Natural Agriculture: Beginnings, principles and variants

Today in Agrohuerto we will explain what natural agriculture is, one of the agroecological currents that exist. We will see what its beginnings were. We will also talk about what are the bases, principles and variants of this type of agriculture.

What is Natural Agriculture?

As we have already seen in other articles, in addition to Ecological Agriculture there are other agroecological currents whose objective is the development of a sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture: Biodynamic Agriculture , Permaculture … or Natural Agriculture, to which we will dedicate this new post.

The basic objectives are the same: to ensure long-term nutrient cycling and soil fertility, and to maintain diversity by naturally controlling pests and diseases through integrated control . To reach this end, each stream establishes a series of basic principles and management techniques.

The beginnings of natural agriculture

The forerunner of Natural Agriculture was the Japanese Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008). At the age of 25, this philosopher, scientist and phytopathologist researcher put aside his occupation as Agricultural Inspector of Customs to dedicate himself to agroecology, developing this new philosophy and way of cultivation: Natural Agriculture.

He moved to his hometown, a small rural town on the island of Shikoku, where he began to implement a different way of farming, in collaboration with the spontaneous nature of his farm, until he achieved a “natural garden” that was, at the same time, a forest and a wild garden. Thus he laid the foundations of Natural Agriculture and the philosophy of “ Mu ”, that is, of “ Not doing .

What is the basis of natural agriculture?

The working method of Natural Agriculture consists of the management of the agrarian system as if it were wild , the imitation of nature in its spontaneous form reproducing the natural conditions as faithfully as possible so that the soil is progressively enriched and thus increases the quality of food.

This is a philosophy aimed at working together with nature and not against it ; to watch long and intently, instead of working hard and carelessly; to consider plants and animals in all their functions, instead of treating the elements as systems of a single product ‘.

The principles of Natural Agriculture

  1. Do not till or make furrows in the ground to maintain its natural structure.
  2. Do not add chemical-synthetic fertilizers or prepared compost to the soil. (To improve fertility, green manure can be sown to restore the balance of the soil and spread the residues of this crop).
  3. Do not weed by tillage or herbicides. Weeds ” must be controlled, not eliminated, as they play an important role in the fertility and balance of the soil’s biological community. They can be controlled, for example, with straw mulch or clover mulch interspersed with the crops.
  4. Do not use synthetic insecticides since they eliminate the biological richness of the soil, air and flora. The presence of insects can be balanced naturally if the plants are healthy and the soil is balanced.
  5. Do not prune .

These are the basic principles, but there are many more actions that are taken and that are not carried out when practicing Natural Agriculture.

For example, scheduling crops through rotations is not necessary because it is grown wild . Fukuoka devised a sowing system that allows to replace the plow: he cultivates among the wild grasses, to prevent birds or small rodents from taking the seeds or eating them, he also covers the soil with mulching  from the previous harvest so that the seeds remain even less visible from these animals.

The form of sowing is also well known: the broadcast seeding of «nendo dango» . Nendo dango are called seeds wrapped in 2 or 3 cm clay balls together with the seed of some other plant, mainly white clover.

You can also include in the clay balls a part of natural compost (manure, for example) so that the seedling grows with enough nutrients, or grains of a spice such as pepper or cayenne to prevent animals from eating them.

Variants of the working method

Currently Natural Agriculture also follows another working method: that of Jean Marie Roger , very similar but a little more ermissible with the techniques: it allows a minimum tillage that begins with superficial work (as opposed to conventional tillage), it allows the use of compost in surface or mulching based on pre-humidified green manure, manure or crop residues and also supports the cultivation of plants foreign to its ecosystem.

I hope you have learned a little more about this interesting agroecological trend. But if you have known a little in the next few days I will leave you a very interesting video in case you want to encourage yourself to start practicing this way of life and change your garden a little.

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