I have been in a bit of discussion over at "reflexiones finales" on farming in a non-mechanized manner
Russell started out with this:
India's rice revolution
John Vidal, The Guadian (U.K.), 16 February 2013 (hat tip: NC)
Instead of planting three-week-old rice seedlings in clumps of three or four in waterlogged fields, as rice farmers around the world traditionally do, the Darveshpura farmers carefully nurture only half as many seeds, and then transplant the young plants into fields, one by one, when much younger. Additionally, they space them at 25cm intervals in a grid pattern, keep the soil much drier and carefully weed around the plants to allow air to their roots. The premise that "less is more" was taught by Rajiv Kumar, a young Bihar state government extension worker who had been trained in turn by Anil Verma ofProfessional Assistance for Development Action, an Indian NGO which has introduced the SRI method to hundreds of villages in the past three years.
For a better explanation of the method used, go hereWhile the "green revolution" that averted Indian famine in the 1970s relied on improved crop varieties, expensive pesticides and chemical fertilisers, SRI appears to offer a long-term, sustainable future for no extra cost. With more than one in seven of the global population going hungry and demand for rice expected to outstrip supply within 20 years, it appears to offer real hope. Even a 30% increase in the yields of the world's small farmers would go a long way to alleviating poverty.
There were some other comments, but the debate got me thinking.
Farming is hard work, but the methods that we use are depend of burning fossil fuels to decrease the workload and increase the yield. Before that, farmers used many other methods to increase yield, but they all centered around a series of technologies that were pretty poorly understood at the time (composting, fertilizing, monoculture, etc.)
I highly recommend that you go here and download a full text copy of "The One Straw Revolution" by Manusobu Fukuoka.
You will have to go out yourself and read it, you will have to decide whether there is merit (I would highly recommend the "scientific method", while it is somewhat out of style, it is pretty reliable)
I think that the old gentleman who wrote this book knew what he was talking about. I spent some time in my Asia-travels to got to his farm and look. I does appear to work well. It is very hard work, but it is a lot less labor intensive than the methods used by peasant farmers in the past. It requires no fossil fuels, no chemical fertilizers.
I would highly recommend trying the method on for size. It does seem to work. It does offer a lot