Art of Rabbing


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Discovery means to see, get knowledge of, learn of, find, or find out; gain sight or knowledge of (something previously unseen or unknown).
Growing paddy has given me an insight to something which has been known since long but was a discovery for me. That reminds me of Marcel Proust who said : The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
The ‘new eyes’ phenomenon came to me when I found that my plot on which the paddy crop stands is devoid of weeds, two months since the saplings were transplanted. Having noticed it I broached the subject to my paddy growing farmer colleagues. They remarked: “Good for you”.
Good because they have gone through the cycles of pulling out the weeds, twice since transplantation.
Why no weeds on my plot? has been troubling me all these days and when I went back to the days when the plot was being readied I found that Mangal, my Man Friday and farmhand, had done something which has been followed by paddy growers in Thane district for ages, called rabbing.
Y L Nene wrote in a paper titled Rice research in South Asia through ages. Asian Agri History that the system of rabbing in which the grass, leafs etc on the plot is set on fire, and was first documented in 1787. The ash provides nutrients and the weeds are reduced. It is claimed that yields double if the practice of rabbing is followed.
He further writes: “It is intriguing why most rice researchers in the last 60 years have outrightly dismissed the practice of rabbing on the ground of ‘wasting’ composting organic matter. This argument does not hold ground because the organic matter thus burnt for rabbing is so little and the benefits are likely to exceed the loss of burnt organic matter.”
Ever since my ‘discovery’ I have been talking to marginal paddy farmers in and around Badlapur who informed me that they have been following rabbing since ages and have hardly had problems of weeds.


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