Organic Farming and its potential benefits in context of Eastern and Hilly states of India
Authors: Saikat Maji and Dr. B. S. Meena
Organic farming movement is gaining more and more relevance worldwide. Intensive chemical based farming especially after green revolution has produced deteriorating effect on soil productivity and soil/animals/human health. In India especially in most of the Eastern states and Himalayan states fertilizer consumption is less than 12 kg/ha. The use of inorganic fertilizers and chemicals are meagre in this region. The farmers of the region are having apathy towards use of agro-chemicals. On the other hand given the resource and infrastructural constraints farmers of these regions remains untouched by green revolution and thus the system of production in the hills remained low input-low risk-low yield technology based. This subsistence status of farming in these small and marginal farmer dominated areas could be altered by promoting organic crop as well as livestock farming in a big way. Following are some potential benefit of organic farming.
Economic Benefits: Studies all over the world have proven that organic farming can fetch higher income to the farmers given the premium price of organic products in market. Though concern existed about the productivity under organic system but in long term the differences in production gap due to adoption of organic agriculture is expected to be negligible; rather there is scope for enhancing productivity with good organic management. The organic price premium would outweigh the initial higher costs and possibly lower yields. All the households in eastern and hilly region used to maintain livestocks (pig, poultry, cattle, goats, etc.), producing sufficient quantity of on-farm manures, which could be efficiently used for organic agriculture. A study in USA founds that organic farming systems use just 63% of the energy required by conventional farming systems, largely due to the massive amounts of energy required to synthesize nitrogen fertiliser (used extensively in conventional farming). An FAO report calculates that organic management systems have decreased the use of fossil fuels by between 10- 70% in Europe and 29-37% in the USA. With the invent of the concept of carbon credit and its growing recognition across the various countries it will not be unimaginative that Indian organic farmers will be able to attract lucrative carbon credit in near future.
Ecological Benefits: Organic farming leads to increase in biodiversity and its conservation. The eastern and Himalayan states are mega-biodiversity rich in plant biomass viz., weeds, shrubs, herbs and forest litters. Most of these species could be efficiently used and conserved under organic production system. Vermicomposting, green manuring, growing of leguminous hedge row species, recycling the pruned biomass in to the filed improves soil and health and productivity. Organic growing methods maximize the nutrient density of soil through use of natural fertilizer, crop rotation and limited use of pesticide. Studies estimated that organic agriculture could double soil carbon sequestration in livestock based systems and decrease green house gases (CO2, nitrous oxide, methane) by 48-60%. Organic practices would help farmers to retain control of their food security by allowing them to save seeds from one season to be used the following season and by encouraging them to develop indigenous seed types suitable to local and regional climates and soils. Thus organic farming practices not only benefit the environment but also a potential contributor in the solution of problems of global warming and food security.
Health Benefits: Though nutritional comparison of all organic product are still not available in mass scale but it can be said that as organic agriculture focuses on soil health and healthy soil will produce healthy food. It was found that organic milk has 60- 80% more nutrients in the summer than conventional milk, and 50-60% more in the winter. Organic milk has higher levels of vitamin E than milk from conventionally reared cows. Organic tomatoes, wheat, potatoes, cabbage and onions have 20-40% more antioxidants than their conventional counterparts, and organic spinach and cabbage contain more minerals (zinc, iron and copper) than conventional spinach and cabbage. Organic farming standards outlaw the use of GMO's on the basis that they have the potential to harm both the environment and human and animal health. In case of livestock farming organic standards do not allow the use of antibiotics as growth hormones. Use of allopathic medicine of all kinds is highly regulated by organic standards to reduce health risks to animals and the food supply.
Given the recent thrust in organic farming throughout the world India is no exception. Though extensive research need to be carried out for analyzing profitability, sustainability of organic farming in India as well as assessment of quality of organic products before reach valid conclusion for generating organic farming promotion strategy but in general given the close to organic traditional farming practised by farmers of eastern and hilly states it is easier to convert into organic farming. And price premium available from organic brand will somehow compensate the small and marginal farmers in these regions who in past was unable to be benefited from intensive inorganic input based green revolution.
1. Batra, P., Sharma, N and Gupta P. (2014). Organic Foods for Children: Health or Hype? Indian Pediatrics, 51: 349-353.
2. Maity,T.K and Tripathy, P. (2004). Organic Farming of Vegetables in India: Problems and Prospects. www. share 4dev. info/kb/documents/2997. Pdf.
3. Ngachan, S.V. (2015) Conservation of natural resources for sustainable hill Agriculture. ICAR Research Complex for NEH, Umiam - 793103, Meghalaya.
About Author / Additional Info:
Carrying out research on organic crop and dairy farming in NDRI, Karnal
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