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NATURE FARMING - PREFACE

 

To explain nature farming in terms of fundamental theory, I must begin with a discussion of the nature of soil. The Creator made soil for the cultivation of grains and other vegetables essential to the support of life. Consequently, the essence of soil is a mystery far beyond the complete comprehension of modern materialistic science. Over the ages, agriculture has steadily, though imperceptibly, fallen into evil ways. Underestimating the power of soil, farmers have accepted the necessity of using manure or chemical fertilizers for the improvement of crops. As a result the soil has degenerated and altered, and its generative powers have weakened. Unaware of this, and suffering under the delusion that insufficient use of fertilizers causes poor crops, farmers resort to still more fertilization, with the result that the soil declines even further. Farmers all over Japan today unanimously lament the poverty of the soil. I set forth below a few points illustrating how dangerous the use of artificial fertilizers is.

1 - One of the greatest agricultural worries today is insect pests. However, instead of finding out what causes them, farmers concentrate all their efforts on exterminating them. In other words, unable to find out the reasons why harmful insects occur, they take what seems to be the next-best alternative. In fact, fertilizers generate harmful insects, and the number of such pests has increased in recent years as the number of fertilizers used has increased. Furthermore, people are unaware that the insecticides used to exterminate pests penetrate the soil and cause it to degenerate, thus leading to the appearance of still more insects.

2 - The application of fertilizers gravely weakens crops. Heavily fertilized plants fall and break in wind and rain. They bear little fruit because their blossoms drop. In the case of rice, wheat, and beans, the plants grow too tall and their leaves are too big, so that crops are shaded, husks are thick, and seeds are small and sickly.

3 - The ammonium sulfate and ammonia in manure and chemical fertilizers are powerful poisons. Eating plants that have absorbed such substances means that, though perhaps only in minute quantities, these poisons constantly enter the body through the stomach. This can scarcely be called harmless to the health. Doctors have recently reported that cessation for two or three years of the use of manure fertilizers totally eliminates intestinal worms. Here is one of the great advantages of nature farming.

4 - Rising fertilizer prices bring the cost of raising rice so close to the price the government sets for it that farmers are compelled to sell on the black market.

5 - Acquiring and applying fertilizers and dusting and spraying insecticides require tremendous labor and effort.

6 - Vegetables and grains raised by nature farming are better tasting, larger, and faster growing, and crops are bigger than those produced with fertilizers.

These points should make clear both the danger of toxic fertilizers and the advantages of nature farming, which can be called without exaggeration a major revolution in Japanese agriculture. In what follows I discuss the results and methods evolved from my own experiences, and the reports of a number of people who have put nature farming to practical application.

I suspect that very few people in Japan know what real vegetables taste like because few crops in this country are raised without chemical or manure fertilization. The inherent flavors are lacking in vegetables that have absorbed such fertilizers. Vegetables that have absorbed natural nutrients from the soil, however, develop their own truly delicious flavors. I have found much more happiness in life since I came to appreciate the taste of naturally cultivated vegetables. In fact, the advantages of the nature farming method are so great that to apply it might be called killing seven birds with one stone: the costs and labor of fertilizing are eliminated; there is no unpleasant odor; there is no danger of spreading parasites; insect pests are minimized; crops are large; and vegetables are delicious.

To begin with practical matters, I shall first discuss the nature of soil, which is a three-in-one unity of the three great elements of soil, water, and fire. The soil element provides the basic power for plant growth, while the water and fire elements are supplementary powers. The nature of the soil itself, which is the main driving force, can produce either good or bad effects on plants. In cultivation, it is imperative to improve the quality of the soil, which is the fundamental element. The better the soil, the better the results.

The way to improve soil is to strengthen its vitality. To do this, the soil quality must be cleansed and purified. Soil that has been purified is rich in power for the raising of plants. Agricultural practices in the past, however, have polluted the soil to an extreme degree. This is best understood by examining the opposite theory first.

Fertilizer has from ancient times been considered essential to the raising of crops, but the reality is that the more it is used, the more it kills the soil. Fertilization may produce temporary good effects, but the soil gradually becomes addicted to it and is unable to produce good crops without it. In other words, the more fertilizer is used, the more adverse its effects.

When crops from paddy fields become poor, farmers haul in new soil and temporarily increase their harvests. However, they interpret this phenomenon mistakenly. They believe that repeated crops over a number of years have exhausted the nutrients in the soil and made it poor. What they never realize is that the soil has degenerated because of repeated years of chemical and manure fertilization. The new soil they introduce is free of chemical and manure fertilizers and, therefore, rich in life power. For this reason, it increases crops. But I will leave theoretical discussion at this point and proceed to explain the advantages of nature farming in practice.

First, I should mention the short height of plants raised the natural way. Fertilized plants grow tall and have heavy foliage with large leaves that shade and retard the growth of such crops as beans. Furthermore, frequent dropping of blooms greatly reduces the formation of fruit. In the case of green soybeans, a naturally cultivated crop will be twice as big as a fertilized one and the beans will be free of insects and have a most delicious flavor. The skins of naturally cultivated string beans and broad beans are incomparably tender.

Amateurs trying to raise potatoes often complain that their crops are either small or none and that the individual potatoes themselves are of unsatisfactory size. Unaware that the cause of the trouble is too much fertilizer, and operating under the mistaken notion that they have fertilized insufficiently, they apply increasing amounts of these harmful substances, thus decreasing the results of their labor. When asked for advice, instructors or experienced people totally miss the point by saying that the seed potatoes must have been bad, that the acidity of the soil is at fault, or that planting was done at the wrong time. The amateur has no way of discovering the true cause of his poor crop. Potatoes raised by means of nature farming are extremely white and fragrant, have a firm texture, and are so delicious that they might be mistaken for another kind of vegetable. The same thing is true of taro and yams. Naturally cultivated sweet potatoes raised in high furrows, well spaced in a place that gets plenty of sun are astonishingly big and delicious. I have heard, however, that most farmers use no fertilizers in raising sweet potatoes.

The success of nature farming in raising corn deserves special mention. Since all seed, not only that of corn, include the fertilizer poison, crops are not as good as they might be for the first year or two. In the third year, however, there is a remarkable improvement. Corn raised from seeds free of fertilizer poison in land also free of fertilizer poison has very thick stalks and flowing green leaves. If the ground is well watered and gets plenty of sun, the stalks will bear plenty of ears that are long and densely seeded in even rows. Once tasted, this sweet, delicious corn can never be forgotten. Daikon radishes raised the natural way are large, pure-white, thick, and sweetly delicious and have a fine, firm texture. It is fertilizer poison that causes the air pockets and hardness marring some daikon radishes. Naturally cultivated vegetables, which are never attacked by bugs, are tender, have attractive colors and stimulate the appetite because of their tempting fragrance. Since no manure is used in growing them, they are of course completely sanitary.

Nature farming is especially recommended for the raising of egg plant. Grown this way, egg plants have tender skins, beautiful color and an appetizing fragrance. My own family refuses to eat egg plants that have been raised with fertilizer.

In the nature farming of rice, chopped straw, which absorbs heat is mixed with the soil to provide greater warmth. As is generally known, cold mountain water is very bad for rice. Consequently, irrigation ditches should be long and shallow to allow the temperature of the water flowing through them to rise. No ponds should be dug along the course of the ditches since the depth of the water would make it slow to warm up. Nature farming of such things as squashes, melons, water melons, and pumpkins produces unprecedentedly good results.

Rice and wheat raised the natural way are short in stature and excellent in both quantity and quality. Ordinary rice is extremely glossy and almost as dense in texture as glutinous rice. It has such body and is so delicious that it is always rated as superior.

In brief then, these are some of the advantages of nature farming. Surely there has never been better news than this in connection with household vegetables. I and others like me produce top quality vegetables by no more labor than is required to sow seeds and weed the fields from time to time.

Although, as I have said, there is no need for artificial or animal fertilizers, it is important to use large quantities of natural compost, which I shall now discuss. In stimulating plant growth it is of the greatest importance to allow the root hairs at the ends of the larger roots to develop. This means preventing the soil from compacting and hardening. If natural compost has decomposed too much, it tends to harden easily; about half decomposed is best. Grassy plants are suitable for compost since they decompose quickly. The hard fibers in tree leaves, however, linger for a long time. Consequently, such leaves should be allowed to decompose thoroughly, since contact with the hard fibers impedes the growth of root hairs. Recently some people have argued that it is good to allow roots to come in contact with the air, but this is a mistaken notion. If the soil is loose enough to aerate the roots, the root hairs have plenty of room to grow. This roominess is the reason why plants grow well in such soil. Air has nothing to do with the matter.

Warming the soil is another point that must be taken into consideration. In general, for vegetable cultivation, a bed of grassy compost about one foot thick is made at a depth of about one foot. For plants like daikon (turnip), carrots, and burdock, however, where the root is the most desirable part, it is best to mix grassy compost well with the soil and make a bed of leafy compost underground. Recently, people have been concerned about the damage caused by soil acidity. Since the acid is the result of artificial or animal fertilizers, those of us who use the nature farming system have no need to worry about this.

Another thing that amazes people about our way of growing vegetables is our success in planting the same crop in the same ground year after year,* a practice that is generally considered unsound. With our method, crops gradually improve as the years pass. This may seem miraculous, yet there is a very good reason for it. The nature farming method takes advantage of, and tries to reinforce, the powers inherent in the soil. Planting the same crop on the same land, year in and year out enables that soil to naturally generate the properties needed for the cultivation of the particular kind of vegetable, to which it becomes accustomed.

Though insect pests may not totally vanish when the nature farming method is used, it does reduce them to a fraction of what they are when fertilizers are employed. Farmers often say that too much fertilizer increases the number of insects that plague the crops. I have heard from experts that Manila and Havana tobaccos, which are used in the finest cigars and are famous for their superb aroma, are never troubled with insect pests, because the plants are never fertilized. In particular, there is the fact that insects do not damage weeds; and the special fragrance of the wild parsley and edible chrysanthemum picked in the country in springtime is due to the fact that they have had no fertilizer.

It is important to make one point clear. For the first year or two after the shift is made from fertilized agriculture to nature farming, results will be poor. This phenomenon occurs because the soil has become addicted to fertilizers. The situation is like that of the drinker, who, when denied alcohol, suffers a period of absent-mindedness; the smoker who becomes lethargic when he stops smoking; or the morphine or cocaine addict who cannot tolerate being denied drugs. It is imperative to be patient and wait two or three years until the soil and seeds are freed of the fertilizer poison and the land can manifest its great powers.

This explanation of the principies behind nature farming should make clear how mistaken the agricultural methods of the past have been. This is a matter unrelated to faith. A person can have no faith and still produce revolutionary results by using natural composts instead of artificial or animal fertilizers. But it is important to realize that, if the divine spirit is used to purify the soil, the effectiveness of nature farming will be even greater.

 

July 1st, 1949

 

*"Planting the same crop in the same ground yearafteryear." Measures must be taken in connection with the soil and other conditions to make this kind of cultivation successful.

 


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