We broadcast sunn hemp (crotalaria juncea) seeds on our rice field about six weeks before the rice is due to go in. We do it for two main reasons, it is a green manure that fixes nitrogen in the soil and produces a lot of biomass and it also has the welcome side effect of not allowing any weeds to establish after the field has been ploughed. We have been doing this every year before planting.
This time we tried a couple of ways to sow the seeds without turning the soil, but with little success. First we just broadcast them without digging or turning, but germination was very patchy, then we tried seeding in rows after manual digging but this proved way too slow and labour intensive, so we resorted to the tractor. I have not given up though and am determined to find a way….
This week we will cut down the fields and flood them and let the biomass decompose in the water for a couple of weeks, after which the fields will be prepared for rice planting. Last year we experimented with the SRI (System of Rice Intensification) system on a small area, transplanting individual seedlings when they are about a week to ten days old as opposed to the traditional way of planting clumps of five or more one month old seedlings. The results were very encouraging, so this year we are confident about using the system for our entire crop, which will allow us to control the water level more appropriately as required by the system.