What is organic farming : Importance of Organic Farming In India

Natural farming is not a new concept in India, with farmers having tilled their land without the use of chemicals largely relying on organic residues, cow dung, composts, etc since time immemorial. Before green revolution India largely followed this traditional method of Agriculture which has now became the Organic Farming with some advanced concepts.

This Article on Organic Farming will help you Understand everything About What Organic Farming, Why do we need Organic Farming, Advantages and Limitations of Organic Farming and Most Important What is the Current Scenario of Organic Farming in India.

What is organic farming : Importance of Organic Farming In India

Introduced at the beginning of the 20th century due to the changing farming practices, Organic Farming is a method of producing crops and livestock without the use of pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics and, growth hormones.

Organic farming is a sustainable agriculture system that excludes the use of synthetic inputs in farming and relies on on-farm inputs such as crop residues, farmyard manure, enriched composts, vermi-compost, oil cakes, bio-fertilizers etc for nutrient management of crops. 

Similarly, pests and diseases are managed by eco-friendly farming practices of crop rotation, trap crops, bio-pesticides like neem-based formulations, bio control agents, mechanical traps, stale seed bed etc. 

Adoption of organic farming practices produces safe food, reduces cost of production, improves soil health and health in mitigating the climate change and global warming by reducing dependence on chemical fertilizers.

This is also in sync with the Sustainable Development Goal 2 targeting ‘end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture’.

What is organic farming

Methods/ techniques of organic farming :

Crop Rotation: A technique to grow various kinds of crops in the same area, according to different seasons, in a sequential manner

Green Manure: Refers to the dying plants that are uprooted and stuffed into the soil in order to make them act as a nutrient for the soil to increase its quality.

Mulching: It is a process of covering the soil and making more favorable condition for the growth, development of the plant.

Bio-fertilizer: There are the substances which contain living microorganisms which, when applied to seeds, plant surfaces, or soil, colonize the rhizosphere or the interior of the plant and promotes growth by increasing the supply or availability of primary nutrients to the host plant.

Vermi-compost: Vermicompost is the product of the composting process using various species of worms, usually red wigglers, white worms, and other earthworms, to create a mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast.

Need of organic farming in India

With the increase in population our compulsion would be not only to stabilize agricultural production but to increase it further in sustainable manner. The green revolution fulfilled our aspirations by changing India from a food importing to a food exporting nation.

However, the achievement was at the expense of ecology and environment and to the detriment of the well-being of the people. The agriculture system adopted from the west has started showing increasing unsustainability and once again the need for an appropriate method suitable to our requirements is being felt.

The practice of organic farming, said to the best known alternative to the conventional method, also originated in the west, which suffered from the ill effects of chemical agriculture. However, organic farming is based on the similar principles underlying our traditional agriculture used in the past. 

Organic agriculture aims at the human welfare without any harm to the environment which is the foundation of human life itself. 

Aim of organic farming:

  • To provide the population with quality and nutritional stuff.
  • Effective utilization of natural resources
  • Reduce/ avoid all types of pollution that occurs due to agriculture
  • To reduce it input cost
  • To maintain long term fertility of soil.

The key characteristics of organic farming include

  • Protecting the long term fertility of soils by maintaining organic matter levels, encouraging soil biological activity, and careful mechanical intervention
  • Providing crop nutrients indirectly using relatively insoluble nutrient sources which are made available to the plant by the action of soil micro-organisms
  • Nitrogen self-sufficiency through the use of legumes and biological nitrogen fixation, as well as effective recycling of organic materials including crop residues and livestock manures
  • Weed, disease and pest control relying primarily on crop rotations, natural predators, diversity, organic manuring, resistant varieties and limited (preferably minimal) thermal, biological and chemical intervention
  • The extensive management of livestock, paying full regard to their evolutionary adaptations, behavioral needs and animal welfare issues with respect to nutrition, housing, health, breeding and rearing
  • Careful attention to the impact of the farming system on the wider environment and the conservation of wildlife and natural habitats

Advantages of organic farming:

  • It helps to maintain environment health by reducing the level of pollution.
  • It reduces human and animal health hazards by reducing the level of residues in the product.
  • It helps in keeping agricultural production at a sustainable level.
  • It reduces the cost of agricultural production and also improves the soil health.
  • It ensures optimum utilization of natural resources for short-term benefit and helps in conserving them for future generation.
  • It not only saves energy for both animal and machine, but also reduces risk of crop failure.
  • It improves the soil physical properties such as granulation, good tilth, good aeration, easy root penetration and improves water-holding capacity and reduces erosion.
  • It improves the soil’s chemical properties such as supply and retention of soil nutrients, reduces nutrient loss into water bodies and environment and promotes favorable chemical reactions.

Limitations and implications of Organic farming

There are a few limitations with organic farming such as

  • Organic manure is not abundantly available and on plant nutrient basis it may be more expensive than chemical fertilizers if organic inputs are purchased.
  • Production in organic farming declines especially during first few years, so the farmer should be given premium prices for organic produce.
  • The guidelines  for organic production, processing, transportation and certification etc are beyond the understanding of ordinary Indian farmer.
  • Marketing of organic produce is also not properly streamlined. There are a number of farms in India which have either never been chemically managed / cultivated or have converted back to organic farming because of farmers’ beliefs or purely for reason of economics. These thousands of farmers cultivating million acres of land are not classified as organic though they are

Indian Scenario Regarding Organic Farming

  • Sikkim became the first State in the world to become fully organic in 2016.
  • India ranks first in number of organic farmers and ninth in terms of area under organic farming

  • North East India has traditionally been organic and the consumption of chemicals is far less than the rest of the country.
  • Similarly the tribal and island territories have been traditionally practicing organic farming.
  • The major organic exports from India have been flax seeds, sesame, soybean, tea, medicinal plants, rice and pulses.
  • There was an increase of nearly 50% in organic exports in 2018-19, touching Rs. 5151 crore.
  • Commencement of exports from Assam, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland to UK, USA, Eswatini and Italy have proved the potential by increasing volumes and expanding to new destinations as the demand for health foods increases.

Certification Schemes

Certification is an important element of organic produce to instill customer confidence. Both PKVY and MOVCD are promoting certification under Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) and National Program for Organic Production (NPOP) respectively targeting domestic and exports markets. The Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations, 2017 are based on the standards of NPOP and PGS

  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is the food regulator in the country and is also responsible for regulating organic food in the domestic market and imports.
  • Participatory Guarantee System (PGS): PGS is a process of certifying organic products, which ensures that their production takes place in accordance with laid-down quality standards. PGS Green is given to chemical free produce under transition to ‘organic’ which takes 3 years. It is mainly for domestic purpose.
  • National Program for Organic Production (NPOP): NPOP grants organic farming certification through a process of third party certification for export purposes.

Programs Launched by Government to Promote Organic Farming:

In view of increasing demand of organic food and realizing the advantage of chemical free farming for environment and human life, Government of India has been promoting Organic farming in the country through dedicated schemes namely Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER) since 2015-16. Both the schemes stress on end to end support to organic farmers i.e. from production to certification and marketing.       

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)? – A traditional farming improvement programme, PMKY was launched in 2015. It is an extended component of Soil Health Management (SHM) under the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA).
  • Under PKVY, Organic farming is promoted through adoption of organic villages by cluster approach and Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) certification.
  • Assistance of Rs.50,000 per ha /3 years is provided out of which 62% i.e., Rs. 31,000 is given as incentive to a farmer towards organic inputs.
  • About 40,000 clusters are being assisted under PKVY covering an area of about 7 lakh ha.
Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD)
  • Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD-NER) is a Central Sector Scheme, a sub-mission under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA)
  • It was launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare in 2015 for implementation in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.
  •  The scheme promotes 3rd party certified organic farming of niche crops of north east region through Farmers Producer organizations (FPOs) with focus on exports. 
  • Farmers are given assistance of Rs 25000/ha/3 years for organic inputs including organic manure and biofertilizers etc. 
  • Support for formation of FPOs, capacity building, post-harvest infrastructure up to Rs 2 crores are also provided in the scheme. 
  • MOVCD has brought in its fold 160 FPOs cultivating about 80,000 ha.
Way Forward

Cultivable land area under organic farming has more than doubled from 11.83 lakh ha in 2014 to 29.17 lakh ha in 2020 due to the focused efforts of the Government. Over the years, the organic promotion activities led to development of State specific organic brands, increased domestic supply and exports of organic produce from NER. Taking cue from the success of the organic initiatives, a target of 20 lakh ha additional area coverage by 2024 is envisaged in the vision document of Government. 

Awareness programmes, availability of adequate post- harvest infrastructure, marketing facilities, premium price for the organic produce etc., would certainly motivate farmers towards organic farming thereby increasing organic coverage in the country.

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