Rainy season is typically 5 months long in the Tropics, give or take a month. For our farm, this means that you will have fields that are water-logged to the point of being unproductive save for water-friendly crops like rice. If that’s all you want to grow, and you feel comfortable basing your farm’s financial future on a single crop (which is highly unadvised), then you should probably skip this article. For those who would like to help increase and diversify their farm’s yield during rainy season, please read on.
For those unfamiliar with rice farming, the kanaa is the raised land that separates individual rice fields (paddies). They are an essential component on your traditional rice farm because they serve as water level control valves. No land is completely flat. There is always a grade. The area bounded by the kanaa, however, is raked level before each planting. Neighboring fields are higher or lower, depending on the grade of your farm land. Water levels are maintained through management of channels in the kanaa.
Our farm uses kanaas in a similar fashion. However, we do much more with ours. The typical kanaa is no more than a meter wide, less than half a meter in our neighbor’s farms. The only thing that grows on their kanaas is weeds. Our kanaas, on the other hand, have been widened so that we can grow other crops. At the writing of this article, we have 13 different crops being grown, some with multiple varieties.
This farming method is known as intercropping. It’s a very old practice used to help diversify the value of your farm. Intercropping brings a different dimension to a formerly mono-cropping farming approach. But before I mention these benefits, this is the current list of crops we have on our kanaas:
- yard long bean
Advantages of Intercropping
Reduction of Fertilizer Inputs – Certain crops, legumes (peas and beans) and buckwheat to name a few, help to sequester certain nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, etc.) into the soil. This improves nutrient availability to other crops and overall health of the land. A prime example for us at this moment is soy bean (see featured image), which covers about 25% of our kana at this time.
Pest Control – Having a diverse crop mix grown in close quarters offers a variety of smells. This inundation of odor confuses many of the malicious insects that will hurt your crops. To accomplish this, we grow galangol, citronella and marigold. The first two are ingredients in a simple pest deterrent we spray on our crops while the last two emit an odor that deters pests ad-lib.
Economic Padding – Monocropping is a great money maker, except when your crop fails. Two rice harvests ago, the entire area of Maesot was devestated by a boring insect. The pest destroyed much of the rice before it was able to produce. When crises like this occurs, it’s good to have a back-up plan. For this, we encourage the the production of cash crops like vegetables, herbs and fruit-baring trees. While the income generated by these back-ups will not compensate for the overall loss of an entire crop, they will increase the probability of your farm’s survival.
Nutrient Maximization – Perennials are the main inhabitants of our kanaas. The main reason for this is that flooding does not allow for their establishment in the fields. Accordingly, we have placed nutrient dense crops like Moringa and Chaya along our kanaas. These two plants are grown the world over to serve in poverty alleviation Their leaves are filled with very high levels of protein, vitamins and minerals.
Kanaas are probably the main attraction of our farm. They offer us a site to grow crops year round and demonstrate a versatile method for diversifying our farm, all while maintaining its traditional use as a water level control valve. We can’t promote the widening of kanaas enough and we hope that you will consider implementing them in your paddies as we have done.