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Farming has always been a way of life since our ancestors shifted from their nomadic way of life to settling in one place and growing their food. Crops were still grown the natural or organic way until the advent of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, added with the rise in population and increase in the demand for food.
But with reports of the dangers of chemically-grown crops on humans and the environment, and with people becoming more and more health conscious, organic farming is once again gaining prominence not only in India but also around the world.
Organic farming is not new in India. In fact, India practised organic farming for thousands of years. But with the increasing population of India and severe national calamities, the country experienced severe food scarcity. As a result, during the 1960s, the government imported food from other countries and introduced the Green Revolution Program.
This Green Revolution under the leadership of M.S. Swaminathan aimed to increase the food security in India at that time. Several hectares of land were converted for cultivation of hybrid seeds. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides also replaced the natural and organic fertilizers.
The Green Revolution saved the millions of Indian people that would have died from food scarcity. The country also was able to reduce its food imports and once again, became an exporter of food grains around the world.
But with the passage of time, the side effect of the long-term use of these chemicals gradually revealed itself. The land is losing its fertility and pests are becoming immune to chemical pesticides. These required large amounts of stronger and more expensive fertilizers and pesticides which most farmers cannot afford. This added cost, and due to health and environmental reasons, more and more farmers and consumers in India are reverting to organic farming.
So What is Organic Farming?
Organic farming is a farming technique that relies on natural methods of cultivating the land and raising crops. With organic farming, natural wastes from crops and animals are used to sustain the soil. Use of natural residues ensures that crops are grown and produced in a pollution-free and eco-friendly environment.
Organic farming aims for maximum production of high quality without affecting the soil’s fertility and its natural environment. Thus, organic farming heavily relies on natural farming methods such as crop rotation, animal manures, mineral grade rock additives, crop residues and off-farm organic wastes.
Why go organic?
The health, economic and environmental benefits that organic farming can offer are:
- Organically grown crops and livestock are high on vitamin and mineral content thus they have higher nutritional value compared to those grown with the modern conventional farming method.
- Organically grown crops are free from contamination induced by chemicals in fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
- Protection of environment by minimizing and eliminating the use of toxic substances that can harm the planet.
- Healthier soil for crops to grow as organic farming promotes better soil matter than conventional farming.
- Reduced farming costs without the need to buy expensive fertilizers and pesticides.
- Drought-resistant crops as organically grown plants are more drought resistant than their conventional counterparts that need more water to produce since chemical fertilizers are water-soluble.
- For organic producers, higher profit as more and more consumers are becoming organic converts and are willing to pay a higher price for high-quality organics.
Organic Farming Practices
Organic farming minimizes the human impact on the environment and ensures that the agricultural system works as naturally as possible.
Some organic farming techniques typically practised are:
- Crop rotation to increase soil fertility and the overall farm health. Having a variety of crops helps support a range of beneficial insects and soil microorganisms that will help the farming environment thrive.
- Use of livestock, green manures, and composts as natural soil fertilizers thus eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Mulching to prevent the growth of weeds by blocking weeds with organic materials or landscape fabrics.
- Use of the method of tillage, flame weeding, and thermal weeding to manage weeds and eliminate the use of synthetic herbicides.
- Growing crops and livestock that are adapted to local conditions which ensure their resistance to diseases and other natural factors
- Use of innovative ways to control and eliminate pests without the use of pesticides. An example of this is the use of an outdoor LED light source to produce light wavelengths to eradicate pests and disrupt their breeding patterns. This can not only help with casting off those pest but also you can use it as an outdoor lighting, just like those from Lamptwist.
- Use of traditional farming tools to do farming and to try and minimize the reliance on fossil fuels.
In 2004, according to the International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD), about 2.5 million hectares of land in India were used for organic farming, and this will only expand as more and more farming community converts to organic farming.
Ventures that focus on organic farming are sprouting up all across India. Among these enterprises that have been successful in their quest for organic agriculture and providing healthier food options to the community are:
Organic Mandya was set-up by Madhu Chandan together with his team in 2015. Located in Bangalore-Mysore highway, Organic Mandya aims to work towards new and innovative systems in agriculture, educate local farmers and help them grow on organic farming.
Founded by S. Madhusudhan, this farm supplies many varieties of fruits, greens, and vegetables grown organically to many grocery chains and organic stores across Bangalore and in many parts of the world.
A Green Venture
An eco-enterprise started by Kavya Chandra, A Green Venture conducts seminars, workshops, and tours in their organic farm with the aim of educating and connecting one to natural and organic farming.
Even the Government of India is getting involved by implementing the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP). This programme is responsible for the accreditation for Certification Bodies, standard for organic production and also the promotion of organic farming. The European Commission, Switzerland, and USDA recognize NPOP. Thus organic products from India duly certified by NPOP are accepted by various importing countries.