Our Organic rice crop of rainy season (kharif) 2021 has just been planted in a block of 7.5 acres at our N-Farm. Organic rice operations this season included re-doing the paddy plots, sowing Jeeluga as a green manure crop, raising nursery, incorporating the green manure, puddling and transplanting seedlings. We grow a low glycemic index fine rice variety by organic practices, harvest and store the grain for over an year before milling it to organic brown rice and organic single polished rice. If you enjoy dipping into how the elements of nature in our farms transform into organic food on your table, your will like our pictorial story.
Organic Rice Plots Redone
Back in May and June this year, we had cleared rice blocks of stones and reworked the plot levels in our N-Farm. Rice or paddy requires perfectly leveled plots since water is left to remain during a large part of the crop life cycle. We also set up a new motor and pipeline for our open well to be an additional source of irrigation water for the crop.
Green Manure Raised
If you are familiar with growing rice, you would know that many bags of N P K fertilizers are applied right from the land preparation stage. In organic rice cultivation that we religiously practice, we do not use any of these. Instead, we rely on green manure crops that fix and supply nitrogen preceding the rice crop – green manures are our in situ nitrogen fertilizer factories!
We had sown seeds of Jeeluga (Sesbania aculeata), also known as Dhaincha, together with a mix of several other cereal and oil seed crops, treated with bio-fertilizers. This technique is suggested to be superior to using a pure legume crop in that it facilitates better retention and recycling of soil nutrients (more on this in a separate post). The green manure has come up really well and we believe this will supply the required nitrogen, organic matter and good soil conditions to the organic rice that we are growing now. We had sown the green manure with the first rains early June, considering the crop needs 45 days of vegetative growth and about 10-15 days for incorporation into soil.
Organic Rice Nursery Sown
Rice is commonly grown from nursery. We chose the fine rice variety RNR15048 that is known for its low glycemic index, considered healthy for body metabolism. Genuine seed procured from a trusted source was soaked in drums of water overnight. Soaked seed was spread thin over the floor covered in hay in ‘mande’ for two days to germinate and put out sprouts. Pre-germinated seed gives an early view of the seed vigor and also establishes a little quicker than direct sown seed in the nursery.
Seed Bed Preparation
We identified a small area – a little less than a quarter acre – to function as our nursery, ploughed a couple of times, puddled and leveled it. We applied a dose of Jeevamrutham, bio-fertilizers and bio-protectants. Finally, we finished up leveling the bed to near perfection, running a long pipe over the surface manually.
The pre-germinated seeds were broadcasted uniformly across the soft bed leaving some defined paths, retaining just the right level of fresh water. Birds and cranes love to forage for worms in freshly prepared beds causing some damage to seedlings in the process, so we had an extra watch and ward for a couple of days to protect the seedlings. The seed bed was fenced with cloth to dissuade wild boars from entering and destroying the beds. Water in the seed plot was alternated wet and dry for a few days until the seedlings took root. Soon we saw the bed turn into a beautiful green carpet.
Main Field – Edges Cleared
A standard task for paddy plots is to clear the edges of bunds. This operation helps plug any open burrows by sealing leakages, reduces the size of the bunds and eliminates any overgrown weeds. We got this task completed manually by men labor using spades on a contract basis per acre (most rice crop activities in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh villages are done on a per acre contract basis these days right from ploughing to harvesting).
Main Field – Puddling Completed
Puddling is essentially land preparation aimed at minimizing percolation of water, incorporating weeds and creating a soft field for rice seedlings. We achieved this by a few tillage operations by cultivator and rotavator with the right levels of water in the blocks. The first operation by the rotavator incorporated the well grown Jeeluga into the soil for decomposition and recycling of nitrogen fixed. The last land preparation operation had us add gypsum and bio-fertilizers to the plots.
Main Field – Leveled the Plots
Perfect leveling is essential for proper rice plant stand. Good water management in the plots requires the ability to hold water in the plots and drain them thoroughly as needed without depressions or mounds. We ran a gorru to reach this ideal state of the plots.
Pulling the Seedlings and Transplanting
We transplanted the seedlings to the main field about 30 days after sowing, slightly later than the typical 20 to 25 days after sowing. Even though younger seedlings have quicker recovery and better tillering, slower growth of organic rice seedlings necessitates a few extra days to prevent injury to seedlings when pulling out. We planted three seedlings per hill, as is standard practice.
Transplanting is an interesting, intensive, standardized activity in our villages, that displays perfect synchrony among men bundling and transporting the seedlings, oxen and/or tractors preparing and leveling the field (with rotavators and gorru) and women actually planting the seedlings in a concerted operation.
We filled the plots with sufficient water and held it in for the crop to establish.
What is Next?
Water management in the plots will continue the rest of the crop cycle. The biggest reason for holding water in paddy is to minimize weed growth. Weeding, managing pests and diseases proactively using bio-agents, traps and lures will form the bulk of our organic paddy crop management effort until harvest. We hope for the best weather and minimal pests & diseases.
So What is Unique about our Organic Rice Production?
There are many methods to produce rice organically or non-organically. We have grown rice in different organic methods including SRI Vari, direct seeding etc., but that is a topic for another day. Regardless of the method we choose each season, our produce is always grown with utmost organic discipline. In fact, we are a wee bit proud to mention several farmers in our vicinity have started adopting bits of what we do, growing green manure being an example. While organic paddy yields lesser than with regular chemical methods and entails higher costs, we highly value the truly organic output for ourselves and for our customers even if it has to be priced a tad higher to be sustainable.
Getting Our Organic Rice in Hyderabad
The currently sown crop will be harvested in November 2021 and the grain will be stacked for seasoning for about an year to become old rice with good cooking quality.
Read part 2 of Nov-21 here: Healthy Rice Crop – Growth and Harvest of Aug 21 Crop
The current rice lots we distribute were grown in earlier seasons at one of our own farms. Feel free to place an order for delivery in Hyderabad.