Tropical organic farming activities near Nongkhai Thailand:
At Gaia farm we are on a journey to diversify 6 hectares of land, to help regenerate nature and to pioneer different type of land use here in Isaan. We use permaculture strategies to pioneer the land and aim to create productive examples that can be replicated by local farmers . Most of the land was pretty degraded when we started and now we are growing and extending the forest into an edible tropical foodforest.
In the above image we can see the total land area of Gaia Ashram marked in turquoise. Beyond this, Gaia Ashram owners family have land where they are growing rice. Part of Gaia farm’s zone 3 ricefield is not being used in dry season (see the area marked in red) because it is too far from the river to have sufficient access to water to grow the rice during the dry season which is from December until May.
To learn more about permaculture zoning: https://www.permaculturevisions.com/getting-permaculture-zone/.
We decided to try and grow beans and other easy to grow crops in the area marked in red and to reduce the amount of water being used. It is our aim that these crops will help to feed the people that are involved and come through Gaia Ashram permaculture and ecovillage design educational project. As most people that come through the project are vegetarian and vegan we need to access a lot of protein through beans
The challenge of these fields is high clay soils that tend to dry out and crack in dry season. It is all experimental in this stage. We are experimenting mainly with intercropping mungbeans with soybeans. Soybean is a higher standing bean and mungbean is lower. The mungbean we put on the edges and the soybean in the middle. The mungbean we plant thickly as this will stop weeds from outside coming in. We are also considering putting daikon radish as a companion root crop in between. Daikon will also cover the surface area stopping the weeds from coming and Daikon being a root crop will help loosen the soil structure called biotillage and interestingly according to an article:
“Daikon roots actually exude sugar, which is like candy to microorganisms, creating hot red light districts of feeding and breeding in the soil.”
Another for low growing companion plant we are considering is mustard, mainly we would grow it for the seeds and part of it will be chopped to feed the soil. Farmers worldwide are already using it as covercrop and a green manure and interestingly it is claimed that:
“Brassica and mustard cover crops are known for their rapid fall growth, great biomass production, and nutrient scavenging ability. However, they are attracting renewed interest primarily because of their pest management characteristics. Most Brassica species release chemical compounds that may be toxic to soil borne pathogens and pests, such as nematodes, fungi and some weeds. The mustards usually have higher concentrations of these chemicals.”
We are also experimenting with other grain crop such as sesame & amaranth. As we have a lot of people coming through the Gaia Ashram project we need a large store of these seeds and grains.
How did we go about untill now?
1)First we observed that from the last rainy season rice harvest there was lot of rice straw on the field and instead of taking it of the land and put it elsewhere we decided to leave it incorporate this precious carbon organic matter into the soil.
2) Our little rototiller was able to mix rice straw and soil creating hills on either side and then we added manure in the trenches.
3) We then moved the hills on top of the manure trenches and creating raised long beds.
4) Extend our irrigation pipe from our island and lay the driptape irrigation on top of our long beds. Water coming from our pond.
5) Planting seeds
6) Lightly cover with straw.
7) Water daily and wait.
8) Things are growing up.
Being excited about permaculture and organic agriculture it is our aim to grow food and another important part is to increase the soil fertility, the life in the soil and enhance biodiversity. This is one of the reasons why we incorporate straw/manure in the soil and add straw mulches on top. By growing beans we are also increasing the amount of nitrogen into the soil as beans and leguminous plants are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soils. At Gaia farm we have been experimenting for a few years on smaller garden scale and now we are trying to apply what we learned from this on more broad scale acreage.
Any suggestions and feedback much appreciated as we are on our learning journeys and would love to receive feedback.
“May all the work we do be of benefit to all beings and Mother Gaia”