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Thursday, November 26, 2009

How the concept of MIXED CROPPING can minimize the use of fertilizers!

Artificial/synthetic fertilizers, though might immensely increase agricultural yield temporarily, they end up immensely altering the nitrogen balance,chemical composition and acidity levels of the soil and in the process also kill native micro-organisms of the soil.Each microorganism of the soil thrives at a certain acidity of the soil.If the soil acidity alters, the microbes die.
These microbes play an important role by degrading large macro plant and animal matter back into nutrients which then become part of soil as usable and absorbable elemental nutrients for plants.Plants depend on these soil minerals and nutritions to grow and produce newer food for us.
Thus, usage of artificial minerals/fertilizer  to the soil as an effort to increase agricultural yields, over a longer term, essentially makes the soil useless after years of repeated fertilizer administration.
The solution? A concept called MIXED CROPPING.
Nothing new at all.Mixed cropping has existed in nature prior to agriculture happened.All plants of DIFFERENT SPECIES live together side by side on a patch of soil  in THE WOODS.That is a natural phenomenon.
What we have been  practicing ever since modern day agriculture has come into being  is MONOFARMING..We plant the same variety of  plant all over the field, sometimes extending to a vast expanse of miles and miles ..

Mono-farming is not how plants grow naturally though.
In the wilderness , many different plants live together.. in the same area.. some of these plants form symbiotic pairs too.A Symbiotic existence is one where one organism helps the other organism in some way.They benefit from living together and helping each other without damaging each other.

So, in the forest,plants live together..all together. This 'Living together' is a version of Mixed cropping.This co exitence is what is called an mini ecosystem.A mini ecosystem is able to sustain itself and repair itself .Much unlike a monocropped piece of land that runs on artificial fertilizer.

But in planned agriculture by humans, we plant a single species on a patch of land and deliberately delete all other plants from that patch of soil, by "WEEDING" them out!This type of selective plant propogation is called MONO-cropping.Mono cropping in itself sucks out the nutrients from the soil.

A standard example of how we can apply mixed cropping into our farming practices is to pair a nitrogen fixing plant with another non nitrogen fixing plant and plant them together in the same piece of land.
A classic example of a nitrogen fixing plant is -peanuts.A peanut plant has nodules in it's roots that have bacteria in them that fix atmospheric nitrogen into a form that the plants can then use. This then eliminates the need for artificial fertilizer.Thus, pairing either beans/peanuts with  maize/other cereal grain plants , really, not only takes care of the soil but also gives us variety in our meals..It is a TWO-BIRDS-with-ONE-STONE method.We then end up with great soil and also end up with  both beans/peanuts(protein rich) and maize/wheat(carbohydrate) in our plant yields.

You can practice mixed cropping even in your tiny kitchen garden. Look up more info.Research!

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