Vol.2, No.3, 341-346 (2011) Agricultural Sciences
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/AS/
Paddy field soil conservation: Indian historical practices
Deepak Bhattacharya
Head-Oddisi Research Laboratory, C/O Sri Radha Krishna, Bhubaneswar, India; Corresponding Author: oddisilab1@dataone.in
Received 28 January 2011; revised 5 July 2011; accepted 29 July 2011.
India is an ancient land having high seasonal
rain fall (4 months rain & 8 months dry), has
paddy cultivation. Becauses silt-sand separa-
tion; buoyant sand gets carried; silt aggluti-
nates. Rill fluid dissolves agglutinated soil;
vectors as silt degradation. Indian farmer has
unique agricultural field conservation; soil cum
fertility maintenance/regeneration heritage; also
use the stubble and cow dung (cellulose) as
binder cum multi purpose in-field uses. Eco-
nomic; ecologically safe; and not discussed
earlier. Good tool for altruistic administrations.
Keywords: Stubble; Cow Dung; Paddy;
Multi-Crops; Heavy Monsoon Rains; Soil
Abbreviation: Soil MoistureSM; Rain FallRF;
Outgoing Long Waves RadiationOLR
India an ancient nation having a continuous settled
agriculture type of civilization for last few millennia is
intently agricultural even to this day. During the same
period numerous civilizations have risen and fallen. The
Indian civilization continues. India is also known as
Orient and rice (paddy: Oryza Sativa Linn) is the gift of
the Orient. Paddy cultivation requires inundation which
in turn requires copious rain. Much of India is also high
land and has good gradient [1]. Has an annual average
rain fall of the order ranging between 300 mm and 1500
mm [2]. The annual gross rain fall and surface run off to
the sea being of the order 400 billion m3 [3]. But copious
rain is also associated with soil degradation and erosion.
Indian (Hindus specially) are also world wide known for
their ancient scientific knowledge base [4]. India’s
population has been leaping forward, and stress on land
forms is mounting. Indian administration is often seen
giving more priority to welfare of its Govt. employees
than to the common man. Therefore, discussing time
vetted, economically and ecologically safe practices is
called for urgently. In this communication we examine
how the native Indians have been conserving soil-bio
mass. We report few unique practices and discuss the
underlying scientific reasons.
SM loss arises out of heat wave. India has 8 months of
no rain period of which 4 months is noted for dry winds
from the north-west (middle-east). In the rural, the na-
tives of India do not use any term that can directly be
associated with SM, which arises out of narrow agro-
nomic consideration. They use the term murtika sanrak-
shana (soil conservation), which socio-culturally is a
holistic usage. We again note Sri Balabhadra/Baldev/
Baldeo is the jaistha (senior most)—incarnation of Lord
Siva Mahadeva (the supreme Hindu God) in his (former)
farmer format, holding a ploughshare. Alike a farmer, his
is a well built personage of impeccable character. So, the
supreme Hindu God head in India is a farmer, indeed. In
relation to our caption, we may aver that ancient India
had given much importance to farming and to the farm-
ers. In this segment we consider as to how the native
Indian farmer has been coping with the principal under-
lying cause of ‘SM loss’ and how we have been inspired
i.e. we discuss few tangible cum intangible heritage as-
pects. We then raise the question, what then has been the
historical practice to retain soil moisture and to arrest
soil erosion/field degradation? We note that, historically,
the Indian and specially the east coast farmer (case of
excess RF + prolonged dry + acute heat) has devised
time tested methods to arrest soil erosion and top soil
recharge. Herein the term ‘farmer’ denotes settlement
based life (which in India is at the least 2 millennia old,
recorded) and not podu (burn) nor jhum (shifting culti-
Figure 1 is that of a small segment of a plot on dt.01-
D. Bhattacharya / Agricultural Science 2 (2011) 341-346
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/AS/
Figure 1. Stubble on field; post harvest period.
Figure 2. Stubble less field; post harvest period (nearby loca-
tion of Figure 1).
03, 2007, well post removal of crop to khala (stock yard),
location district Angul (central Odisa; onset of heat wave
period). The field has good clay soil (chikita mati). Mono
crop, rice cultivation has been practiced in this field for
last few centuries (as far back as memory of the local
native can go). The field has been left fallow, because of
rain fed, subsistence type, and mono cropping practice (to
be cultivated in next year rainy season). We can see the
fresh off shoots from around the stubble. The soil looks
moist, a fresh crack has evolved; the green shoots looks
healthy. The cracks seem to avoid the location of the
stubbles. Our Figure 2 is that of another plot in the
neighbourhood (within a range of 500 mts) that has no
stubble and has reddish type soil texture. Photographs
are taken at the same period (01-03, 2007). We see that
in the stubble less field even the low regions have more
cracks (caking) than the upper regions. Our Figure 3 is
that of the stubble filed (F-1 region) re-exposed during
the Rajo festival period (mid June) i.e. pre next cultiva-
tion cycle [5], which is a non baroclinic period, whence
invariably the coastal regions receive premonsoon show-
ers. We can see that the stubble in the field is virtually
Figure 3. Stubble field as in Figure 1, re-exposed post field
preparatory seasonal rains.
indiscernible (decomposed into soil). Instead a green
carpet is noted with no sign of soil moisture stress or soil
denudation or even surface erosion. During the same
period the red soil, stubble less field (F-2) wore a deso-
late look with heightened caking, rills all over our erst-
while designate place (photo not included). Pre monsoon
showers had inflicted remarkable surface level changes.
We think that the contrast between Figures 2 and 3
could primarily be caused by the stubbles and the
pre-monsoon showers have rejuvenated the green carpet
although the soil had caked limitedly. K. G. Vernekar,
et.al. [6] have indicated that SM and vegetation effect
atmospheric boundary layer and land surface processes.
We relate with evolution of refractile ecology and
socio-economic stress. In other words this results in tur-
bulence and becauses rain.
We raise the question, why should the soil crack? And
cake (disassociate from the ground)? Surface soil mois-
ture is the water that is in the upper 10 cm of the soil,
whereas root zone soil moisture is the water that is
available to plants, which is generally considered to be
200 cm downwards from the top surface of the soil. SM
is expressed in ‘%’, wherein 75% - 100% means ‘wet -
muddy’ and forms ball when clasped by (bare) palm. We
also found that as evapotranspiration proceeds from the
surface due to top heating from astronomical source, the
soil looses mass, shrinks in volume. Loss of fluid makes
the soil less elastic. Yet, no work has been done on the
surface. However there has been loss of volume in terms
of fluid loss via the top surface which is (also) work
done—beneath the surface (due capillary motion). Dry-
ing, i.e. loss of volume proceeds from the top. Physical
property between the surface (hard) and the inner soil
(soft) take a paradigm shift. The dried surface area has to
remain constant (or else it is not hard). Moisture stratifi-
cation happens. Soil is permeable, due osmosis moisture
must flow out. The contrast of physical property (vol-
D. Bhattacharya / Agricultural Science 2 (2011) 341-346
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/AS/
ume: mass) between the outer and the inner layers of the
soil leads to infractions (internal fractions). In fact the
infractions are ‘shear cracks’ due to opposing longitudi-
nal forces. The point of least resistance is the point of
shearing. But, soil is homogenous. Therefore, internal
binders act as resistors. In order to retain surface archi-
tecture (which was formed when soil had higher plastic-
ity) the (dry) surface has to crack and readjust to the new
volume: mass conditions of the underlying strata. Sub-
sequently, it is through these cracks moisture from inner
layers start escaping into the atmosphere (which has a
lower relative humidity). Soil masses around which fine
cracks have developed experiences heightened SM loss
from enhancing depths. Differential contraction and
variable shrinking from all sides (which) also assists in
irregular cracking, widening, gets isolated as a ‘cake’.
The cake undergoes moisture loss from all around its
edges and along the inner line of disassociation as com-
pared to the top-exposed mid regions; this creates the
(unique) pan shaped cake. Decrease in surface area
(concave architecture) occurs to reduce the area that is
incident to astronomical heating. It is a preferred (natural)
thermodynamic architecture. This in turn acts as a ‘ob-
ject for frying’ and finally disassociates from the lower
strata with SM loss > 80%. Powderisation process and
wind’s erosive action then start registering. Sand silt
separation sets in. Process desertification has been initi-
In contrast to such mechanics, wherever available, the
stubble roots hold soil in clumps, acts as capillary path-
ways for soil moisture translocation. Therefore, superfi-
cial roots act as ‘resistors, while the stubble acts as ae-
rial(s) for evapo-transpiration and also provide limited
shade to the soil. The stubble being porous weatherized
hay acts as an insulator of heat, with a hollowed centre
made of long fiber cellulose. It acts as antennas (pro-
jecting into the air mass) and traps ground skimming
cum escaping moisture from the vicinity, and re-trans-
locates back into the soil by reverse capillary mechanism
towards the parched soil, post dawn every day few
hours into the pre-noon. Further, during dusk to dawn
period, nocturnally condensation occurs on the aerial
stubble. Such moisture is also reverse translocated back
into the root base soil. Overtime, the entire blocks of the
stubble cum roots turn into soil, pre next field prepara-
tion. When admixed in soil, the stubble also act as
‘moisture retainers’, apart from its initial ‘binder’ role.
Therefore, stubble less plain surface (although it offers
least surface area) leads to more cracking, caking, rill
formation even during pre-monsoon showers and exten-
sive top soil loss. We also note that feet trampled (pug
marked) semi-dried undulated surface (Figure 3) offer
variable angles to the radiant Sun, create micro shadow
areas and also down regulate OLR. Therefore wet land,
moist land and standing crop fields respectively give out
less OLR, create scope for lot much work done in the
land-atmosphere couple; impede process barocilinic.
Two experiments were done of which one was to ver-
ify the heritage practices of the Indian farmer. An seg-
mented tray was taken. Two sample of identical volume
of soil was collected from the field as in Figure 3. Sam-
ples of neat soil were made wet and poured into the seg-
ment marked ‘A’ of the tray. Into another neat soil of
identical volume was admixed 5% hay and 5% dry cow
dung by volume and stirred to uniformity with identical
amount of water and poured into the segment marked
‘C’ of the tray ( to viewer’s right Figure 4). The tray was
left to dry in hot summer of May (Bhubaneswar: +20.5°/
+85.82°). After 7 days, the photograph was exposed. We
can see that segment ‘C’ which contains 5% hay and 5%
dry cow dung (as alike the usage by the Indian farmer)
has developed less cracks, although both the samples are
dried to a moisture content of less than 5%. Therefore,
the historical practice of adding cow dung, burnt plant
matter (variously treated cellulose) and retaining the
stubble is deemed applied science.
On field study, it is noted that the agriculture fields
seem to retain loam and finer silt comes to the top when
Figure 4. In-lab demonstration of soil binding effect of dried
stubble & cow dung (cellulose).
D. Bhattacharya / Agricultural Science 2 (2011) 341-346
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/AS/
wet. The sand seem to flow away towards the peripher-
ies. We raise a question why? An experiment was con-
ducted in the field. A block of soil was dug out from the
field as in Figure 3 and deposited on the surface (Figure
5). It was allowed to get exposed to natural weathering
process for only 2 weeks. We can see in Figure 5 that
sand has come to the top. Figure 6 is that of post 6
months (spring and pre-monsoon shower exposed). We
can see sand has virtually been washed/removed. Loam
has formed as a pack and has yet not experienced any
denudation/scouring/rill formation. Figure 7 is post 14
months, we can see that loam is appearing as very sticky
and has experienced extensive scouring and rill forma-
tion. Hence we may say that sand (silica particulates)
being more buoyant due to less specific gravity than silt
particulates (which are finer), get to top when fluid is
added to solid (soil). Loam adsorbs water and then de-
velops a binding property, while silica does not. So, fluid
action is the cause. Moreover, fluid thrust on larger sur-
faces (herein sand particles) is more linear (Pascal effect)
while on smaller surfaces (herein loam) it is more non
linear (non Newtonian effect). However, sand is very
important as a constituent as it also (limitedly) acts as a
binder and thermal regulator (silica property). In the
stubble field however, the sand that is expressed to the
surface during inter-crop periods eventually fall and sink
into the cracks/crevasse and get re-assimilated into the
soil matrix. There is a no loss. It is a loop. Hence allow-
ing a inter-crop period is good for soil conservation!
This is history of soil conservation applied science.
Addition of water (RF) makes soil buoyant (gain vol-
ume). Constituent sand (silica) has lower specific gravity;
greater surface area becomes relatively more buoyant
and is pneumatically raised to the upper regions (quench-
ing stage dependant). Whereas, constituent silt (the ma-
Figure 5. Sand particulates come to the surface and silt clumps
and sinks in exposed soil (non rain).
Figure 6. Sand particulates are washed away and silt clumps
(as in Figure 5) and sinks in soil exposed to initial rainy sea-
Figure 7. Silt clumps (as in Figure 5); appearing very sticky,
has experienced extensive scouring and rill formation post
expouser to full rainy season (Indian monsoon).
jor component by weight & also greater bulk density)
sinks deeper. This is mechanical. Separation is potenti-
ated and occurs if there be alternating wet-dry spells.
Buoyant sand gets carried easily and earlier (than silt)
D. Bhattacharya / Agricultural Science 2 (2011) 341-346
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/AS/
during initial rain. Thereafter, the kinetic energy com-
ponent of a rain drop (on ground hit) gets fractionated
efficiently (due greater cross section of the sand particu-
late that populates the upper regions) and dissipates into
the crystalline structure(s); radiating upwards (towards
lower bulk density). Whereas, the cohesive mass of the
silt segment develops a shock wave type behavior, radi-
ating downwards (towards higher density) leading to
compaction. All this are due to the imparted energy.
Tropo-Equatorial RF is marked by large droplets; free-
falling from higher altitudes (convective clouds). Again,
in cultivable soils, acids have affinity for the silt com-
ponent, and alkalis have for the silica (inert). Injection of
adequate neutral fluid (viz. RF) generates a surfactant
effect. Water washes additionally. All this happen pre rill
Silt also agglutinates and tends to clump. Rain water
being Newtonian fluid when energized, exhibits cen-
trifugal property until dissipation of the kinetic compo-
nent. This additionally assists separation, mechanically.
Post rain, low energy surface flow only dissolves and
carries silt. In agitated state the carrying capacity of
Newtonian fluids rises exponentially. Rill forms due to
significant amount of unhindered flowing fluid (period
& volume of surface flow). Rill fluid is in hyper agitated
state. It is stream flow having significant velocity (high
energy/Reynolds). Scours and dissolves the agglutinated
material and vectors the (silt). This results in land form
degradation. Stubble robustly down-regulates all the
stages, even rill formation. Stubble is a formidable bar-
rier. Stubble field is the secret behind the historically
well conserved soils.
The eastern coastal district of Ganjam in Odisa, India
has a decadal annual average RF of only 800 mm and
yet is the granary of that province. It is relevant to relate
that paddy requires on an average 750 mm of RF. Al-
though much of Ganjam’s domain is precipice and high-
land (with bare sustenance amount of RF) such bounty
production (granary aspect) is possible only because the
farmer also puts leafs and whole hay, burnt organic mat-
ter as well. Carbon from burnt organic matter we know
traps nitrogen, while wood carbon has a surface area of
the order 1000 - 2000 mt2/gm, also adsorbs moisture and
helps in retaining SM that assists soil binding. Hence,
soil cracking and moisture loss is down-regulated due
the ‘binder effect’ of the stubble’s roots cum cow dung
& ash (which is loaded with digested cellulose). This is
an example of such soil conservation sciences in applied
Therefore, organic long fiber binders can thwart SM
loss and consequent top soil loss, etc. Excessive cracking
of stubble field is a conclusive early (warning) sign of
‘heat wave’ and impending ‘Sun stroke conditions’. The
occidental farmer is not known to have such practice
(wherever such practices are not noted desertification
mechanics have evolved). Our inspiration for this ex-
periment came by observing the field preparation inputs
by the Indian farmer in general and via personal com-
munication from farmer’s guilds collected ranging over
a decade.
Heavy RF and even alternating wet-dry spells, inflicts
sand-silt separation leading to soil & surface degradation,
if the top soil be bare. The mechanics proceeds as poly
modal (not as a cascade). Adding cow dung, burnt plant
matter (variously treated cellulose; carbon particulates)
and retaining the stubble acts as anti-dote. The admini-
stration can do precious enough by monitoring soil
cracking i.e., SM loss over extensive region (earliest
signature). India has a good data bank in agro-met do-
mains. The data should be opened to the public (IMD
and GOI data are not available to the common man, be-
cause the administration considers the common man as
suspect and treats alike alien citizen. Moreover, almost
every thing in India is by the Govt., of the Govt. and for
the Govt.). The nation can then pre-calculate with near
precision about likely period, and intensity of any im-
pending ‘Heat wave’ conditions in relation to time and
place, and its impact on flora, fauna and anthropomorphs
(homeotherms). Heat wave effect on homeotherms is
preceded by noticeable effect on poikilotherms such as
lizards; snakes and other non climber reptiles often
coming on-ground or trying to climb trees; absence of
butterflies; juvenile sized leafs falling off from trees (off
season patjhar), wide spread viral attacks on domesti-
cated animals and pets, many similar signs (again a se-
ries, pre human fatality).
[1] Panigrahi, D.K., Mohanty, P.K., Acharya, M. and Sena-
pati, P.C. (2010) Optimal utilisation of natural resources
for agricultural sustainability in rain fed hill plateaus of
odisa. Agricultural Water Management, 97, 1006-1016.
[2] India Meteorology Department (1990) 30 year data book
(1950-1980). Vth Edition, Government of India, New
[3] Planning Commission (2002) Report of the committee on
India vision 2020. Planning Commission, Government of
India, New Delhi.
[4] Bhattacharya, D. (2010) Indian ancient sciences. Lap
Lambert, Germany.
[5] Rajo festival is celebrated in Odisa very intently. It is a 3
day deemed (cultural) menstruation period for mother
Earth. No earth related activity are done. Farm imple-
ments are put on worship. Ladies do not cook, take to the
D. Bhattacharya / Agricultural Science 2 (2011) 341-346
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/AS/
swing. Outside it is cloudy, sultry and breezeless. Swing
helps in evapotranspiration cooling feel comfort
[6] Vernekar, K.G., Sinha, S., Sadani, L.K., Sivaramakrish-
nan, S., Parasnis, S.S., Brij, M., Dharmaraj, S., Patil,
M.N., Pillai J.S., Murthy, B.S., Debaje, B.S. and Bhaga-
vatsingh, A., (2000) An overview of laspex. Bund-
ary-Layer Meteorol, 106, 561-572.