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Analysis of Down To Earth Magazine: Natural Farming

Analysis of Down To Earth Magazine: Natural Farming


”GS 1: Agricultural Resources”
”GS 2: Government Policies & Interventions”
”GS 3: E-Technology in the Aid of Farmers”


  • In her budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman reaffirmed the Centre’s commitment to natural, chemical-free, organic and zero-budget farming. It is the third time in the last four budget speeches where (zero budget) natural farming finds a mention.
  • Currently, just 2.7 per cent of the country’s net-sown area is under organic and natural farming despite two decades of government efforts to upscale the practices.

How to scale up chemical-free farming?

  • 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.
  • Beyond evolving 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.

Key Benefits of Natural Farming

  • Many scientific studies suggest that in the case of natural farming, yields may not always be high for all crops, but the benefit-cost ratio is several times higher than inorganic.
  • Along with the minimised cost of production and premium prices for the produce, incomes and profits under natural farming are higher than conventional farming.
  • Produce from natural farming fetches twice the income of conventional farming.
  • The use of cheaper eco-friendly bio fertilisers also makes organic farming a low-cost alternative to chemical methods.
  • Natural farming also improves the overall resilience of crops to adverse climatic conditions and improves energy and water efficiency. It also has the potential to reduce carbon emissions.
  • The studies suggest that zbnf can help prevent over-extraction of groundwater, enable aquifer recharge and contribute to increasing water table.

How Natural Farming Keeps Soil Healthy?

  • Healthy soils are the basis for healthy food production.
  • The organic approach is better at ensuring soil macro-and micro-nutrients, organic carbon and rhizosphere microbiome.
  • While mean organic carbon is highest in 91 per cent cropping systems with an organic approach, macro-nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are higher in 42 per cent cropping systems.
  • Soil micronutrients like iron, manganese, zinc and copper are also higher (by 76 per cent) with the organic approach.
  • Organic farming may address both emissions avoidance and carbon sequestration.
  • Soil health and fertility, macro and micronutrients, soil organic carbon, soil enzymes, earthworms, soil respiration and microbial biomass increase after the adoption of natural farming and Zero Budget Natural Farming.

Way Forward

  • It is important that the country’s larger scientific community, trained in chemical-based agriculture, does not outrightly reject the evidence in favour of natural farming, due to any bias and instead carefully review results of the work done by its scientific colleagues in different parts of the country.
  • It is also important that the advantages of organic and natural farming should not be evaluated only on the basis of yield.
  • The benefits of organic farming related to profitability and sustainability strongly outweigh those with inorganic approaches.
  • The existing programmes to support organic and natural farming should therefore be scaled up, expanded and properly funded. Develop a roadmap that sets the long-term agenda for the adoption of agro-ecological approaches across different parts of the country in view of its holistic benefits such as nutrition, livelihood of farmers, natural resource conservation, biodiversity, resource efficiency, soil-health, disease resilience and mitigation of climate crisis.
  • This roadmap should also consider mechanisms for incentivising farmers to adopt agro-ecological practices such as payments for ecosystem services, and specifically focus on supporting farmers during the transition to organic and natural farming through technical and financial support.
  • There is an urgent need for a targeted, ambitious and well-funded nationwide programme to drive the change. This includes bringing together ministries and programmes; outlining the centre-state relationship in terms of funds.

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