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August 15, 2018

Agri experiment

Filed under: agriculture — neosurya @ 20:45

Shabbar and Tirupati Reddy had suggested that cassiopia is a hardy plant which could do nitrogen fixation. In Kishores farm, it was planted all over about 4 acres. Once it grew to a few feet, they were planning on cutting it down and allowing it to mix with the soil. It would make the soil stronger to grow rice. In a two acre adjoining property, Kishore had planted turmeric. I had planted the cassiopia at a couple of locations on the farm.

On 30th July, we transplanted a few branches of cassiopia. In just about a fortnight, they have lost all leaves. I have instructed Pentiaah to pour water everyday till it gets chiguru.Few images are here: Cassiopia leaves added as mulch, Cassiopia being transplanted.

On 13th Aug, I planted a few more trees – 3 branches of Cassiopia transplanted. 2 Malabar neem, 1 Gulmohar, 3 Drumstick, 1 cassiopia, 1 Indian Palm. Among all trees, Guava was growing the best. It had small buds and fruit. The lemon was surviving and trying hard. But there was a lot of pest of a specific type. Image of pest on lemon is here.


August 11, 2018

Bhajan at Nareguda

Filed under: agriculture, India — neosurya @ 19:59

It was a Monday night. Like most software engineers, I was coding with my colleague, Naresh. Around midnight, we decided to take a break from Django, and stepped out to rest our tired eyeballs.

Naresh heard the sound of Bhajan. He said – “Sir, there seems to be bhajan playing nearby. Let us go there”. I disagreed, and suggested that we should finish our work and then go to bed.

Naresh persisted and said “Let us go sir, it will be fun. We may get prasad”. I hopped onto the car. We drove for a about a kilometer and then switched off the car engine. The Bhajans were quite some distance and over the din of the massive 3 liter diesel engine, we could hardly hear anything. We did not want to miss out the location.

In the dead of the night, the direction of the loudspeakers was very clear. We reached the site of the bhajans in no time. In the dim street lights near the Poolapalle village temple we could see two farmers standing beside an empty tractor trolley. Naresh had  hoped for a much larger congregation. The two standing farmers lazily looked at our car, wondering where this SUV with a Indian flag came from. They were curious with the very Govt-looking flag, but did not look surprised. Maybe they have experienced all kinds of happenings in their long lives, or maybe they did not want to expend the energy required to change expressions. Disinterest is a useful facial expression in villages – it works for all conditions.

Inside the temple, there were six elderly farmers, all draped in lungis and banians. Their musical equipment was substantial: a dozen or more metal castanets, two harmoniums, a tabla, a microphone. The arrangements indicated that the temple had seen much larger congregations in the past. The rich prasadam that Naresh had hoped for was not to be. This was a very modest outfit, and we could probably not even expect tea.

Like most temples in India, this one also had an open layout, otherwise the passionate singing would reverberate off the stone walls, at least doing some damage to the hearing systems.  When we entered the temple and bowed down to  the lord, one of the farmers gave out theerth, put kumkum on our forehead. He then folded his right hand in the form of a mudda, brought it to his mouth, indicating the gesture of eating food. He asked – “Did you eat?”.

I was struck by the simple question: “Did you eat?”. Myself and Naresh had just arrived in an SUV just a few minutes after midnight. We looked well fed and alert from our bearing. It was evident that apart from these six people singing the bhajan and their two colleagues outside, most of the village was already in the dream world. If I had answered in the negative to his question, he may have been obliged to provide for food.  Providing food for us at that ungodly hour may have been a lot of trouble for the Bhajan singers.

After a few more minutes, we introduced ourselves as the people who teach computers at Nareguda. The farmer then told us – “We are praying for rain.”. Later we also learnt from them that none of the younger generation was interested in farming, much less the prayers. The men lamented that in earlier years, more people would be part of the congregation.

We left around 1:30. A few photos from the gathering:


July 13, 2018

Agri Experiment 2

Filed under: agriculture, social change — neosurya @ 11:23

On 27th June, I purchased around 250 Kgs of Neem cake, 15 Kgs of trichoderma and transported it to the village.Thankfully, it fitted in my car and we did not need separate transport to carry to the farm. This will be added to a tractor load of goat manure, allowed to process for 15 days. This mix will be added to the tree saplings that I had planted earlier. Hopefully, it will lead to the growth predicted by SVS in the previous blog post.

One of the steps in farming is to run a dozer and flatten the land. On 30th June, I and Santosh were visiting the farm. I noticed that a fully grown neem tree was lying flat on its side. The Dozer driver had been careless and felled the tree. I asked Kiran to give the dozer driver a piece of my mind. While visiting Shabbar’s farm, I noticed that a JCB was just finishing up. I immediately took the JCB to Serenity and setup the plant straight again. Santosh is a close friend from Engg college, and was visiting after 18 years on 29th of June. And what do I do? Take him straight to the farm :).  Full album is here. A few photos of Santosh and me:

On 8th July, we did our first real planting on the farm. We used an automatic plough + seeder machine that connects to a tractor. You can see Jyostna riding the tractor in this video:

We first planted Kandulu on our 1.67 acre plot. I had planted small trees about a year ago. Kandulu were planted in the rows in between. We planted Jonnalu and Kandulu in Kalyan’s 2 acre plot. More pictures are in this album. All costs will be sumarized in this google docs.

The dozer and plough are not necessary steps, and some of my friends in the vicinity are experimenting with complete do-nothing or natural farming.

Came across this you tube channel that discusses diseases of tropical plants:

June 22, 2018

Agri experiment 1

Filed under: agriculture — neosurya @ 15:08

On 20th June 2018, SVS visited my farm and explained how to train trees to grow better. So far, I had experienced only how to train a machine learning algorithm. SVS explained that plants should be modified as they grow, and this process is called training a plant. Key aspects to note:

  1. Ensure enough nutrients reach the unicellular roots during the young stages of growth. This is accomplished by digging a hole: depth of 1 ft, diameter of 1 ft. The hole should be about 6 inches away from the modalu, or main trunk.
  2. Ensure the trees grow properly. Trees have a tendency to grow straight up and try to optimize for sunlight. This tendency gets aggravated when there is a lot of grass around the tree. In this process the main trunk may not achieve sufficient girth.  To prevent this phenomena, the tree could be cut at specific places, generally at the top of the main stem. Growth of the tree at the top gets arrested and the branches grow out. This process is called training. Training may or may not be needed based on the variety of the seed and soil strength.

A tree going straight up with no strength in the main trunk is considered as “lanky” growth or “vine-like” growth. We will be documenting more detailed progress in this presentation. In the following videos, SVS describes the process and remedies:

February 16, 2012

The dead farmer and me.

Filed under: agriculture, common man — neosurya @ 06:25

Extract from an interview in Tehelka with our Environment minister “Jairam Ramesh” [1] (Words of the reporter tho, not of Jairam).

We are inextricably linked with the dead farmer in the emerald green field. Every high-velocity water-tap we open, every light we switch on, every extra hour of air-conditioning we carelessly run, every drop of petrol we waste, snakes back to the battles being fought with blood and bullet on the ground. It has never been more imperative that we understand that.

September 25, 2010

Environmental concerns in agriculture – a very old problem

Filed under: agriculture, common man, environment, gandhi, gandhian principles, global warming — Tags: — neosurya @ 17:21

I often used to think that the environment concerns in agriculture could not be very recent. Similar concerns should have been present earlier as well. After all, the human species has been cutting down trees and establishing itself as a mono cropper from sometime now. I used to wonder how early people would have reacted, especially the farmers in India.

I have been reading Ramchandra Guha’s “India After Gandhi” [Reviews: 1, 2]. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in contemporary India. Since we are talking about agriculture here, I will put a few relevant excerpts. Guha’s book contains the following discussion between a village lever worker (VLW) and a farmer (MS):

VLW: What do you think of the new seed?

MS: What can I think? If the Govt. thinks it is good, it must be good.

VLW: Do you think it is better than the local variety?

MS: Yes, It resits disease much better. It can stand frost and rain, and there is more demand for it in the market.

VLW: What about yield?

MS: I cannot say. Some people say it is more, others say it is not.

VLW: Some people say it is not as good in taste.

MS: They are right. It is not half as good. If the roti is served hot it is more or less the same, but if we keep it for an hour or so it gets tough as hide. No, it is not as good in taste. People say that we all get very weak if we eat this wheat.

VLW: What is your experience?

MS: Many more people suffer from digestive disorders these days. Our childern have coughs and colds. Perhapes it is becasue of the new seed and sugar cane. It may be that the air has been spoilt by the wars.

VLW: And what about the new fertilizer?

MS: They increase the yield; there is no doubt about it. But they probably destroy the vitality of the land and also of the grain.

There is another quote included by Guha, a letter by Gandhi’s disciple Mira Behn dated 1949:

The tragedy today is that educated and moneyed classes are altogether out of touch with the vital fundamentals of existence — our Mother Earth, and the animal and vegetable population which she sustains. This world of Nature’s planning is ruthlessly plundered, despoiled and disorganized by man whenever he gets the chance. By his science and machinery he may get huge returns for a time, but ultimately will come desolation. We have got to study Nature’s balance and develop our lives within her laws if we are to survive as a physically healthy and morally decent species.

The discussion between the VLW and villager was first published by S C Dube in 1958 [Links to book: 1, 2], and the letter above was written in 1949. One can imagine how far back people were thinking about the effects of chemical farming and the resultant socio-environmental issues.

For those who are new to environmental problems in agriculture, I had previously blogged about a few aspects: Bt Brinjal, Double standards in Organic food, One Straw Revolution.

India’s changing villages: human factors in community development

March 30, 2010

All you can eat Buffet

Filed under: agriculture, social change — neosurya @ 19:40

Jyostna and I were watching the Discovery Travel channel last night. Why we are watching travel, you ask… We find most channels doling out rubbish; Even National Geographic has become voyeuristic at times, or a fear fantasy (assassination this [1], behind the bars that [1], hot rods, boys toys etc). Travel and cooking seem to be the only sane things on the TV. That will change soon, I guess.

Anyhow, we are watching Discovery Travel one Monday evening, and they had this special on “All you can eat buffets” [1]. Pretty harmless, one may think. Until my wife muttered – “What a country we left behind”. I realized that such buffets are possible only in USA. I have not traveled a whole lot, but within India at least I have rarely seen an all you can eat buffet except at weddings. And even then, the buffet is frowned upon in traditional South Indian weddings.

Then there were a few other things that I recalled about buffets: (1) Any food left at the end of business has to be thrown out. (2) There is immense wastage if the business makes an error in predicting their estimates. (3) Cooking different foods under one roof is a supply chain nightmare, and comes at a huge carbon footprint. I mean – think of crab legs for a few thousand people in Las Vegas. Nevada does not have such a large population of crabs, and they definitely cannot get them from the Grand Canyon.

Looks like there are other locations around the world where all-you-can-eat Buffets are available [URL here: 1]. These are, however mostly in the “developed” countries. I do not like such large-scale wastage. Not to say that I do not enjoy food; I do enjoy it… And I wonder what a food connoisseur ought to do in this case…

October 15, 2009

Feels wierd…

Bt Brijal was given an approval for commercial cultivation in India [1, 2, 3].I did my bit by sending a fax about this, and am consciously trying to do my bit by doing other things, and writing about them.Interestingly, the Govt body employed to be in charge of genetic products has been called “Genetic Engineering Approval Committee”. It’s URL has a one line explanation about its’ role. I am curious as to why this body is called the “approval committee” as opposed to “regulatory committee” or something else. Guess the underlying assumption is that somehow GE is already going to be approved and, once it is approved there would be little there to be regulated.  Incidentally, all the safety reports related to Bt Brinjal were from the company Mahyco itself (URL).

But this is not the only thing I am feeling wierd about…

China is pretty pissed that our PM visited Arunachal Pradesh [1,2], and our media did give a whimper of response [1]. China had sometime back also started issuing visas to J&K/Arunachal residents on a piece of paper, as opposed to stamping them on the Indian passport [1]. China’s attitude reminds me of a distant cousin who used to resort to cheap tricks in order to make me look bad in front of parents.

I believe that India can be very strong when it comes to things like these. But my belief aint good enough, a billion other folks need to share the belief. Ahem… well, a few among the billions would be OK.

July 21, 2009

Proposal for a Dwelling – An ecological gated community in Bangalore

I do not know if this is desperation, or if this is strategic thinking. I am writing this in a bid to gather like-minded people who respect nature and can plan on staying together on a common area along the lines of a gated community. Yes, I know we have the private gated communities and BDA complexes, and oh yes – we also have rental accommodation. But nothing lets us live in a sustainable, ecological, vibrant community that respects nature and enjoys it.

I and Jyostna have been looking for land in Bangalore for quite sometime, and the options are not yet perfect. In too many locations, we have seen that builders focus on “herd mentality”. Land changes hands frequently with people mainly aiming for profit and not really looking at it as a place that can sustain life. Living has become equivalent to spoiling nature and living against it. Gated communities boast facilities like swimming pools which one hardly ever uses; they are too small to be of any value. But most seem to replicate a different place and are totally out of place with our reality (My blog post on Palm meadows in a desert). While even the human species needs to survive like any other, we believe it is possible to organize our own place in this measly planet of ours.

A possible option we are looking at:
Gather together a few like minded folks and obtain property on the fringes of BLR; for example 4 people buy one acre and we have ~10,000 sq foot plots for each family. Each family builds a house on 2000 sq. foot of their land and leaves the rest open. Rely as little as possible on external resources, and share some resources such as wind energy, well, security, ground-water recharging. Not quite Navadarshanam, but regular 9-5 working people who want to be close to nature and lead a calm life. The goal would be to live in harmony with nature, but retain several urban comforts. If it becomes really feasible, we could implement a gobar gas plant and other such, but that would be a stretch goal.

What it would entail:
In terms of money:
One acre of land about 10-15 Kms from Bangalore costs 48 lakhs. I have some options that I can talk about. If four families share one acre, the cost will be 12 lakhs per family. For 1,400 rupees per square feet, it is possible to construct a house that will be ecologically sensitive, and have among other features, it’s own sewage disposal and water harvesting. I have some figures from firms that do ecological designs of homes. For a 2000 square foot home, that would mean about 28 lakhs. The total seems about 40 lakhs. But with registration, electric connection, size of house, delays and other factors minimum-maximum cost could be 45-60 lakhs.

In terms of personal commitment:
Mutual respect that we will not violate building standards and not succumb to selling our respective 10,000 sq. feet of property in the form of parcels when the surrounding areas “develop”.

Best case scenario to make this happen:

20-25 families will participate in this, and we shall have a very vibrant community.
4-5 families will participate in this and they will have a nice place to stay.

BTW, we are not real-estate agents, we do not have experience in doing this. We think this is very difficult, we have a whole bunch of optimism, but we think the outcome is worth the effort. This is a five-hundred foot idea; the exact details can be worked out if and when folks think this is feasible. Comments are welcome.

What are we planning to do if this does not work:
Get a 40×60 plot in a decent locality in Bangalore, have an independent house. We may even have to revert to a gated community :(.

Comments are welcome.

July 20, 2009

Hillary harps on GM food for security. Whiter organic food?

So she does, huh…

And what does the president of United States eat… Why, Organic food of course. This includes the White house state dinner, where the Obamas had apparently insisted that even the wines should be organic. Other links stating that the White house is turning organic: [1, 2, 3]

So, it is “technology” in agriculture for the developing world, and organic food in the developed world. Actually, it is technology for the poor people and organic food for the rich ones. Processed food is most popular in the west, and the US insisted that “Swine Flu” be publicly renamed as H1N1 virus since it could damage its pork processing business interests.

Apparently, the Bush administration was much worse, with Laura Bush openly advocating organic food in their kitchen and Bush policy driving exactly the opposite in American markets.

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