Modern agricultural practices have a major impact on the environment. Climate change, deforestation, genetic engineering, irrigation problems, pollutants, soil degradation and waste are some of the concerns that are connected with agriculture. Excessive use of fertilisers such as urea, nitrate, phosphorous along with many other pesticides have affected air, water, and soil quality. Genetically engineered crops are herbicide-tolerant and their overuse has created herbicide-resistant ‘super weeds’. Non-target plants, birds, fish and other wildlife have also been killed because of pesticide application. Soil degradation has affected the microbial community of the soil, altering the nutrient cycle, pest control and chemical transformation properties of soil.
Natural farming in India is an ideal solution to reducing all these hazards. This sustainable way of farming is also known as ‘Do-nothing farming’ or ‘No-tillage farming’. It was first popularized by Masanobu Fukuoka way back in the 1940s in Japan. The idea is to let nature play a dominant role to the maximum extent possible. In natural farming, the farmer is considered only a facilitator and the real work is done by nature itself. There are no good or bad organisms; all are vital for a balanced ecosystem.
Main Features of Natural Farming in India are:
• Physical work and labour can be reduced as compared to other agricultural systems.
• Yields similar to chemical agriculture is possible.
• There is a steady increase in soil fertility year after year.
• Water requirement is minimized.
The idea of natural farming is, however, not something that is imported from Japan. Similar ideas have been widely practiced in Indian agriculture for thousands of years. In India, natural farming is often referred to as ‘Rishi Kheti’, which is based on ancient Vedic principles of farming like the use of animal waste and herbal juices for controlling pests and promoting plant growth.
The key principles of natural farming are:
• No till farming – plowing the soil alters the natural environment of the soil and promotes the growth of weeds.
• No weeding by tillage or herbicides – weeds are not eliminated but can be suppressed by spreading straw over freshly sown land and growing ground cover.
• No chemical fertilizers – this is because adding chemical fertilizers help in the growth of the plant but not of the soil, which continues to deteriorate.
• No dependence on chemical pesticides – nature’s own balancing act prevents any one species from gaining the upper hand.