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Organic Farming

Organic Farming

Why in the news Organic Farming?

During the National Symposium on ‘Promotion of Organic Products through Cooperatives of Organic Farming’, organic food products of National Cooperative Organics Ltd (NCOL) were launched under brand name ‘Bharat Organics’.

What is organic farming?

Organic farming is an agricultural approach that emphasizes sustainable and natural practices. It avoids synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, focusing on crop rotation, composting, and biological pest control. This method promotes soil health, biodiversity, and reduces environmental impact. Organic farming also prioritizes animal welfare, prohibiting the use of growth hormones and antibiotics in livestock. While it may face challenges in terms of productivity and cost, the emphasis on ecological balance and long-term sustainability makes organic farming a crucial component of responsible agriculture.

History of organic farming?

The history of organic farming can be traced back to the early 20th century as a reaction to the industrialization of agriculture. Sir Albert Howard, a British agronomist, and his wife Gabrielle Howard played significant roles in shaping organic farming principles. Their experiences in India during the 1920s influenced the development of organic farming practices.

The term “organic farming” gained prominence in the 1940s through the work of J.I. Rodale, an American farmer and publisher. He popularized the concept through publications and established the Rodale Institute, which became a hub for organic farming research.

During the mid-20th century, the Green Revolution introduced intensive farming with synthetic inputs, leading to increased productivity but also environmental concerns. In response, the organic movement gained momentum, advocating for sustainable, chemical-free agriculture.

By the 1980s and 1990s, governments began establishing regulations and certification standards for organic products. The 1990 U.S. Organic Foods Production Act, for example, set national standards for organic farming and created the USDA Organic label.

Since then, organic farming has continued to grow globally. Consumer demand for organic products has risen, prompting more farmers to adopt organic practices. The movement has expanded beyond agriculture to encompass a broader sustainable and holistic approach to food production.

Methods use in organic farming

Organic farming employs various methods that prioritize sustainability, soil health, and ecological balance. Some key practices include:

  1. Crop Rotation: Cultivating different crops in a specific sequence helps break pest and disease cycles, enhances soil fertility, and reduces the need for synthetic inputs.
  2. Composting: Decomposed organic matter, such as kitchen waste and crop residues, is used to create nutrient-rich compost. This improves soil structure, water retention, and provides essential nutrients to plants.
  3. Cover Crops: Growing cover crops, like legumes or grasses, helps prevent soil erosion, suppress weeds, and fix nitrogen in the soil, enhancing overall soil fertility.
  4. Biological Pest Control: Beneficial insects, birds, and other organisms are introduced or encouraged to control pests naturally, reducing the reliance on chemical pesticides.
  5. Polyculture: Planting a variety of crops together promotes biodiversity and can discourage the spread of pests and diseases. It mimics natural ecosystems and enhances overall ecosystem resilience.
  6. Avoidance of Synthetic Inputs: Organic farming prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Instead, it relies on natural alternatives, such as neem oil, copper sulfate, and organic fertilizers.
  7. Livestock Integration: Combining crop and livestock farming allows for nutrient recycling. Animal manure is used as a natural fertilizer, and livestock contribute to pest control and weed management.
  8. No Genetic Modification: Organic farming avoids genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It emphasizes the use of traditional, non-GMO seed varieties.
  9. Conservation Tillage: Minimizing soil disturbance through reduced tillage helps retain soil structure, reduces erosion, and preserves beneficial microorganisms.
  10. Water Conservation: Practices such as mulching, efficient irrigation systems, and water recycling contribute to water conservation in organic farming.

These methods collectively promote a holistic and sustainable approach to agriculture, maintaining the health of the soil, minimizing environmental impact, and producing food in harmony with nature.

Organic farming in India.

The Indian state of Sikkim, located in the north, succeeded in its 2016 conversion to 100% organic farming. Mizoram, Goa, Rajasthan, and Meghalaya are among the other Indian states that have stated their aim to switch to entirely organic farming.

Additionally supporting organic farming, particularly Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF), a type of regenerative agriculture, is the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

In 2018, India accounted for almost 30% of all organic farmers worldwide, making it the country with the greatest number of organic farmers worldwide. There are 835,000 certified organic farmers in India. Nonetheless, just about 2% of all farmlands are used for organic farming.

 Several factors contribute to the increasing popularity of organic agriculture in the country:
  1. Traditional Practices: India has a rich history of traditional and organic farming practices. Many farmers continue to use age-old techniques involving crop rotation, natural fertilizers, and pest control methods.
  2. Consumer Demand: Rising awareness about health and environmental concerns has led to an increased demand for organic produce. Consumers in India are showing a preference for food free from synthetic pesticides and chemicals.
  3. Government Initiatives: The Indian government has been promoting organic farming through various schemes and programs. The National Program for Organic Farming (NPOF) and Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) are among the initiatives supporting the adoption of organic practices.
  4. Certification Standards: Certification bodies like the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) and the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) provide standards for organic certification. This is crucial for both domestic consumption and export of organic products.
  5. Export Opportunities: India is becoming a significant player in the global organic market. The country exports a variety of organic products, including spices, tea, coffee, and fruits, meeting the demand of environmentally conscious consumers worldwide.
  6. Crop Diversity: Indian farmers engage in organic cultivation of a wide range of crops, including pulses, oilseeds, cereals, fruits, and vegetables. The diversity of crops contributes to sustainable agriculture and biodiversity.
  7. Community-Based Farming: Many small and marginal farmers in India are adopting organic farming as part of community-based initiatives. These collaborations enhance knowledge sharing and support local economies.
Drawbacks of organic farming

While organic farming has numerous benefits, it also faces certain drawbacks and challenges:

  1. Lower Yields: Organic farming often results in lower crop yields compared to conventional methods. This can lead to concerns about meeting the increasing global demand for food.
  2. Land Use Efficiency: Organic farming typically requires more land to produce the same amount of food as conventional methods. This can raise questions about the efficiency of land use, especially as the world’s population continues to grow.
  3. Transition Period: The transition from conventional to organic farming involves a few years during which farmers may experience lower yields and economic challenges. This period can be financially demanding for farmers.
  4. Certification Costs: Obtaining organic certification can be expensive and may pose a barrier for small-scale farmers. Compliance with organic standards requires additional paperwork, inspections, and record-keeping.
  5. Limited Availability and Variety: Organic produce might be less readily available and could have a limited variety compared to conventionally grown options. This can affect consumer choices and access to diverse food options.
  6. Pest and Disease Management: Organic farming relies on natural pest control methods, which might be less effective in controlling certain pests and diseases compared to synthetic chemical solutions. This can result in higher crop losses.
  7. Transportation and Shelf Life: Organic produce may have a shorter shelf life and can be more susceptible to spoilage during transportation due to the absence of synthetic preservatives.
  8. Knowledge and Training: Successful organic farming requires a deep understanding of ecological processes and sustainable practices. Farmers may need education and training to effectively implement organic techniques.
  9. Weed Control: Organic farming practices often rely on mechanical or manual weed control methods, which can be labor-intensive and time-consuming.
  10. Economic Viability: The premium prices associated with organic products may not always translate into higher profits for farmers. Economic viability remains a concern for some considering the financial aspects of organic farming.

It’s important to note that ongoing research and advancements aim to address some of these challenges and improve the overall sustainability and effectiveness of organic farming.

Conclusion

Despite these challenges, the increasing popularity of organic farming, government initiatives, and global export opportunities highlight its growing importance. With ongoing research and innovations, organic farming continues to evolve, aiming to strike a balance between sustainable agriculture and meeting the world’s food demands.

Source: Wikipedia