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Many indigenous farmers around the world traditionally cut down the forest and burn it in order to plant fields that will only sustain them for a few years.


In the fourth year peanuts, jerusalem artichokes or a similar root crop should be grown in the low mound that remains. If not enough organic matter remains place some fresh over top of what is there. Peanuts are best because they enrich the soil for the grains which will follow in the fifth year. Carefully remove the seed from the hull so that the seed coat is not harmed. Plant about every 6"(15cm) and keep the soil moist and weed free. Pull them after 4-5 months and let them dry in the sun. Again, leave the plants on top of the beds to decompose. Soy beans, peas or another legume could, of course, be used in place of the peanuts. In Peru we used kudzu in a two year rotation with field rice. I am not suggesting the use of kudzu in this system. But, if it is used in another rotation, the kudzu must be cut to the ground at least twice over a 10-14 day period to insure that it is killed off. If it is not it will smother whatever crop follows it.

In the fifth year you can grow a cereal crop where the beds once stood. It would be best this time to do a shallow cultivation of the soil (about 10cm) but you can plant without it. Maize(corn) is a good crop to grow because it can be intercropped with squash and beans. But, feld rice, millet, wheat or any other grain can be grown. If maize is grown, it should be interplanted with pole beans and a squash, melon gourd or other cucerbit. Plant 5-6 corn seeds every 3'(1M) and thin to the strongest 3-4 plants at each location. When the plants are about 4"(10cm) tall, plant a bean seed to climb up each plant. When the maize plants are 8"(20cm) tall plant 4-5 squash seeds mid way between every other group of maize plants. Thin these to the strongest 2 plants and train one in each direction along the bed. These plants shade the soil and the beans provide more nitrogen for the soil. And of course they both provide more food. Wait as long as possible before harvesting field corn to let it dry on the plant as much as possible(unless there is alot of rain). After removing the corn from the plant, pull off the husks and place in a crib made of sticks to finish drying. When you need to make corn meal just strip the kernals off of the ear

If you want to insure that there are no empty spots in the bed, you can presprout corn, bean and squash or pumpkin seeds before you plant them. In this way the plants are already growing when you plant them. this also requires less seed. Just place the seeds in a container and soak them overnight in water. In the morning drain off the water and then rinse them off about 3-4 times each day. in between rinsing cover the opening most of the way so that air can still move into the container, but not so much that it will dry out the seeds. After several days the seeds will sprout and you can place them into holes where you want them to grow. Do not try this with peanuts. The seeds fall apart too easily for this technique.

In the sixth year the soil should still be fertile enough to grow tomatoes, peppers or any other vegetable.

In the seventh year the whole rotation should be started over with new beds of organic matter. In temperate zones this could wait for another year or two. By now there should be six beds in various stages of decomposition growing six or more different crops. If organic matter in an advanced state of decomposition is available, the whole rotation could be set up in the first year using fresh matterial for the first three beds and the older matterial for the last three.

Remember that this is just a guide. Those using the system should adapt it for their own circumstances and crops. Hopefully those using this type of system will use their own innovations to improve upon it.