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Transitioning towards organic farming

Rohan Yogesh Raut


Farming is changing. From chemical to traditional again – but with a new touch, new perspective, and new challenges. Be it Organic, Regenerative or Zero Budget farming, what will matter most to farmers is its economic and environmental sustainability.


 

Bio-inputs replaced chemical inputs on farmers fields

With 11 years of experience in organic farming and 5 years working with marginalpaddy farmers (organic) at Gondeda, Tal. Chimur, Dist. Chandrapur, Maharashtra, last season of Kharif, we (Generous Technologies Pvt Ltd) tried our hands in the high pest pressure zone of paddy area in Village Asgaon, Bhandara district of Maharashtra. Changing existing practice in agriculture is not always easy. It wasn’t  for the 8 farmers too. After a series of discussions and field visits to successful organic paddy farmers, this group of farmers was ready to cultivate a minimum of one acre of each of their land adopting organic methods. Farmers mutually agreed on the Jai Shree Ram variety of rice which is fine, medium size rice.

Two tons of enriched compost per acre was used. It was prepared by culturing farm yard manure and farm waste with decomposing culture. After complete decomposition, 8 types of bacteria and fungus were added. Different biofertilizers were used for seed treatment, Dhaincha/Boru was used as a green manure. Dashparni ark(10 leaves extract), Neem leaf extract, Agni Astra(Chilli Garlic Ginger extract) was used as pest repellent, and Parthenium extract, Jeevamrut, Vermiwash and Panchagavyawere used as plant growth promoters for paddy cultivation.

It was our first time working in an intensive farming zone with high usage of inputs of fertilizer, pesticides, labour and capital on small sized lands.To our surprise, despite adverse climatic conditions, crops responded much more satisfactorily, compared to the neighbouring farmers’ chemical fields. The farmers got very good results in terms of reduced pest infestation and increased disease resistance, ultimately improving productivity of paddy.

All 8 farmers have got good yields ranging from 9-11 quintal paddy per acre in their first year of organic cultivation against 2-4 quintal per acre in chemically grown paddy. Point to be taken into consideration is that, in chemical farming fields, this year’s production was very low due to adverse climatic conditions. Normally,  chemically grown crops get 15-16 quintal per acre yield for fine rice variety in that particular area.

The farmers were happy not just because they got good yield compared to chemically grown crops, but they also could fetch a better price for their produce. Cost of production was reduced by upto 50% and in some cases even less. They saved more than last year, and also they gained more than last year.

This is a small example of how as agripreneur we are promoting organic farming.

Policy support

Farmers harvested better yields using bio-inputs

At district/Tehsil level, Agriculture Department and Agriculture Technology Management Agency(ATMA) is promoting organic farming through Participatory Guarantee Scheme (PGS). Farmers are trained to prepare all inputs required for organic farming. ATMA also has provision to provide required essentials like 200 liter drum, vermicompost units etc., at subsidised rate. Farmers groups and Women’s Self Help Groups are also trained for HaNPV production, Tricho card preparation. With all these efforts, many FPO’s are working as a registered organic producer group. In Nagpur district, agricultural departments are collectively working with Municipal Corporation to identify hot spots for selling farmers goods as a marketing initiative which is considered to be a weak link for the farmers.

I always tell organic farmers- Convince your neighbouring farmer for Organic farming. Tell him the benefits you experienced. If he listens and follows you, you will be benefited in many indirect ways and you will be happy. If he doesn’t listen, still you will be happy. Because of his chemical usage, pests and diseases will be attracted to his field first rather than your field.

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. These CFAs will be helpful in extension of organic farming in future.

Initiatives from every tier of extension is definitely helping farmers to cultivate responsibly. Information flow to the farmer seems at par. Inputs like bio-fertilizers, are easily available in the market and when out of stock, it can be easily ordered.

Challenges

One must accept organic farming as a well planned activity. Organic farming is basically a preventive approach to agriculture. Commencing organic farming activity first requires patience to understand the whole system from production of crop to marketing of produce. And this has gone wrong in some cases.

While government system in adoption of organic farming is ample, following are the reasons for slow pace of farmers converting to organic farming: –

  • Chemical farming has changed the mindset of farmers to “readymade and fast”. In organic farming, farmers have to produce/process their own fertilisers, pest control inputs, and fungicides, for which many are hesitant.
  • As organic farming is a preventive approach, in the initial stages of conversion to organic, one has to be proactive in spraying schedule. So ultimately the number of sprays (in some cases) may increase. This, many times, is not done by farmers. Once infestation gets beyond control, organic farming methods’ name is at stake.
  • Labour requirement is slightly higher than chemical methods. This is an issue where labour scarcity is there and acreage is more.
  • Organic farming module is benefited by incorporation of animal husbandry with it. We must keep in mind that, “waste of one industry is best for another industry”. Not all farmers own cattle. As many formulations require animal waste such as urine and dung for preparation of inputs, purchasing it from outside adds to the cost.

Way forward

Identifying the market for sale of produce should be done before selecting the crop. If a farmer wishes to sell crops in APMC, it is not advised to waste valuable efforts for farming organically. Deciding the target market first will win half the battle.

Before cultivation, farmers must understand the science of production through organic approach.  Studying soil, crop, resources available is highly recommended. Copying the package of practice (POP) of some farmers is a big no. Farmers must make necessary changes in treatment as per their environment and resources available. Farmers should start organic farming with a small area after studying all these points.

Forming a group is always beneficial for exchanging knowledge and resources. It also gives power to purchase and sell.

Even if one ignores for a moment the indirect benefits like soil improvement, soil water improvement, human health effects etc., there are still large economic benefits of organic farming directly from high market value. First, the farmer must be assured of economics of organic farming. Indirect benefits are a bonus for him.

It is time to ignore fast and readymade approaches and appropriately respond to the changing needs of economic and environmental sustainability..

Rohan Yogesh Raut

Address – 63, Mire Lay-out, Near Sudampuri, Sakkardara Square

Nagpur 440009

Email: raut.rohan1@gmail.com