Defined: What Is Pure Farming?

Bengaluru: Practically 3.8 million hectares, or 2.7% of the overall space underneath farming in India, is farmed organically or by way of pure strategies, which suggests utilizing pure processes and inputs to enhance the well being of soil, crop yield and high quality, a transfer away from generally used chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

The target of pure farming, mentioned the federal government’s 2021 Financial Survey, is elimination of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, the indiscriminate use of which pollutes the surroundings, and to advertise “good agronomic practices”, which suggests utilizing science and know-how to handle crops. Within the 2022 finances speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman introduced that “chemical-free pure farming can be promoted all through the nation, with a deal with farmers’ lands in 5-km huge corridors alongside river Ganga, on the first stage”.

This transfer in direction of chemical-free farming is juxtaposed towards a big workforce (43%) employed in agriculture and associated jobs, a sector that contributes to simply 18.8% of India’s gross home product. Elevated farmer indebtedness attributable to expensive agricultural inputs like chemical fertilisers, pesticides, seeds, the rising price of cultivation, local weather change, and low farm produce costs, have aggravated India’s farm disaster, whilst the federal government has mentioned that farmer revenue will double by 2022.

However consultants are divided on whether or not an entire transition to pure and natural farming would work in India’s favour, particularly whether it is pushed high down, and follows a inflexible definition of what pure farming entails.

Supporters of pure farming consider that it’s going to cut back farm enter prices, enhance soil well being and water effectivity and result in a rise in farm produce costs. Although pure farming would possibly be capable to cut back prices and imply that farmers use strategies that swimsuit the agro-ecology of a area, say consultants, there are considerations that yields from pure farming could possibly be decrease, particularly in nutrient-deficient soil in lots of components of the nation.

Whereas we’d like a forward-looking sustainable mannequin in agriculture and never a revivalistic mannequin that talks about farming practices centuries in the past, present [government] schemes are getting politicised, mentioned G.V. Ramanjaneyulu, government director of the Secunderabad-based nonprofit, the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture. “The main focus ought to be on lowering agro-chemicals, water use and vitality utilisation.”

In a multi-part collection, IndiaSpend will discover the totally different sides of pure farming, its implementation in India, and the opportunity of success. On this first half, we clarify what pure farming is, and the place it’s being practised in India.

What’s pure farming?

India grew to become meals safe by utilizing excessive yielding forms of seeds, fertilisers to nourish the soil and pesticides to maintain crop harm at bay. However this was accompanied with environmental harm by way of overuse of fertilisers, and impacted human and ecological well being.

As a result of impression of the Inexperienced Revolution, “heightened additional” by the pandemic, “there may be an pressing have to scale up different approaches” of farming, wrote economist Mihir Shah, in a January 2022 report within the journal Ecology, Economic system and Society.

In December 2021, throughout a conclave on pure farming, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised the necessity for engaged on different strategies of farming, whereas acknowledging the significance of chemical substances and fertilisers within the Inexperienced Revolution. “We’ve got to take our agriculture out of the lab of chemistry and join it to the lab of nature,” he mentioned.

This refers to agroecology, which guides public insurance policies in direction of sustainable agriculture and meals methods, in keeping with the Meals and Agriculture Group (FAO). Whereas there isn’t a particular set of practices which are categorized as agroecological, it consists of these strategies that keep and improve pure processes associated to soil, water and local weather in agricultural manufacturing, cut back using bought inputs, like fossil fuels and agrochemicals, and create resilient agroecosystems, famous a 2019 Excessive Stage Panel of Specialists for Meals Safety and Vitamin (HLPE) of the FAO. These strategies deal with selling crop diversification, restoring and rebuilding pure cycles within the soil, and lowering water demand, amongst others.

Pure farming and natural farming, each come underneath agroecological practices and are phrases used interchangeably in India. In pure farming the main target is on the use of bio inputs ready from farm and native ecosystems as an alternative of buying these from outdoors. “Natural farming is outlined now extra from a perspective of product certification. Aside from such certification, natural and pure farming in India are largely comparable,” mentioned Sridhar Radhakrishnan, activist and impartial agriculture researcher based mostly in Thiruvananthapuram.

What binds natural and pure farming proponents “is the thrust on the absence of utility of chemical fertilisers or chemical pesticides throughout cultivation”, mentioned R. Ramakumar, an economist on the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). In natural farming, farmers would possibly use “exterior agricultural inputs” corresponding to rock phosphate, biopesticides and biofertilisers, he added.

“However [some] pure farming proponents argue that even these exterior purposes are usually not required, because the farm itself can generate a lot of the inputs required,” he mentioned, including that, “due to this fact, they name it Zero-Price range Pure Farming.”

Zero-Price range Pure Farming is likely one of the many strategies of pure farming, popularised by agriculturist Subash Palekar (later often called Subash Palekar Pure Farming). In response to the strategy, a concoction of pure inputs like cow urine and dung, jaggery, lime, neem amongst others are used to enhance soil well being, vitamins and cut back enter prices, amongst different advantages.

In July 2022, the federal government introduced that it might represent a committee to “promote zero-budget based mostly farming, to alter crop sample preserving in thoughts the altering wants of the nation, and to make MSP [Minimum Support Price] simpler and clear…”. On pure farming the committee will make ideas for programmes for worth chain growth, methods to introduce pure farming curriculum in universities and counsel farmer-friendly different certification methods for pure farm produce.

Is pure farming higher than ‘standard’ farming?

Numerous state governments have supported natural farming instead farming possibility in the previous couple of many years. However there are debates worldwide on the impression on crop yield by transitioning to agroecological farming strategies and discarding standard practices that use chemical inputs, particularly the place soils are nutrient-deficient.

If biofertilisers, rhizobium and acetobacter can repair soil well being to an extent, there isn’t a want for heavy chemical use, mentioned Ramanjaneyulu. This is able to additionally assist the federal government minimize spending on fertiliser subsidies, which price Rs 1.4 lakh crore ($18.7 billion) in 2021-22 and are estimated to price Rs 1.1 lakh crore ($14.7 billion) in 2022-23, which may rise to Rs 2.5 lakh crore attributable to increased import costs.

However in comparison with ‘standard farming’, in keeping with a 2019 ICAR-Nationwide Academy of Agricultural Analysis Administration report, “natural merchandise are normally 3-4 occasions costlier attributable to increased labour price, certification prices, dealing with prices and relatively decrease yields”.

The jury remains to be out on which methodology or which mixture of strategies could be the perfect for crop yields. There are information gaps on evaluating relative yields and efficiency of various agroecological practices, in keeping with the HLPE report.

“..out of the 504 occasions that yield outcomes had been recorded throughout 2014–19, 41% of the occasions yields had been highest with natural strategy, adopted by 33% with built-in and 26% with inorganic strategy,” mentioned the February 2022 CSE report that analysed the All India Community Venture on Natural Farming (AI-NPOF) of the Indian Council of Agriculture Analysis and different scientific research. It reported proof of highest web returns and finest soil well being underneath the natural strategy in examine centres.

“There’s scientific proof on the advantages of pure farming, however the authorities has to take the initiative to formally collate prefer it did underneath AI-NPOF,” mentioned Vineet Kumar, deputy programme supervisor of Sustainable Meals Programs at CSE.

Alternatively, the 2019 NAAS report highlighted that research initiated by the Indian Council of Agriculture Analysis-Indian Institute of Farming System Analysis “clearly indicated that yield ranges had been drastically decreased in rice-wheat cropping system by 59% in wheat and 32% in basmati rice” when tenets of zero-budget pure farming had been adopted. It additional confirmed a three-year pure farming experiment that confirmed “a yield decline” in crops examined which “established that meals safety can be critically challenged together with farmers’ revenue, if ZBNF [Zero Budget Natural Farming] is adopted”.

There’s concern that yields will fall with pure farming as a result of 59% of soils in India are poor in nitrogen, 49% are low in phosphorus and 48% are low in potassium, mentioned Ramakumar. “Natural or ZBNF strategies don’t replenish sufficient vitamins within the soils as a lot because the vegetation uptake them each season.”

Natural and pure farming may be scaled up solely to a degree, due to a number of causes. These embrace an absence of a nationwide motion plan to advertise natural and pure farming, dependence on costly certification for natural produce, which smaller farmers can not afford, insufficient funding, target-driven and timeline-based insurance policies for pure farming, amongst others.

Why portray all different farming strategies with one brush is not proper

When proponents of natural/pure farming use the time period ‘standard farming’, they use it to indicate all circumstances of misuse or overuse of chemical substances in agriculture, none of that are sanctioned by agricultural scientists.

“..condemning the know-how that ushered in Inexperienced Revolution for the unfavorable impacts on the surroundings and well being is neither honest nor justified. It was the injudicious, indiscriminate and extreme use of agro-chemicals which is to be blamed,” mentioned a 2019 Nationwide Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) report on Zero Price range Pure Farming (ZBNF).

Some say scientific standard farming may be thought-about nearer to pure farming than most suppose.

Scientific farming includes using each natural manures in addition to chemical fertilisers, however solely the place required, after a soil check and in prescribed portions, which scientists name balanced nutrient administration, mentioned Ramakumar. “Equally, they prescribe ‘built-in pest administration’, the place you employ pure means to manage pests and illnesses and use pesticides solely as a final possibility. I want to take into account this as ‘standard farming’.”

Authorities schemes for pure farming

The Union authorities’s 2005 coverage on natural farming was “not profitable in bringing vital consideration in direction of natural farming”, famous a 2020 CSE report. Since then, the federal government has had a number of initiatives and sub-missions underneath ​​the Nationwide Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), which started in 2014-15, the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), which started in 2015, and the Mission Natural Worth Chain Growth in North East Area (MOVCDNER), which began in 2015.

A scheme to advertise chemical-free natural farming in clusters of land, PKVY supplies monetary help of Rs 50,000 per hectare for 3 years for creating farming clusters, capability constructing, incentive for inputs, worth addition like processing, packaging and advertising and marketing of natural produce.

In 2020-21, Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Paddati (BPKP), a subscheme underneath PKVY, was launched to promote pure farming together with Zero-Price range Pure Farming. Practically 410,000 hectares has been lined in eight states with a complete fund of Rs 49.8 crore. The 2022 allocation for PKVY shouldn’t be clear and as of 2022-23 it has been rationalised underneath the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, a Union authorities scheme to develop agriculture and allied sectors.

Produce other international locations adopted pure farming?

There have been numerous agroecological initiatives in several components of the world. In November 2021, 45 governments, led by the UK, pledged pressing motion and funding to guard nature and shift to extra sustainable methods of farming on the twenty sixth Convention of Events, the local weather change convention in Glasgow, in keeping with a UK authorities press launch. It mentioned that the commitments would assist leverage over $4 billion of public sector funding into agricultural innovation to enhance soil well being, serving to make these strategies and sources reasonably priced and accessible to farmers.

In Could 2020, the EU introduced the Farm to Fork Technique, as part of the European Inexperienced Deal to “make meals methods honest, wholesome and environmentally-friendly”. As a part of the technique, the European Fee introduced a 50% discount within the use and threat of chemical pesticides, and in using extra hazardous pesticides by 2030.

However as international locations are promising to transition to sustainable agriculture, Sri Lanka’s expertise of transitioning to the primary natural farming nation failed. The nation’s authorities, which fell after weeks of large protests and an ongoing financial disaster, had introduced, in April 2021, that solely natural farming could be allowed throughout the nation. It proceeded to ban imports of chemical inputs, impacting hundreds of thousands of farmers. Following farmer protests, the ban was revoked in November 2021.

“The chemical fertiliser ban, mixed with dangerous climate, led to falling crop yields and contributed to inflation hitting a 47-month excessive of 8.3% in October with meals inflation at 11.7%,” mentioned a November 24, 2021 Reuters report.

The way in which forward

Specialists consider that there are far too many debates on strategies of pure and standard farming, somewhat than the impression and design of the schemes being carried out.

As an illustration, Subash Palekar’s methodology for Zero-Price range Pure Farming is taken into account too inflexible, and has created a dichotomy about farm practices that had been natural or pure, mentioned Radhakrishnan, the impartial agricultural researcher. “Though this isn’t a criticism of ZBNF, in some methods the federal government prioritises ZBNF over different agroecological farming practices.”

As well as, “there are a whole lot of considerations about BPKP and PKVY”, the federal government programmes, mentioned Kumar of CSE. “Often, these schemes are carried out by the state agriculture division who could not have enough coaching on this.”

There’s a want to speculate extra sources, together with educated agriculture employees, and funds for science and know-how and analysis, to higher perceive natural and pure farming practices, consultants say.

“A contemporary agricultural scientist could not even be capable to clarify why a concoction sprayed by a farmer elevated yield in pure farming, whereas the scientist could perceive how chemical substances work,” mentioned Kavitha Kuruganti, a social activist with the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA). There’s a want for the federal government to assist different farming strategies somewhat than solely supporting farming that makes use of chemical substances, she added.

The 2022 Union finances introduced that states can be inspired to “revise syllabi of agricultural universities to fulfill the wants of pure, zero-budget and natural farming, modern-day agriculture, worth addition and administration”.

The federal government must put money into processing and packaging of merchandise, and be sure that merchandise are procured in enough portions to make sure remunerative costs for farmers. Attributable to gaps, for instance, in PKVY, “..within the absence of direct linkages with processors, retailers and exporters, farmers are depending on middlemen to market their produce”, mentioned the 2020 CSE report.

The agroecological strategies must be based mostly on native contexts in numerous states and areas and use bio-inputs based mostly on native ecosystems. Andhra Pradesh (AP community-managed pure farming) has established a ZBNF system to swimsuit its necessities, whereas different states like Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka and Kerala have additionally initiated it. Karnataka initiated implementation of ZBNF on a pilot foundation in 2,000 ha in every of the ten agro-climatic zones of the state.

Ramakumar reiterated that India must belief its agricultural scientists. “Solely by practising scientific agriculture can we attain the objectives of elevating farm incomes, elevating yields and lowering chemical use in agriculture. And this science needs to be promoted within the public sector and never by way of non-public corporates.”

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