Korean Natural Farming Handbook – Nutritive Cycle Theory

The Nutritive Cycle Theory

Many think that the more nutrients the better the crops growth. But the growth of crops is not determined by the amount of nutrients. The growth of crops is determined by the Nutritive Cycle; not by the amount of fertilizer input applied. Optimum growth is achieved by giving the soil the optimum amount of the correct kind of nutrients at the correct time. The correct kind of nutrient varies according to the stage of the plant’s life cycle. Consider that you cannot grow to three meters tall, even if you are forced to double your food intake. Over-fertilizing, like overfeeding, is no good.

It is important to change your thinking. It is important to create an environment that helps crops take in what they need, when they need it, in the amount they need. Insufficiency and excess both bring disease. You should try to work with your crops not against them; try to understand their nature and so bring out their fullest potential.

1. Crops also have “morning sickness”

Like humans, crops also have growth stages such as infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. Likewise, suffering from morning sickness is not confined to women. Both animals and plants also experience a similar phenomenon when they are procreating. Like women favor sour foods and make unusual additions to their diet, so too do plants and animals require particular nutrients at this stage.

Likewise, do children have appropriate dishes and quantities of food. Disregarding what is necessary for crops in their childhood stages by feeding them food suitable for adult crops will certainly have a negative effect on their development.

Conventional farming pays no attention to this fact. For example, let us look at rice farming. First, more than half the total fertilizer is given as base manure. This is akin to making a man drunk from early in the morning.

When crops take root, root settling fertilizer is applied again after ten days. This is like feeding a drunk man already stuffed from an eating binge. Force feeding in the absence of appetite leads to stomach pain. It also induces diseases and other health complaints.

When an ear begins to take shape, that is 45 days before the ear is fully formed, this is the time of the plant’s morning sickness. At this time (for argument’s sake let’s call it lunchtime) crops need a lot of food, but because the crops have been overfed earlier (at breakfast) they cannot take in the nutrients at this important stage. What happens then? Well, the crops become hungry around 3-4 in the afternoon, so they have dinner early. As the ears have already grown to 2-3mm 25 days before the ears come out, the fertilizer grows the ears but cannot increase the number of grains.

In the meantime the leaves have grown huge due to overfeeding and cover the paddies completely. In due course the sun is shaded out, air does not circulate and sheathe blight and drying of the leaves become serious problems. Even though “grain manure”, which is like a dinner meal, is given the crops will not absorb it because their stomachs are full and can absorb no more. However when night comes they will get hungry again, losing vitality. The result is a poor harvest.

Eating to the point of satisfaction instead of till fullness and eating the right foods at the right time is good for the stomach and the metabolism. Thus, when nutrients are supplied to rice based on the nutrient cycle, the rice plant’s digestion and the absorption power of its metabolism is strong. Under these circumstances plants are vigorous and healthy; they shrug off insects such that no pesticides are needed.

2. Different stages require different nutrients

Sometimes people hastily assume that Natural Farming is an unscientific “return to the past” form of farming that just uses more organic compost. But this is wrong. Natural farming is very scientific; it is based on strict theories and precise observation. Science is failing in its obligations to society when it clings to old theories and methods when better theory and methods have emerged with irrefutable evidence and results.

In Natural Farming, the growth stages of crops are precisely understood. At each stage of growth; vegetative growth, flowering, fruiting, coloring and maturity the correct diagnosis is made and the appropriate action taken. The principles of the growth cycle are understood and the cause of any abnormality searched for.

How to comprehend the growth stage

There is a visible and well defined pattern in the growth and development of plants. Plants undergo a number of qualitative changes in their life cycle; they grow, flower, fruit and die. Let us look at this pattern in more detail.

First, we can divide a plant’s growth into two stages; vegetative growth and reproductive growth. Vegetative growth is the stage from body formation to maturity while reproductive growth is from flowering to the ripening of fruit.

Second, the shift from vegetative growth to reproductive growth is gradual. The plant first gets ready for the period of reproductive growth by increasing the amount of carbohydrate in its body. This adjustment period between vegetative growth to reproductive growth is called the changeover period.

Third, from a physiological perspective, vegetative growth is a period of consumptive growth turning carbohydrate (C) to organic nitrogen (N) by inorganic nitrogen (n). Reproductive growth begins when the plant does not convert carbohydrate into inorganic nitrogen, but instead stores it in fruits and other storage organs (accumulative growth).

The growth and development stages of crops have qualitative and physiological differences. The required nutrients and their amount differ at each stage. By applying Nutritive Cycle theory, Natural Farming understands the crops, what they need and how much they need, their condition and what kind of environmental conditions are conducive to their growth. Natural Farming is not the crude practice of randomly dumping organic compost for plant consumption. Defining the ‘changeover period’ and concluding that plants will have special nutrient requirements during a period corresponding to morning sickness in humans is unprecedented. The results coming out of this approach seems convincing.

Look at the inner condition of crops

It is evident that the growth and development of crops depends partly on external conditions ie. climate, rain, topography, soil status, etc. Needless to say under optimum conditions you can expect optimum production.

However, we should keep in mind that external conditions are never constant. We never know when a favorable climate can turn harsh. This year’s rainfall can  change next year. Even the soil fertility is constantly changing.

Furthermore, the inner condition of the crops are also changing according to the growth stages. What the crop wants when it is an infant is different from when it is pregnant. The inner condition of the crop changes in flowering, fruiting, coloring, maturing and dormancy.

Prevailing agriculture methods tend to emphasize only the external  conditions, and underestimate the inner conditions of the plants. We cannot expect the best harvest when we only emphasize the external conditions that constantly change ever year.

3. The Four Nutrient Types

Natural Farming identifies four different nutrient conditions for plants. This classification was first introduced by American Scientist Guross Gureville.

Type         N                        C                                 H2O                            C/N Ratio

1.          High                       Low                          High                             Small

2.         Medium-High    Low-Medium        Medium-High          Small-Medium

3.         Medium                Medium-High      Medium                      Medium-Large

4 .        Low                         Large                      Low                              Large

N=Nitrogen                                      C=Carbohydrate                     H2O=Water

Type 1  has a lot of water and nitrogen. Carbohydrate is minimal. The plant has weak vegetative growth and there is no floral differentiation.

Type 2 has a relatively large amount of water and nitrogen. It also has enough C for active vegetative growth. However floral differentiation is so weak that even if it does flower there will be no fruit.

Type 3 has a relatively low amounts of water and nitrogen. Production of C decreases compared to type 2, but floral differentiation is strong and the fruit is good.

Type 4 has little water and nitrogen. No vegetative growth and no fruiting.

Perceiving the nutrient type of your crop and leading it to the right condition at the right stage is the crux of nutritive cycle theory. The nutritive cycle will be different for each crop and animal. Reading this precisely and acting accordingly may be the biggest secret of Natural Farming.

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9 Comments

  1. MMC said,

    June 16, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    This is such great stuff. Practical, relatively simple, and sane.
    Gratitude

  2. Lawson LeGore said,

    July 8, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Hello, I am a M. Sc. Student studying Sustainable Agriculture in Thailand. For my thesis I am researching the benefits of using natural farming practices in small scale pig production for upland villagers in Thailand, and I have found your exerpts from the Korean Natural Farming Handbook very informative and inspiring. Is there someway that I can view the book on line for use in some of my papers? Thank you very much and keep up the good blog.

    • July 9, 2011 at 6:41 am

      Hi Lawson

      It appears that the book is available for online purchase at Janong USA. However you might be better contacting the local National Productivity Organization. The Asian Productivity Organization has utilized Dr. Cho as a trainer on several of their projects. You’ll find the Thai office details here, as well as the Tokyo Office details. The various local projects undertaken by Dr. Cho are outlined in a series of APO documents.

      http://www.apo-tokyo.org/npo/npo_thai.htm

      Cheers

      Ian

  3. Arijit Mitra said,

    May 14, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Sorry I meant, which stage of the plants growth… but you probably already understood my question :-)…

    Thanks again…

    • August 17, 2012 at 8:47 am

      Hi Arjiit

      Sorry, I’m very much a newbie at this. I am an English Professor and this is my hobby, so I am more of an intermediary on this. However, the APO organization for India..

      http://www.npcindia.org/

      Might well be of assistance on this. You would need to speak with someone in the agriculture section.

      Cheers

      Ian

  4. Calisto said,

    October 1, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Rooftop, where’d you go? You had a good thing going then all of a sudden you drop off the face of the earth. Is everything ok?

    • October 16, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      Hi Calisto,

      I am trying to bring my labor of love into being and it is proving to be a difficult pregnancy. Imagine a roof, then bring together the functions of architectural improvement, food production, waste management and greenhouse gas reduction right on top of it. Now imagine doing that in a country thats not your own and where you dont know where anything is or who to talk to. That’s where I am at the moment. I can’t say the experience is fun, but its definitely character building. 🙂

      Sincerely

      Ian

  5. fistz said,

    July 16, 2013 at 4:52 am

    sory..hi..can u explain more detail….
    “Natural Farming identifies four different nutrient conditions for plants. This classification was first introduced by American Scientist Guross Gureville.

    Type N C H2O C/N Ratio

    1. High Low High Small

    2. Medium-High Low-Medium Medium-High Small-Medium

    3. Medium Medium-High Medium Medium-Large

    4 . Low Large Low Large

    N=Nitrogen C=Carbohydrate H2O=Water

    Type 1 has a lot of water and nitrogen. Carbohydrate is minimal. The plant has weak vegetative growth and there is no floral differentiation.

    Type 2 has a relatively large amount of water and nitrogen. It also has enough C for active vegetative growth. However floral differentiation is so weak that even if it does flower there will be no fruit.

    Type 3 has a relatively low amounts of water and nitrogen. Production of C decreases compared to type 2, but floral differentiation is strong and the fruit is good.

    Type 4 has little water and nitrogen. No vegetative growth and no fruiting.

    Perceiving the nutrient type of your crop and leading it to the right condition at the right stage is the crux of nutritive cycle theory. The nutritive cycle will be different for each crop and animal. Reading this precisely and acting accordingly may be the biggest secret of Natural Farming.”

    • July 30, 2013 at 10:05 am

      This is basically talking about plants existing in four different states, each of which can be identified by the plant’s chemical composition under analysis. Only the third state is desirable. It’s basically saying don’t flood your plants with nitrogen. It’s also saying that for fruiting you need calcium present in the soil in sufficient quantities. This squares with what Dr Cho says about using water soluble calcium phosphate, ie after plants are well established and are preparing to fruit.


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