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Natural Farming is based on 5 main principles. Read more about them below.

The source of the principles on this page: The One-Straw Revolution (Masanobu Fukuoka, October 1975)


“That is, no plowing or turning of the soil. For centuries, farmers have assumed that the plow is essential for growing crops. However, non cultivation is fundamental to natural farming. The earth cultivates itself naturally by means of the penetration of plant roots and the activity of microorganisms, small animals, and earthworms.

When the soil is cultivated the natural environment is altered beyond recognition. The repercussions of such acts have caused the farmer nightmares for countless generations. For example, when a natural area is brought under the plow very strong weeds such as crabgrass and docks sometimes come to dominate the vegetation. When these weeds take hold, the farmer is faced with a nearly impossible task of weeding each year. Very often, the land is abandoned.

In coping with problems such as these, the only  sensible approach is to discontinue the unnatural practices which have brought about the situation in the first place. The farmer also has a responsibility to repair the damage he has caused. Cultivation of the soil should be discontinued. If gentle measures such as spreading straw and sowing clover are practiced, instead of using man-made chemicals and machinery to wage a war of annihilation, then the  environment will move back toward its natural balance and even troublesome weeds can be brought under control.”

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“No chemical fertilizer or prepared compost.

People interfere with nature, and, try as they may, they cannot heal the resulting wounds. Their careless farming practices drain the soil of essential nutrients and the result is yearly depletion of the land. If left to itself, the soil maintains its fertility naturally, in accordance with the orderly cycle of plant and animal life.

If nature is left to itself, fertility increases. Organic remains of plants and animals accumulate and are decomposed on the surface by bacteria and fungi. With the movement of rainwater, the nutrients are taken deep into the soil to become food for microorganisms, earthworms and other small animals. Plant roots reach to the lower soil strata and draw the nutrients back up to the surface.

If you want to get an idea of the natural fertility of the earth, take a walk to the wild mountainside sometime and look at the giant trees that grow without fertilizer and without cultivation. The fertility of nature, as it is, is beyond reach of the imagination.

Cut down the natural forest cover, plant Japanese red pine or cedar trees for a few generations, and the soil will become depleted and open to erosion. On the other hand, take a barren mountain with poor, red clay soil, and plant pine or cedar with a ground cover of clover and alfalfa. As the green manure enriches and softens the soil, weeds and  bushes grow up below the trees, and a rich cycle of regeneration is begun. There are instances in which the top four inches of soil have become enriched in less than ten years.

For growing agricultural crops, also, the use of prepared fertilizer can be discontinued. For the most part, a permanent green manure cover and the return of all the straw and chaff to the soil will be sufficient.”


“No weeding by tillage or herbicides.

Weeds play their part in building soil fertility and in balancing the biological community. As a fundamental principle, weeds should be controlled, not eliminated. Straw mulch, a ground cover of white clover interplanted with the crops, and temporary flooding provide effective weed control in my fields.

Here are some key points to remember in dealing with weeds:

As soon as cultivation is discontinued, the number of weeds decreases sharply. Also, the varieties of weeds in a given field will change.

If seeds are sown while the preceding crop is still ripening in the field, those seeds will germinate ahead of the weeds. Winter weeds sprout only after the rice has been harvested, but by that time the winter grain already has a head start. Summer weeds sprout right after the harvest of barley and rye, but the rice is already growing strongly. Timing the seeding in such a way that there is no interval between succeeding crops gives the grain a great advantage over the weeds. Directly after the harvest, if the whole field  is covered with straw, the germination of weeds is stopped short. White clover sowed with the grain as a ground cover also helps to keep weeds under control. The usual way to deal with weeds is to cultivate the soil. But when you  cultivate, seeds lying deep in the soil, which would never have germinated otherwise, are stirred up and given a  chance to sprout. Furthermore, the quick-sprouting, fast growing varieties are given the advantage under these conditions. So you might say that the farmer who tries to  control weeds by cultivating the soil is, quite literally,  sowing the seeds of his own misfortune.“

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“No dependence on chemicals.

From the time that weak plants developed as a result of such unnatural practices as plowing and fertilizing, disease and insect imbalance became a great problem in agriculture. Nature, left alone, is in perfect balance. Harmful insects and plant diseases are always present, but do not occur in nature to an extent which requires the use of poisonous chemicals. The sensible approach to disease and insect control is to grow sturdy crops in a healthy environment.

Let us say that there are still some people who think that if chemicals are not used, their fruit trees and field crops will wither before their very eyes. The fact of the matter is that by using these chemicals, people have unwittingly brought about the conditions in which this unfounded fear may become reality.

No matter how hard people try, they cannot improve upon naturally grown fruits and vegetables. Produce grown in an unnatural way satisfies people’s fleeting desires but weakens the human body and alters the body chemistry so that it is dependent upon such foods. When this happens, vitamin supplements and medicines become necessary. This situation only creates hardships for the farmer and suffering for the consumer.”


“Almost everyone thinks that “nature” is a good thing, but few can grasp the difference between natural and unnatural.

If a single new bud is snipped off a fruit tree with a pair of scissors, that may bring about disorder which cannot be undone. When growing according to the natural form, branches spread alternately from the trunk and the leaves receive sunlight uniformly. If this sequence is disrupted the branches come into conflict, lie one upon another and become tangled, and the leaves wither in the places where the sun cannot penetrate. Insect damage develops. If the tree is not pruned the following year more withered branches will appear.

Human beings with their tampering do something wrong, leave the damage unrepaired, and when the adverse results accumulate, work with all their might to correct them. When the corrective actions appear to be successful, they come to view these measures as splendid accomplishments. People do this over and over again.

To allow a fruit tree to follow its natural form from the beginning is best. The tree will bear fruit every year and there is no need to prune. A citrus tree follows the same pattern of growth as a cedar or pine, that is, a single central trunk growing straight with branches spreading out alternately. Of course all varieties of citrus do not grow to exactly the same size and shape.

Trees weaken and are attacked by insects to the extent that they deviate from the natural form.

If trees are growing along a pattern of unnatural development and are left abandoned in this state, the branches become tangled and insect damage results.

But if the trees are gradually corrected, they will return at least approximately to their natural form. The trees become stronger and measures to control insects become unnecessary. If a tree is planted carefully and allowed to follow the natural form from the beginning, there is no need for pruning or sprays of any kind. Most seedling trees have been pruned or their roots have been damaged at the nursery before they are transplanted to the orchard, which makes pruning necessary right from the start.”

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