Termite on mulch

Hi,
I have been following this forum for a while now and have got lots of useful information in the process. Thank you all !
I am a resident of Bangalore and in the process of setting up a farm in Nanjangud. A year into it and we have made enough progress to keep us happy and motivated.
Recently we planted banana in about an acre and seeing good growth. Since the intention is to go completely natural, I am trying to use most suggested procedures for natural farming. So therefore incorporated mulching as the standard and used sugar cane trash for the same.
Now we have encountered termites at the base of some of these saplings, which I am assuming are attracted by the cellulose content of the mulch. In my research over the internet I have got some conflicting information about the usefulness/ harm from the termites.

It would help if some of the learned members can enlighten me about this situation. Do I just let them be and cover with more mulch or remove the mulch entirely.
The farm is located in an area where the terrain is rocky and therefore soil moisture content is very low.Therefore preserving every bit of moisture is very critical and with the given water situation, cannot even drench the plants with more than required water. There is hardly any tree cover in this region and our wind barriers are still growing.

Do let me know as to how I should proceed in this situation.

Regards
Vedha

Can you please upload some photos of effected area?

Why dont you try option of mulching with shredded coconut husk. The advantage oof this is that the powder of the husk is used for Cocopeat. Cocopeat can absorb water like anything. Israel uses coco peat fot hydro phonics.
You can check this vedio
youtube.com/watch?v=WEddSmMTq-8

How to prodcuce powdered coconut deshusk. You can have minimum irrigation.

Thou this is not a solution for termite, I have suggested alternative for sugarcane leaf mulching.

One more option is
why dont to try Subhash Palekars natural pesticides
palekarzerobudgetspiritualfa … astra.aspx
palekarzerobudgetspiritualfa … astra.aspx
palekarzerobudgetspiritualfa … astra.aspx

Hi Swamy,
Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures of the termite, but I am still attaching a photograph of the banana plantation. The left row has about 2 saplings with termite on the mulch( and it is not apparent in the photograph). We have a few termite mounds in the farm, in fact our bore well was dug on the site of a huge mound ( I guess the ancient knowledge of being able to strike water around termite mounds holds some ground). So do let me know if you need further information.

Sri2012, thank you for the video and the suggestion to use palekar methods for pest. But my basic question is whether termites are considered pests in the first place. In the absence of organic matter on the surface, wouldn’t it help to have termites bore into the soil in order to help the percolation of water? From what I have heard, they can go up to 300 feet in search of moisture and food. What I would like to know is would these serve as the earthworms? Popular knowledge says termite feed on dead matter, but I want to be sure that they would let my banana saplings be.
The coconut husks seem like a good idea. Shredding them would need a another machine, for which I have no access, I am wondering if I can just use the shells as is. But I also have heard that they need to be cured( don’t know if that’s the right word), as in immersed in water for a substantial amount of time. If the termites are just attracted to dead matter, wouldn’t they do the same for the coconut shells? I probably will have to try that out to find the answer.


Dear Vedha,
Either provide photo or describe the harm they done to the plants, as termites are farmer friendly at one point and danger in other point.
Now what is the problem from them? Simply they are roaming around the plant or doing any damage to the plants?

Yes. I have also collected same answer from one of my neighbour. The old man says like this

  1. Termites do same work as earth worms.
  2. If your termites are eating mulch, it is good. Termites eat biomass at faster rate than eathworms.
  3. he says tame the termites, the day the all mulch is eaten, they will start attacking crops.  >:(
  4. Excretia of termites are more fertile.  :smiley:

Thanks to old Farmer Rajanna

Dear Mr. Vedha,
The main problem with the termites in the soil is that they attack the roots leading to tumbling of the plants resulting in  mortality. Some plant species are susciptible to termite attack. There are several species that are termite resistant. If there is no mortality of the plants in the plantation it has to be inferred that the plants are termite resistant. Here in this case as per your post there is good growth of the banana plants despite the termites eating away the mulch. So long there is no mortality in banana plants and growing well as noticed in your farm there is no need for concern and you need not remove the mulch. Infact  termites attacking  the mulch of dead plants imroves the fertility of the soil.
Siva Sankara Reddy

Thank you all, that was the answer I was looking for :slight_smile:. The plants concerned were looking healthy despite the termites at the base. My only concern was what Mr. Siva Sankara Reddy mentioned, that of the termites getting to the root of the healthy plants. We had mulched only 2 rows of the banana saplings before we noticed the termites in about 4 of the saplings. We stopped the mulching, hoping to find answers as to whether they were good or bad in the long run. Didnt want to go ahead and catch the problem when it actually happened - therefore the question. Thank you Mr.Reddy, I think we will go ahead with the mulch and notice the saplings closely.
Considering the farm being filled with termites, I thought I might as well learn to live with them.
Thank you Sri2012 and to you neighbour Rajanna. Nothing like words from an experienced farmer. I will probably have to keep the mulch heavy, so that they have something to feed and I get all the good stuff :slight_smile:

Swamy, with your experience, would this be the right thing to do?

Vedha,

We try and practise natural or minimally intrusive farming in our farm in the Auroville area near Pondicherry. Ours is a low rainfall area and it is hardcore termite country. Like what you have mentioned, water is extremely precious and we mulch heavily using whatever mulch material is available locally. Sometimes the mulch is made up of coconut shells (because of coconut trees in our farm), fallen coconut branches, leaves of acacia shed by the numerous acacia trees in the area etc. Bottomline - we go with whatever is available within or near the land at that point in time. Termites have always been our friends - like someone else mentioned - they seem to substitute for earthworms (who do not seem to prefer our kind of climate/soil etc). Very rarely have we seen termites attacking live saplings/trees - that is usually the case when the plant in question is ‘weak’ by nature and hence, attack-prone.

So - in a nutshell - termites are doing the job for you - a friend rather than a pest :slight_smile:

Wishing you success with your natural farming initiatives…

warmly,
Ramji

[quote="vedha"]
Thank you all, that was the answer I was looking for :slight_smile:. The plants concerned were looking healthy despite the termites at the base. My only concern was what Mr. Siva Sankara Reddy mentioned, that of the termites getting to the root of the healthy plants. We had mulched only 2 rows of the banana saplings before we noticed the termites in about 4 of the saplings. We stopped the mulching, hoping to find answers as to whether they were good or bad in the long run. Didnt want to go ahead and catch the problem when it actually happened - therefore the question. Thank you Mr.Reddy, I think we will go ahead with the mulch and notice the saplings closely.
Considering the farm being filled with termites, I thought I might as well learn to live with them.
Thank you Sri2012 and to you neighbour Rajanna. Nothing like words from an experienced farmer. I will probably have to keep the mulch heavy, so that they have something to feed and I get all the good stuff :slight_smile:

Swamy, with your experience, would this be the right thing to do?
[/quote] Please broadcast horse gram( Hurli) in all vacant places of the plantation and if possible try to light plugging the land after rain, so it is ensured that within few day entire your plantation will fill with live mulch. As per the photo you posted, mulch is less in the plantation. I need entire soil has to cover either with live mulch or straw mulch.

Do you have Nanjanagudina rasabaale?

Hi Vedha

Sorry to conflict with the earlier comments - [color=red][size=100]Termites are bad (pests)[/size][/color] .
They eat away the cellulose matter and you are left with the waste matter - your crop does not get the benefit of the mulch which you shred and apply painstakingly . Moreover they will attack the roots of your Bannana crop too. Moisture and water attacts termites like anything - they are difficult to erradicate from moist soil in a dry and termite infested land.
I suggest you treat your mulch with an effective antitermite (organic or chemical ). You need to carefully monitor you crop for reoccurance of termite and treat it immediately.
To be frank - you have a big problem with termites and need to reconsider your crop plan with something that is more termite resiliant and consumes less water.

Kind Regards

Philip

Well Well… Topic is getting interesting ( I did not anticipate termite would be so interesting).

Dear Philip,
Our old farmer said " Tame the termite" it will be your friend. They get attaracted more to dead biomass than live ones. If they dont find enough to eat, then they harm your crop.
One more interesting point is, while I was asking more farmer about termite (all young) due to lack of knowledge and experince they see termite as pest and try to pour kerosine

While googling more on this topic I found a document see attachment
Termite.pdf (58 KB)

Dear Mr. Siri. Quite an educative and informative article on termites specially organic termite control. Thanks a lot.
Siva Sankara Reddy

Ramji,
Thank you for the encouraging words. It’s comforting to know that somebody else faces the same situation as we do. Like you  mentioned the ultimate aim is to co exist with most organisms on the land and if in the process there is collateral damage, then I will just have to try again and wish that whatever I plant will eventually acclimatize to the available environment. Thats anyway the rules of nature - survival of the fittest.
We have a lot of trash from our last growing season- horse gram and others, I will probably use them up.

Swamy - thats another great suggestion, have more live mulch. My only question is , with water being a scarce resource, if I do end up planting a legume under the banana saplings, will it end up leaching the nutrients that would have been available for the banana plant? This is assuming I go ahead and sow the horse gram right away. The other option is to do it when it rains. Now with the prediction of even the retreating monsoon being week, I am not sure how much of it we will get in that region.  We have basically planted the banana’s in trenches, so that gaps between 2 plants is still and hollow, maybe I can just broadcast them right away and wait for them to sprout.

As for the banana variety- it is yellaki. Since this is our first experimentation at commercial crop, we wanted something that is more hardy. From our enquiries, we found that rasabale will need a more organic soil and lots more effort to begin with. So in about an acre we have just planted about 700 plants and planted a row of gliricidia and left the rest of it fallow - to be used with a different variety of banana using the learnings from the yelakki lot. Next to this plot we have another acre in which we have mixed plantation of maize, toovar and green gram. They are modelled in rectangular plots of 10*5 with maize and toovar in rows and green gram in the pits. Havent seen too much success with the green gram, but the maize and toovar are doing just okay with the minimal rain. Eventually we believe this system will hold enough moisture to help us tide bad years like we have now.

Sri2012,
That was an excellent document. Just emphasises what Rajjanna mentioned. I had plans of layering with farm yard manure, just wanted the plants to establish themselves- this being a completely natural farm, there was a fear of stem borers,  that find their way through cow dung to the root of the banana sapling. Now that they seem well rooted, the idea is to use cow and sheep manure in a gap of about a month. Once that is done, I think I will plant some legume at the base and still continue with the mulching and wait and watch as to what happens after that. At the most I might have a 10% mortality- that I can live with.

Regards
Vedha

Vedha,
Still waiting for your banana termite photos, however find the termites best efforts for farmers in the attached photos.
Termites are free labourers for decaying straw in the farm.

Dead cells of plant can be directly exposed to heat summer climate under which every chance of further damage to the standing crop or plant.
Under such circumstances, see what best we can helped by the termites by covering the entire stem of the plant to avoid such heat damages  during summer.

The mud consumed by the termites is useful to treat pain/ ache part of human body to get release of pain in effect area. This is folk traditional method to cope up with such pains. The said mud is fertile and enhance the plant growth by depositing around the roots of plants/trees.



Hi Swamy,
I have attached some pictures of the termite on our land. Between the time of my last post and now, they havent touched the  banana plant, so I think it is safe to assume that they would cause no harm. Infact the soil underneath is more moist than the others. Quite a bit of our stored mulch material are infested with termites. So I have taken the liberty to use them on our raised bed for vegetables. I have used sprouted seeds, so the termites might not be interested in eating the seeds.

Regards
Vedha






Dear Vedha,
Good to know you understood that termites are friends fro farmers.
You can further enhance mulching to cover the soil surface, mulch can be straw/live mulch.
Why can;t you have a legume inter crop now to cope up with coming summer and generate additional income before banana harvest?
 

Hi Swamy,
Yes, for now I dont have any problems with the termite :slight_smile:. As for inter cropping, I did think about it. From the attached photo there is a lot of space between 2 rows that can be utilised( about 7 feet). With rain being scarce in that region and our water from the borewell just being enough for the banana what can I sow to see some growth?  Just to have some cover, I went ahead with some sprouted sunhemp in the base of the banana and between 2 saplings in a straight line. But that is only for some green cover. Any idea as to what I can do between the 2 rows considering the water situation?

Regards
Vedha


You will need to change on mulch methods- you should not use sugarcane crushed etc as it does generate worms/pests due to its sweet nature which create havoc to plants.
You will have to use woven treated fabric as mulch fabric-black in color only.Do not go for some cheap plastic films as you are preventing air exchange to roots levels for plants-all roots require breathing and not throttling.

Specific advantages of mulch fabrics are:1.Water conservation.
2. Fertilisers evaporation is prevented due to this mat as cover.
3.No parasite nematodes(white powder like marks on trees/leaves) /ants can grab all the foods of the trees/banana plantains from roots.Plantains/ Trees stay healthy and the mats can be reused for two seasons- roughly two years.
4.Air exchange to roots will help in faster growth- not possible when films are used.
5.No weed growth is possible near plants/trees as the sunlight is locked yet air flow is guaranteed.-hence woven fabrics is called as "weed killer "

We do not advise use of plastic films as it is being banned by govts (plastic bags ban) , also it cannot withstand windy conditions on coasts and flyaway to be eaten by goats etc.

Regards,

A.R.VENKATARAMANAN

EMAIL:arvenkat.iyer@gmail.com

We are discussing natural farming ways of handling the issue.

However what would be the cost of woven-treated fabric/plant. Is it reusable? or does it biodegrades?
Any detailed information on this product is greatly appreciated.