Natural Farming

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    In News

    • Recently, the Prime Minister of India lauded the experiments of natural farming in Surat district of Gujarat.

    About

    • Surat’s success in connecting 75 farmers in every panchayat with natural farming is going to become an example for the entire country.
    • Natural farming is a means of prosperity as well as respecting and serving mother earth.
    • The Centre has created 30,000 clusters of natural farms for the benefit of lakhs of farmers and one million hectares will be covered under the ‘Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Scheme’. 

    Natural Farming

    • Origin: 
      • This farming approach was introduced by Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer and philosopher, in his 1975 book The One-Straw Revolution.
    • About: 
      • It is a production system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetically compounded fertilisers, pesticides, growth regulators, genetically modified organisms and livestock food additives. 
      • This system rely upon crop rotations, use of crop residues, animal manures, legumes, green manures, 
    • Features: 
      • Chemical Free: Natural farming refers to the type of agriculture in which the use of chemicals like pesticides, fertilisers, growth regulators, food additives, genetically modified organisms are entirely shunned.
      • Use of Alternatives Systems: In place of chemical based inputs, natural farming utilises methods like crop rotation, use of green manures and compost, biological pest control and mechanical cultivation.
      • Additional Practices: Natural farming systems can be complemented with practices like crop rotation (planting different crops sequentially), mulching (see inset), intercropping (planting different crops simultaneously in a field) and seed soaking with liquid manure, to increase the yields in a field.

    Bharatiya Prakritik Krishi Paddhati Programme (BPKP)

    • In India, Natural farming is promoted as BPKP under centrally sponsored scheme- Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)
    • BPKP is aimed at promoting traditional indigenous practices which reduce externally purchased inputs. 
    • It is largely based on on-farm biomass recycling with major stress on:
      • Biomass mulching, 
      • Use of on-farm cow dung-urine formulations; 
      • Periodic soil aeration and 
      • Exclusion of all synthetic chemical inputs. 
    • The BPKP programme has been adopted in several States like  Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala. 
    • It is considered as a cost- effective farming practice with scope for raising employment and rural development.

    Image Courtesy: MyGov 

    Benefits of Natural Farming

    • Crop Yield: Natural farming is more productive as compared to chemical-based farming. 
    • Reduction in the Costs: As the inputs are produced by the farmers on the farm itself, the costs would be decreased substantially.
    • Income and Livelihood: This approach not only leads to minimise cost of cultivation (as inputs are produced on-field), it also fetches a premium price for the produce
    • Soil Health: Natural farming leads to better soil health as it does not deplete the macro-nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) and micro-nutrients (iron, manganese, zinc and copper), organic carbon as well as rhizosphere microbiome in the soil, unlike the conventional chemical-based practices.
    • Environment: Natural farming leads to lesser carbon emissions, in addition to promoting carbon sequestration. It also promotes soil respiration, growth of beneficial organisms like earthworms, soil enzymes and microbial biomass increase.
    • Water-use efficiency: Use of natural methods of farming leads to more efficient use of soil moisture, leading to an increase in the levels of water table, prevents over-extraction of groundwater and promotes aquifer recharge.
    • Food Quality: It promotes the growth of nutrient content and improves the physical attributes of vegetables like tomato, cabbage and cowpea, fetching better prices in the market.

    Challenges to Natural Farming

    • Yields drop: India’s first organic state, Sikkim, has started seeing decline in its yields after a few years.
    • Conviction among Policy Makers: As of now, policy makers fear for the food security of the nation and are non-committal on any major changes in the agriculture sector. 
    • Resistance by the Chemical inputs-based industry: The chemical-based farming has a strong backing in the form of multi-million dollar agro-chemical industry, which has fought tooth and nail to sustain the application of chemicals in agriculture.
    • Lack of Consensus among the Scientific community: Though agreeing to its health and environmental benefits, the scientific community is divided on the impact of natural agriculture on crop yields.

    Government Initiatives

    • Policy on Organic Farming 2005: The policy was launched in 2005 under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare. It seeks to promote organic farming and conserve bio-resources, resulting in strengthening of rural economy, promotion of value addition, sustaining soil fertility and accelerating growth of agri-businesses in the country.
    • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana: It is a sub-component of Soil Health Management under National Mission of Sustainable Agriculture. It primarily aims at developing healthy agriculture models through a mix of traditional wisdom and modern scientific advancements. It also seeks to promote soil fertility buildup, resource conservation and climate change mitigation
    • Mass movement: Recently, the PM of India has made an appeal to the farmers of the nation, to make organic farming a mass movement in the country. 

    Way Ahead

    • Now is the time when India moves forward on the path of natural farming and takes full advantage of the global opportunities that are emerging.
    • Natural farming will reduce dependency on purchased inputs and will help to ease smallholder farmers from credit burden.
    • The villages of India have shown that villages can not only bring change but can also lead the change.

    Source: TH