Dr. Banarsi Lal
Modern crop farming has enhanced the food grain production but it has caused many problems to the environment and human health. Besides, it has contributed to global warming. The imbalanced use of agro-chemicals in soil and on plants is not only damaging the soil bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes etc. but has given rise to phenomenon like pest resistance and pest resurgence. Dependence on the external inputs like fertilizers, pesticides, machines etc. have increased rural indebtedness and created dependencies. Our farmers have indulged in indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In order to increase the agricultural production and control of insect-pests and diseases, our country is increasingly depending on agro-chemicals. Now the people are questioning the impact of modern agriculture on environment, economic and social aspects. Now many farmers are seeking the alternative practices that would make agriculture more sustainable and productive. Organic farming is the only alternative taking care of all ecological aspects. A natural balance needs to be maintained for sustainability of production system. The chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are not renewable and diminishing in availability. It may also cost heavily on our foreign exchange in future. Therefore, recycling of resources through organic farming approach is of paramount importance.
The term ‘Organic Farming’ was coined by Northbourne (1940). Organic farming is a method of farming system which primarily aimed at cultivating the land and raising crops in such a way, so as to keep the soil in good health by use of organic wastes and other biological materials along with beneficial microbes. Nutrients are provided to crops for increased sustainable production in an ecofriendly and pollution free environment. The aim is to create integrated, human, environmentally and economically sustainable production system which maximize reliance on farm derived renewable resources and management of ecological and biological processes and interactions so as to provide acceptable level of crop, livestock and human nutrition, protection from pests and diseases and appropriate return to the human and other resources. Organic farming means holistic production systems which refer earth friendly methods for cultivation and food processing. It differs from other systems by the certification procedures, specific standards and a specific labeling scheme. Organic farming respects the environment by friendly practice of weeds, insect-pests and diseases control. Insecticides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, growth hormones and antibiotics are not used in organic farming. Ecofriendly techniques are employed to increase the production. Organic farming is based on the integral relationship and we need to understand the relationship between different entities of a farm. The organic farming is based on organic relationship. The understanding of these relationships is the nucleus of organic farming. The organic farming is not only derived from organic matter but rather is a type of farming comprised of organic principles. Organic farming can be perceived as a system which should always be in search of natural alternatives suitable to the local specificity.
Organic farming is a method which recognizes the ecological interconnections between different compartments of cropping. Organic farming is based on certain principles. The organic farmer regards the farm unit as an ecosystem and recognizes that a change in one part of the system may disturb the many inter-relationships that exist within the unit. The diversity at farm level creates an ecosystem that has biological checks and balances that help to prevent any one species of insect, disease or weed from becoming a problem. Natural ecosystems are characterized by a continual growth; decay and recycling of nutrients. The farm residual are utilized in the soil to build biological fertility. It is difficult to cycle all the nutrients internally. It has been observed that about 60-90 per cent of the nutrients can be recycled. In advanced natural ecosystem producer and consumers stay together and nutrient loss is completely eliminated. This principle helps to diminish the acute dependence on outside support of nutrients, integration both animal feed production and local settlement. Organic farming is a market demand driven agriculture aimed to cater to the foreign export. With the increase in population, the sustainable agriculture needs to be site specific and an integrated plant nutrient supply system. Postharvest crop residues can be utilized to the fullest extent.
Organic farming has lot of problems. Organic manures are bulky in their nature and they supply fewer nutrients. These manures supply the nutrients in the soil, promote microbial activities and improve physical, biological and chemical properties of soils. Now the cattle population is decreasing and less quantity is available leading to increase the cost of manures. Green manuring is also having higher costs and less synthesis of plant nutrients. Biofertilizers have short life, susceptibility to temperature, need proper soil moisture, lack of marketing facilities etc. There is a need of good research to assess the extent and type of damage caused to soil health and environment by the continuous use of fertilizers, to find out the quality, nature and extent of locally available organic manurial resources, to develop simple and reliable techniques to measure and monitor the dynamic inter-relationship amongst nutrient management systems, production and environmental capital stocks, to evaluate the returns on sustained long term basis through combinations of organic and inorganic sources in different soil types, development of package of practices for integrated pest management for organic farming, the microbial contamination of food arising due to use of manures has to be addressed, to work out the crucial values of soil organic matter that can support the sustainable crop production and the pattern of rate and amount of various organic sources need to be worked out.
Demand for organic food is increasing all over the world and now the people are paying attention on organic farming. Organic farming has experienced a dramatic expansion in all the crops due to increase in the awareness in the food security and environment safety. The area under organic farming is increasing every year. Currently the demand for organic products is more than supply. The global market for organic food is worth $37 billion and is growing. The $14 billion global market for organic herbal plants and medicines is growing at a very high rate each year and is likely to be worth a $5 trillion in 2050, according to the World Health Organization. According to the International Fund for Agriculture and Development, about 2.5 million hectares of land was under organic farming in India in 2004.There are over 15,000 certified organic farms in India. India is one of the most important suppliers of organic food to the developed nations. India’s export of organic food is worth around Rs.90 crores and its herbal medicines export fetches Rs.2, 300 crores. India accounts for one-third of the global organic tea production. Although much of the practices in organic farming in India are traditional, the government has declared 5,347 farms covering 37,050 hectares as organic.
The reduction in the input cost in organic farming ensures higher economic net returns. The challenge for food security and environment sustainability makes it inevitable to resort to the organic farming as can meet the both these objectives. Good market demand for organic products will have a positive impact on the socio-economic status of the farmers. Organic farming is only an alternative, which may not be acceptable on short-term basis but may be viable on long-term basis.
(The writer is a Scientist & Head, KVK Reasi(Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology-Jammu)(SKUAST-J)
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