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Natural Farming - Clay pellets to grow agro food products and revegetate deserts
The Natural Farming method, in practice

Method for making Clay Pellets

We make clay pellets to protect seeds from ants, rodents, birds, etc. Inside the clay pellets, seeds will remain protected until conditions will be the proper ones to make them germinate.

How to make clay pellets

When we want to make clay pellets by hand, we mix one measure of all kinds of seeds, 40 measures of clay and then we add water enough so that we can form a mass that is humid but does not get stuck into the hands. After we make the mass, we beat it against a hard surface many times. The more we beat it the more compact the mass becomes.

The size of the clay pellets varies according to the size of the seeds, from ½ cm up to 2 or 3 cms.

We can dry the clay pellets under the sun or in the shade. The process is faster under the sun. When we make clay balls with seeds from leguminous plants like chickpeas, lentils, beans, brood beans, we have to soak them in water from half an hour (lentils) up to 2 hours (broad-beans). The clay pellets can have different forms (round, flat etc).

If we want to prepare big quantities of clay pellets we can use a cement mixer without the inner blades. In this way, with a small group of 5-6 people and eight hours of work daily, we can make up to 30-40 tons of clay pellets within a month.

We usually sow the dry clay pellets from September – October before the autumn rains start or from March – April before the spring rains start. If there is a green cover covering the earth we sow and then we cut the grass.

Clay Pellets for desert re-vegetation

From the book: The Ultimatum of GOD NATURE: “The following is a method for making multi-layered bittern and clay seed pellets to be used in desert re-vegetation.

Put a variety of seeds in a mixer. While rotating the mixer, add fungi that will aid the growth of the plants to the outer surface of the seeds. Spray a mixture of water mist and uncontaminated, baked clay powder onto the surface of the fungi, coating them, while routing the mixer. Next spray a mixture of powdered bittern, clay powder, and slaked lime over the surface of the baked clay powder, while rotating the mixer, thus creating multiple layers.

Seeds of more than a hundred common varieties, including trees, fruit trees, vegetables, grains, and other useful plants are coated with microorganisms that are necessary for the growth of the plants.

This kind of clay seed pellets can be produced easily, in quantity, using a mixer such as a typical cement mixer with the inner blades removed.

In order to produce enough pellets to sow one hectare of desert land, the standard ratio is five parts finely-powdered clay, such as fired brick or porcelain clay, to one part of the above-mentioned seed mixture, but adjustments should be made taking into account the size of the seeds. The bittern is brine obtained by boiling and concentrating sea water and should be 5% of the weight of the seeds. In place of the bittern, highly polymerized compounds may be used. Slaked lime should be 5-10% and water 5-10%.

Various layers are formed

The inner layer is made by putting seeds and fungi into the mixer while it is rotating, so that the fungi coat the seeds. Next uncontaminated baked clay powder and water mist are sprayed in together as the mixer is rotating, creating the clay central layer, which encloses the fungi. Then the bittern solution, powdered clay, and slaked lime are sprayed in together as the mixer is turned. In this manner, round clay seed pellets, usually 0.5-1.0 cm in diameter are made.

Because the seeds in the multi-layered bittern and clay pellets are enclosed by layers of clay, they can, with the help of useful fungi, germinate and develop normally.

When bittern is added to powdered clay and they are kneaded together, the arrangement of molecules in the clay is changed, and the pellets become stable, light, and hard. They not only can withstand the fall to earth following aerial seeding, but also adjust to changes in dampness and dryness related to rainfall, becoming shrunken and solid. Thus, they seldom crumble or break and the seeds are protected by the bittern in outer layer from damage by most insects, birds, and other animals until germination is achieved. In addition, the slaked lime included in the outer layer aids the germination of seeds by neutralizing acidic soil.

Although it is possible to prevent damage by birds with pellets of clay only, in deserts and savannas it is difficult to prevent damage by mice, goats, and, in particular, strong insects such as red ants. Most insects and other animals are repelled by the extremely bitter outer layer and will not eat the pellets. This not only ensures the seeds' germination, without the use of extremely toxic poisons, but also makes possible indiscriminate broadcasting of seeds over a wide area.

The plants on earth exist in reciprocal relations with other plants, animals, and microorganisms and none can develop and flourish alone. In desert regions, in particular, not only are a variety of symbiotic plants necessary, but plants also cannot establish themselves without the cooperation of microorganisms in the soil. For example, pines used in revegetating the desert require the inclusion in the clay pellet of the hyphae of the matsudake mycorrhizal fungus, which can be cultivated using the natural culture medium invented by the author. Pines cannot live without the cooperation of the matsudake fungus. In connection with this, the cause of pine blight lies in the death of the matsudake fungus. In addition, if mycorrhizal plants are not inoculated with mycorrhizal fungi, and leguminous plants with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, we cannot expect their proper development.

Furthermore, the powdered fruits and leaves of the following herbs are included in the clay pellets, at approximately 3% of the volume of seeds. Derris root (used against beetles), Japanese star anise (goats), Japanese andromeda (cows), Japanese bead tree (small harmful insects), sumac, and so on will protect seeds in the desert, before and after germination, from cows, goats, ants, and other harmful insects. It is also possible, in a region that is completely desert, to make and broadcast seed pellets of fertile jungle soil (black soil). This soil is a treasure house of soil microorganisms and seeds and is of great value in actual use. Also, in the case of broadcast from airplanes, the pellets may break easily, so it is good to coat them with the synthetic resin Polyzol, which is porous and absorbs water well. In place of Polyzol and other high polymers, seaweed paste may be used.

In addition to the fact that the fungi in the clay pellet described here facilitate the development of the seeds and the bittern and herbs protect them from being eaten; the slaked lime improves the soil. Thus, even in vast desert areas, where conditions for germination are poor, revegetation can be achieved simply by sowing the seeds, without concern about time or place. The practical results achieved in Africa, the United States, India, and the Philippines are backed up scientifically by my fifty years of following the natural farming method of no cultivation, no fertilizers, and no agricultural chemicals.

This pellet is not limited to the above mentioned examples, but can be put to use in various ways, given suitable changes. For example, it is possible to add seeds inoculated with fungi to kneaded clay and push the mixture through a screen or net.”

Method to use Clay Pellets in growing grains

From the book The One-Straw Revolution: “Rice, barley, and rye can be successfully grown while the fields are covered with clover and weeds all year long. Let me review in greater detail the annual seeding and harvesting schedule in these fields. In early October, before the harvest, white clover and the seeds of fast-growing varieties of winter grain are broadcast among the ripening stalks of rice. The clover and barley or rye sprout and grow an inch or two by the time the rice is ready to be harvested. During the rice harvest, the sprouted seeds are trampled by the feet of the harvesters, but recover in no time at all. When the threshing is completed, the rice straw is spread over the field.

White clover is sown about one pound per quarter acre, winter grains and rice 6.5 to 13 pounds per quarter acre. For inexperienced farmers or fields with hard or poor soil, it is safer to sow more seed in the beginning. As the soil gradually improves from the decomposing straw and green manure, and as the farmer becomes more familiar with the direct seeding non-cultivation method, the amount of seeds can be reduced.
If rice is sown in the autumn and left uncovered, the seeds are often eaten by mice and birds, or they sometimes rot on the ground, and so I enclose the rice seeds in little clay pellets before sowing. The seed is spread out on a flat pan or basket and shaken back and forth in a circular motion. Fine powdered, clay is dusted over them and a thin mist of water is added from time to time. This forms a tiny pellet about a half inch in diameter.

Another method for pellet production

First the unhulled rice seed is soaked for several hours in water. The seeds are removed and mixed with moist clay by kneading with hands or feet. Then the clay is pushed through a screen of chicken wire to separate it into small clods. The clods should be left to dry for a day or two or until they can be easily rolled between the palms into pellets. Ideally there is one seed in each pellet. In one day it is possible to make enough pellets to seed several acres.

Depending on conditions, I sometimes enclose the seeds of other grains and vegetables in pellets before sowing.

Between mid-November and mid-December is a good time to broadcast the pellets containing the rice seed among the young barley or rye plants, but they can also be broadcast in spring. A thin layer of chick¬en manure is spread over the field to help decompose the straw, and the year's planting is complete.

In May the winter grain is harvested. After threshing, all of the straw is scattered over the field.

Water is then allowed to stand in the field for a week or ten days. This causes the weeds and clover to weaken and allows the rice to sprout up through the straw. Rain water alone is sufficient for the plants during June and July; in August fresh water is run through the field about once a week without being allowed to stand. The autumn harvest is now at hand.

Such is the yearly cycle of rice/winter grain cultivation by the natural method. The seeding and harvesting so closely follow the natural pattern that it could be considered a natural process rather than an agricultural technique.”