The Fukuoka method
Masanobu Fukuoka was a Japanese microbiologist, specialized in plant diseases; a researcher, a man of science, had a career ahead, a career as an agricultural technician in an age in which all sectors had a reputation for innovation and new discoveries. Despite this, one day Fukuoka has a sort of philosophical illumination, which leads him to question the real effectiveness of traditional agronomic studies, due to the awareness of the great immensity and force of nature, which man tries in vain to bend at his will.
This leads him to develop a cultivation method that will later take the name of natural agriculture; he himself devotes all his energies to experimenting his method for years, until he obtains harvests even higher than those of chemical agriculture.
The four rules of natural agriculture
The pillars of this innovative method are simple:
1- no tillage of the land: no plowing, the turning of the soil that we know is useful in structuring the composition of the soil and favors the development of the root system. Fukuoka achieves this result without working the soil, using instead a careful crop rotation, a perennial covering of the soil (which avoids the erosion of atmospheric agents) with clover mulch and cereal mowing; they are the very roots that plow the land continuously, supported by the work of the Edaphic fauna, which is not disturbed by plowing and proliferates and enriches the soil with organic substance.
2- no chemical or organic fertilization: the soil is enriched on its own with vegetable mowing and mulching, the balances that are created with the increase in humus provide the necessary nutrients to the plants, the fukuoka fields after twenty minutes years of cultivation are rich in organic substances, while those processed with the chemical method are increasingly impoverished and over time they undergo processes of desertification.
3 - no weeding, neither with chemical products nor with mechanical equipment: weeds are contained with mulches and the use of white clover. Once the cereals that are grown exceed the height and size of the weeds, these will no longer be a problem.
4 - no chemical products: the dependence on chemical substances generates imbalances in ecosystems and makes plants weaker (confirming this today we are faced with the GMO problem, to reinforce plants that are less and less resistant to pests)
Certainly the enunciation of these rules causes an effect of astonishment and disbelief; this is however a serious method widely tested and verified and its creator is not a philosopher, with hippy tendencies, but a scientist, a researcher, who has devoted years to this research, with widely demonstrated results.
Converting a company to natural agriculture is not an immediate operation. The fertility of the soil needed to get rid of the plowing practices is achieved after years of application of the method (the surprising thing is that it will continue to improve over the years).
Natural agriculture in our garden
By dedicating ourselves to gardening, we can experience these methods ourselves in our garden, for example we can
use part of the land as an experimental field, maybe 20/30 square meters. We sow a cover of white clover (available for purchase by any seed supplier) and we transplant solanaceae and cucurbits (plants that are easier to manage when you are not familiar with the method). The clover will contain the weeds but it will not interfere with our vegetables, at the end of the cycle we transplant winter vegetables, and we leave the mowing of summer ones as a ground cover. We never leave the ground uncovered, the rotation must be continuous. We continue the experiment in the following season and once we understand the growth mechanisms, we insert new vegetables (Fukuoka suggests leaving some ripe fruits on the ground to favor a natural dissemination of the species). We can choose to leave total freedom to the growth of vegetables or maintain the classic method of division into rows, typical of our agricultural tradition. The effect will however be very suggestive and the idea of eliminating continuous and boring weed elimination operation is an excellent incentive to test these techniques.
Natural agriculture in our orchard
Are we sure that the insistent pruning practices that we apply to our small orchard are so effective? Today we are faced with a growing number of problems, phytoparasites, fungi, viruses and bacteria, which too often take away the satisfaction of a good harvest.
Fruit plants in the Fukuoka lands were not pruned with invasive techniques, only a few interventions to lighten and remove the dry, the plants grew in a natural form and produced a good number of fruits. Diseases and parasites were present, but the balance of the ecosystem controlled them independently and none of them ever became an emergency, only the weakest plants are more vulnerable (a sort of natural selection).
Fukuoka, natural agriculture and gardening: Insights
This type of cultivation is a method with precise rules, which must be studied, deepened and included in their totality if they are to be applied successfully. Two excellent reference texts can be: The straw wire revolution and Masanobu Fukuoka's organic farm.
This brilliant Japanese scientist was able to look very much into the future and to see the problems generated by modern agriculture that was too disrespectful of natural cycles.
Today, issues such as soil impoverishment, the weakening of crop varieties and the defense of biodiversity are at the center of the agricultural debate and of gardening issues. A change in human nature relations and a greater awareness of respect for the environment is desirable in a world at the crossroads between organic farming and genetically modified organisms, which also become part of common gardening practices.