Friday, 14 December 2012

Live Fence / Bio Fence / Natural Fence - A General List of Plants

As part of our Agriculture for Everybody blog series, we are going to see the General List of Plants used in Live / Bio Fence / Natural Fence as well as few Windbreakers.

The following list of plants can be utilized for Live / Bio Fence / Natural Fence and some of the large trees can be used as Windbreakers and it will better if the farmer goes for locally available material so as to reduce the expenses.  The below list will be updated as and when there are more data available.

S.No.Botanical NameCommon NameTamil NameHabitConditionRole
1Acacia caesia (L.) Willd.Climbing prickly shrubDriedMechanical barrier
2Acacia chundra Willd.Small treeDried / LiveMechanical barrier
2aAcacia ConcinnaShikakai, Soap-podClimbing prickly shrubLiveMechanical barrier
2aaAcacia Mellifera---LiveMechanical barrier
2bAcacia nilotica subsp. indica Gum Arabic, BaboolகறுவேளைLiveMechanical barrier
2cAcacia nilotica ssp. TomentosaTomentose BaboolகறுவேளைLiveMechanical barrier
3Acacia sinuata (Lour.) Merr.Prickly climbing shrubDriedMechanical barrier
4Acacia torta (Roxb.) Craib.Prickly climbing shrubDriedMechanical barrier
4aAcalypha lanceolataIndian Copperleaf, Indian acalyphaகுப்பைமேனிLiveMechanical barrier
5Adhatoda zeylanica Medikus.Large shrubLivePlanted on the boundary
6Agave americana L.Century Plantயானைக் கற்றாழைStout shrubLiveMechanical barrier
7Agave sisalana Perr.ex Engelm.Stout shrubLiveMechanical barrier
8Alangium salvifolium (L.f.) Wangerin ssp. hexapetalum (Lamk.) WangerinLarge straggling shrubDried / LiveMechanical barrier
8aAloe VeraAloe Veraகற்றாழைLiveMechanical barrier
8bAsparagus officinalisAsparagAsparagus, Garden asparagusus, Garden asparagusLiveMechanical barrier
9Bambusa arundinacea (Retz.) Roxb.Large thorny bambooDried / LiveWind breaker
9aBambusa bambosIndian Thorny Bambooபெருமூங்கில்Large thorny bambooDried / LiveWind breaker
10Barleria prionites L.Spinous under shrubLivePrevents entry
10aBerberis aristataIndian Barberryகஸ்தூரி மஞ்சள்Spiny shrubLivePrevents entry
11Bobax ceiba L.Large treeLiveGrown on boundaries
12Borassus flabellifer L.Tall palmDried leafMechanical barrier
13Bougainvillea x buttiana Holttum & StandeySpinous climberDried/liveMechanical barrier
14Bougainvillea glabra Choisy.Spinous climberDried/liveMechanical barrier
15Caesalpinia bonduc (L.) Roxb.Scandent prickly shrubDriedMechanical barrier
16Caesalpinia mimosoides Lam.Prickly scandent shrubDriedMechanical barrier
16aCaesalpinia pulcherrimaPeacock FlowerLiveMechanical barrier
16bCaesalpinia sappanSappan WoodSmall thorny treeLiveMechanical barrier
17Canthium coromandelicum (Burm.f.) AlstonStout spinous shrubDriedMechanical barrier
18Canthium rheedii DC.Scandent spinous shrubDriedMechanical barrier
19Carissa carandas L.KarandaகளாLarge armed shrubDriedMechanical barrier
20Carissa congesta Wight.Large armed shrubDriedMechanical barrier
21Caryota urens L.Tall palmDried leafMechanical barrier
22Casuarina equisetifolia L.Large treeLiveWind breaker
23Catunaregam spinosa (Thunb.) Tirveng.Large armed shrubDriedMechanical barrier
24Ceiba pentandra (L.) Gaertn.Large treeLivePlanted on boundaries
25Cereus peruvianus (L.) Mill.Arborescent cactusLivePrevents entry
25aChrysopogon zizanioidesவெட்டிவேர்Tall GrassLiveSoil Erosion
25bCitrus limonLemon, Nimbuஎலுமிச்சைThorny TreeLiveMechanical barrier
25cClerodendrum inermeWild JasmineLarge straggling shrubLiveMechanical barrier
25dCommiphora berryiIndian Balm or GileadMul - கிளுவைLiveMechanical barrier
26Cordia cylindristachya Roemer & Schultes.ShrubLivePlanted on boundary
27Corypha umbraculifera L.Tall palmDried leafMechanical barrier
27aCylindropuntia RamosissimaDiamond Cholla, Branched Pencil ChollaSuramulCactusLivePlanted on boundary
27bDatura stramoniumJimsonweed, ThornappleBushy PlantLivePrevents entry
27cDendrocalamus strictusCalcutta Bambooசிறுமூங்கில்Small bambooLiveWind breaker
27dDodonaea viscosaHop Bush, HopseedSmall shrubLiveMechanical barrier
28Duranta erecta L.Erect or straggling shrubLivePlanted on boundary
29Erythrina variegataL. var. orientalis (L.) Merr.Large armed treeLivePlanted on boundary
30Euphorbia antiquorum L.Fleshy spinous shrubLivePrevents entry
31Euphorbia neriifolia L.Fleshy spinous shrubLivePrevents entry
32Euphorbia nivulia Buch.-Ham.Fleshy spinous shrubLivePrevents entry
33Euphorbia tirucalli L.Fleshy shrubLivePlanted on boundary
33aFicus benjaminaWeeping Figவெள்ளால்Large TreeLiveMechanical barrier
34Furcraea foetida (L.)Haw.Stout shrubLivePlanted on boundary
35Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.)Walp.Gliricidia, Mexican lilacசீமை அகத்திSmall treeLivePlanted on boundary
35aGrevillea robustaSilver oakLarge treeLiveMechanical barrier
36Hibiscus rosa sinensis L.Large shrubLivePlanted on boundary
37Hibiscus schizopetalus(Mast.) Hook.f.Large shrubLivePlanted on boundary
38Hopea ponga (Dennst.) MabberlyLarge treeLivePlanted on boundary
39Jatropha curcas L.Large shrubLivePlanted on boundary
40Jatropha gossypifolia L.Small shrubLivePlanted on boundary
41Justicia betonica L.Scandent shrubLivePlanted on boundary
42Justicia gendarussa Burm.f.Under shrubLivePlanted on boundary
43Lantana camara L.Lantanaஉன்னிச்செடிRambling shrubDried/LiveMechanical barrier
43aLawsonia inermisHenna, MehendiமருதாணிSmall shrubLiveMechanical barrier
44Leea indica (Burm.f.) Merr.Large shrubLivePlanted on boundary
44aLeucaena leucocephalaSubabulSmall treeLiveMechanical barrier
44bMorinda pubescensIndian MulberrySmall shrubLivePrevents entry
45Mucuna pruriens (L.) DC.Twining herbLivePrevents entry
46Naringi crenulata(Roxb.) NicolsonSpinous treeDriedMechanical barrier
46aNerium oleanderOleanderஅரளி (Arali)Small shrubLiveMechanical barrier
47Ochlandra scriptoria (Dennst.) C.FischerShrubby bambooLive/DriedMechanical barrier
48Ochlandra travancorica Benth.ex.GambleShrubby bambooLive/DriedMechanical barrier
49Opuntia stricta (Haw.)Haw. var. dillenii (Ker-Gawler)L. BensonFlat shrubLivePrevents entry
50Pandanus fascicularis Lam.Large shrubLivePrevents entry
51Pandanus kaida Kurz.Large shrubLivePrevents entry
52Pandanus unipapillatus Denst.Large shrubLivePrevents entry
53Pedilanthus tithymaloides (L.) Poit.Succulent herbLivePrevents entry
54Petalidium barlerioides(Roth.) Nees.Large shrubLivePlanted on boundary
55Phyllanthus myrtifoliusUnder shrubLivePlanted on boundary
55aPithecellobium dulceManilla Tamarindகொடுக்காப்புளிLarge treeLiveMechanical barrier
56Plumeria rubra L.Small treeLivePlanted on boundary
56AProsopis cineraria‎Khejri TreeParambaiSmall treeLivePlanted on boundary
57Pseudoxytenanthera stocksii (Munro.) NaithaniSlender bambooLivePlanted on boundary
57aPterospermum acerifoliumMaple-leaved Bayur treeவெண்ணங்குLarge treeLiveMechanical barrier
57bRicinus communisCastor bean, Castor oil plantஆமணக்கு, விளக்கெண்ணைLiveMechanical barrier
57cRobinia pseudoacaciaWhite Locust TreeLiveMechanical barrier
57dRubus niveusMysore RaspberrySmall shrubLiveMechanical barrier
57eSaraca asocaSita Ashok, Sorrowless treeஅசோகம்LiveMechanical barrier
58Scleropyrum pentandrum (Dennst.) MabberleySmall armed treeDried / LiveMechanical barrier
59Securinega leucopyrus (Willd.) Muell.-Arg.Straggling shrubDriedMechanical barrier
59aSenna auriculataTanner's CassiaSmall shrubLiveMechanical barrier
59bSesbania grandifloraAgatiLiveMechanical barrier
59cSesbania sesbanEgyptian Pea, Common sesbanLiveMechanical barrier
60Terminalia travancorensis Wight &Arn.Large treeLivePlanted on boundary
60aThevetia peruvianaMexican oleander, Yellow OleanderLarge shrubLiveMechanical barrier
61Thunbergia erecta (Benth.) T.Anders.Erect shrubLivePlanted on boundary
61aVernonia elaeagnifoliaCurtain creeper, Vernonia creeperLiveMechanical barrier
62Vitex negundo L.Large shrubLivePlanted on boundary
63Vitex trifolia L.Stout shrubLivePlanted on boundary
64Ziziphus glaberrima (Sedgw.) Sant.Small treeDriedMechanical barrier
65Ziziphus mauritiana Lam.Small tree with drooping branchesDriedMechanical barrier
66Ziziphus oenoplia Mill.Scandent shrubDriedMechanical barrier
67Ziziphus rugosa Lam.Scrambling shrubDriedMechanical barrier

The following equivalent is not yet found.
S.No.Common NameTamil Name
1 Cactus Kalli
2 Square cactus Caturakakalli

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Live / Natural Fence - Important Considerations

In our Agriculture for Everybody blog series, we are going to understand the important considerations of Live / Natural Fence.

Assuming you have opted for Live / Natural Fence, the following need to be kept in mind so as to get the maximum benefit out of Live / Natural Fences.

  • Bees - We need to have Bees for pollination and hence we need to attract the Bees to our farm.  For this, we need to have flowering plants all through the season and if we plant the flowering plants in our fences, it serves both as food for Bees and also look pleasing to the eyes and enhances the aesthetics of the farm.

  • Birds - We need to have Birds for limiting/removing the worms in our farm and also the excreta dropped by them acts as a good manure and enriches the soil.  For this, we need to have Singapore Cherry and other fruit trees in our fences that birds eat and survive.  Birds build their nest generally in a multi-branch tree or shrub and hence it is important to have those plants and shrubs in our fences. 
  • The following list of trees can be grown in your fence for attracting birds, bees etc:-
    • Agasta or Agathi (Sesbania grandiflora)
    • Alangium or Alangi (Alangium salvifolium)
    • Bauhinia Tree
    • Curry leaf tree or Karuvepillai (Murraya Koenigii)
    • Erythrina Tree (Mul Murungai)
    • Fig or Athi (Ficus racemosa)
    • Guava or Goyya (Psidium guajava)
    • Hibiscus
    • Indian Coral Tree or Kalyana Murungai (Erythrina indica)
    • Ixora (Idly Poo)
    • Mast tree or Nettilingam (Polyalthia longifolia)
    • Mahua or Iluppai (Madhuca indica)
    • Mavalingam Tree
    • Mulberry or Kambli (Morus alba)
    • Murraya Shrub
    • Singapore Cherry or Nei Pazhamaram (Prunus salicifolia)
    • Sapota (Achras zapota)
    • For a general list of fruit trees, check this link

  • Owls - Owls generaly live in dead trees and hence we should not cut down dead trees.  Rather we should allow the Owls to take shelter in them as they are good at limiting the rate menace.

  • Bats - We need to have plants (to be updated later) in our fences so that the Bats can take shelter in them and their droppings are very good for our soil and also they good at limiting the rat menace.

  • Others - Rat Snakes, Foxes, Spiders and other animals may take refugee in our fences.  We should welcome them rather than being afraid of them.  These animals eat rats, insects and hence limit the damage to our crops.

  • Water - Water is required for all the bees, birds and other animals.  We need to have multiple water points near our fences so that they can quench their thirst.  This water needs to be made freshly available every couple of days.

  • Once the fences have grown completely and has become mini-forests, human interference or our own cattle should not go near the fences as it will disturb the wild birds, reptiles etc.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Live Fence - A Detailed Approach

In our Agriculture for Everybody blog series, we are going to see the detailed approach to Live / Natural Fence.

I am giving below some of the base designs and request the users to tweak the designs to suit their requirements.  I also request the users to provide the designs which are not part of the base design.

Model / Design 1

This model/design is a very simple one and it is best suited for traditional crops like Paddy, Sugarcane, Vegetable Farming etc or where the land holding is very small (< 3 acres) and hence cannot allocate more land to the fences.

The boundaries or bunds of this model is generally higher than the main crops in the middle and hence farmers should go for boundary trees which have single pole (stem) and not multi-branched.  Examples are Mahogany or any timber trees which have single pole.

Each of the timber trees should be placed at 6 feet apart (or more) and in between bushes need to be planted.  The bushes need to grow atleast 6 feet in height and the selection of the bushes should be such that they are not eatable by cattle.  The bushes should be atleast 1 - 1.5 feet in breadth.  It is preferred to have thorny bushes.

The trees in the north and south can be any timber tree or for that matter anything.  The trees in the east and west need to have coppice capability.  The simple reason being the crops in the middle need more sunlight and hence we may need to coppice the trees during the crop growing seasons.

Model / Design 2

This model/design is suited for medium size farms (>3 and <10  acres) and can cover both traditional crops like Paddy, Sugarcane etc as well as timber trees, fruit trees, vegetable farms etc.

The difference between 1st model and the 2nd model is the size of the land that is allocated to the fence.

The fence can be allocated 3 - 5 ft of land in all the borders and you can have different layers in that area.

The first layer can be bamboos (either thorny or non-thorny) depending on your future requirements like selling the bamboos after 4-5 years.  The bamboos need to be kept at 1 feet apart with more than one sapling covering atleast 1.5 - 2 ft breath.  Instead of bamboos, you can go for several small bushes which have flowers etc as well.

The second layer can be thorny bushes like lemon trees or any other bushes.  This will or should take up another 1.5 - 2 ft of the breath allocated.

The third layer will be similar to the Model/Design 1 or to the third layer in Model/Design 3.

Model / Design 3

This model/design is suited for large size farms (>10 acres).

The fence can be allocated anywhere between 10 - 12 ft of land in all the borders and you can have layers in that area.

The first and second layer can be similar to the 2nd model but only the size needs to be increased from 1 ft breath to 2.5 ft breath for the first and second layers.  We have covered 5 feet breath by this method.

The third layer should have multi-branch trees.  The trees that are selected should be placed at 10 ft apart.  Any type of bushes or flowering trees that can grow underneath the trees can be placed in between.

Between the third and fifth layer there will be 5 ft gap fourth and this will be taken by the fourth layer.

The fourth layer can be left or filled with multi-purpose shrubs, bushes etc.  The natural process of seed droppings from the birds will enable many plants to grow in this area.

The fifth layer should have multi-branch trees. The trees that are selected should be placed at 10 ft apart. Any type of bushes or flowering trees that can grow underneath the trees can be placed in between.  The trees need to be placed 5 ft apart (breath wise) from the third layer and also should be placed exactly in the centre of the third layer trees.  This will ensure the trees are placed in a V model and will act as a windbreaker.

Note: I am providing an approximate land required for fences as well as the formula to calculate for different sizes of lands, so users can understand how much land is kept aside for fencing and choose the appropriate model.

1 Acre (43560 Sq Ft) = 200 Sq Ft X 217.8 Sq Ft

(Length) 200 X 2 (Both Sides) X 1 (Fence Breadth) + (Breadth) 217.8 X 2 (Both Sides) X 1 (Fence Breadth) = 400 + 435.6 = 835.6 Sq Ft is required for 1 Acre
In percentage terms, we are allocating 1.92% of the land.

(Length) 200 X 2 (Both Sides) X 1.5 (Fence Breadth) + (Breadth) 217.8 X 2 (Both Sides) X 1.5 (Fence Breadth) = 600 + 653.4 = 1253.4 Sq Ft is required for 1 Acre
In percentage terms, we are allocating 2.88% of the land.

3 Acres (130680 Sq Ft) = 200 Sq Ft X 653.4 Sq Ft

(Length) 200 X 2 (Both Sides) X 1 (Fence Breadth) + (Breadth) 217.8 X 2 (Both Sides) X 1 (Fence Breadth) = 400 + 1306.8 = 1706.8 Sq Ft is required for 3 Acres
In percentage terms, we are allocating 1.31% of the land.

(Length) 200 X 2 (Both Sides) X 1.5 (Fence Breadth) + (Breadth) 217.8 X 2 (Both Sides) X 1.5 (Fence Breadth) = 600 + 1960.2 = 2560.2 Sq Ft is required for 1 Acre
In percentage terms, we are allocating 1.96% of the land.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Live / Natural Fence - Understanding the Benefits

In our Agriculture for Everybody blog series, we are going to see the understand the benefits of Live / Natural Fence.

We will delve deep into the reason why Live / Natural Fencing is a good option in the long run and will also look into some models / designs that can be applied to your farms in the next blog.

The following are some of the reasons to go for Live / Natural Fencing:-

  1. Minimizes Monetary Loss due to stray cattle and humans
  2. Increases Soil Fertility
  3. Increases Water Retention
  4. Acts as Windbreakers / Shelter Belts
  5. Increases Bio-Diversity
  6. Increases Monetary Benefit in the long run
  7. Minimal Expenses
Minimizes Monetary Loss due to stray cattle and humans
  • We have already discussed in our previous blog about this at length
Increases Soil Fertility
  • The different parts of the crops like leaves, branches, fruits, flowers etc fall into the soil automatically due to the various climatic conditions and this increases the soil fertility.  We need to ensure that the crops are able to survive in the first few years and thereafter the crops can sustain and grow by itself
Increases Water Retention
  • Even though it is true that every plant in our farm will help retain the water and improve the water table, the different crops in the Fence will further allow the roots deep into the soil and help the water to reach the bottom rather than leave the farm altogether
Acts as Windbreakers / Shelter Belts
  • Plant the trees in a V Model to ensure the wind is not allowed to travel very fast in the same direction and hence scatter the wind and reduce the speed of the wind as well
  • By planting different crops, we can ensure that different birds, bees, reptiles etc can take shelter in these areas
Increases Bio-Diversity
  • Bio-Diversity here means both in terms of crops as well as animals, birds etc.  This will help us to maintain the pests at a reasonable level and as well reduce the need to go for pesticides
  • My suggestion would be to keep only those crops in the fence areas which are not part of your core crops meaning from which you derive your sustenance
  • Assuming we have snakes in the farm, this will help to maintain/reduce the rat population to a considerable extent
  • Assuming birds build their home in this area, this will help to reduce the worms to a greater extent.  Also, birds bring seeds of different crops and this will further increase the bio-diversity in the farm. (It is our choice to remove the unwanted crops in the main area and only retain those in the fence area)
  • Assuming bees build their colonies in trees, this will help increase the pollination and help us to get better production and increased monetary benefits
  • Assuming Night Owls build their nests, this will help to keep the rats, small animals in control
  • Assuming Bats have their home, this will again help to keep the small animals in control
Increases Monetary Benefit in the long run
  • While we are having the fence for a different reason, it can also be used for different crops and also can benefit out of them
  • By doing this, we can get rarely used food as a by-product and also monetize them
  • Without our extra effort, our soil improves and this greatly benefits our main crops
Minimal Expenses
  • Generally, the other fencing options need more money when compared to Live/Natural fence.
  • By only going for seeds, cuttings, saplings etc we can greatly reduce the expenses incurred for this activity
  • We have to be clear about the fact that the Live/Natural fence will take atleast 3 years to be able to provide the kind of stability we are expecting

Monday, 12 November 2012

What are the different options in FENCEing?

In our Agriculture for Everybody blog series, we are going to see the different options in Fences.

Before getting into the details of Fences, we need to consider and assess whether we need Fences at all.  While you travel in the rural areas, you can notice many of the Paddy fields, Sugarcane fields etc are not fenced at all.  So, only if there is a need for Fencing should we consider the below options.

The need for fencing is to keep the stray cattle and poultry as well as human beings from tresspassing into your farm and damaging the crops and thereby minimizing the monetary loss.

Let us take a look at the different Fencing Options generally used and their specific uses as well.

  1. Wooden Fencing
  2. Wire Fencing
  3. Electric / Solar Fencing
  4. Live Fencing
Wooden Fencing

A wooden pole is used every few feet and in between wooden planks are attached to the poles.  This has been used previously and this is used mainly for keeping big animals (like cows, horses) out.

The wooden pole and the wooden slabs gets worn out due to sun, rain and climatic conditions and hence needs to be replaced after few years.

Wire Fencing

A granite stone / cement / iron pole is used every few feet and a wire is used to secure the boundaries of the fence. In this type of fence, the initial cost is heavy but it lasts long.

Within Wire Fencing, there are many varieties and some of them are as follows:-
  • Smooth Wire Fencing
  • Barbed Wire Fencing
  • Diamond / Chain Link Wire Fencing
  • Square Wire Fencing
The most preferred fencing in the Wire Fencing is the Chain Link Fencing as it deters both big and small animals.

Electric / Solar Fencing

The Electric / Solar Fencing will have wires and through which small electric current gets passed and when the stray animals touches the fences, a mild shock is received and hence it avoid crossing into the farm.  This is generally used around the farms which is nearby forests so as to deter wild animals from entering the farm.

Live / Natural Fence

Live Fence does not mean electric fence but refers to the liveable growing plants and trees.  This fence will take atleast 3 years to be able to protect the crops but the least expensive of all the fences.

In terms of longevity, it is also the best and also provides useful monetary benefit in the long run to the farmers.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

How to improve / sustain the Soil

In our Agriculture for Everybody blog series, we are going to see how to improve/sustain the soil.

Continuing with where we left in the last blog, we will discuss more ways to improve as well as sustain the soil.

As a rule of thumb, please remember "The Soil need not be exposed to direct sunlight and the sunlight is required only for the plants and that too by the leaves of the plants"

Don't expose the soil to direct sunlight

  1. Most of the land is occupied by Trees, Crops etc and only the minimal area is not occupied by any crop.  In this situation, we can go for Live (or) Green Mulch, Dead Mulch.
  2. In case of traditional crops like Paddy, Sugarcane etc, the unwanted roots or branches should not be burnt and left as is to decompose in the very soil.
  3. Live Mulch can be even weeds as well as any legume crops or grasses as well.
  4. Dead Mulch can be plantains, dead leaves, twigs, broken branches etc.  The Dead Mulch need to be spread in those areas where the soil is exposed to the sunlight and this will reduce the soil getting hot and also will reduce the evaporation in the process.
The Soil can be improved further if we allow the earthworms to live there.  The earthworms cannot tolerate direct sunlight and hence will not be coming to the top of the soil if there is direct sunlight.  As we all know, the more the earthworms, it is better for the soil as well as for the farmer.  The earthworms improve the air passage, water seepage and provide nutrients to the roots of the crops.

We can also improve the soil by making the dead mulch decompose faster by sprinkling (cow dung + cow urine) mixture whenever there is heavy dead mulch available.

Traditionally, the goats / sheeps are allowed to stay overnight in the land so that the excreta that falls from them will improve the soil and this method is employed even today.

Soil carried by Wind
  1. We need to implement Wind Breakers to control this and this has to be done in a V shape model.
  2. The plants selected should have many branches and it should be thick (like Glyricidia) and should not have only one stem like coconut.
  3. During the summer, we can go for short term crops to ensure that the top soil is covered and hence cannot be carried by wind.
Soil carried by Water
  1. Water should not flow very fast and this is also one of the reasons for losing the top soil and the nutrients along with it.
  2. Where water flows very fast, it should be made to walk. Create trenches along the gradient of the slope or every 25 or 50 feet to ensure that the speed of the water is reduced considerably.
  3. Where water walks, it should be made to crawl.  If the land is occupied by grasses or other crops, it will make the water slow down to a considerable extent.
  4. Where water crawls, it should be made to stop.  This can be a storage pit or tank or pond.
Compactness or Hardness
  1. The Compactness or Hardness of the soil is done by humans by walking, heavy cattle grazing, heavy machinery, long term non-usage of the land etc.
  2. Heavy machinery should never be used when the land is very wet. By Heavy Machinery, I mean tractors, harvesting machines etc.
The above are some of the ways we can sustain or improve the soil.

Friday, 26 October 2012

How to improve the Soil

In our Agriculture for Everybody blog series, we are going to see the ways to improve the soil.

As we all know, the Soil is the base for any agricultural activity.  In this blog, we will discuss ways and means to improve the soil.

The details given below are for both "unused barren land" and "land in use" as well as for land which needs to be moved from chemical farming to organic farming.

Land Improvement - Method 1

The following 5 types of Seeds are required and their quantities are mentioned as well for 1 Acre.  Overall, you require 4+4+4+4.25+1.75 = 22 Kgs of seeds per acre.
  1.  Pasunthaal (Green Manure Seeds) - 4 Kgs
    1. Sanappu (Sunhemp) - 1Kg
    2. Thakkaipoondu (Daincha) - 1 Kg
    3. Avuri (Indigo) - 1 Kg
    4. Sesbania (Sesbania) - 1 Kg
  2. Siruthaaniam (Millet Seeds) - 4 Kgs
    1. Cholam (Cholam) - 1 Kg
    2. Cumbu (Spiked Millet) - 1 Kg
    3. Kelvaragu (Ragi) - 1 Kg
    4. Samai (Samai) - 1 Kg
  3. Payaru (Cereal Seeds) - 4 Kgs
    1. Ulundu (Blackgram) - 1 Kg
    2. Pacchapayaru (Greengram) - 1 Kg
    3. Karamani (Cowpea) - 1 Kg
    4. Thuvarai (Redgram) - 1 Kg
  4. Ennai (Oil Seeds) - 4.25 Kgs
    1. Verkkadalai (Groundnut) - 2 Kg
    2. Ell (Gingely) - 0.25 Kg
    3. Amanakku (Castor) - 1 Kg
    4. Soya Mochai (Soya Beans) - 1 Kg
  5. Vaasanai (Perfume Seeds) - 1.75 Kgs
    1. Thaniya (Coriander) - 1 Kg
    2. Kadukku (Mustard) - 0.25 Kg
    3. Venthayam (Fenugreek) - 0.25 Kg
    4. Sombhu (Jeera) - 0.25 Kg

  1. The land has to be tilled for 1 or 2 times before the seeds are broadcasted.
  2. The above 20 seeds mentioned need to be mixed thoroughly and broadcasted by hand.
  3. Just before flowering of the crops(in 3 months time), the crops need to be dealt in two different ways.
  4. If the land is slushy, the entire crops need to be tilled again so that the crops as well as the soil are mixed throughly and allowed to decompose.
  5. If the land is not slusy, the entire crops need to be cut at the base and allowed to decompose in the soil.
  6. Mostly these needs to be done before the main crop is grown or if you are not growing any main crop and just for soil improvement, it is better to do this during the rainy season.
Land Improvement - Method 2
  1. Normally, most of the villages will have temples / mosques  and along with them they will have ponds, tanks etc which stores water and which is used for the temple as well as for the common use.  Even if there are not any temples around, definitely there will be ponds, tanks or other sources of water storage.  This is an excellent source of nutrient rich soil as most of the water that arrives in this place carry with them the top soil from many places and depoit them here.
  2. With the permission from the temple or local body, collected not more than 15-30 cms of top soil from the pond, tank etc.  By doing this, you will allow the water storage structure to retain more water.
  3. Spread the top soil collected from the ponds, tanks etc in your farm to improve your soil.
  4. The top soil need to be taken out only after sufficient amount of top soil has been collected in the ponds, tanks etc.
Land Improvement - Method 3
  1. Spread 4 inches of dry leaves or dead mulch on the soil.  This will decompose and improve the soil.
  2. A little bit of cow dung with urine can be sprayed on top of this to improve faster decomposition.
Land Improvement - Method 4
  1. Beans can be grown all over the place with little effort and they produce huge amounts of leaves which can be "chopped & dropped" and this improve the soil as well.
  2. A little bit of cow dung with urine can be sprayed on top of this to improve faster decomposition. 
Land Improvement - Method 5 (Green Manures List)
  1. The following Green Manures can be applied to the soil to improve the soil.
    1. Agathi - Sesbania grandiflora
    2. Avuri - Indofera tinctoria
    3. Adhatoda - Adhatoda zeylanica Medicus
    4. Avaram - Cassia auriculate
    5. Otiyan - Lannea coromandelica
    6. Erukku - Calotropis gigantean
    7. Kattukottai - Jatropha curcase
    8. Kattukolunchi - Tephrosia purpurea
    9. Sanaappu - Crotalaria juncea
    10. Seemai Agathi - Cassia alata
    11. Toyya-k-kirai - Digera muricata
    12. Cen-kitai or Malai Murungai - Sesbania bispinosa
    13. Thumbai - Leucas aspera
    14. Nalvelai - Cleome gynandra
    15. Naivelai - Cleome viscosa
    16. Nattu Cavundal - Leucaena leucocephala
    17. Nochi - Vitex negundo
    18. Nuna - Morinda coreia
    19. Pannaipoo - Celosia argentea
    20. Peyavirai - Cassia occidentalis
    21. Pungam - Pongamia pinnata
    22. Poovarasu - Thespesia populnea
    23. Nilavirai - Cassia senna
    24. Malai Vembu - Melia azedarach
    25. Murungai - Moringa oleifera
    26. Rail Poondu - Croton bonplandianus Baillon
    27. Vaagai - Alibizia lebbeck
    28. Vadanarayanan - Delonix elata
    29. Vembu - Azadirachta indica
Chemical Farming to Organic Farming

  1. The method mentioned above is also applicable for moving from Chemical Farming to Organic Farming.
  2. The catch here is that this needs to be done atleast for a continuous period of three years to notice the soil improvement.
  3. Once you plan to move from Chemical Farming to Organic Farming, it is advisable to stop using Chemical Farming altogether from the first year.
  4. The farmer may notice dip in their production during the transition period.  In case this is an issue, plan the transition in a phased manner like transitioning only 25% of the land every year.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Monoculture v/s Polyculture

In our Agriculture for Everybody blog series,  we will understand the difference between Monoculture and Polyculture and what they mean and what benefits each entails.

Monoculture - A single species of plants (I am using the word plants generically and it will also refer to animals as well)

  1. A classical example is Paddy cultivation
  2. Another example is Coconut Groove
  3. One more example is Mango Orchard
In Monoculture, there are some advantages as well as disadvantages.  But mostly, the disadvantages overweigh the advantages.

  1. Any person involved in Monoculture will have to gain knowledge only for that particular plants
  2. Marketing will be easy
  1. May result in complete crop failure due to homogenous plants and hence pests may have a field day
  2. Results in over production (Over Production can be from your own field or because of similar farms)
  3. Results in profit hit (Those who are in the know how will know how much is the cost per coconut)

Polyculture - At least more than One species of plants

  1. An example would be Coconut Groove with Cocoa Plants
  2. Paddy Cultivation with fish integration
  3. Paddy cultivation + Vegetables on the bunds + Fish Integration + Duck Farming
In Polyculture, normally the advantages overweigh the disadvantages and hence polyculture is recommended.


  1. Risk spead is there (Even if one crop is failing, the other crops will sustain you)
  2. Market risk is minimized (Since you are having multiple crops, even if there is crash in the profit of one crop, the other crops will average it out)
  3. Diseases can be managed as the pests will not be able to attack every single plants. (While this is true, we need to consider different families of plants rather than the same family of plants)
  1. You may have to gain knowledge on multiple plants
  2. Marketing will be a little bit difficult but you can use it to your advantage
My definition of Polyculture is one which does not have the same family of plants next to each other.  While this is very difficult to achieve, we can try our best and compromise very little.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Choosing the Right Variety within a Crop

In our Agriculture for Everybody blog series, we are going to see how to choose the Right Variety within a Crop.

Once we have decided on the Crop, the next step will be to decide on a variety in that particular crop.

The following are some of the factors to decide on the variety:-

  1. End Usage
  2. Diversity in Varieties
  3. Time Diversity

End Usage - The meaning of End Usage is different for different crops.  I am giving an example of 2 crops here.

Coconut Tree
  • Coconuts are directly consumed which we call as Tender Coconut
  • Coconuts are used in Cooking for Chutney Paste etc
  • Coconuts are used as Oil for Cooking as well as for Hair
Mango Tree
  • Mangoes are used in Cooking
  • Mangoes can be directly consumed (Table Top)
  • Mangoes are made as Juice (Pulp) and sold by big companies
So, the ideas is to decide which segment are we focusing.  Do we want to focus on a single segment or do we want to focus on multiple segments?

Diversity in Varieties - The fact of the matter is different people like different mangoes based on their taste buds.  I may like Malgoa from Salem, others may like Alphonso (export market potential) etc.  Keeping in view this factor, it will be necessary for a cultivator to go for multiple varieties in the same crop.  This also will ensure there no particular variety is over produced and hence no wastage.

Time Diversity - Please note the word Diversity here.  I will be referring to this many more times in different contexts.

Again, I want to give examples here so that it is easy for a layman to understand what I mean.

Lets take the case of Mangoes as an example.  While choosing Mangoes, we have already seen whether it will be used mainly as Table Top or Pulp.  Assuming we have considered this factor already, the next question to address is, should our production be available at a single point of time or made available in different times?

There are Mango varieties that bear fruits during early, midseason & late seasons.  If our entire Mango crop comes to production during the same season, there will be over production and there are possibilities of wastages as well as profit hit.  If we plan our production in different seasons, the production will be balanced and we can market the produce in a timely manner.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Choosing the Right Crop

In our Agriculture for Everybody blog series, we are going to see how to choose the Right Crop.

The following are some of the important parameters to consider for identifying or narrowing down to the right crop. It does not mean these factors alone will be be sufficient but can give you a headstart in finalzing the crop.

Please note that the mention of crops includes everything (Plants, Animals etc).

The basic parameters are:-
  1. Land Bank
  2. Soil Type
  3. Water Availability
  4. Gestation Period
  5. Net Profit
Land Bank means the available land on hand.  This is a very important parameter as this will decide the scale of operations.

Soil Type will help to decide the Crops that can be grown in that land.

Water Availability - Helps you to identify the Crops based on the water resources available.

Gestation Period - How much time you will have to wait before you can start your harvest?

Net Profit - When there are multiple choices available considering the first four parameters, this will be the deciding factor.

You may be surprised to note that I have not mentioned Money as an important factor.  I feel that Money is NOT  the deciding factor but it is necessary to an extent.

I am presenting few ideas here and I hope this will kindle your imagination further.

Do you know that even without owning any Land Bank you can do agriculture related activity?

1. You can do Honey Bee farming from your house (Urban as well as Rural).
2. You can do Fish Farming in your Village Tank, Pond etc (after getting the permissions and paying the necessary fees)

Is there any activity that can be done in small land holding (less than 2400 sq ft)?

1. You can go for Mushroom Farming
2. You can go for Rabbit Farming
3. You can go for Pigeon Farming
4. You can go for Sericulture Farming

If anybody has more ideas, please let me know.  I will add to this list.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

A Place to Start

What I propose to do in this blog is very simple? I am going to present information/data for everybody (hence the title) and also collect information/data from everybody.

What is the need to do this? I want the newcomer to Agriculture to get a head start rather than spending his/her time looking for information/data. (As I mentioned earlier, I have been looking for information/data for quite a long time and still not able to get the data for analysis in a organized manner.  Hence, I felt the need to do the same.)

As I am from Tamilnadu (India), the information/data presented here is related to TN state and hence people from other states can use the template (I will update later on) and fill the data according to their respective states. (Please give credit to the author)

Anybody who wishes to come into the agriculture fold should be getting a basic knowledge of agriculture before deciding the future course of action.  My suggestion would be as follows:-

Books of Interest
  1. One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka
  2. Miracle Apples by Akinori Kimura

Classes in Person

1. Attend classes (mostly free) in Krish Vigyan Kendra in your respective district.  To identify the KVK in your place, use the link or .

Net Books

1. You can browse the respective areas of interest in the following link and enhance your knowledge.

Net Magazine

1. The one which is freely available to all the agriculturalists is the LEISA network.  You can read in your own local language (Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Oriya & Hindi) & of course in English as well by going through the link or  The Leisa Magazine is available every Quarter.

Print Magazine

  1. பசுமை விகடன் (Pasumai Vikatan) - Available in stands on 10th & 25th of every month in Tamil
  2. நவீன வேளாண்மை (Naveena Velaanmai) - Tamil Monthly Magazine
  3. உழவர் ஓசை (Uzhavar Osai) - Tamil Monthly Magazine
  4. தமிழக விவசாயி உலகம் (Tamilaga Vivasayee Ulagam) - Tamil Monthly Magazine
  5. வேளாண் வணிக உலகம் (Velaan Vaniga Ulagam) - Tamil Monthly Magazine

Phone Farming

1. Toll Free Number (1-800-180-1551) - The number given is accessible from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM except on Sundays and gazetted holidays and is run by the Govt of India.

TV Shows

Apart from the magazines, you can also watch TV shows which are very useful in my opinion are:-

1. மக்கள் (Makkal) TV (6:30 AM to 7:00 AM & 6:30 PM to 7:00 PM -- Mon to Fri) - Tamil

2. பொதிகை (Podhigai) TV (6:00 AM to 6:30 AM & 6:00 PM to 6:30 PM -- Mon to Fri) - Tamil

As usual, if anybody has more information, you are welcome to let me know.

I think for the beginners, this is "A Place to Start".

I am updating this page for consolidating the entire blog and users of this blog can easily navigate based on their requirements.

Generally, the following are the requirements for doing agricultural activity and they can be classified into different categories based on our assessment.  I have marked few as Level 1 Requirement, Level 2 Requirement etc.

By understanding the requirements, the users or farmers can take the right decisions and enable him to save time and money and focus on the important and immediate requirements.
  1. Methods / Models / Concepts
    1. Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) by Subhash Palekar
    2. An Introduction to Baskar Save's The Platform and Trench Method
    3. Swayam Shikshan Prayog - One Acre Model
    4. Farm Design - Design Two (Annapoorna Model)
  2. Farm Design (Level 1 Requirement)
    1. Farm Design - An Overview
    2. Farm Design - Is it REALLY necessary to have Crops Design?
    3. Farm Design - Is it REALLY necessary to have Roads Design?
    4. Farm Design - Design One (Ver 1.0)
    5. Farm Design - Design One (Ver 2.0)
    6. Farm Design - Design One (Ver 2.1)
    7. Farm Design - Design One (Ver 2.2)
    8. Farm Design - Design One (Ver 3.0)
    9. Farm Design - Design One (Ver 4.0)
    10. Farm Design - Design One (Ver 5.0)
    11. Farm Design - Raised Beds for Vegetable Farming (Simple Model)
    12. Farm Design - Vegetable Farming (Bread Sandwich Method)
    13. Farm Design - Raised Bed Preparation for Vegetable Farming (Hugelkultur Method)
    14. Farm Design - Habitat Management
  3. Crops Selection (Level 1 Requirement)
    1. Choosing the Right Crop
    2. Choosing the Right Variety within a Crop
    3. Choosing the Right Number of Crops - Approach One
    4. Choosing the Right Number of Crops - Approach Two
    5. Choosing the Crops based on Water Needs
    6. Choosing the Crops (Groupwise) based on Water Needs
    7. Choosing the Crops (Groupwise) based on Longevity (age)
    8. Choosing the Crops (Groupwise) based on Soil Types - Work In Progress
    9. Choosing the Crops (Groupwise) based on Shelf Life
    10. Choosing the Right Combination of Crops - Single Harvest & Multiple Harvest Crops
    11. Choosing the Right Combination of Crops - Single (Season) Harvest & Multiple (Season) Harvest Crops
    12. Choosing the Right Combination of Crops - Short Term, Medium Term & Long Term Crops
    13. Choosing the Right Combination of Crops - Food Crops v/s Cash Crops
    14. Choosing the Right Combination of Crops - Localized, Naturalized v/s Exotic Crops
    15. InterCrop
      1. Intercrop Details 
  4. Water (Level 1 Requirement)
    1. Water Sources
    2. Internal Water Sources - An Analysis
    3. Water Irrigation Methods
    4. Water Harvesting Methods
    5. Water Storage Methods
    6. Single Pond Design for Water Storage
    7. Multiple Ponds Design for Water Storage
    8. Water Conservation in Ponds
  5. Water Technologies
    1. Bhungroo (Straw) Water Management by  Biplab Ketan Paul (
    2. Four Water Concepts by T.Hanumantha Rao (
  6. Soil (Level 2 Requirement)
    1. How to improve the Soil
    2. How to improve - sustain the Soil 
  7. Fence (Level 2 Requirement)
    1. What are the different options in FENCEing
    2. Live - Natural Fence - Understanding the Benefits
    3. Live Fence - A Detailed Approach
    4. Live / Natural Fence - Important Considerations
    5. Live Fence / Bio Fence / Natural Fence - A General List of Plants
    6. Farm Design - Design One (Ver 5.0)
  8. Manures (Level 2 Requirement)
    1. Manures - Amudha Karaisal
    2. Manures - Arappu More Karaisal
    3. Manures - Attottam
    4. Manures - Biogas Slurry
    5. Manures - Dasagavya (தசகாவ்யா)
    6. Manures - Effective Microorganisms
    7. Manures - Egg Lime Formulation (Muttai Rasam)
    8. Manures - Fermented Buttermilk & Coconut Milk Solution
    9. Manures - Fish Amino Acid (மீன் அமினோ அமிலம்)
    10. Manures - Ghana Jeevamrutha
    11. Manures - Herbal Tea
    12. Manures - Jeevamrutha
    13. Manures - Kaadi Maavu (காடி மாவு)
    14. Manures - Panchakavya
    15. Manures - Panchakavya Plus
    16. Manures - Pazha Karaisal
    17. Manures - Misc
  9. Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
    1. Integrated Pest Management - Border Crop or Perimeter Crop Details
    2. Integrated Pest Management - Enemy's Enemy is my Friend - Snakes
    3. Integrated Pest Management - Light Traps
    4. Integrated Pest Management - Pheromone Lures - Traps
    5. Integrated Pest Management - Trap Crop Details
    6. Integrated Pest Management - "T" shaped Bird Perches
    7. Integrated Pest Management - Yellow Sticky Pans - Traps
    • Pesticides
  10. Machineries (Level 2 Requirement)
    1. Vegetable Harvest Equipment's
      1. Bhindi Cutter
  11. Farm Maintenance (Level 2 Requirement)
  12. Roads (Level 3 Requirement)
    1. Farm Design - Is it REALLY necessary to have Crops Design?
    2. Farm Design - Design One (Ver 4.0)
  13. Marketing (Level 3 Requirement)
  14. Pre & Post Harvest (Level 3 Requirement)
  15. Labour (Level 3 Requirement)
  16. Administration (Level 3 Requirement)
  17. Value Added Products & Services (Level 4 Requirement)
  18. Seeds
    1. Seed Treatment
      1. Seed Dormancy Treatment
        1. Seed Dormancy Treatment - Vegetables - General
      2. Seed Disease Control Treatment
        1. Seed Disease Control Treatment - Bijamrita
    2. Seed Preservation
  19. Database, Knowledge & General Concepts
    1. Allied Activities
    2. Data & Analysis
    3. Exhibition / Meetings / Trainings
    4. Farmer2Farmer
    5. Links
    6. Tips & Tricks
    7. Flowers Crops - A Data Oriented Complete Guide - WorkInProgress
    8. Timber Crops - A Data Oriented Complete Guide - WorkInProgress
    9. Misc Crops - A Data Oriented Complete Guide - WorkInProgress
  20. Misc
    1. How to collect Local or Indigenous Earthworms?
    2. List of Nitrogen Fixers
    3. Monoculture v/s Polyculture
    4. Organic Termite Control Method 1
    5. Vegetable Sowing Chart for Tamilnadu
    6. Vegetable Sowing Chart for South India
    7. Improving Productivity with Bees