How Farmers in Bali Look After Rice Plants
September 2016

Balinese farmers believe that in order to yield good harvests, they must plant rice on an auspicious day. Therefore, although the rice field is well prepared, they always patiently wait for an auspicious day for planting rice, which is determined in the Lontar Dharma Pemaculan (a sacred book on auspicious days).

Farmers belonging to one subak (an organization of farmers) community generally work together on a voluntary basis to plant rice. Afterwards, they rest for several days, a period they normally spend on repairing houses, joining kecak dance rehearsals or other arts-related activities, and looking after their fighting cocks. The ways Balinese farmer’s plant and look after their rice are very traditional. The species of rice that they plant, too, are of local varieties, which they call, among others, Padi Cicih, Padi Cicih Gundil, Padi Siem, and Padi Del. Padi Cicih is difficult to look after but grows quickly. Approximately only 6 months is needed between plowing the paddy field and harvesting. With this variety, farmers can have two harvests in a year. As for Padi Del, as its name suggests (del means “slow”), 8 months is needed before the rice is ready to be harvested. This means that farmers can only have one harvest every year. Nevertheless, they prefer this “slow” variety because it yields far more grains and tastes much more delicious compared to other varieties.

Balinese farmers have to perform a number of religious ceremonies, one on the planting day, another on the twelfth day. A major ceremony, called Mabiyu Kungkung is held several days before the harvesting day. On the harvesting day, there is another ceremony, right before the rice is harvested. Finally, the last ceremony in the series is held when the rice is already in the rice barn, before it is sold or cooked.

Traditional farmers hardly ever use chemical fertilizers. If using fertilizers becomes imperative, they will use compost. Similarly, pesticides are almost unknown to traditional farmers. When pests loom threatening, farmers - organized by their subak - will hold a special ceremony in their Subak Temple to ask for God’s protection for their rice plants. In addition to this ritual, every six months they conduct a pest control ceremony, which is known as Nangluk Merana and is coordinated by the local government. The farmer’s abstinence from using pesticides also aims at the equilibrium of the ecosystem in their paddy fields.

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