Organic agriculture is a technique of cultivation in which there is minimum or negligible use of synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides and growth regulators or utilization of nutritive crop residues, organic manure (cow dung, farmyard manure, vermicompost, green manures, etc.) and biological control of pests is adopted as a replacement so that the fertility of the soil is maintained for a longer duration and ecological balance is maintained without polluting environment.
It is evident that population dynamics is increasing not only in India but in the whole world and the food crisis is going up every day. To meet the food demand farmers are injudiciously applying synthetic fertilizers and poisonous pesticides to obtain more yield from a unit area, which is negatively affecting the soil fertility status. Beside degrading soil, excessive use of chemicals in agricultural production has also jeopardized human health, and the environment, leading to the emergence of various diseases and disorders in humans and animals. All these problems can be resolved only by adopting organic cultivation. Before the 1960s, when in India, chemical fertilizers were not very much popular in agriculture, farmers were still producing sufficient food as they used to practice natural ways of farming. Instead of synthetic fertilizers, cow urine and animal origin manures were used, which helped in maintaining the soil health without any harmful effect on the environment. People living in that era had strong immunity which is now somewhat being lost due to change in crop production patterns. In the early 1960s, new high yielding varieties of wheat and rice were introduced, they had a very high demand for nutrients and water, to replenish the need of these varieties farmers started using fertilizers of chemical origin. As a result, today both humans and soil have lost their health and longevity. The average age of humans was above 100 years before, but now it has significantly reduced because of the unavailability of fresh and chemical-free foods. Off-season vegetables and fruits (grown artificially using growth regulators and fertilizers) satisfy people’s hunger but fail to provide the actual nutrition and immunity. Every farmer’s objective is to get higher yields from a unit area with the lowest input cost. But at the same time, we are forgetting the degrading soils, ecological balance, pollution, etc. The situation can be controlled only if realize the importance of organic agriculture promote its use. The government is also promoting organic production of food crops.
Benefits of organic agriculture
- Organic agriculture improves soil quality and soil remains fertile for a longer duration.
- Organic cultivation can be done at a comparatively lower cost as only farmyard manure, green manure, farm waste, crop residues, organic pesticides are used which are available at lower prices.
- Organic cultivation increases the water holding capacity of soils.
- Organic cultivation helps to check air, water, and soil pollution.
- It reduces water evaporation from the soil surface which helps in increasing water level.
- Organic cultivation maintains environmental and ecological balance.
- Organic farming provides safe, residue-free and chemical-free foods.
- It also provides an opportunity to export organic products to the international markets.
- Organic agriculture can effectively manage kitchen waste and produce compost from it.
- It is a way of living a safe and healthy life without harming the environment.
Components of organic farming
Organic cultivation of crops is possible through the adoption of environment-friendly practices which are known as components of organic farming. These are:
- Crop rotation- The cropping pattern is changed after a certain period of time on the same land. It helps in the management of soil fertility, weeds, diseases, and pest problems.
- Crop residue- The management of crop residue has become a problem in India as only 50% of the crop residues are used for animal feed, the remaining 50% is being burnt in the field itself. These residues can be used for nutrient recycling in crop fields with a proper application of friendly microorganisms.
- Organic manure- These are the nutrient-rich supplements derived from plants, animals or farm wastes. There are two types of organic manure on the basis of nutrient availability i.e. bulky organic manure (FYM, Compost, Green manure) and concentrated organic manure (oilcake, blood meal, bone meal, fishmeal, horn and hoof meal, etc.). FYM is a mixture of well-rotted animal dung, urine and farm waste.
- Waste- Industrial and municipal sewage waste can also be used as fertilizer supplements after proper treatment, removal of heavy metals and decomposition.
- Biofertilizers- The plants can only absorb those nutrients from the soil which present in available forms. Other complex forms are difficult to be taken up plant roots. Biofertilizers are a culture of one or more beneficial microorganisms that can facilitate nutrient availability by mobilizing nutrients their complex forms present in soils. They are ecofriendly and can increase 10-20% of yields. There are several species of microorganisms such as Azotobacter, Azospirillium, Mycorrhizae, Rhizobium, blue-green algae, etc. which are available in various formulations.
- Bio-pesticides- The natural products released from plants as secondary metabolites possessing anti-microbial and pest repellent qualities are known as bio-pesticides. These are basically phenols, terpenoids, and alkaloids. The bio-pesticides are largely appreciated throughout the world as they can be used to reduce chemical pesticide applications.
- Vermicompost-The organic manure produced by using earthworms is known as vermicompost. It is very rich in micro and macronutrients, vitamins, microflora and growth promotors. The soil and compost mixture is consumed by earthworms, digested inside, and the excreted material is used as manure.
Being an agriculture-based economy, a lot of ways to go organic in agriculture are possible in India. Organic agriculture not only produces safe, chemical-free food but also helps in balancing ecology and environment. The cost of production is comparatively less with reduced risk of monitory losses. Though at once all the land can not be converted into organic slowly things need to be changed if we are hoping for a prosperous future.