The Rice Challenge

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We Filipinos eat a lot of rice.  And to be self-sustaining, it means we need to produce our own rice.  The good thing about our project site is, there’s an existing rice field.  The bad thing is, the soil is so degraded and abused with so much chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

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Our challenge is how to make this rice field as rich and as productive as possible using the permaculture principles.  To prepare it for the rice planting season in June, the start of the rainy season here in the Philippines, we need to introduce a lot of organic matter to it through producing compost soil and planting legumes like mung beans (monggo) and peanuts.  Legume plants are good for enhancing the soil quality and usually used as green manure because of their nitrogen-rich foliage and the nitrogen-fixing bacterias in their root system.  Our compost is a mixture of dried leaves, rice straw, rice hulls, saw dust, dried twigs, carabao dung, and chicken dung.

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In January, we started irrigating the rice fields, courtesy of our farmer neighbor who let us tap from their irrigation system (for the meantime we’re still setting up our own irrigation system).  We then soaked the fields for two days.

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We then tilled the fields using our neighbor’s carabao.  Although in permaculture, there’s a “no till” principle, we had to do it just this one time, while we are still brewing our own compost soil.

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We then planted mung beans and peanuts.

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They’re now almost ready for harvesting.  We’ll soon have peanuts and mung beans and we’ll just have to “chop and drop” the greens after harvesting.  “Chop and drop” is another permaculture practice of chopping nitrogen-rich foliage like legumes and dropping them to the ground to serve as mulch or organic fertilizer.

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Unlike our neighbors who plant hybrid varieties of white rice, we’ll be planting the traditional red rice through direct seeding.

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(Photos by Cye Reyes)

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2 thoughts on “The Rice Challenge

  1. Do you just sow the rice into the field of chopped foliage? Do you need to cover them? What about birds and other animals that might want to eat the rice?

    This is all very interesting and I have many questions!

    • Hi Isaac, this is Cye of the Pitak Project. Like you, we also have lots of questions on how to produce rice the permaculture way. This is one of our major challenges, especially that this will be our first time to produce our own.

      In rice production, the fields need to be fully covered with water until almost harvest time. What we plan is to put lots of organic matter until June (planting season) to improve the soil quality, then we’ll soak the fields. We’ll then directly plant the rice or maybe we’ll do the seed balling (seeds are balled with rich soil then thrown into the fields and just let them grow). We’ll fertilize it with our own brew of organic fertilizer like vermi tea etc.

      The problem is, our neighboring farms use chemical pesticides. So the insects will be going to our fields. We just plan to plant some natural insect repellants around the fields like marigolds. Lots of it.

      We’re still doing some research on all of this. We’ll be posting updates on this too.

      Thanks for dropping by.

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