Yellowing of vegetation while attempting natural farming

Friends!

We have a 1.5 acre farm in the Auroville area in Pondicherry where we are attempting natural farming (inspired by Fukuoka). Till a little while ago, we would weed intensively and keep doing this on a regular basis as needed. Since the last three months, we are not disturbing the weeds and when we do decide to cultivate on a specific patch, we just scatter the seeds, thin the weeds to about 1/3 of its earlier density and water as needed. The thinning process ensures seed burial and germination. However, have been noticing a yellowing of the germinated plants. Would appreciate if any of you could throw some light on why this could be happening and possible remedial measures. Thanks much!

warmly,
Ramji

This is a wild guess - do the germinated seedlings get enough exposure to light?

Thank you for responding, Chandra. Light is not an issue…The germinated seedlings have a good exposure to sunlight. In the latest patch that we tried, we have sown Little Millet, which, I believe, is a very hardy grain. I came across literature elsewhere that yellowing may be an indication of Nitrogen deficiency. Emergence of a clover weed cover is supposed to be additional evidence for this, and we do have a lot of clover that has sprung up of late. For the Little Millet patch, we even worked in some goat manure to address the Nitrogen deficiency. Despite this, we have the yellowing…

warmly,
Ramji

Hi Ramji, please do post pics if you have them handy. I know some of the members have gone through lots of cycles with natural farming and should be able to give more ideas.

[font=courier]Dear Ramji,

                   

                    Need more background information to make anything out of your case. Could you explain the whole process in detail? Some photographs could also be of help.

What crops are you trying to grow, what are the seeds that your trying to germinate? Also the nature of your land, is it paddy field like? Since you mention Pondicherry, can we assume the soil is sandy?

What was your weed vegetation like? Thick and leafy or sparse? What height had they grown to when you thinned them? Did you slash them down when they were about 2-3 feet tall so that 6 inches of them remained and rest was brought down to the field?Was it raining, what was the soil moisture like? How long did the thinned weeds take to dry?

I assume your operation went this way.

Step A – You scattered the seeds between the weeds

Step B – You slashed the weeds down covering the soil

Step C – You watered the area regularly, maintaining the moisture.

I feel you may have initiated the process of composting in your fields without realising so. The layer of thinned weeds in the soil may not have dried, especially so since you were watering. When it started breaking down, anywhere from one day to one week, it started generating heat during the initial stage of decomposition;it is this heat that hit the root-zone of you germinated seedlings causing them to wilt. Next time, trying probing inside the layer of green weeds after 24-72 hours, you’ll see it’s warm. These temperatures can go upto 80 degrees.

Suggest a small scale study in another corner of your land. Thin the weeds, leave them, no watering. Wait for a week till they turn completely dry and brown. After the 10 to 14 days, try the germinating the seeds. Let’s see if it turns yellow.

Adult plants could yellow due to several reasons, due to nutrient deficiencies, root infections, leaf infections etc. But rarely are they seen in newly germinated plants
Germinated  plants normally turn yellow either due to scorching/over exposure to Sun without water and water logging. Don’t think this is the cause here.

regards,
cowherd[/font]

Dear Manoj,

Thanks for responding. Will send you a detailed mail answering your questions, along with photos. But, wanted to respond immediately to the part of your mail that talks about the composting process. What we do is the following -

  1. Mark a patch
  2. Scatter seeds around the patch. If we feel the need to add manure, we sprinkle that too, at this time.
  3. Start thinning out the weeds - The weeds are thinned to roughly 1/3 of the original cover. Some of the weeds get pulled out with the roots and some just get cut off (trimmed). As part of this process, some of the soil also gets pulled out. Between the soil and the pulled out weeds, they cover the seeds, protect them from direct sun and the seeds germinate. Only 1/2 of the pulled weeds is used, though. This is to give the seedlings a better chance of making it through the weed cover.
  4. In other patches that we have done, seed sprouting and initial survival has rarely been an issue. It is only a week later that the yellowing process starts.

My understanding of your response was that the high temperatures generated as part of the composting process may discourage seed sprouting (or encourage wilting post sprouting). But, as explained above, sprouting seems to be less of an issue. Or am I missing something here?

Thanks once again!

warmly,
Ramji

Dear Manoj, Chandra et al,

Apologies for the delay - logistical issues getting the photos. Have attached the photos now. Have also tried to provide detailed answers to your questions -

What crops are you trying to grow, what are the seeds that your trying to germinate?

Small trial patch (5 cents) of little millet. Some french beans, string beans, radish, ladies finger, pumpkin, gourds etc.

nature of your land, is it paddy field like? Since you mention Pondicherry, can we assume the soil is sandy?

Dryland - Mix of sand and clay - reddish soil

What was your weed vegetation like? Thick and leafy or sparse? What height had they grown to when you thinned them? >> Did you slash them down when they were about 2-3 feet tall so that 6 inches of them remained and rest was brought
down to the field?Was it raining, what was the soil moisture like? How long did the thinned weeds take to dry?

Have attached photos to give an idea of the weed vegetation. There is a thick cover of weeds. Good amount of clover. Most of them are close to the ground, some grow to about 2 feet. No, I did not slash them to about 6 inches or so, I just uprooted them by hand. Given the effect of the SW monsoon, rain is sporadic. Soil moisture is good, given the thick weed cover. Soil porosity is also good because of this. Encounter earthworms frequently while thinning the weeds.

I assume your operation went this way.

Mode of operation -

  1. Mark a patch
  2. Scatter seeds around the patch. If we feel the need to add manure, we sprinkle that too, at this time.
  3. Start thinning out the weeds - The weeds are thinned to roughly 1/3 of the original cover. Some of the weeds get pulled out with the roots and some just get cut off (trimmed). As part of this process, some of the soil also gets pulled out. Between the soil and the pulled out weeds, they cover the seeds, protect them from direct sun and the seeds germinate. Only 1/2 of the pulled weeds is used, though. This is to give the seedlings a better chance of making it through the weed cover.

I feel you may have initiated the process of composting in your fields without realising so. The layer of thinned weeds in the soil may not have dried, especially so since you were watering. When it started breaking down, anywhere from one day to one week, it started generating heat during the initial stage of decomposition;it is this heat that hit the root-zone of you germinated seedlings causing them to wilt. Next time, trying probing inside the layer of green weeds after 24-72 hours, you’ll see it’s warm. These temperatures can go upto 80 degrees.

The process seems to work well for ladies finger, pumpkin, sunflower and corn.

Suggest a small scale study in another corner of your land. Thin the weeds, leave them, no watering. Wait for a week till >> they turn completely dry and brown. After the 10 to 14 days, try the germinating the seeds. Let’s see if it turns yellow.

Given that we are having mixed results using the above mentioned process, do you see any flaws in the way we are going about it right now?

Thanks much, all, for your time.

warmly,
Ramji








[font=courier]Dear Ramji,

                Does the yellowing occur only after/where the weeds are slashed down? Is there any form of yellowing in any of the vegetation where weeds are untouched?

regards,
cowherd[/font]

yes…there is sporadic yellowing elsewhere too.

Thanks!
Ramji

[font=courier]Now, these yellowed young plants, did they recover to green again? If so, say in what time ?

cowherd[/font]

Hmm…missed this aspect earlier…they do seem to turn green again in about 6 weeks or so. Here, I am talking about the weed cover. However, the yellowed planted ones never seem to make it beyond a certain stage. They wither away or seem to have a stunted growth with zero/negligible yield.

Within the last few days, have been seeing yellowing in some young papaya plants that were planted about 4 months ago. There is a gradual yellowing of the leaves from the bottom up - not in all the plants, but some of them.

Thanks again, cowherd.

warmly,
Ramji

[quote]My understanding of your response was that the high temperatures generated as part of the composting process may discourage seed sprouting (or encourage wilting post sprouting). But, as explained above, sprouting seems to be less of an issue. Or am I missing something here?

[/quote]

[font=courier]Sprouting won’t be an issue here as there is constant moisture and composting process followed  by heat generation would have started only after germination.[/font]

I[font=courier]suspect the cause to be any of the following,

The Composting process mentioned earlier

Or temporary shortage of Nitrogen in the soil owing to decomposition

Or root zones choked due to water. In certain cases when he soil retains excessive moisture , but does not suffer water-logging, there could be  a temporary stagnation as the roots can’t breath. The leaves here turn yellow.

Has this yellowing happened in the summer or other seasons or was it first seen only after the rainy season started?[/font]

[quote]Given that we are having mixed results using the above mentioned process, do you see any flaws in the way we are going about it right now?

[/quote]

[font=courier]If you are happy with the mixed results that you are getting, just carry on with whatever you were doing. My personal take is that  there are a couple of minor flaws in the system that need to be corrected. Most of your crops mentioned are short- term. This being the case,  it would be desirable to eliminate any possibility of retardation or set back, especially during the upward growth curve, as this might have a bearing on the quantity and quality of your final product. The thumb rule is never to add green manure/mulch near young or germinating plants for the compost heat generation mentioned. Ideally await for the weeds to dry and do the sowing 2 weeks later. Also no need to pull weeds out of soil, to plant seeds under soil, unless there is a possibility of insects and birds devouring the seeds. If it all any goat/ cattle manure is added make sure it’s fairly dry or decomposed and the application is much before the sowing.

If you can set aside 5-6 patches of 1 square metre each and wait for about a month, you’ll be able to solve this mystery.

Patch 1 – left alone with weeds.

Patch 2  thinned weeds to be mulched, leaving the remaing weeds intact( to see if they yellow)

Patch 3 thinning weeds and sowing , as you have already been doing.

Patch 4  Sowing without any weeding.

Patch 5  Thinning weeds and sowing after 2 weeks

Patch 6 Thin weeds, remove the green matter and sow.

Also make sure to arm yourself with a digital camera so that each patch is photographed every 2 days.

Let’s  wait and see!

Good luck!

cowherd[/font]

Thanks, cowherd - will perform the experiment as suggested and report back.

warmly,
Ramji

Hi all,let me share my expirence here,I used dry leaves as mulch(2 inches perhaps) for my Rudraksha trees which are 6-8 feet tall and this I decided to do after reading various articles on natural farming and to save them from harsh sunlight during hot summer we have in Gujarat.This I did in April this year and on one plant we had few flowers as well so I was under impression that this year I may have few holy fruits but slowly leaves started to turn yellowish and tip burning were found on them,those flowers which were there on branches fell down and it was tough time for me because I was seeing something which I never expected.Finally in month of July i.e 1st week to be precise I removed all mulching and found soil with full of moisture,may be all this happened due to root rot.Let me add that this may have happened as I may be new in N.F and may be watering my plants too much with the water inspite of mulch I applied.I have not watered my plants the day I removed mulching as we have frequent rain showers now.
Then I searched net and tried H2O2 which helps to inject more Oxygen to roots+I also diluted cow urine with a ratio of 1:20 and sprayed on plants,since last few days I see new leaves appearing on those plants which had a nasty yellow color on them and some dead branches on them.
My conclusions are,
*Root rot
*Too much watering with less root rot for case being discussed above.

Thanks.

Dear,

I have seen your photogaph. Plse check the pH of soil, water let me know. Natural farming before sowing the seeds soak in em solution, VAM and biofertilers  will prevent such type of complication s.

any way plse give detailed steps

yellowing may be due to many reasons

Thank you
good luck

d.s.sureshkumar68@gmail.com

Ramprakash

you did not plough the soil ?so the plant cant grow it roots deeper , ?  many other vegetations are getting most nutrients , yet you said you only added goat manure , / / ? what do you expect , a miracle ? if i am the plant itself , trust me i will curse you . bro
No offence but it sounds like a lazymans job.

your plants will not make it well this way , try removing all vegetation , plough the soil , any manure ok but mix it with the soil at least 2 weeks before sowing, than do the seeding , water it properly at least 2 times daily , do a lot of weeding , the weed might look harmless initially, but its job is to compete hard to survive right ?
weed it .
make some natural fertilizer juice out of chicken dung or like it  , when your plant is stronger say 8 inches , pour the fertilizer juice around the plant to boost the nutrient availability , also pay a lot of attention to each and every plants daily .
at last , you wont have this multi nutrient deficency like those in the pics .

best wishes

Ramprakash

Hi RamprakashLChandra,

I think causmicdance is practicing natural farming leaning towards zero tillage farming.
Clearly this does not involve the conventional (or the opposite depending on which side you are) ploughing and weeding operations, in what I know of it.

Regards,
Chandra

Hi Chandra,
thats a quick reply ,
you might be right , i could be wrong too ,
being a practical commercial farmer ,  i might have wrongly posted my views.

but my question is causmicdance could at least do some weeding and do his composting from his weeds and give it back to his plants as soil amender, right ?
i feel its not right to let everything to be taken care by mother nature, yes she gives everything but its up to us mankind to harness , her giving to our best benefit , right ?
Please reply .

Ramprakash L Chandra

Hi Ramprakash L Chandra,

No right or wrong ways, I would say. Just what philosophy works for each!
:slight_smile:

Thanks,
Chandra

Cud not agree more, Chandra. Hello Ramprakash L Chandra - I think this falls under the category of ‘lets agree to disagree’. Having said that, I claim to be no expert in natural farming - I have just ventured into it recently - was inspired to do so after reading the book ‘One Straw Revolution’, which I would recommend as a read for you, if you are inclined. Provides a radically different perspective.

Have been facing challenges - precisely the point that you brought up - to what extent do you intervene (weed, add manure etc)? The experimentation and learning is on, as we discuss this. Will post experiences as and when I feel there is a checkpoint. Thanks for taking the time to respond to my initial query.