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Natural farming practice for Sustainable Agriculture

Rajan Bhatt and Sanjay Arora Department of Soils, Punjab Agricultural University Ludhiana 141 004
Since the initiation of green revolution in India in mid sixties, intensive agriculture along with use of high yielding varieties and wide sue of straight chemical fertilizer resulted in improved crop yields. With the increase in crop production resulting from the latest technology, reaching a plateau and environmental problem due to the excessive use of chemicals i.e fertilizers and pesticides become a matter of concern to the agriculturist, farmers and the policy makers. Because of the increasing food demand, emphasis was laid on the intensive agricultural practices and our present technology have proved detrimental to the natural resources such as soil, water etc. The natural resources are being exploited to the maximum and are depleting at great pace forwarding a great threat to sustainable agriculture as indicated by the following factors :

1. Soil erosion: As per USDA has informed that on an average about 15 tons per hectare. Top soil got lost through the soil erosion. Further, United Nations using satellite to track soil erosion estimated that in northern India the loss of soil per hectare exceeded than that of United Nations. Both water and wind erosion removes top fertile soil, the subsoil left is courser, less productive and thus more chemical fertilizers needed to support plan growth. Eroded soil can become useless for plant growth. It is commonly observed in light textured soils and which are low in organic matter.

2. Water availability: Water is an essential input for the plant growth and in the arid regions, the availability of water is improved through irrigation by which water is artificially pumped up from the underground aquifers which are recharged through rain. But currently, rate of water removal is much higher than its recharging. Hence the level of water table is falling day per day which is a great threat to the future agriculture. In Punjab, there are reports that water table has depleted many meters and this has alarmed the farmers in the state. 3. Salinization: When water use and evaporations excessive then water table rises through the action of capillarity and bring dissolved salts with it at the surface which make the soil totally useless for the production point of view until drastic and expensive measures are taken to remove the salts. There are many reports from different parts of the world that salinization impairs crop yields e.g in Bangladesh, salinization decreasing yield in on-third of the crops. 4. Fertilization and pesticide contamination: Soil and underground pollution or contamination is one of the greatest hazards in the present agriculture. In a will to get greater yield from his crop land, every farmer apply large dose of fertilizers and pesticides than actually required. When his crop land receives large quantity of water (through rain or irrigation), then these get dissolved in water go underground and pollute the underground water which is used for drinking purpose which further causes many health problems. Addition of heavy metals to soils and thus their uptake in crops had impose the environmental and human health hazards.

Natural Farming and its feasibility

Natural farming or more commonly Organic farming is the best answer to this situation as natural farming is the farming through the soils inherent powers. The basis of natural farming is use of natural resources upto a certain limit for sustaining crop yields. It not only reduces input cost for the poor farmers of the country but also avoids any detrimental effect on environment. Organic materials like compost, manure etc. are the good source of not only nutrients but also checks soil erosion and soil contamination from heavy metals. Discrete crop rotation, moderate tilling of the land and covering top soil with a layer of organic material which is commonly known as mulching can be adopted for natural farming. These inputs are low in cost and their regular use keeps the soil in good and healthy conditions. Thus we can think of sustaining crop yields from these soils. Practicing natural farming, we generally stress upon two points 1. The use of manure and other organic amendments instead of inorganic fertilizers. 2. The applications of the biological pest control instead of chemical pesticides. It is learnt that Natural Farming has acted as catalyst in triggering interest in organic agricultural system. Farmers adopting natural farming system, stress on the use of the organic fertilizers for the maintenance of the soil fertility and totally avoid the use of chemical pest control methods. The net yield is usually lower in the natural farming (515%) than the conventional system of farming even though net return is usually higher in former system of farming, because they dont consume the expensive fertilizers and pesticides and when environmental cost are taken into consideration then natural farming is clearly superior. It is increasingly recognized that who produces food and where it is

produced than how much is produced. Food can be produced in a more sustainable way that protects the resource base. These techniques are known and used by some farmers. Among various amendments which can be used in the natural system of farming are : 1) Bulky organic manures which includes farmyard manure, sewage and sludge, night soil, urban compost and other composted manure. 2) Concentrated organic manures like oil cakes, meat meal, fish meal, blood meal, horn and hoof meal. Green manuring is also a well known practice which is generally used in the organic farming and is defined as the practice of ploughing or turning into the soil undecomposed plant tissues for the purpose of improving physical structure as well as fertility of the soil. It consist in the growing of a quick growing crop such as Dhaincha and ploughing it under to incorporate it into the soil which further supplies organic matter as well as additional nitrogen. A leguminous crop producing 8 to 25 tonnes of green manure per hectare. Will add about 60 to 90 kg of nitrogen when ploughed under. The crop most commonly used for green manuring are Dhaincha (Sesbania aculeanta), Sunhemp (Crotalaria juncea), Cowpea (Vigna catjang), Senji (Melilotus parviflora) etc. Also use of biodegraded coir pith can be used as organic manure especially in southern India. Principles of the Natural farming Natural or organic farming is not based exclusively on the short term economies, but also consider ecological concepts It utilizes appropriate technology and appropriate traditional farming methods. This form, of farming well known as sustainable agriculture. The principles of this method of farming includes

1. Organize the production of crops and livestock and the management of farm resources so that they harmonize rather than conflict with natural system 2. Use and development of appropriate technology based upon an understanding of biological system. 3. Achieve and maintain soil fertility for optimum production by relying primarily on renewable resources. 4. Use of diversification to pursue optimum production. 5. Aim for optimum nutritional value of staple food. 6. Use decentralized structures for processing, distributing and marketing of the products. 7. Strive for equitable relationships between those who work and live on land. 8. Create a system which is aesthetically pleasing for those working in this system and for those viewing it from the outside, e.g it should enhance rather than scare the landscape of which it forms a part. 9. Maintain and preserve wildlife and their habitat. To implement these principles in the farmers field, several techniques are being used. These techniques could find more widespread use given the proper incentives. However, currently the incentives such as price support, tax policies and export subsidies etc. Society need to replace them with incentives that favour sustainable agriculture. Because sustainable agriculture uses less input, this may causes some dislocation in the industrial sector and will strongly resisted. The technological and economic possibility of organic farming will certainly influence its large scale adoption and promotion. Along with this, the need for alternate farming system in view of

emerging environmental and energy problems will have a bearing on agricultural structure in general and adoption for organic farming in particular. According to Dr.M.S Swaminathan, The greening of agriculture requires the greening of both technology and public policy. Producing more food and agricultural commodities from less land, water and energy is a task that will call for the integration of the best in modern technology, with the ecological strengths of traditional farming practices. However, awareness about degradation of earths natural resources at an alarming rate and mans quest to survive and keep his planet green and healthy should go in favour of world wide adoption of natural or organic farming. The time has come to be active in improving crop yields for the burgeoning population of the national but without producing any environmental hazards. It is a challenge for not only the farmers or scientists but for the stake holders and policy makers too.