Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

ragi - processing and onwards

as promised on ragi-update, we are a month down from that post and bring to you our ragi post-harvest processing post.

we harvested the ragi in 3 installments due to differential maturing.
this is typically not the norm and is less efficient, but the field was a non-uniform one in terms of fertility, mulch cover and density of cow-pea planted as inter-crop.

ragi processing is quite simple and a fun exercise.

step 1 - maturing the ears
the harvested ears of ragi is piled up as a heap onto a cloth, tied up and allowed to steam inside for 3-4 days. this process matures the batch and all the ears become a beautiful uniform brown.
care is to be taken to ensure that the ears are dry when harvesting, no water ingress in this process and the harvest must be done only in dry weather conditions.

here is the pile

close-up of heap

no this is not our laundry

and they all are brown

after this maturing, the ragi ears are thoroughly dried. depending on the time of the year, this could last 1-4 days.

now the fun part.
those who have driven through rural india would have certainly noticed straw-like grasses spread out on the road and vehicles trampling them.
this is the classic method of loosening the grains.

in our case, we simulated that process by whacking with a log aka threshing.

after adequate bashing up, the pile looks like this. most of the grains would have settled down towards the bottom of the pile and the chaff at the top.

then we winnow. we use the wind to separate the heavier grain from the lighter chaff as we drop it from a height.

and when done, the grain remains on the tarpaulin and the chaff gets blown around the tarp.depending on the breeze, this process completed over 90% of the separation.

and whatever chaff remains is eliminated via the manual winnow.

and here we have the grain and the chaff.

our total harvest was around 12 kgs. considering that this was the second cropping attempt in this field, and the limited amount of external fertility we were able to add, and for a bunch of rookie farmers, this crop is an unqualified success :-)

our field was around 1/20 of an acre (approx 2500 sq feet).
the yield from an acre varies from 1000-1500 kgs.
so our field should have yielded 50-75 kgs of ragi and hence we are at 20% productivity levels.

we have a list of improvements for the next time.
1. soil fertility. add fertility prior to crop growing via cover crops, extra mulching, green manure and cowdung manure addition. over some years, the soil will reach and maintain its own optimal level of fertility as we move to fukuoka's natural farming approach.
2. transplanting density. we planted the saplings at 9 inch gaps. this will be halved.
3. intercrop. definitely not using cow pea as intercrop. explore other nitrogen fixing small bush type crops.

we are now enjoying our ragi koozhu breakfasts even more.


SurveySan said...

good work.

how are the trees coming along? i am a big fan of big trees. i am yet to grow my fascination towards food crops :)

Arjun said...

the kerala agricultural university has a nice site on recommended practices.

should be useful in parts... though i must admit that the methods are a bit chemical intensive. also the bit about ragi is hardly a few lines, maybe because there isn't much ragi in kerala.

Anonymous said...

Can natural farming provide better yields than industrial farming? Guess lots of people are also watching how point return compares with conventional farming. But it is good that you are not worried about pesticides in your ragi, and probably the low yield equals better taste?

csm said...

ss - trees are doing well. it will be a decade before the big trees become big :-)

arjun - will check.

anon - do read 'the natural way of farming' by fukuoka. your queries on yields etc will be more than adequately answered :-)

nisha said...

Congrats Dudes and Dudess! 12kgs sounds very good and the grains look very healthy. With sustainable farming, yields go only in one direction. You could try Nari Payaru next time as a live mulch. It's a winter crop when it comes to yields but will germinate in any season.

SC said...

Should I worry about pesticide in ragi powder? We give lots of ragi to our daughter, and we also eat it regularly for breakfast.

csm said...

nisha - many thanks...
sc - at worst ragi is grown commercially with fertlisers. it is not commercially viable to use insecticides.
but you could safeguard with organic ragi.

SC said...

Thanks! Not sure where you can get organic ragi in the US, will look around.

sam said...

I am not sure if Ragi is as nitrogen intensive plant as rice. So a choice of legume as intercrop may not be a good one. As far as my observation goes, ragi grows better on slopes. Also the soil needs to be calcium rich. So bone meal, discarded eggshells and other such preperations before sowing should help.

sam said...

As far as my observations have been, ragi may not be as nitrogen intensive crop as rice. So maybe a legume intercrop is erroneous. and the nature of ragi to grow on hard mountain slope soils suggest the soil should be calcium & iron rich. maybe discarded eggshells, bonemeal etc. can help if mixed into the soil prior to transplanting.