Importance of organic farming today


Food production has witnessed various advances globally in developing countries, such as India. Food production in India was insufficient with effect from 1947 to 1960 as there was a growing population, during which a famine was also predicted. But with the advent of the green revolution, India transformed from a food grain deficit country into a food grain surplus country. The green revolution led to high crop productivity through suitable measures, such as increasing the area under cultivation, double cropping, adoption of seed HYV, increased use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides , improvement of irrigation facilities and improvement of agricultural tools and crop protection and modification of agricultural equipment. There was a significant increase in the use of pesticides during this period and India became one of the largest producers of pesticides in all of Asia, resulting in significant economic gains. There was a repetition of the crop cycle for increased crop production and reduced crop failure, which depleted soil nutrients. Similarly, since there is no return of crop residues and organic matter to the soil, intensive cropping systems have resulted in the loss of soil organic matter. Moreover, to meet the needs of these new types of seeds, farmers have increased the use of chemical fertilizers which have also deteriorated the quality of the soil.

The application of pesticides and fertilizers has led to an increase in the level of heavy metals, especially Cd (cadmium), Pb (lead) and As (arsenic), in the soil. Weedkillers and herbicides also harmed the environment. Soil pH increased after the green revolution due to the use of these alkaline chemicals. The practice of monoculture (only cultivation of wheat and rice) also had a deleterious effect on many soil properties, including the migration of silt from the surface to the subsurface layers and a decrease in organic carbon content. Toxic chemicals in the soil have destroyed beneficial pathogens, which are essential for maintaining soil fertility. In addition, the use of tractors and mechanization have damaged the physico-chemical properties of the soil, which has affected the biological activities in the soil. All of these practices have deteriorated the health of the soil and ultimately our environment. To restore our environment, especially our soil, we need to focus on other farming options like organic farming, natural farming, etc.

Organic farming / ecological farming / organic farming is a holistic approach that relies primarily on organic sources of fertilizers, namely compost manure, green manure, bone meal, biofertilizers and agronomic practices such as as crop rotation and companion planting. In addition, biological pest control, ecological engineering, mixed cropping and the promotion of insect predators are also emphasized. The prohibition of synthetic substances and the use of only substances of natural origin are governed by organic standards. These organic farming methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many countries, based largely on standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), an international company umbrella organization for organic farming organizations established in 1972. Organic farming is growing rapidly and today at least 170 countries produce organic food commercially.

India produces around 27,132,966 tons of certified organic products including all types of food i.e. basmati rice, pulses, honey, tea, spices, coffee, oilseeds, fruits, processed foods, cereals, medicinal plants and their value-added products. This production is not only limited to the edible sector; it includes organic cotton fiber, garments, cosmetics, functional food products, body care products, etc. These organic products have a huge demand and can be marketed internationally to the EU, USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, South Africa and the Middle East. East. Currently, about 12 states – Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Sikkim, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand – have national organic certification agencies accredited by APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority). About 50,000 hectares of land in Jammu and Kashmir is used for organic farming, and it has a certified organic area of ​​22,316 hectares. The central government has given priority to Jammu and Kashmir in promoting organic farming. So far, an area of ​​1180 hectares has been identified for organic farming and more than 3000 farmers in the state have received training in organic farming.

Organic farming promotes sustainability, self-sufficiency, self-reliance, health, food security, food safety and also promotes crop diversity in terms of polyculture. Due to the inhibition of herbicides and pesticides, an increase in biodiversity value and population density is observed. Organic farming not only builds healthy soil, but also helps fight erosion, supports water conservation and water health. Food safety is also improved due to low nitrogen application, minimal use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, which in turn reduces the incidence of cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke. . Organic foods are healthier, tastier, authentic, natural, free of pesticides, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms, low in nitrates, safe and certified compared to non-organic foods. Organic agriculture has the potential to support the conservation of biodiversity by increasing the number and diversity of wild species on farms, maintaining the health of soils and therefore soil flora and fauna, reducing the risk of water pollution and by being energy efficient.

The majority of small farmers use poor agro-ecological practices that degrade the environment. There is a need to provide knowledge and services to farmers, who have insufficient knowledge of ecological organic farming techniques, business skills of natural/organic products and sustainable livelihoods. Organic farming has enormous potential here due to its health and environmental benefits, improved agricultural cycle, reduced imports of pesticides and other foreign fertilizers, and increased creation of jobs. Before using the organic label, farmers must receive certification that the product meets applicable standards following third-party inspections of their operations. Soil health is the primary foundation of biological systems. Fertile soil will provide essential nutrients for plants while supporting an active biotic community that helps the soil resist environmental degradation.

Government of India provides assistance for the promotion of organic agriculture across the country through different programs such as Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER), Capital Investment Subsidy Scheme (CISS) under Soil Health Management Scheme, National Mission on Oilseeds and Palm Oil (NMOOP) and National Mission for Food Security (NFSM). SKUAST Kashmir also plays a pivotal role in the popularization/adoption of organic farming among the farming community by providing and disseminating trainings and methodologies to all parts of Kashmir through its various outlets such as the KVKs and faculties. In this context, vermi beds, biofertilizers and other organic sources are also provided free of charge to farmers in various KVKs. KVK Kupwara also plays a pivotal role in promoting organic farming and around 300 NADP compost pits, 10 woven vermi beds, 2 low-cost vermicompost pits and 200 bottles of organic waste decomposers have been distributed to farmers so far. ‘nowadays. In addition, KVK Kupwara has also set up OFTs/FLDs on the use of organic inputs to popularize organic farming. Many farmers in Kupwara district produce organic produce, but due to a lack of marketing, they do not receive timely returns. KVK Kupwara helps create consumer level awareness among people and bridges the gap.

Despite all the benefits of organic farming on biodiversity and environmental protection, it also comes with some limitations such as high costs at the beginning, pest problems, expensive products for poor families, strict regulatory standards to meet, high certification costs, time consumption, need for specialist knowledge, wide yield variation and may not be suitable for large-scale cultivation. Organic agriculture should not be seen as an isolated technology but as a systematic approach that embodies the principles of human ecology and sustainable development.

(The authors are associated with the District Agro-Meteorological Unit, Krishi Vigyan Kendra Kupwara, SKUAST-K)

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