Lessons in “zero farming”

A visit to Bhaskar Save’s Kalpavruksha farm introduces me to the world of natural farming

Ever since I took to farming I have been envious of those engaged in agricultural/horticultural activities: for I know absolutely nothing about farming. In my endeavour to gather more knowledge I seek out people who can share with me their empirical knowledge.  And so last Saturday early morning I left my home in Thane for Umbargaon, a distance of around 160 kms., to meet the father of Natural Farming and the man who has made famous, the zero farming technique.

In short, zero farming can be described prosaically as “let the Nature be.”

It was through Ashok Sanghavi of Sanghavi Farm that I met octogenarian and “zero farmer” Bhaskar Save at his 16 acre farm called Kalpavruksha. Guruji or Dada, as most address him, Save dwelt on how he came to being a natural farmer after having been captive to pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers for over two decades.

the plaque at Save's farm

“Having read Gandhiji’s works I realized that nature should not be interfered with. In our attempt to overpower Nature we harm it and pay the price for it,” said Bhave.

That became the turning point in Bhaskar Save’s life.

And since the last four decades, he has followed the principle of “zero farming” which is no way related to Organic Farming. The organic farmers prepare compost, vermi compost, Panchagavya, Bio fertilizers, Bio pesticides etc. These methods are alien to Save who insists on leaving the soil to do its job. In 1997, Masanobu Fukoka, the father of “One straw Revolution” visited Save’s farm and a plaque announces the same.

plantain grove

Much has been written on Guruji and here I will limit to the lessons I learnt and already have put into practice in my one-acre farm in Badlapur.

  • Never water a plant on its root base. Do so where the shadow of its leaves fall at 12’ O clock. Lay a trench running parallel to the plants, away from the plant. Water the trench.
  • Plants don’t need water, they need moisture.
  • Water the plants every alternate day. As they grow stagger it into third day or fourth day reaching once in ten days.
  • In winter months due to lack of humidity in the air plants need more water rather than they do in summer.
  • Don’t till the land. By tilling you’re disturbing the microorganisms in the soil.
  • Don’t burn plant/fruit waste. Let them lie around. They are good for the soil.
  • Let grass or other plants grow around the base of the plant. Its shows everything is fine with the plant and there is enough moisture around.
  • Just 1 per cent of the pests are harmful, rest are beneficial. Let them take care of themselves. Don’t interfere.
  • Two months before rains scatter cow dung, vegetable and plant waste. This will create the humus.
  • Plant crotons at different places in your plot. They are excellent indicators of the soil’s moisture content.
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