Masanobu Fukuoka (福岡 正信 Fukuoka Masanobu), born February 2,1914, author of The One-Straw Revolution, The Road Back to Nature and The Natural Way Of Farming, is one of the pioneers of no-till grain cultivation. His system is referred to as "natural farming", Fukuoka Farming, or the Fukuoka Method.


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 organic farming system that does not require weeding, pesticide or fertilizer applications, or tilling.

The timing and circumstances of Fukuoka's conversion from Western agricultural science, parallels the new movement in the 1940s to organic farming and gardening in Europe and the US, led by pioneers like Lady Eve Balfour, Sir Albert Howard, and J.I. Rodale (founder of Rodale Press). However, it should be remembered that Fukuoka himself does not believe that he is an organic farmer:

"The problem, however, is that most people do not yet understand the distinction between organic gardening and natural farming. Both scientific agriculture and organic farming are basically scientific in their approach. The boundary between the two is not clear." (The Road Back to Nature page 363)

At 92, Fukuoka still manages to lecture when he can, as recently at the 2005 World Expo in Aïchi, Japan.


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 (土団子,土だんご,Tsuchi Dango {Earth Dumpling}). The seed for next season's crop is mixed with clay, compost, and manure then formed into small balls. Much less seed is used than in conventional growing, resulting in fewer but larger and stronger plants.

The Fukuoka method is not suited to growing large quantities of grain, like those presently produced in the industrialised world by means of large-scale mechanization. However, the vast majority of this grain goes to feed animals (which could be more efficiently fed by diverse forage systems),and the quantity used for direct human consumption could be grown by the Fukuoka method.


In Japan, the Fukuoka method has produced similar yields to chemically grown crops and much work has already been done to adapt it to European conditions, including the work of French farmer Marc Bonfils. It is essentially a small-scale style of growing, suited to small-holdings, as it is one of those methods in which attention to detail replaces heavy work. It takes a great deal of skill to work with grain, clover and weeds in such a way that each fulfills its function in the system without becoming over-vigorous and crowding out one of the others. But all the work involved can easily be done by hand, and labor is reduced by up to 80% compared to other methods.



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