posted on August 31, 2022 | Author DR. ASHU SHARMA
To feed the growing world population, it is estimated that food production will need to increase by 70% by 2050. Meanwhile, India is expected to be the most populous country in the world by 2030, with 1.51 billion of inhabitants. This growing demand for food is prompting farmers around the world to increase agricultural production, which increases the pressure on the environment and exceeds its carrying capacity to repair or replace itself, resulting in its severe degradation. Under such conditions, ensuring food security for the population would be one of the country’s greatest concerns. There is no doubt that the green revolution (extensive use of seeds of high-yielding varieties, chemical fertilizers and irrigation) helped to overcome the food shortage in the country. But the intensification of agriculture has led to considerable adverse effects on the environment, land degradation, eutrophication of land and water bodies, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and losses of biodiversity.
In India, over 85% of the total 146.5 million farmers are smallholders and over 100 million farmers (68.5% of the total) farm an average land area of 0.38 hectares. small farms and struggle to subsist on too little land with low-yield, low-input technologies. Agriculture in its current form requires farmers to rely heavily on external inorganic chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. These contaminate groundwater and other water-dependent ecosystems, reduce soil fertility over time, and contribute to biodiversity loss in agricultural land. The use of these inputs exposes smallholder farmers to a high degree of credit risk and locks them into a perpetual cycle of debt. Dominant agricultural practices such as monoculture decrease soil moisture content, causing enormous stress on water resources. Today, agriculture accounts for almost 70% of the world’s freshwater consumption. The use of external inputs through the adoption of uniform, hybridized and genetically modified crop varieties erodes the genetic diversity of seeds and reduces their ability to adapt to changing climatic conditions.
Alternative low-input farming practices have emerged in pockets around the world promising lower input costs and higher yields for farmers, chemical-free food for consumers, and improved soil fertility. Zero-Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is one such type of low-input, climate-resilient farming that encourages farmers to use low-cost local inputs, eliminating the use of fertilizers and artificial pesticides. The word zero budget means no credit or no spending, no credit and no money spent on purchased agricultural inputs. Another term natural farming is a chemical-free farming method inspired by traditional Indian practices. In other words, natural farming shows the importance of the synergistic effect of plant and animal products on crop establishment, to enhance soil fertility and microorganisms. It is one of the alternative farming practices to improve farmers’ incomes, in the context of declining fertilizer response and farm incomes. ZBNR’s four wheels include: Bijamrita/beejamrutha: microbial seed coating using cow dung and urine formulations; Jivamrita/jeevamrutha: application of a bioinoculum made from cow dung, cow urine, jaggery, pulse flour, water and soil to multiply soil microbes; Acchadana (mulching): application of a layer of organic matter on the surface of the soil in order to prevent the evaporation of water and contribute to the formation of soil humus and Waaphasa (aeration): aeration of the soil thanks to a favorable microclimate in the soil.
For insect and pest management, the ZBNF promotes the use of various decoctions made from cow dung, cow urine and green chillies. Cow dung and urine used in the preparation of natural inputs come only from indigenous cows. These practices have been shown to have a positive effect on soil quality, improving its fertility and water retention capacity. This will likely reduce reliance on resources such as water and electricity for irrigation. Replacing chemical fertilizers and pesticides with natural inputs could reduce input costs and farmers’ exposure to credit risk; increased net income will improve the cash flow of poor and vulnerable farmers and could strengthen their ability to cope with economic shocks. Reducing resource dependence and improving soil quality could then help farmers better adapt to extreme weather events.
Strategies for natural farming
Natural farming (eco-farming) is even considered superior to organic farming in the sense that the former does not emphasize ecosystem function and the conservation of wild biodiversity. Thus, eco-agriculture involves simultaneous action plans towards agricultural growth, poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation. Certain strategies must be followed to successfully implement natural farming (eco-agriculture). Creation of biodiversity reserves that also benefit local farming communities
The second strategy is the development of habitat networks with agriculture in uncultivated areas. This involves integrating agricultural landscapes in many uncultivated areas with high quality habitat for wildlife species compatible with agriculture.
The third strategy is to reduce or even reverse the conversion of wild land to agriculture by increasing agricultural productivity.
The guiding principle governing all approaches towards sustainable agriculture, biodiversity conservation and the health and well-being of all rural women, children and men who make up farming families in particular is to minimize agricultural pollution through to more effective methods of managing nutrients, pests and waste. .
Modification of the management of soil, water and plant resources, in order to improve the quality of the habitat in and around the farms.
The sixth strategy is the modification of agricultural systems to mimic natural ecosystems. Economically useful perennial trees, shrubs and grasses are incorporated into the farm in such a way as to mimic natural vegetative structure and ecological functions to create suitable habitat niches for wildlife.
Natural farming is environmentally friendly and sustainable for the environment maintains good health of soil, plants as well as human beings by increasing the beneficial microbial population, chemical-free nutrient supply to plants and food. food supply without toxic products for consumers (humans and animals). But labor requirements are increased compared to conventional farming, well developed heavy machinery, tools are not used in natural farming as it creates soil compaction even though there is no has no use of tractors, weakened agricultural market infrastructure – there is no value of natural farming of products in large-scale areas, even the price is also similar to chemically produced products, an appropriate policy framework and the definition of specific standards are some challenges in the adoption of natural farming by the agricultural community. Farmers are not going to adapt this technology due to some shortcomings, so the government, researchers, scientists and extension workers should think about the major challenges to achieve this zero-budget natural farming technology in a wide area. .
(The author is a scientist at KVK Kathua of SKUAST Jammu)