NAGPUR: When you see a huge fruit, your first thoughts, perhaps, would be that they are genetically modified or chemically enhanced. However, this can also be done through ‘organic’ farming. Propagators of this farming technique prefer calling it zero-budget natural farming, which is largely dependent on things found easily on the farm itself. Such produce would soon be available at local markets.
Subhash Palekar is a known name among agriculturists for promoting natural farming since 1994. Over the past decade, though, he has been popularizing zero-budget natural farming, where things like cow dung, cow urine, jaggery, neem leaves are used to deliver nutrients to the soil.
“What we do not realize is that organic farming is more dangerous than even chemical farming. No wonder many farmers have been left disillusioned by it, only to go back to using chemical pesticides and insecticides on their lands,” said Palekar. He was talking to farmers during an interaction of the newly formed group Natural Farmers’ and Producers’ Association. Only a year old, the group works towards bringing in more farmers into the folds of zero budget natural farming, leading others by their own examples.
One primary requisite for this method of farming is planting many different varieties of plants in the same farm. “Just like it takes all sorts of people to make the world, it takes different kinds of plants for the soil to retain its fertility and regain resistance power,” explained Palekar. One of the most successful followers of this method is progressive farmer Suresh Patil. He has even been able to develop a variety of custard apple that is thrice the size of a normal fruit.
Most people believe that such ‘experimentation’ in agriculture can only be done by rich farmers, who own big chunks of land. This group, however, is proving this notion wrong. A new convert to zero budget natural farming, Sudhakar Kubde of Selu village, has helped strengthen this belief. “I realized that even in the first year, my entire earnings were my profit as there was no investment. While doing the same with the help of chemicals, I would have ended up spending anywhere between Rs10,000 to Rs15,000 to buy the supplements,” he said.
“Lesser yield in the first couple of years after the ‘conversion’ is one reason many small farmers get dissuaded. However, since natural produce gets twice the price, the profit remains the same,” said Santosh (Sahebrao) Dhote. To motivate more small farmers to join in, the association has asked certain government agencies to certify the natural nature of the yield. The produce is marketed at places where it will attract the right kind of consumers.
WHAT IS ZERO-BUDGET NATURAL FARMING
Making use of things easily available at a farm to minimize investment on farming.
Dung and urine from local variety of cow are required.
Seeds are sprinkled with beejamrut, a mixture of cow dung, cow urine, lime and water, before sowing.
After sowing, the field is sprinkled with jeevamrut, a fermented mixture of cow dung, cow urine, jaggery, gram flour and soil.
A layer of dead leaves, twigs, branches, etc is laid over the field to activate local earthworms.
Intercrops and mixed crops are used to stimulate symbiosis.
Pesticides and insecticides are made from ingredients like garlic, neem leaves, chilli and waste products of cow.
PLANS OF THE ASSOCIATION
Organizing training camps.
Helping new converts with difficulties over the phone, and even personal visits.
Separate counter for natural produce in supermarkets.
With the help of NMC, setting up stalls across Nagpur.
Making people aware about the difference between organic and natural produce.