India is naturally endowed with various types of naturally available organic form of nutrients. This considerably helps in organic cultivation of crops. The potential of biopesticides and biofertilisers for promoting sustainable agriculture has been known for many years. Recycling nitrogen on the farm by using manure and nitrogen fixing plants enhances soil quality, much neglected and least understood soil biology while providing nutrients to the plants. Plantsuse nutrients from organic sources through mineralization and billions of microorganisms are available in soil for this job. This is the predominant technique of organic and low external input agriculture.
There is enough scope for production of sufficient organic inputs in India from different sources like livestock crop residues, rural compost, vermi-compost and agricultural wastes.Bio-fertilisers are the low cost source of plant nutrients and are environment-friendly. There are wide varieties of biofertilizer in use, some of which are Rhizobium, Azotobacters, Azospirillum, Phosphate-solubilizing bacteria (PSB), Vesicular arbuscular mycorrhiza (VAM), Plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR), Blue Green Algae (BGA), azolla etc.
Promotion of bio-inputs needs extensive extension work. Firstly, regarding its need while convincing farmers about the need for enhancing soil health and crop productivity and to make them available, accessible and self reliant.There is a need for paradigm shift in extension approaches; for instance, from individual to community level, with active community participation. In one of the ICAR-CPSRI programmes, the critical component of the extension approach was the decentralized option for technology facilitation viz. capacity building of women farmer groups as master trainers, farm level producers of bio-inputs and targeting the ‘potential and critical adopters’ in the community for widespread adoption.Such specific extension approaches could increase the adoption of technologies, offer scope for refining them, evaluate their effectiveness and faster and wider technology dissemination. (Anitha Kumari P, p.6).
The formulation of inoculums, method of application and storage of the product are all critical to the success of a biological product. Short shelf life, lack of suitable carrier materials, susceptibility to high temperature, problems in transportation and storage are some of the bottlenecks that need to be solved in order to obtain effective inoculation. The storage and application of biofertilisers require special facilities and skills, which most producers and farmers do not possess. Hence capacity building in production and storage technology is key in popularizing and promoting use of bio-inputs.
Besides government, there are a number of civil society organisations and individuals too who are promoting production and application of bio-inputs. For example, farmers groups and Women’s Self Help Groups in Maharashtra are trained in production of Enriched compost, Dashaparni Ark, Jeevamrut, Panchagavya etc. Also, many FPO’s are working as a registered organic producer group.(Rohan Yogesh Raut, p.21). Similarly, Paderu women have proved that despite having access to fewer resources, have adopted bio-inputs, with some initial assistance and training. (Technoserve, p.16).
A number of government agencies, including the Ministry of Agriculture, are engaged in supporting research, production and application of these agents, through training, demonstration and supply of culture for production of bio-fertilizers. At the national level, institutions like MANAGE, Hyderabad and IIFSR, Modipuram are studying, collecting data, and promoting organic farming through their extension systems. Certified Farm Adviser (CFA) in organic farming is one of the innovative courses which is creating a force of organic consultants all around the country.(Rohan Yogesh Raut, p.21).
Thus, these efforts are gradually increasing demand for bio inputs. This needs to increase substantially over next few years.
Governments can a play a very impactful role in promoting sustainable agriculture through use of bio-inputs.For example, in Srilanka, development of successful organic input production and marketing model with supportive policies has helped in widespread adoption of biologicals (Kandiah Pakeerathan and Gunasingam Mikunthan, p.11).Concerted efforts towards creating awareness on organic agriculture with necessary training, handholding and supportive policies is pushing Srilanka towards becoming a toxic free nation.
Skill building and support from the government can go a long way in encouraging farmers to take up production of bio-inputs at the community level. One such example is, Sebastian, from Tamil Nadu,a farmer-entrepreneur who got into bio-input production supporting farmers transition to organic farming methods (Victor I and Suresh Kanna K, p.33). And he attributes his success to the training and financial support received from the government.
With increased awareness of farmers and increased demand for organic produce, production of bio-inputs is slowly gaining momentum. However, use of bio-inputs is still prevalent in small pockets only. Unless the recommended package of practices include bio-fertilisers and bio-pesticides, supported by government subsidies, the takeoff is bound to be very slow.
Hope the experiences shared in this issue will motivate and trigger action towards sustainable bio-input promotion on a wider scale, benefitting in better recycling of resources, climate resilience and improved farm livelihoods.