Philippine Organic Rice Farming
We have just started our Philippine organic rice farming experience. Last week week we planted our first rice crop. Everyone helped along with two guests, Julie from Denmark and Simon from the UK.
We prepared and planted six small fields. If we’re lucky this will give us about 10 sacks of ready to eat rice, enough for a year.
Organic rice farming in the Philippines is growing in popularity as more farmers see the benefits. Yet, Philippine organic rice farming is still in it’s infancy.
Organic rice farming is at risk because GM rice was recently introduced to the Philippines. GM crops are currently undergoing tests in the Philippines. There is resistance from organic rice growers but GM rice crops will be a reality soon.
Soon GM rice will cause a real risk for organic rice farmers. It will be hard for organic rice farmers to keep their rice strains pure. GM rice seed can spread from adjoining fields through accidental sowing or birds.
Julie from Denmark, shown above patting the water buffalo, enjoyed planting rice. This was her first experience volunteering in the Philippines on an organic farm. Helping with the organic rice farming was a special experience for her.
This year we experimented with our planting method. Rice grown in this area is all planted using traditional methods.
Usually the field is first ploughed then it's paddled or raked to turn the soil into mud. This is normally done after a heavy rain. The mud allows the rice to grow fast because it's a perfect environment for root growth.
Artificial fertiliser is used in traditional rice farming. Organic rice farming though relies on using compost and green mulch.
We are wanting to stop ploughing our fields. Philippine organic rice farming though still relies a lot on ploughing. Plouging destroys organic soil and reduces it's water holding capacity. When you plough soil the delicate balance of microorganisms in the soil is upset. Bactria are one of the most important elements of organic farming. This is one reason why many organic farms do not do much organic rice farming and instead focus on higher value crops like salad greens.
We want to grow 100% of the food we eat so organic rice farming is important to us. Rice is the main staple food here in the Philippines. Because of this we need to find a suitable organic rice growing process that will work for our farm.
Organic Rice Farming Methods
This year we started working with cover crops. We planted short beans in five of our fields after the first rains in June. We already had one field covered in Kardis (pigeon pea) so we left this to grow.
The beans grow fast at first but then the rains came late so our beans suffered and did not grow fast enough. This allowed weeds and grass to grow causing a big problem for us. The edges of the fields suffered the most where the beans or Kardis did not cover the soil well.
It's easy to weed a vegetable garden but when you have large fields it takes a lot of work to remove weeds. Grass is a big problem here and is even harder to remove.
We ended up plouging two of our fields this year that were not ploughed before and all going well we will not need to plough them again.
Our plan this year was to plant the dry rice seed direct into the cover crop. We were then going to cut the cover crop down stamping the seeds into the ground as we worked the field.
Once we started to see that there was a lot of grass in the fields we changed our plan and decided to rake the fields. The problem though was that we disturbed the soil quite bit. We could not have planted rice though with the quantity of weeds and grass growing.
This is the process we followed this year while we are in organic conversion:
- Cut the beans down and weeds down and placed the stems at the side of the field leaving the roots in the soil
- Drenched the field with a water pipe (not needed if has just rained a lot)
- Raked (suyod) the field using a giant rake or harrow dragged by the Carabao
- Dry spread the dry rice seed (not soaked so that if there is a lot of rain the seed will not rot)
- Covered the field with a light spreading of the bean tops and weeds to protect the seed from the local chickens
- Spread well composted organic compost in a thin layer on the field.
- Crossed our fingers!
- Chased off the chickens!
Organic Rice Farming Planting With The Moon
I missed an important point. We planted in the first quarter moon. This is the best time to plant crops that have their seeds on the outside like rice. It we planted in the dark of the moon or waxing moon (the moon period between full moon and the new moon), our seed would have rotted for sure.
Seed planted in the waxing moon period - between the new moon and full moon - will grow better. This is because all the growth energy is going into seed growth. The dark of the moon is the best time to plant things that grow underground like ginger and garlic.
Here is a good resource to start learning about how to plant with the moon.
Organic Rice Farming Results So Far
Today is a week after we planted our first field and despite a lot of unexpected rain the see is sprouting in the fields.
Traditional rice farming uses rice seedlings instead of direct sowing like we used. Because we direct seeded the rice seed in the fields when we hand weed the fields we may have to thin out the rice so that it grows well. Otherwise we will have overcrowding and the rice will not produce the best harvest.
The experiment continues. Next season we hope to avoid raking our fields and we will be more focused about ensuring the cover crop covers the field. This way no weeds or grass get to grow.