What is natural farming? Origin and techniques

Masanobu Fukuoka and fhe four principles of natural farming or “do nothing farming”

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By Alex

Natural farming is a method of land cultivation that originated around the 1940s in Japan, by the intuition of agronomist Masanobu Fukuoka. Also called the Fukuoka method, Fukuoka farming or Do nothing farming, this method has also been dubbed as “Do-nothing farming”. But what does this agricultural technique consist of?

Let’s find out what there is to know about natural farming, its origins and technique.

Natural farming or Fukuoka farming is a mix of natural farming technique and philosophy that is based on the concept of letting everything happen without disrupting natural cycles, limiting intervention to strictly necessary practices, with full respect for Nature and responsibility for one’s actions on it. At the basis of natural farming are clear principles: no till, no fertilizer, no weeding, no pesticides.

The farmer’s task here is based on observing and taking responsibility for acting with respect for nature. Having respect for nature for a farmer means not using chemical fertilizers, harvesting the fruits and leaving the rest in the garden for it to become , not making changes to the natural course of cultivation.

What is natural farming, exactly?

Natural farming is based on observing nature and taking responsibility for one’s actions. Nature is allowed to take its own course and human intervention is limited to strictly necessary practices that do not disrupt natural cycles.

Natural farming is based on respect for nature, for oneself and for others, and on four principles, known as do-not-do: no tilling of the soil, no plowing of the fields, no use of chemical fertilizers and manure, no pruning of plants and pulling out weeds.

By following these simple rules and avoiding the use of technology or chemicals, you do not pollute, improve the soil and respect the natural order.

The Fukuoka Method (or Do Nothing farming)

Natural farming is also known as the Fukuoka method and is exactly a set of agricultural techniques devised by Japanese agronomist Masanobu Fukuoka around 1940.

Masanobu Fukuoka was a Japanese scientist who was passionate about agriculture and specialized in microbiology applied to plant diseases. He is the one who founded the natural farming method, a method of cultivation that stems from a kind of philosophical enlightenment that questions the real effectiveness of traditional agronomic techniques that aim to put man in the wrong position of wanting to bend the will of Nature, which, however, always ends up predominating.

Natural farming is based on precise rules, which must be studied and understood deeply.

The 4 rules of natural farming

The principles of this method are:

  • No Till;
  • No Fertilizer;
  • No Weeding;
  • No Pesticides.
natural farming
An agricultural technique that is also a broder philosophy of life.

No Till

The first rule of natural farming is not to till the soil. No plowing. In fact, plowing tends to ruin and deplete the soil, because it tends to compact the clods even more, killing the microfauna and flora existing within it.
The soil already areas itself by following the natural cycle. A natural farmer can use alternative techniques that do not need to loosen and turn the soil, such as.

  • crop rotation,
  • a careful ground cover with clover mulch and cereal mowing to protect the soil from weather erosion.

In addition, the roots themselves and the presence of edaphic fauna, which proliferate and enrich the soil with organic matter, contribute to the natural plowing of the soil.

No Fertilizer

The second rule, of paramount importance, is not to fertilize in any way, either with chemical or organic products.

According to Fukuoka, “Plants have always been born and will continue to be born regardless of human intervention. Depending on the qualities of a soil, a complex ecosystem is generated that can host plants and animals. What humans can do is to accommodate this complexity, which generates fruitfulness and fertility by itself.”

The soil finds nourishment on its own through mowing and plant mulches, the soil hosts plant and animal remains that make it valuable and rich in organic matter. Fields cultivated with the Fukuoka method remain substance-rich even after 20 years of crop cycles.

No Weeding

No mechanical equipment or herbicide products are allowed. While weeds in traditional farming are immediately eliminated, in natural farming they are instead contained through the use of mulches and white clover.

Fukuoka’s philosophy starts from the thought that the idea of dividing everything into good and bad has no explanation in Nature where everything has its own value and utility. For example, many weeds that are immediately cut down today are actually edible or are medicinal plants or are excellent pollinators and thus every weed can play a role in the natural ecosystem.

Not only that weeds can also act as windbreaks, they can protect against frost or birds, they also enrich the soil. The important thing is to keep them under control and allow the garden or orchard and weeds to coexist.

natural farming
Natural farming is based on 4 rules that must be followed slavishly.

No Pesticides

Do not use any chemical pesticides because reliance on the chemical creates imbalances in ecosystems. Plants become weaker season after season if exposed to pesicides.

What’s the concept behind this ban? According to the Japanese agronomist, harmful insects do not exist and natural perfection allows for a perfect balance between harmful insects and antagonists.

According to natural farming, the use of pesticides forever alters the balance of nature and results in soil sterility after years. By following the techniques of natural farming, pesticides can be replaced by other methods such as the habit of sowing a wide variety of plants season after season. For example, sowing cereals, vegetables, legumes, flowers, shrubs, and fruit trees together, in the same soil.

How to start practicing natural farming

Natural farming is also referred to as “Do-nothing farming”. So, the basis of farming is first and foremost to not interfere with the natural cycle of nature and above all to know how to observe what is happening.

One of the techniques to start cultivating following the dictates of Fukuoka natural farming is planting by seed bombs. It is advisable to use a mixture of clay and various seeds and to prepare both seed balls and seed discs, to be thrown into one’s soil in early spring and fall.

The second step is to mow the grass by leaving it there on the ground so that it forms mulch.

Last, you will have to watch and wait for the rains to come to complete the planting and encourage the germination of seeds best suited to the site.

Home gardening with natural Fukuoka method

You can also experiment with natural farming at home or in your garden.

Here are what are first steps:

  • choose a part of your land or garden to use for natural farming, about 20 or 30 square meters
  • seed white clover, which tends to hold weeds
  • initially transplant only summer vegetables such as solanaceae (tomatoes, aubergines…) and cucurbits (melon, pumpkin, courgettes…)
  • at the end of the cycle, transplant winter vegetables such as broccoli, fennel, cabbage, but leave the mowing of the summer ones as protection for the soil.

Rotation should be continuous, it should be repeated for two seasons at least. Then slowly new vegetables and fruit should be added.

Orchards, in particular, will breathe new life into the soil. Because the natural farmer harvests fruit at the times of ripening and following his needs. The rest of the fruit that falls will go to fertilize the soil and propagate the orchard.

Differences between natural farming and biodynamic farming

Unlike natural farming, the biodynamic farming is based on the use of preparations that can increase the fertility of the soil, improving its quality and humus. Biodynamic agriculture is based on preparing a nutrient-rich soil for nutrient-rich products, and to achieve these results, biodynamic preparations are used. We might define it a kind of homeopathic medicine that aims to reactivate the qualities of the soil.

Differences between natural farming and intensive farming

Intensive farming is an exact opposite concept to natural farming. In short, it aims for maximum productivity in terms of quantity alone, but over time tends to make the soil poor and lacking in organic matter. In addition, it also has a harmful impact on the entire ecosystem.

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