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Natural Farming with the Founding Father of Permaculture: Masanobu Fukuoka

by Istiaq Ratul

Masanobu Fukuoka was born in a farming village on the island of Shikoku, Japan in 1914. He was trained in microbiology as a plant pathologist and worked as an agricultural customs inspector. Fukuoka began to question the accomplishment of science in the modern agriculture and declared that the totality of nature supersedes the interference of man. He has authored One-Straw Revolution and The Natural Way of Farming, both of which received world recognition for revolutionary Natural Farming Principles.

Masanobu Fukuoka's Four principles of Natural Farming includes:

  1. No cultivation

    1. No ploughing or turning the soil because the Earth cultivates itself naturally

  2. No fertilizer

    1. These practices drain the soil of its essential nutrients

  3. No weeding

    1. Weed should only be controlled because weed contributes to the biodiversity of soil.

  4. No pesticides

    1. Overprotecting the plants through the use of pesticide causes the development of weak plants

Plowing damages the soil

Since plant roots penetrate deep into the soil in search of essential nutrients, the common understanding is that plowing aerates the soil and increases the amount of available nitrogen for our crops. Masanobu argues that plowing is similar to kneading bread, where the soil becomes harder and denser. Modern farmers soften up the soil by applying compost and then plowing to mix it into the ground. However, plowing makes the soil particles finer and finer, which eventually gathers to harden the ground. Harden ground means a tougher time for plant roots to dig deeper for nutrients.

Plants instinctively know where they grow best. Nature has been tending to its own soil, erecting large trees on various terrains without the help of farmers. From Fukuoka's perspective, no amount of research can teach man everything about soil because nature will always create something more perfect. Research will only bolster the position that soil made by nature is perfect.

Crops depends on the soil for growth

There has not been enough research done to show the long term impacts of fertilizer on soil microbes. The scientific tests on the effect of fertilizer are conducted under fixed conditions, whereas, that limited framework cannot be applied to situations under natural conditions. Plants weakened by fertilizer have a lower resistance to disease and pests. Fertilizers such as phosphorus cannot penetrate more than two inches of the soil surface and the religious application of such fertilizer was useless. Ammonium sulfates, superphosphate, and potassium sulfate acidifies the soil and kills soil microorganisms. Fertilizer is also related to the deficiency of trace components that are also essential to the crops.

Is the concept of weed manufactured by man?

"In nature, plants coexist and thrive together. The moment that the farmer started caring for and raising his crops, he began to regard other herbs with disgust as weeds and has striven ever since to remove them." Masanobu Fukuoka in The Natural Way of Farming

Masanobu believes in not only the preservation of weed, but also the full utilization of weeds to ameliorate his farming concept. He believes that by studying and making use of the properties of weeds, one weed can be used to drive away already existing weeds. The coexistence of surface plants is true to nature and he utilizes it to plant rice and barley. Specifically, he seeds barley and clover over standing heads of rice, and then scatters rice seeds and green manure while the barley is up. By using scientific principles in natural farming, Fukuoka achieved vigorous growth and higher plant yields from his barley and rice crops.

New generation of pesticides

According to the National Center of Biotechnology Information's study called Impact of pesticides use in agriculture: their benefits and hazards, pesticides contaminate soil, water, turf, and other vegetation. In addition to killing insects or weeds, pesticides can be toxic to a host of other organisms including birds, fish, beneficial insects, and non-target plants. Since many pesticides are determined to be selective to only some types of insects, an incorrect assumption is made about it being innocuous to the adjacent life forms. A substance that claims to work on insects and microorganism, also acts on plants and animals to a certain degree. It is just unreasonable and wishful thinking to believe a substance will only work on specific insects or microbes.

Masanobu Fukuoka's Principles of Natural Farming has tred the way for modern day permaculture and has been a core component to the concept of regenerative farming. We can utilize the properties of plants, animal, fungi, and microbes to promote higher yields and vigorous growth. More so, his concept allows the land to regenerate itself by letting nature be the all knowing entity in the farming equation.

Mystic Gardens

Our farms follows sustainability principles derived from ancient civilizations while acknowledging that we do not know more than nature. Our role is to coexist with nature and allow the biocycle of the Earth to run its course.

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