Farmers plant paddy saplings as monsoon rains fill their fields, at a village in West Bengal | PTI
Farmers plant paddy saplings as monsoon rains fill their fields, at a village in West Bengal | PTI
Text Size:

New Delhi: In her Budget speech on 5 July, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman referred to Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF), and said such steps can help in “doubling our farmers’ income in time for our 75th year of independence”.

Two months on, work on the ZBNF scheme is moving at a snail’s pace, with many in the agriculture ministry, including scientists, continuing to raise doubts over its “viability”.

ZBNF, a low-cost method, involves farming without using any chemicals. It involves application of a mixture of fresh indigenous cowdung and urine along with jiggery, pulses and flour on the soil to be cultivated — which is called ‘jeevamrut’ or ‘jiwamrita’.

Speaking to ThePrint, Trilochan Mohapatra, Secretary, Agricultural Research and Education, said: “Trials are going on in Modipuram (Uttar Pradesh), Ludhiana (Punjab), Pantnagar (Uttarakhand) and Kurukshetra (Haryana). It will take at least two to three years to get results. We will only launch the scheme then.”

Mohapatra added that a team has been constituted under Telangana University vice-chancellor Dr Praveen Rao and Prof. Jaishankar of the same university to oversee the trials. The plan is to expand the tests to 20 other locations.


Also read: Zero-budget farming: Why Budget 2019 isn’t in sync with PM Modi’s promises to farmers


Agriculture scientists advise caution

The ZBNF technique has gained currency since the BJP-led NDA government came to power. The 2018-19 Economic Survey had recommended ZBNF as a cost-effective livelihood option for small farmers.

However, agriculture scientists at the Indian Council of Agricultural Reasearch (ICAR) and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) say it could create havoc in the farm sector and lead to a decline in farmers’ income.

“Without multi-agroclimatic location studies, and scientific validation of long-term impact and viability of ZBNF, it should not be scaled up and promoted country-wide. The results can be devastating,” said an ICAR scientist who did not want to be named.

Agriculturist Subhash Palekar in Maharashtra, one of the earliest proponents of ZBNF, has claimed that only one cow is needed to prepare 30 acres of land, but that it should be an indigenous breed and not an imported one. However, IARI scientists say the jeevamrut method is impractical as it is almost impossible for each farmer to have the number of indigenous cows corresponding to the area of farmland he owns.

“There is very little incentive for small-scale farmers to rear indigenous cow breeds, as their milk yield is quite low as compared to the hybrid breeds,” the ICAR scientist said, calling it a “half-baked concept”.


Also read: Modi govt rolls back super-rich tax, announces series of measures to revive economy


‘Soil is now used to chemical input’

A second ICAR scientist said it’s impossible to make a sudden shift to natural farming as the farm soil has already got used to chemical input.

“It will take at least 7 to 10 cropping seasons for the soil to perform to its optimum under chemical-free conditions.  During this time, the farmer’s income will decline to an unprecedented level,” he said.

The scientist said one hectare of farmland which produces an average of 60 quintals of wheat requires at least 120 kg of nitrogen, 60 kg of phosphate and 40 kg of potassium as fertiliser.

“One hundred kg of cow dung provides only 250 g of nitrogen to the soil. It will be a Herculean task to ensure the rest of nutrients reach the soil. This makes ZBNF completely irrelevant to the contemporary Indian agriculture scenario,” he said.


Also read: India’s farm economy needs liberalisation, not periodic political charity


 

ThePrint is now on Telegram. For the best reports & opinion on politics, governance and more, subscribe to ThePrint on Telegram.

14 Comments Share Your Views

14 COMMENTS

  1. Without having better People’s Policy on Natural Farming and best Natural Farming practicing Model Plots(at least 100 in district) we can’t compete with chemical farming (MNCs, most of scientists, etc)…..

    First Modi Government must do this… Rather than just pronouncing Natural Farming…. Put some budget to doing all this…. See one thing there is no zero budget in farming….

  2. I travelled to a State to find the scale at which ZBNF is practiced. In one place, small area of ZBNF exists… I went to 20 Km to find the second one doing ZBNF even without application Jeevamrit
    . Then I went another 15 Km to find the third one.
    Fourth one I don’t know whether I will be able to find or not… this is the ground reality.
    . FARMER to FARMER extension is the best method… I am still not able to understand why neighbour farmers are not convinced… Agricultural
    Scientists have done lot.. because of that today we are getting all the commodities at affordable price

    Can the nation afford to produce only 600 kg wheat yield per acre using ZBNF….. this is the yield reported by farmers who have earlier tried ZBNF…
    think before criticising Scientists…

  3. What is the health affect on people and amount spent on medical bills due to application of chemical fertilizers. Scientists should see on this aspect. They should also see the cost effective methods. On the one side they are increasing yield and on the other side medical bills.

  4. Most of the important point scientists are missing ( or misleading people) is the important fact of “input cost”. Today as a farmer We are spending 30-40% on manures. With the 4 wheels of SPNF farmer is directly getting benefits without the need of any “pricing fluctuations”.

    It’s stupid to simply say it’s not possible without knowing the core of it.

  5. Why don’t we can afford double the price of lead is less…these scientists who support chemical farming doing more than good. They should rather put their brains to come up with newer technology….I support organic farming ..zero budget can be next step..lot of good brains already started doing it but not at scale..do this need scale

  6. If ZBNF is applied nationwide,the business of multinational as well as Indian companies will be affected.They have nothing to do with the health of we people….. Nor with oyr the health of out motherland…..thats it…..

  7. I heard the same arguement some 12 years back. Who stopped them from experimenting. On one side their own studies say soils are becoming saline, their factor productivity has come down etc. When the problem is known, what alternative options were developed you being scientists? Agriculture is location specific. Who has promoted pan india technologies ignoring local agro-ecology? ZBNF is using local resources, producing crops. Where are the publications on companion crops, high density diversity based plantations etc.? Public institutions should guide on these lines rather than brushing aside farmers’ knowledge. World over shift is towards agroecology based production systems.

  8. It’s funny those scientists don’t even know basic science behind jeevamruta. Jeevamruta is not fertilizer. It’s microbial culture to speed up decomposition. Dear scientists pleaee study some basic science… As environmentalists I will support the natural farming methods. That’s the future if we adopt it properly.

    • Yes Correct. Without getting basics of ZBNF Scientists making open statement against ZBNF. They have to work at field level instead working in dry lab. If they oppose to ZBNF, then what will be the option with them??? They don’t have firm solution for alternative of ZBNF.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here