Neem Leaves *                            01 kg
8.         Akk (Calotropis) leaves *             01 kg
9.         Cow Urine                                    2.5 Liter
10.     Water                                          to make 100 Liter of total product
·         Farmers in South India may use Raagi in place of Bajra;
·         Preferably use fresh leaves of Neem and Calotropis but after cutting them into smallest pieces.

Method of Preparation
  1. Mix Besan, Pearl Millet flour, Rock Salt and Mustard oil in to 5 kg Cow dung in a small container.
  2. Add this mixture and the remaining 25 Kg Cow dung in a suitable size big drum (eg. 200 liters). Now put all the remaining things like Gur, Neem and Calotropis leaves,  Cow-urine and water in to the drum and mix all the thing with the help of a wooden stick. Keep the drum covered.
  3. Mix the contents twice a day for about 10 minutes every time. Continue the mixing the contents of the drum for 3 days (in summer) to 5 days (in winter) when the mixture will be ready for use.

Method of Use
  • It can be applied to all crops, vegetables or fruit trees. Apply to soil to improve soil health. And use as a spray to enhance plant growth.
  • For soil application, it can be added to irrigation channel at the rate of 200L per acre.
  • For enhancing plant growth, spray-apply after sieving through cloth or strainer. Use at the rate of 2 to 4 liters per spray pump of 15 liters as a plant growth promoter. 


Appendix VII

Extract of Dry Cowdung (Paathi-Ka-Paani)*

1.      Take a wide mouth container – 100 or 200L barrel, open from top.
2.      Add about 50L of water in the barrel.
3.      Add about 15 kg of one year old cow dung cakes. Let them soaked fully in water for four days. NoteIt may need some weight on top of the Dung Cakes, so that they remain submerged in water.
4.      The resultant liquid when sprayed on crops has been noted to improve crop growth by several farmers in Punjab.
5.      Take about 2L liquid in a 15 L capacity sprayer. Fill it with water. Mix well and spray.

Note: the dung cakes can be dried and used as a fuel.
* The method was told to farmers by Mr Suresh Desai of Belgaum Karnataka (mobile: 9480448256) during his Punjab travel in 2009.

Appendix VIII

Method of Making Butter Milk as Pest Manager*

1.      Take one L milk (whole milk and not toned milk), boil and cool to room temperature.
2.      Make curd from this milk when temperature is about 35°C, by adding about 20 g good quality curd. Note: Cover the container with woolen cloth during  winter. Otherwise, curd will not set.
3.      Make about 10L Lassi from the Curd. Put the Lassi in a plastic drum. Keep the content for one week.
4.      After one week, add about one foot long copper strip or about one meter long copper wire (after making a spiral). Keep the content for at least 5-days (can be kept even for 7 days).
5.      Lassi will become greenish-blue, and is ready for use.
6.      Dilute the 10L Lassi to about 100L by adding water. Spray the diluted Lassi on crop in one acre area.

* It is a widely known recipe among organic farmers and listed on the website, and they upload such pieces of traditional knowledge after some validation.

Appendix IX

Though KVM is promoting Organic Farming But it is open to experiments done by Farmers following Non-Pesticidal Management i.e. sustainable agriculture called Pesticide-Free farming .
Chemical Fertilizers as Pesticide

Fertilizers are widely recommended for soil application. They have been noted and published to adversely affect soil health. Limited research suggests their use as foliar sprays. Foliar spry has been noted to kill some insect-pests (eg. White fly – a sucking pest) by a group of farmers in Jind district of Haryana guided by Dr Surender Dalal, an important issue in organic cotton. Following recipe is the innovation of this group.

Material needed: 2.5kg DAP, 2.5kg urea, 0.5 kg Zinc sulfate (21%),

Method of Preparation
·         Suspend each item in 2L water in separate containers (note: DAP may take 2-days to suspend well).
·         Mix the well suspended materials after sieving. The resultant about 6L material may be sufficient for one acre land when crop is young.
·         Take one L of resultant liquid in a 15 L sprayer, make the volume to 15L and spray.  Note: about 100L liquid may be needed per acre – depending on the age of the crop.


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