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A roadmap for India’s natural farming ambitions

  • Published
    24th Feb, 2022
Context

Budget 2022-23 shows India’s commitment to natural, chemical-free, organic and zero-budget farming. It is the third time in the last four budget where (zero budget) natural farming finds a mention.

About

What is natural farming?

  • Natural farming is a system where the laws of nature are applied to agricultural practices. 
  • This method works along with the natural biodiversity of each farmed area, encouraging the complexity of living organisms, both plants, and animals that shape each particular ecosystem to thrive along with food plants.
  • In India, Natural farming is promoted as Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Paddhati Programme (BPKP) under Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY).
  • It was developed by Subhash Palekarfrom Maharashtra in the mid-1990s as an alternative to the Green Revolution’s methods, which led to indebtedness and suicide among farmers due to rising cost on external inputs in agriculture.

What is Zero budget natural farming (ZBNF)?

  • It is a method of chemical-free agriculture drawing from traditional Indian practices.
  • Using cow dung, urine based formulations and botanical extracts would help farmers in reducing the input cost.
  • Intercropping with leguminous crops is one of the components of ZBNF and it improves the crop productivity and soil fertility by way of fixing the atmospheric nitrogen.
  • It promotes soil aeration, minimal watering, intercropping, bunds and topsoil mulching and discourages intensive irrigation and deep ploughing.

Components of Natural Farming:

  • Beejamrit: The process includes treatment of seed using cow dung, urine and lime based formulation.
  • Jivamrit: The process enhances the fertility of soil using cow urine, dung, flour of pulses and jiggery concoction.
  • Whapasa: The process involves activating earthworms in the soil in order to create water vapour condensation.
  • Mulching: The process involves creating micro climate using different mulches with trees, crop biomass to conserve soil moisture.
  • Plant Protection: The process involves spraying of biological concoctions which prevents pest, disease and weeds problems and protects the plant and improves their soil fertility.

Significance of Natural Farming:

  • Minimized Cost Of Production
  • Ensures Better Health
  • Employment Generation
  • Environment Conservation
  • Reduced Water Consumption
  • Rejuvenates Soil Health
  • Livestock Sustainability
  • Resilience

Roadmap:

  • Focus on promoting natural farming in rainfed areas beyond the Gangetic basin.
  • Enable automatic enrolment of farmers transitioning to chemical-free farming into the government’s crop insurance scheme, PM Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).
  • Promote microenterprises that produce inputs for chemical-free agriculture.
  • Leverage NGOs and champion farmers who have been promoting and practising sustainable agriculture across the country. 
  • Evolve the curriculum in agricultural universities, upskill the agriculture extension workers on sustainable agriculture practices.
  • The government should facilitate an ecosystem in which farmers learn from and support each other while making the transition.
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