"If you asked me the price of a bag of mixed fertilizer, I would tell you I have no idea at all because I haven’t been using it for many years now!" said Hua-chao.
Many villagers who are used to using pesticides and fertilizers have little knowledge of organic farming. They are worried and have said:
“Where would the food be if you don’t use chemical fertilizers? I used as much as a hundred catties of mixed fertilizer, potassium fertilizer, and carbon ammonia every year. Even then, a good harvest is not guaranteed and so it’s hard to believe that it’s possible not to use chemical fertilizers.”
“If no pesticide is used, pests would be rampant. There’s no need to look at the crop anymore after eight weeks. (It would have all been eaten by the pests.)”
Previously some villagers who were doubtful about organic farming would tease me when they saw me on the road: “University student, if you were going to teach us farming, you should bring us high-end technology or give us advanced pesticides and fertilizers. Then we definitely will not have problems. If that is not the case, it won’t work.”
There has been gossip and talk, constant doubt and much jeering and sneering. But we persevered in undertaking organic farming in Heng county and the result has been the most convincing argument for it.
“In the last few years of farming, we can see the difference between rice grown organically and that grown with the use of chemical fertilizers. Grain leaves of the rice grown with chemical fertilizers are denser and greener. The leaves are long and messy. Grain leaves of the rice grown with organic fertilizer and farmyard manure are shorter, thicker and harder. The colour of the leaves is a bit more light yellow,” said Xu Hua-chao of the Organic Farming Association at Chen Tang.
Most of the villagers involved in the organic farming pilot programme, including those from San Cha Village, would tell you with confidence that the yield from organic farming is not low. Compared with the same type of rice grown with chemical fertilizer, rice grown organically is definitely more fragrant and fluffy. A unanimous opinion is that organic rice “has a superior taste of rice.”
“Not using chemical fertilizers does not mean not using fertilizers at all. There is farmyard manure which we can use for our fields. If you don’t want to use chemical fertilizers, you could breed ducks in the fields. They swim in between the grains, eat insects, stamp on and kill wild grass and provide manure for the fields. When you use natural fertilizers, the soil in the field turns black and becomes very soft. The yield of my land might not be as much as those using chemical fertilizers, but is not low either at around 700 catties which is good enough.”
“When your neighbours use pesticides, are you worried insects might flee to your field?”
“I have said just now, don’t use chemical fertilizers. Use farmyard manure. The rice grows slowly and the leaves are tougher and are light yellow in colour. If you use chemical fertilizers, the leaves keep growing. They are long and the colour is greener. The leaves are also denser, and that’s what the insects prefer. So, the situation is more like insects from my land fleeing to the land of other people…ha ha…”
“Some people, on first joining the Association, were not convinced and quietly continued to use chemical fertilizers. They thought we wouldn’t know. We went to their fields and were aware of it immediately. We have grown organic rice for so many years and can easily recognize it. No matter what you say, some people will remain unconvinced. They keep using pesticides. We have not used pesticides even once, yet our yield is nearly the same. So why use pesticides? Well, many people are not afraid of death. But if the result is the same, then why not give up using pesticides, right?”
“I mean, using farmyard manure is definitely hard work. We use a big tractor to carry it. I raise many pigs, so I have a large supply of manure. It’s like that in rural villages. You can’t just grow and not raise animals. My chickens are also organically reared. Last time we tried to grow a new species of rice, Guinong, but the consumers did not like it very much because the rice was a bit crunchy. I feed my chickens with the rice that was leftover. All my land is used to grow organic rice. If we are unable to sell it, we eat it ourselves. The chickens, the ducks and the pigs can eat it too.”
Photo caption: Xu Hua-chao and his wife used a tractor to carry pig manure to their field.
Ding Hua-ming (Assistant Programme Officer, Heng County)