Amrut Mitti - The Living Soil
Our planet is at a dangerous tipping point in global warming. The Earth could warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial temperatures within the next two decades, says the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). According to European Environment Agency (EEA), continuing declines in soil moisture can increase the need for irrigation in agriculture and lead to smaller yields and even desertification, with potentially dramatic impacts on food production.
One of the biggest concerns is the dying soil and the excess carbon dioxide released into the air. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), restoring currently degraded soils could remove up to 63 billion tonnes of carbon, which would offset a small but significant share of global greenhouse gas emissions.
To address these challenges, Late Prof. Sripad A. Dabholkar, a mathematician turned horticulturist and environmentalist, dedicated over 40 years of his life to finding sustainable solutions and introduced to us the philosophy of Natueco Farming, a way to live in sync with nature. One of the key practices under Natueco is Soil Rejuvenation where it emphasises the need to create soil by recycling the biomass and establishing a proper energy chain. His experiments and techniques were further advanced and promoted by Late Shri. Deepak Suchde (fondly addressed as DeepakBhai), a passionate social worker known as Father of Amrut Krushi, a natueco-based farming method. Together, they have left us a remarkable legacy that can create healthy living soil to feed millions with safe, pesticide and chemical-free food.
DeepakBhai's activities at his ashram at Bajwada, Neemavar, Devas, Madhya Pradesh, and residential, hands-on training programs bought together a lot of like-minded & passionate people. It gained a foothold as a movement across various parts of India and even saw several international farmers learn and understand Natueco Farming techniques. It allowed several torchbearers to carry on the work started by DeepakBhai beyond his passing away on 31st Oct 2019. Few prominent organisations and individuals took on this task: The Malpani Trust, The Prayog Parivaar, Jitendra Kutmutia, Nitu Ben Patel, Vatsal Suchde, Tarachand Belji, and several more, as DeepakBhai had a large follower base and it would be impossible to list all.
Jitendra Kutmutia (fondly known as JituBhai) is the son of a Social Worker from the Freedom Struggle days, Shri. JamnaBen Kutmutia. She led several movements related to Cow Protection, Agriculture and held several all-India positions on various committees. She authored the book Gau-Vighyan (Cow Science), which forms the foundation for Amrut Krishi. Jitubhai is a true foot soldier of Natueco farming. He was in the same school as DeepakBhai and also had a family connection. During DeepakBhai's time, Jithubhai anchored a lot of documentation, laboratory tests and practical implementation and recorded the results and interactions with ICAR to recognise the Amrut Krishi process.
10x3x1 ft Typical Template for making Amrut Mitti. Also seen is the chopped and drenched Bio Mass. DeepakBhai in one of his training sessions
Jithubhai is an essential cornerstone of this movement. He started residential training for Natueco Farming on his farm "Nisarga Prem" at Malegaon near Nashik, Maharashtra, promoting 10 Gunta Farming & 1 Gunta farming. He aimed to inspire and motivate rural youth towards sustainable farming culture and avoid a mass exodus of youngsters to larger cities looking for livelihood. This initiative is a huge success. ICAR (Indian Centre for Agriculture Research) & NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) have accredited Jithubhai several times. His govt commissioned lab-tested organic carbon of around 3.5 in his farm soil at Nisarg Prem and Lab tested record of significant B12 content in vegetables grown with Amrut Krushi, among these. He continues to teach and share knowledge actively. I've been one of his protégés for the last ten years. He has been hugely responsible for my journey in Natueco farming, including understanding the scientific rationale and benefits of practices like Agnihotra as (Homa Therapy), much more elaborate utilisation of Amrut Jal etc. In my opinion, Jithubhai could easily be the person who has made maximum Amrut Mitti Beds in India.
Another torchbearer is Shrimati Nituben Patel, an environmentalist who has dedicated her life to the welfare of humanity through her various endeavours with a unique mission under the name Sajeevan (New Life) Organic. Nituben is determined to elevate the importance of farmers in society & to make available natural and organically grown nutritious food to the masses. She also works on projects that pave the way for women empowerment. She has also done significant work in propagating Indian Medicinal Herbs at Sajeevan Farms & by encouraging others to participate in the programs. Her dedicated and consistent effort has brought to reality a community of more than 5000+ acres of organically cultivated land that creates and uses Amrut Mitti and Amrit Jal to nurture the soil.
Thanks to close association and mentorship from Jitubhai and NituBen, it has helped me successfully implement and practice Natueco farming and more, with mentors like Dr. R.K Nair founder of Forest Creators.
Our humble Karma Bhoomi is Jaivik Farms located at Kashele, Karjat, on the outskirts of Mumbai is owned and managed by myself (Ajit Thomas along with my brothers Anil & Abi) under the privileged guidance and personal intervention from our mentors. It is an honour that Jitubhai is in love with Jaivik Farms and devotes significant time for implementation on an ongoing and regular basis.
Soil rejuvenation in nature
Soil is an excellent repository of all the nutrients needed for balanced plant growth. Nature's first concern is always to build more topsoil and protect it. A teaspoon (approx 1 gram) of productive soil contains between 100 million and 1 billion bacteria, and it has around 25000 species of bacteria and 8000 species of fungi. The microbes are the secret to the enrichment of the soil and are capable of fixing the atmospheric nitrogen to produce organic nutrients. Although the soil surface appears solid, air moves freely in and out of it. The atmosphere in the upper 8 inches of a well-drained soil renews every hour, reports Soil Factoids, US National Soil Survey Center.
Did you know? The time needed to form soil depends on the latitude and can take 100s of years. In mild climatic regions, it takes 200-400 years to form 1 cm of soil. In wet tropical areas, soil formation is faster, as it takes 200 years. And it takes 3000 years for natural soil to accumulate enough organic substances to make it fertile
Do we have the time to wait that long? How can we rejuvenate soil rich in nutrients faster without impacting our ecosystem? Read on.
It is conscious of this urgency to revive soil and our environment that Late Sh. S A Dabholkar set out to establish a system that would protect the dignity of farmers, connect us back with mother Earth, adopt sustainable methods and focus on enriching diversity.
Natueco Farming focuses on:
Harvesting energy from the Sun by creating tree canopies
Canopy management to get efficient photosynthesis
Recycling biomass to create nutrient-rich soil
The primary productivity of a farm is a critical factor that determines its productivity. Only soil with good primary productivity can harvest optimum sunlight, which helps photosynthesis in plants, the only way to get better yield with quality nutrients. Hence, the first essential step in Natueco Farming is creating nutrient-rich soil – Amrut Mitti.
Amrut Mitti, the living soil
Multiple Amrut Mitti Beds in various stages of readiness.
Amrut Mitti, also known as "living soil," consists of 70% biomass and 30% activated mineral topsoil. It is a soil full of nutrients, with a wide variety of microbes, the correct Ph, high carbon content and excellent water holding capacity.
Amrut Mitti is a process to create humus that mimics nature's system of enriching topsoil with its resources such as leaves, plants, animal dung, animal urine, and water. It is a scientifically developed method measuring soil fertility, microbial growth, energy absorption, plant geometry and more.
Preparation of Amrut Mitti starts with preparation of Amrut Jal
Amrut Jal is a solution of water, jaggery, cow dung and cow urine containing a very high number and diversity of hermetic microorganisms. The chemical elements present in Amrut Jal make the soil fertile, and these microorganisms increase the chemical and physical qualities of the soil.
Cutting up the Biomass into smaller pieces and filling the barrels to be drenched/soaked in Amrut Jal for 24 hours before being used for Amruti Mitti layering.
Amrut Mitti is a combination of Amrut Jal, biomass (C4 plants like maise, bajra, jowar, sugarcane leaves), fine topsoil, sand, seeds (maise, fenugreek, coriander, gram, mung, spinach – 10gm per square foot) and love and labour.
The process involves heap making, seed sowing, pruning, pruning again and heap turning, which takes approximately 140 to 150 days. The standard size of the heap is set at 10 ft. long, 3 ft. wide and 1 ft. high, which is a minimum recommended size to ensure the soil has breathing space.
Amrut Mitti preparation, on average, uses 400 to 600 litres for a single dump. This vast difference in average occurs due to the fluctuation of moisture levels in a heap and the rate of change of different types of organic wastes into humus (manure).
The soil converts minerals from unavailable form in biomass to available form, sand increases porosity, biomass forms manure after decomposition, seeds supply minerals, and Amrut Jal facilitates the fast decomposition of biomass.
Amrut Mitti for sustainable farming
Natueco Farming is a holistic system that is sustainable and harmonious with our environment. Growing food sustainably involves:
- caring for and regenerating soil,
- protecting biodiversity,
- shielding water bodies from pollutants, and
- creating awareness about sustainable farming practices.
Using Amrut Mitti in farms is a way of managing and building the health of the soil for sustainable crop farming. It is a sure shot way to restore depleted soil nutrients and microorganisms, fix nitrogen, improve soil structure and reduce erosion by keeping the soil covered with other beneficial effects.
"Increasing soil carbon stock is essential to achieving global food and nutrition security. This can not only enhance food production in developing countries, but it can also help improve nutritional quality. It is mainly rich with protein and essential micronutrients like iron, zinc and selenium," explains Rattan Lal, Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science at The Ohio State University. He firmly believes that improving soil health and conservation agriculture methods can help advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
JituBhai holding Amrut Mitti made at Nisarg Prem and adjacent is the Soil Analysis done by Ashwamedh Laboratory Nashik. To learn more about the process and to produce Amrut Mitti, you can write to email@example.com
A summary to help understand the Production and Utilization of Amrut Mitti
Amrut Mitti (AM) is made in a template of 10x3x1 ft. Let's call that a standard or Typical Template (TT) Length x Width x Height
Therefore, each bed has 30 Cubic Feet of Volume.
One Cubic Foot is equivalent to 27 Litres.
Hence one TT makes 27 x 30 = 810 Litre Amrut Mitti
However, shrinkage occurs depending on moisture content that dries up over a few days and recovery from sustained experience averages 600 Litres AM from a TT. Need for Living Soil Amrit Mitti per Sq ft is about 4Litres
Considering a good size Tree Canopy is 10 Sq ft, each large tree needs 40 Litres of Amrut Mitti.
So, one TT can provide for 15 Trees of 10 Sq ft Canopy.
When considering smaller Trees or plants, then we can double this assumption, say 30 small trees.
In case when we are doing a new plantation, it is sufficient to consider 15 Litres per sapling.
Therefore, one Typical Template of Amrut Mitti provides 40 Plants in a new plantation scenario.
10 TT for 400 Plants & 25 Typical Amrut Mitti Beds is adequate to plant 1000 New Trees.
After numerous experiments, the rationale for the Typical Template's size was firmed as 10x3x1 feet.
WRT dimension of the TT, Width as 3 & Height as 1 Foot are fixed and should not be changed for reasons explained below.
In the Biomass decomposition process, Lignin gets converted to Lignoproteins, which needs moisture and free air movement. After focussed study and several experiments it was found that, 1.5 feet from both sides & the top is best suited for this process. Hence 3 feet is fixed as the overall width.
After thorough studies it was found that stacking thin layer of biomass drenched for 24 hrs in Amrut Jal, followed by a layer of topsoil (about ¼ of the biomass thickness) had significant self-weight. It was observed and concluded that the self-weight beyond 9 inches of several such stacked layers, it becomes less friendly for the free movement of the microbes and earthworms. Therefore 9 Inches became kind of ideal from the load perspective.
Another important factor considered was that the feeder roots of most trees stay within 9 to 12 inches of topsoil to draw nutrients. Hence after 9 inches of layering, shaders (group of 6 plants representing six core flavours) are grown on top that forms 3 inches (total 12 inches or 1 foot) once they are ready to be chopped and mixed as green Bio-Mass.
One can increase the length, however, since the other two factors being constant, its better to fix the third dimension also as it helps in projecting input-output timing & other details. Hence after several trials, the typical template length was firmed as 10 Feet.