Sunday, February 22, 2009

One-Straw Rev. - Ch.6

One Reason That Natural Farming Has Not Spread

Over the past twenty or thirty years this method of growing rice and winter grain has been tested over a wide range of climates and natural conditions. Almost every prefecture in Japan has run tests comparing yields of "direct seeding non-cultivation" with those of paddy rice growing and the usual ridge and furrow rye and barley cultivation. These tests have produced no evidence to contradict the universal applicability of natural farming.

And so one may ask why this truth has not spread. I think that one of the reasons is that the world has become so specialized that it has become impossible for people to grasp anything in its entirety. For example, an expert in insect damage prevention from the Kochi Prefectural Testing Center came to inquire why there were so few rice leaf-hoppers in my fields even though I had not used insecticide. Upon investigating the habitat, the balance between insects and their natural enemies, the rate of spider propagation and so on, the leaf-hoppers were found to be just as scarce in my fields as in the Center's fields, which are sprayed countless times with a variety of deadly chemicals.

The professor was also surprised to find that while the harmful insects were few, their natural predators were far more numerous in my fields than in the sprayed fields. Then it dawned on him that the fields were being maintained in this state by means of a natural balance established among the various insect communities. He acknowledged that if my method were generally adopted, the problem of crop devastation by leaf-hoppers could be solved. He then got into his car and returned to Kochi.

But if you ask whether or not the testing center's soil fertility or crop specialists have come here, the answer is no, they have not. And if you were to suggest at a conference or gathering that this method, or rather non-method, be tried on a wide scale, it is my guess that the prefecture or research station would reply, "Sorry, it's too early for that. We must first carry out research from every possible angle before giving final approval." It would take years for a conclusion to come down.

This sort of thing goes on all the time. Specialists and technicians from all over Japan have come to this farm. Seeing the fields from the standpoint of his own specialty, every one of these researchers has found them at least satisfactory, if not remarkable. But in the five or six years since the professor from the research station came to visit here, there have been few changes in Kochi Prefecture.

This year the agricultural department of Kinki University has set up a natural farming project team in which students of several different departments will come here to conduct investigations. This approach may be one step nearer, but I have a feeling that the next move may be two steps in the opposite direction.

Self-styled experts often comment, "The basic idea of the method is all right, but wouldn't it be more convenient to harvest by machine?" or, "Wouldn't the yield be greater if you used fertilizer or pesticide in certain cases or at certain times?" There are always those who try to mix natural and scientific farming. But this way of thinking completely misses the point. The farmer who moves toward compromise can no longer criticize science at the fundamental level.

Natural farming is gentle and easy and indicates a return to the source of farming. A single step away from the source can only lead one astray.

No comments: