Wednesday, February 11, 2009
In traditional and modern farming, the life-cycle of a crop requires many labor and/or energy intensive steps in the field, including tilling, sowing, spreading fertilizers, spraying pesticides, weeding multiple times, and finally harvesting. Labor requirements are even worse for rice due to the transplanting step, which requires many days of backbreaking labor.
In natural farming, all of these steps are virtually eliminated. Let's take a look at how tilling is replaced:
Tilling is done to for loosening the soil, mixing nutrients, and destroying weeds. In fact, tilled soil becomes compacted more easily, nutrients, and the top soil itself, are more likely to runoff in subsequent rains, and weeds get a better start in the newly tilled barren ground. Furthermore, as the organic material in the soil is exposed to air, it oxidizes rapidly, and releases large amounts of carbon dioxide.
In natural farming, since the soil is left completely undisturbed, these problems are avoided. Instead, the soil is loosened, aerated and mixed by worms and other creatures. The roots of crops and the few weeds are left in the ground, which also keep the soil loose, and increases the nutrient content of the soil. A permanent ground cover (usually of white clover), and the straw returned to the field suppresses the weeds, which in any case can not take hold as vigorously as when the soil is disturbed.
Thus, the no-tilling approach in natural farming eliminates the labor, equipment, and time costs of tilling, and continually increases soil fertility, reduces erosion, and holds weeds in check. Here's some more information about the reasoning behind no-till, and the benefits, in Fukuoka's own words.