Trained as a microbiologist in his native Japan, he began his career as a soil scientist specializing in plant pathology. At age 25, he began to doubt the wisdom of modern agricultural science. He eventually quit his job as a research scientist, and returned to his family’s farm on the island of Shikoku in Southern Japan to grow organic mikans. From that point on he devoted his life to developing a unique small scale organic farming system that does not require weeding, pesticide or fertilizer applications, or tilling.
Fukuoka practices a system of farming he refers to as “natural farming”. Although some of his practices are specific to Japan, the governing philosophy of his method has successfully been applied around the world. In India, natural farming is often referred to as “Rishi Kheti.”
The essence of Fukuoka’s method is to reproduce natural conditions as closely as possible. There is no plowing, as the seed germinates quite happily on the surface if the right conditions are provided. There is also considerable emphasis on maintaining diversity. A ground cover of white clover grows under the grain plants to provide nitrogen. Weeds (and Daikons) are also considered part of the ecosystem, periodically cut and allowed to lie on the surface so the nutrients they contain are returned to the soil. Ducks are let into the grain plot, and specific insectivorous carp into the rice paddy at certain times of the year to eat slugs and other pests.
The ground is always covered. As well as the clover and weeds, there is the straw from the previous crop, which is used as mulch, and each grain crop is sown before the previous one is harvested. This is done by broadcasting the seed among the standing crop. Also he re-introduced the ancient technique of seed balls. The seed for next season’s crop is mixed with clay, compost, and sometimes manure, and formed into small balls. The result is a denser crop of smaller but highly productive and stronger plants.
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