ZBNF Mulching
The Third wheel of the ZBNF is Mulching. Mulching has two types. first, live mulching of the plants and second by the agricultural west.

Mulching in ZBNF method is covering the topsoil with cover crop and crop residues or applying a layer of organic material to the soil surface in order to prevent water evaporation, and to contribute to soil humus formation. Mulching in ZBNF takes various forms. “Live mulching” is promoted with cover crops of a mix of monocotyledons (like millets) and leguminous dichotyledons (like beans). The monocots provide nutrients like potash or phosphate, while the dicots help in nitrogen-fixing. Straw mulching is also promoted, using dry crop residue (Palekar, 2006; Khadse and Rosset, 2019).

When we apply Jiwamrita to the soil, we add 500 crore micro-organisms to the soil. All these are beneficial effective microbes. Our soil is saturated with all the nutrients. But these are in the non-available form to the roots of the plants. These micro-organisms convert these non-available form nutrients into available form, when we add Jiwamrita to the soil. These micro-organisms available all the nutrients (Nitrogen, Phosphate, Potash, Iron, Sulphur, Calcium etc) to the roots of the plant. After applying Jiwamrita to the soil, the local earthworms start their work. These earthworms bring the nutrients from 15 feet deeper soil to the upper surface and get available to the roots. How the trees from the forest get all these nutrients? These local earthworms and other insects do this work. These uncountable micro-organisms, insects and earthworms work only when they have a favorable definite microclimate i.e. 25 to 32 °C temperature, 65 to 72 % moisture and darkness, warmth and deception in the soil. When we much mulch the soil, this microclimate is created automatically.

There are three types of Mulching:

  • Soil Mulching
  • Straw Mulching
  • Live Mulching

Importance of Soil Mulching:

  • It is necessary to create the microclimate under which micro-organisms can well develop.
  • It conserves humidity of the soil , cools it and protects its micro-organisms.
  • Mulching promotes humus formation, suppresses weeds and maintain the water requirement of crops.

Soil Mulching (Cultivation)
There are three purposes of the cultivation. To circulate the air in the soil, to stop the raindrops to flow and to conserve them in the soil and to control the weeds. Because, the oxygen is essential to the roots and micro-organisms in the soil. Conserved rain water storage is essential for the growth of the crops and the stoppage of the rainwater flow to restrict the topsoil erosion. Weeds are to be controlled to stop the competition of the weeds with the crops for water vapour and sunlight. Not for food. Because mother soil is ‘Annapurna’. In the nature, there is no any competition for food in between any two plants. If, it is the truth that, the aeration and soil moisture is essential for the roots and soil micro-organisms, then, the cultivation should be practiced in that soil layer, in which, these feeding roots and micro-organisms are active. In which layer these roots and soil biota are active? They are active in the top most 4.5 to 6 inch (10 to 15 cm) topsoil layer. So, the cultivation of the soil should be practiced in only this 10 to 15 cm layer. Bellow this layer, there are stock roots, not feeding roots! Air and moisture is essential for only feeding roots, not for stock roots.

Straw Mulching (Cultivation)
In Hemanta Ritu, the seeds become matured. At the same time, the leaves start to mature totally. The green leaves now start to change in pale yellow and then whitish yellow colour. During this colour changing process, the tap roots and secondary godown roots lift up the four nutrients i.e. nitrogen, phosphate, potash and magnesium from the yellowish leaves and deposit them in to their godown (Godown roots). But, rest of the nutrients remains in the leaves. Why the roots lift these nutrients from the leaves and deposit in the godown roots? There is reason. Please, understand one thing, that nature never does any thing without purpose and preplan. Nature wants to supply these four prominent nutrients to the ratoons in next generation by this uplifting and depositing in the godown roots. This cover of dried straw biomass of the previous plants or crops is called straw mulching. By this straw mulching cover, the nature has achieved so many targets. First, the seeds are covered by this straw mulching to save from birds, insects and animals. Second, the microclimate is created to activate the micro-organisms and local earthworms. Third, the favorable condition is created to decompose the godown roots and to prepare the humas stock in the soil for future new crop generation as a reserve bank. Fourth, the soil moisture is conserved in the soil and transpiration of soil moisture is restricted for the continuous soil micro-organisms utilization. Fifth, the humas saturated soil particles and soil biota in the upper most 10 cm layer of soil surface are saved from the severe heat waves of sunlight in Grishma Ritu (summer), from cold winds in Winter Ritu and from heavy stormy rain drops of pre-mansoon and mansoon raindrops; which spring forward with the dreary demon speed of 7 meter (30 feet) per second on the soil!

Live Mulching
Live mulching means that intercrops and mixed crops, which give the symbiosis to the host main crop. In the nature there is a symbiosis. All vegetation is a whole family and each member plant is dependent to other plant. In forest, you will see that, there is a five-layer system. Big tree, medium tree, bush, grasses and layer of fallen dried leaves on the surface of land. All five layers are dependent upon each other. Grasses are growing in the shadow of bush or shrub. Shrubs are growing in the shadow of medium tree. Medium tree is growing in the shadow of big tree. All are living. If they are living without any family disputes, without any debates, it is the symptom of symbiosis. Nature has managed all vegetation family members in two groups. Those like shadow and those do not like shadow. The grass family monocot crops like paddy, wheat, Juar, sugarcane, Bajra, Ragi, Maize, millets and monocot grasses do not like shadow. They like full sunlight. They can grow in highest intensity of sunlight also. But, spices crops do not like straight sunlight. They want shadow or low intensity of sunlight. Some fruit trees like Grapes, Pomegranate, Orange group, Banana, Sapota, Mango, Areca nut, Betel nut, Cardamom, Nutmeg, Clove tree, Coffee and other do not like full sunlight. They live and grow in low intensity of sunlight. The mixed crop pattern of Monocot in Dicot & Dicot in Monocot helps to supply the essential elements to the crops. The Dicot supplies Nitrogen by means of nitrogen fixing bacteria & Monocot supplies other elements like Potash, Phosphate, Sulphur etc.

Videos on Mulching Practices in ZBNF