After transplanting the growth begins, paddy fields in the growth stage, the grass leaves standing straight, in hues of green, stretched across in vast tracts, is among the most beautiful sights, which I can never have enough of.
Rains on time, in the right amount, bring joy, ponds fill up, fields overflow, but then too much of it can start flooding the fields and downing the crops. That’s where many of the traditional varieties score.
Paddy is grown in standing water, not for the sake of the crop but to manage weeds. Water management is the key says Leneesh, my young colleague who is an expert seed saver and rice conserver, ” You send in the water to choke the weed growth and then you drain out the water to let oxygen in for the plants and for the earthworms to surface. It is a finely balanced act where the farmer, sun, soil and water act in tandem”.
Most traditional varieties, generally low yielding, are fairly immune to pests and diseases, whereas the commercial varieties that are high yielding are also very susceptible to pests and diseases. But the chemical farmers take recourse to chemicals to deal with them whereas the organic/natural farmers deal with them through manual processes (which is expensive and time-consuming) and natural preparations.
Manual weeding is the most expensive component of organic /natural paddy farming, which determines whether the season will earn the farmer money or lose money.
Paddy can be short duration, anything between 60- 115 days, or medium duration, between 115 – 150 days and long duration 150- 210 days…short plants, tall plants, ones that stand straight, ones that lodge.
It is a fine science – the science and technique of paddy farming, a skill, an instinct, a passion, and a commitment- that makes men and women take on this arduous task season after season
The first tillers appear, depending on duration, and the field is full of beauty that will turn into bounty; that which has fed humankind for many thousand years. Then the wait begins to watch the grains, to see the panicles fill up to protect it from birds, wild boar, and other raiders.
Getting up early morning, staying around the fields late evening, even sleeping near the fields is all part of farmer’s routine once the panicles fill up, beating drums, putting up scarecrows in the fields, bursting crackers during early mornings and evenings which is when maximum raids happen.
This is the most stressful point in the farming calendar, you have invested months, money and labour and a small setback can result in losses. Finally, it is time for harvest…
With inputs from Leneesh & Sadhasivan, wonderful organic farmers, fellow travellers in this journey to conserve rice. If you would like to join us in this journey of trying different varieties of rice check out shop.biobasics.orgSHARE it! ... and spread the good word!