Natural farming, sometimes referred to as Zero Budget Natural Farming (“ZBNF”), is a practice that is growing in popularity for adding value to the practice of farmers, for the benefit of the soil and for the environment. ZBNF is a holistic alternative to the present paradigm of chemically engineered production of farming materials, which is becoming a high-cost form of agriculture. The unique standpoint of natural farming is that it is a modern scientific discovery, while also being rooted in the Indian culture. The movement of Agroecology is trying to meet the goals of clean global food security as well as the conservation of the environment.
We are facing problems of climate change, increasing population, overexploitation of natural resources and resource degradation associated with rapid economic growth. Genetically engineered crops are herbicide-tolerant, killing non-target wildlife including plants, birds and fish. Soil degradation has affected the microbial community altering the nutrient cycle in our food. Hence, there is an urgent need for identifying potential alternative farming strategies to achieve sustainability.
Sometimes people misinterpret the notion of Natural Farming. The term natural, means to remove all the human prejudice from farming and leave it to nature. Conventional farming revolves around human centered biased farming methods while natural farming is bias-free.
It is very important to understand that we may not reap the benefits from land continuously without giving back. Natural farming reaps the benefits of farming with the added value of sustainability of agriculture through Eco-friendly practices, while restoring soil fertility. It conforms to the natural interactions of sunlight, water, soil, animals, plants, and microorganisms in natural ecosystems. Additionally, it utilizes indigenous resources for production while respecting the nutritive cycle and development of crops. Agriculture production is a vocation which should primarily seek balanced health of all life forms, including humans, soil, the crops and the livestock.
What is the idea behind natural farming?
It is quite simple – closely observe the environmental conditions of the local ecosystem and try to mimic nature. No fertilizers, no pesticides, no weeding, no tilling… Instead, the idea is to harness the energy of the environment in order to grow nutrient-rich foods. To increase fertility of the soil, some use a concoction of farmyard manure, cow dung, cow urine, gram flour, jaggery and water every two months on the soil. This is a fermented microbial culture that adds nutrients to the soil while acting like a catalyst in promoting the activity of microorganisms in processing minerals and amino acids. The fermented microbial culture will grow into the roots of crops and out into the soil, enhancing the quality of the crops many times over.
Some of the advantages of natural farming:
Avoidance of water pollution
Halting soil erosion – while safeguarding the output of food
Discouraging intensive irrigation and deep ploughing
Reduction in actual physical work and labor by up to 80%
Zero emission of hazardous gases
From the first year, farmers will reap the benefits of natural farming, such as the improvement in the soil health, etc.
Methods to facilitate zero budget farming:
Zero budget farming calls for water-efficiency
Subsidies on installing sprinklers and drip irrigation
Provide facilities for farmers to breed cattle that will produce manure for cultivation
Special care needs to be taken for a sudden attack of pests that can ruin the entire crop
In natural farming, one can find trees of lemons, oranges and limes interspersed with vegetables like spinach, fenugreek and even pulses such as millet and wheat. An important aspect of natural farming is intercropping – growing various non-competing crops in proximity to each other. Natural farming is based on the principle of interdependence of the living organisms.
The gestation period of moving from normal farming to zero-chemical farming is two years – for the soil to be free of chemicals. During that time the produce might fall lower. Needless to say, many people decide to drop out during this period. After three years, the system is expected to become self-sustaining.
Is “organic farming” the same?
Organic farming simply refers to the lack of chemicals in the soil and fertilizers. Organic farming is more costly than natural farming and requires the activities of mixing of manures, plowing and tilling as conventional farming. However, Natural Farming involves the decomposition of organic matter by microbes and earthworms, thus releasing nutrients in the soil. Finally, natural farming conforms more with local biodiversity than organic farming.
How can you start Zero Budget Natural Farming?
1. Fence your land so the pet animals cannot get into the area.
2. Do not cut the grass, let it make a small forest. The more trees or grass you have, the more birds, flies and other insects will come and deposit natural fertilizer in your land.
3. Grass will come and go and will recycle and make the land more porous which adds carbon.
4. Grass also helps the land grasp more water and create a natural environment to increase the earth-worm count. The more earth worms the better.
5. Spread as much as you can seeds of different kinds and species, be it fruits or vegetables or even pulses. Some of them will grow, some will not.
After the land is ready, you have four methods of natural farming:
1. Using mixture of cow dung, urine and water to treat the seeds before sowing.
2. Use of cow dung, urine, jaggery, pulse flour, etc. to be spread on the land for expediting earth worms and microbes.
3. Cover the land with dried leaves from the land or grass.
4. Pour water into the trees.
5. List of organic fertilizers:
LAB: (liquid lactic acid bacteria) promotes growth in plants.
LHH: (liquid herb hormone) strengthens the plant and fights off insects.
BRW: (fermented brown rice) protects the plant against disease.
FFJ: (fermented fruit juice) promotes growth.
To overcome insects, you can use a mixture of chili, garlic, neem and cow urine.
The environmental crisis and the breakdown of ecosystems are linked to the modern agriculture, which is exhausting Earth. There is no sustainable future for the use of chemicals, which is inhibiting biodiversity. Natural farming is also called spiritual farming – the person involved in the farming process is more connected to nature and fosters good health…