Earth and soul: Why organic farming is the future of India’s agriculture – Firstpost

It’s time to ‘de-chemicalise’ the soil through nature-based organic-farming.
Representational image courtesy Pixabay
Agriculture farming is one of the oldest activities carried out by human beings to fulfil their basic need for food. He has developed various methods to produce food as per his requirements and needs. Initially, these methods were mostly nature-based and were aligned to the way nature functioned. His needs were small and there was no pressure on him to produce much. This situation changed post-18th century. It was an era of machines and this mechanical era also influenced human imagination. Even nature was viewed as a grand machine. With the explosion in human population post-industrialisation, there came up a huge demand on the agriculture sector to cater to the ever rising food demands of the rising population.
In this backdrop, agriculture was seen as a man-controlled process where like machines we can put input so as to have better and higher output. The process of agriculture was made modern, mechanical and high yielding. Man tried to control over the natural process of agriculture by tinkering the way nature gives her bounties. Hence, there started use of High Yielding Varieties (HYV) seeds, chemicals, fertilisers, pesticides and so on so as to get maximum produce.
This reckless use of chemicals has led to serious consequences like soil-contamination, salinity of soil, soil-degradation, overuse of water, reduction in water-table, contamination of water, etc. It has also led to contamination of our food-chain where chemicals used for fertiliser and pesticide have become part of our daily life. Our life has been ‘chemicalised’.
Organic Farming
Organic farming is also known as ecological farming or biological farming. Organic farming is nature-based agriculture. This practice has been known and used in India since the beginning of civilisation. If you read Vrikshayurveda, which is the Indian science of plant life, it mentions methods of agriculture which are nature-based. It gives a systematic exposition of how to do agriculture which is sustainable and which does not harm either the earth or the human beings. Until the 18th century, the world was more or less using nature based agriculture techniques.
The major propositions of organic-farming are:
– Nature is not mechanical but organic. Organic means anything like an organ. Organ develops and grows in an environment naturally. It has self-sustaining natural capacities. There is a continuous process of decomposition and re-birth in the organ which helps it to be a self-sustaining ecosystem. Similar is the case with organic-agriculture.
– It is not against nature or attempts ‘to control the nature’, but is in harmony with nature by assisting the natural process of agriculture. The input and output in any agrarian activity is to be purely natural. Nature-based fertilisers, nature-based nutrients and nature-based pesticides should be used. It can be any biomass which is organic like green manure and compost.
– Instead of the produce, it focuses on the process. For the practitioners of organic farming, the soil is like a mother and produce is like its off-springs. To get the qualitative yield, we have to nourish the soil. Soil is the organ which holds the plant to be cultivated and fed so as to be consumed by human beings.
– It believes in the biocapacity of the earth to recover itself from one produce to another and thus aims at sustainable agriculture. By using techniques like crop-rotation, alternative-cropping, mixed-cropping, companion-planting, etc, we can sustain the bio-capacity of the soil endlessly.
– Unlike the modern method of agriculture which focuses on quantity and high yield, it focuses on high quality and nature-based produce.
– It does not rule out the use of modern machines and tools, but is against the use of chemical-based agriculture inputs.
– No chemical-based input like chemical-based fertilisers should be used.
Benefits of Organic Farming
It is a sustainable farming system which does not do any harm to the soil. It can check soil-degradation, soil acidification, soil-infertility and ‘chemicalisation’ of soil. It enhances soil fertility and biological diversity. It saves the soil and the earth from chemicals. Lack of organic matter also makes the soil more prone to drought. Conventional farming ignores the long-term impact on soil quality and is storing problems for future generations.
It is a better use of resources in a natural way where natural resources are recycled. Rather than importing chemical fertilisers by buying, organic farming seeks to improve soil through crop rotation, the use of animal manure, compost and natural byproducts.
It is an integrated farming where the livestock and their waste can also be used as manure. In conventional farming, animals are often kept in close proximity and fed antibiotics as a matter of course. It gives healthy food and keeps the food chain healthy.
Though it may seem costly initially, it is very good in the long term in terms of the health of humans and the planet and has indirect economic benefits. It minimises external costs to farmers like pesticides, fertilisers and manure.
India and Organic farming
India is fast emerging as a global leader in organic farming. Our recent budget has put organic farming as a core area. As per data of APEDA, India is ranked eighth in terms of World’s Organic Agricultural land and first in terms of total number of producers as per 2020 data. As on 31 March 2021, total area under organic certification process is 43,39,184.93 ha (2020-21). Sikkim got its entire cultivable land under organic certification. India is not only producing organic food products but also organic cotton-fibre.
Organic products thus produced are exported to the United States, the European Union, Canada, Great Britain, Korea Republic, Israel, Switzerland, Ecuador, Vietnam, Australia, etc. There is an increased consumer demand for organic products in the Indian market.
It is time to ‘de-chemicalise’ the soil through nature-based organic-farming.
The writer is an interior designer and a prominent environmentalist. She has created more than 125 urban-forests and is a pioneer in vertical gardens with waste plastic bottles. She has also started the world’s first ever free Tree and Plant Hospital equipped with tree ambulances. Views expressed are personal.
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