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NPR covers the Green Revolution, “India’s Farming ‘Revolution’ Heading For Collapse” Part 1

Listen to the NRP radio coverage here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102893816&ps=rs

India’s Farming ‘Revolution’ Heading For Collapse

by Daniel Zwerdling

Farmers in the village of Chotia Khurd in northern India don’t realize it, but they symbolize a growing problem that could become a global crisis.

They gathered on a recent morning in a stone-paved courtyard — a circle of Sikhs with brightly colored turbans and big, bushy beards — to explain why the famed “bread basket” of India is heading toward collapse.

Their comparatively small region, Punjab, grows far more wheat and rice for India than any other region. But now these farmers are running out of groundwater.

They have to buy three times as much fertilizer as they did 30 years ago to grow the same amount of crops. They blitz their crops with pesticides, but insects have become so resistant that they still often destroy large portions of crops.

The state’s agriculture “has become unsustainable and nonprofitable,” according to a recent report by the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology. Some experts say the decline could happen rapidly, over the next decade or so.

One of the best-known names in India’s farming industry puts it in even starker terms. If farmers in Punjab don’t dramatically change the way they grow India’s food, says G.S. Kalkat, chairman of the Punjab State Farmers Commission, they could trigger a modern Dust Bowl. That American disaster in the 1930s laid waste to millions of acres of farmland and forced hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes.

The story of Chotia Khurd is a cautionary tale: Political leaders and scientists can’t necessarily transplant a technology from one country and culture to a vastly different one and expect it to flourish without serious side effects.

The ‘Green Revolution’

The story begins in the 1960s, when parents in America’s well-fed suburbs would admonish ungrateful children to “think about the starving people in India.” Occasional news reports told wrenching stories about Indians subsisting on grass and leaves. The country survived on imports, like a beggar.

The public concern prompted a loose coalition of scientists, government officials and philanthropists — spurred and funded, in part, by the Rockefeller Foundation —to launch a “Green Revolution.”

In the context of the times, “green” did not refer to what it means today — organic, pesticide-free farming methods. To the contrary, India’s farmers were persuaded to abandon their traditional methods and grow crops the modern, American way.

For example, the advisers told farmers to stop growing old-fashioned grains, beans and vegetables and switch to new, high-yield varieties of wheat, rice and cotton. Farmers began using chemical fertilizers instead of cow dung. They plowed with tractors instead of bulls.

The “Green Revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s meant that if farmers embraced chemicals and high-yield seeds, their fields would turn lush green with crops. (An official at the U.S. State Department, William Gaud, apparently coined the term in 1968.)

During the Cold War, the term also implied that if countries like India could stamp out hunger, the population would be less likely to foment a violent revolution and go communist.

A Temporary Fix

In India, ground zero for the Green Revolution was the state of Punjab, which borders Pakistan and the foothills of the Himalayas. And the system seemed to work miracles — for a while.

The United States sent money and technical support, including advisers from one of America’s most prestigious agriculture universities. India’s government showered Punjab with low-cost chemicals and seeds — and they paid the farmers, in effect, to use them by guaranteeing minimum prices for Green Revolution crops.

It helped India transform itself from a nation that depends on imports and food aid to a budding superpower that often exports grains.

Villages like Chotia Khurd were harvesting three to four times as much grain per acre as they did before.

Many of the farmers and the local government were flush with money. They paved their dirt roads. The farmers replaced their mud houses with bricks and cement. They bought American tractors for a small fortune.

Just about everybody in Chotia Khurd bought cell phones, with a wide variety of ring tones — so it’s hard to chat with a farmer without getting interrupted by electronic versions of Sikh chants or theme songs from Bollywood hits.

But government reports and farmers themselves say that era is over — and today, the Green Revolution system of farming is heading toward collapse.

‘Farmers Are Committing A Kind Of Suicide’

To show why, the district director of the Punjab Agriculture Department, Palwinder Singh, leads the way up a narrow dirt road into wheat fields that encircle the village.

On the surface, they look robust. The countryside is electric green in every direction.

But Singh points to a large contraption rising above the crop, like a steel praying mantis. The machine is blanketing the countryside with a percussive, deafening roar.

“That’s part of our most serious problem,” he says. It’s a drilling rig. A young farmer in a purple turban, Sandeep Singh, is standing next to the rig, looking unhappy. (The two men are not related — according to tradition, all Sikh men share the last name “Singh,” which means “lion.”)

When farmers switched from growing a variety of traditional crops to high-yield wheat and rice, they also had to make other changes. There wasn’t enough rainwater to grow thirsty “miracle” seeds, so farmers had to start irrigating with groundwater. They hired drilling companies to dig wells, and they started pumping groundwater onto the fields.

But Sandeep says he has been forced to hire the drilling company again, because the groundwater under his fields has been sinking as much as 3 feet every year.

Government surveys confirm it. In fact, his family and other farmers have had to deepen their wells every few years — from 10 feet to 20 feet to 40 feet, and now to more than 200 feet — because the precious water table keeps dropping below their reach.

Nobody was surprised when environmental activists started warning years ago that the Green Revolution was heading toward disaster. But they were astonished as government officials started to agree.

“Farmers are committing a kind of suicide,” warns Kalkat, the director of the Punjab State Farmers Commission. “It’s like a suicide, en masse.”

Kalkat offers an unsettling prediction in a nation whose population is growing faster than any other on Earth: If farmers don’t drastically revamp the system of farming, the heartland of India’s agriculture could be barren in 10 to 15 years.

Part 2 is posted next.


An excerpt from: Organic Farming in India: Relevance, Problems and Constraints


Summary from the Report submitted by DR. S. NARAYANAN from the Department of Economic Analysis and Research National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mumbai 2005

2.2 Need for Organic Farming in India
The need for organic farming in India arises from the unsustaina-bility of agriculture production and the damage caused to ecology through the conventional farming practices.The present system of agriculture which we call ‘conventional’ and practiced the world over evolved in the western nations as a product of their socio-economic environment which promoted an over riding quest for accumulation of wealth. This method of farming adopted by other countries is inherently self destructive and unsustainable.

The modern farming is highly perfected by the Americans who dispossessed the natives of their farms right from the early period of the new settlers in US (Wadia, 1996). The large farms appropriated by the immigrants required machines to do the large scale cultural operations. These machines needed large amount of fossil fuels besides forcing the farmers to raise the same crops again and again, in order to utilize these machines to their optimum capacities. The result was the reduction of bio-diversity and labour. The high cost of the machines necessitated high profits, which in turn put pressure to raise productivity. Then, only those crops with high productivity were cultivated which needed increased quantities of fertilizers and pesticides. Increasing use of pesticides resulted in the damage to environment and increased resistance of insects to them. Pesticides harmed useful organisms in the soil.


The monoculture of high yielding seeds required external inputs of chemical fertilizers. The fertilizers also destroy soil organisms. They damage the rhizobia that fix nitrogen and other micro organisms that make phosphates available to plants (Wadia, 1996). The long term effect was reduction of crop yields. The damaged soil was easily eroded by wind and water. The eroding soil needed use of continuously increasing quantities of fertilizers, much of which was washed/leached into surface and underground water sources.

The Indian agriculture switched over to the conventional system of production on the advent of the green revolution in the 1970s. The change was in the national interest which suffered set backs because of the country’s over dependence on the foreign food sources. The national determination was so intense that all the attention was focused on the increase in agriculture production.

The agriculture and allied sectors in India provide employment to 65 per cent of the workers and accounts for 30 per cent of the national income. The growth of population and the increase in income will lead to a rise in demand for foodgrains as also for the agricultural raw materials for industry in the future. The area under cultivation, obviously, cannot be increased and the present 140 million hectares will have to meet the future increases in such demands. There is a strong reason for even a decline in the cultivated area because of the urbanization and industrialization, which in turn will exert much pressure on the existing, cropped area.

Science and technology have helped man to increase agricultural production from the natural resources like land. But the realization that this has been achieved at the cost of the nature and environment, which support the human life itself, is becoming clear. It has been fully evident that the present pattern of economic development, which ignores the ecology and environment, cannot sustain the achievement of man without substantial erosion of the factors that support the life system of all living things on the Earth. The evidence of the ill effects of development is well documented. As said earlier, we in India have to be concerned much more than any other nation of the world as agriculture is the source of livelihood of more than 6-7 million of our people and it is the foundation of the economic development of the country.

There were times when people lived close to nature with access to flora and fauna in healthier and cleaner surroundings. One has to look back at our present metropolitan cities or other large towns before the past fifty years as recorded in history/memmories of the present elder generation to see the striking differences in the surroundings in which the people lived there. Land, water and air, the most fundamental resources supporting the human life, have degraded into such an extent that they now constitute a threat to the livelihood of millions of people in the countiy.

Ecological and environmental effects have been highly publicised all over the world. Many times, these analysis have taken the shape of doomsday forecasts. Powerful interests in the developed western countries have also politicised these issues to take advantage of the poor nations of the world. Efforts to impose trade restrictions on the plea of environment protection are a direct result of these campaigns. But we have to recognize that the abysmal level to which we have degraded our resources ,requires immediate remedial measures without terming the demand for them as the ploys of the rich nations to exploit the poor.
Another turn of the events has been the blame game for ecological problems stated at the Earth Summit and other international conferences. The developed countries, it is true, are to a great extent instrumental to degrade the environment. However, the poorer countries of the world including India cannot delay or ignore the need for remedial measures, which are to be effectively implemented. We cannot gloss over the fact that we have also contributed to the degradation of ecology; look at the droughts and floods, disappearance of forests, high noise level and air pollution in the cities which are our own creations.

Organically cultivated soils are relatively better attuned to withstand water stress and nutrient loss. Their potential to counter soil degradation is high and several experiments in arid areas reveal that organic farming may help to combat desertification (Alam and Wani, 2003). It is reported that about 70 hectares of desert in Egypt could be converted into fertile soil supporting livestock through organic and biodynamic practices. India, which has some areas of semi-arid and arid nature, can benefit from the experiment.
The organic agriculture movement in India received inspiration and assistance from IFOAM which has about 600 organizational members from 120 countries. All India Federation of Organic Farming (AIFOF) is a member of IFOAM and consists of a number of NGOs, farmers’ organisations, promotional bodies and institutions.

The national productivity of many of the cereal crops, millets, oilseeds, pulses and horticultural crops continues to be one of the lowest in the world in spite of the green revolution. The fertilizer and pesticide consumption has increased manifold; but this trend has not been reflected in the crop productivity to that extent. The country’s farming sector has started showing indications of reversing the rising productivity as against the increasing trend of input use.
The unsustainability of Indian agriculture is caused by the modern farming methods which have badly affected/damaged production resources and the environment.

2.2.1 Affects of Modern Farming Technology
The role of agriculture in economic development in an agrarian country like India is a pre-dominant one. Agriculture provides food for more than 1 billion people and yields raw materials for agro-based industries. Agricultural exports earn foreign exchange. Modernization of Indian agriculture began during the mid-sixties which resulted in the green revolution making the country a foodgrain surplus nation from a deficit one depending on food imports. Modern agriculture is based on the use of high yielding varieties of seeds, chemical fertilizers, irrigation water, pesticides, etc., and also on the adoption of multiple cropping systems with the extension of area under cultivation. But it also put severe pressure on natural resources like, land and water. However, given the continuous growth of modern technology along with the intensive use of natural resources, many of them of non renewable, it is felt that agriculture cannot be sustainable in future because of the adverse changes being caused to the environment and the ecosystem. The environmental non-degradable nature of the agricultural development and its ecological balance have been studied in relation to the modem Indian farming system by experts which shows exploitation of land and water for agriculture, and the excessive use of chemicals.

Chemical Contamination
Consumption of chemical fertilizers {N,P,K) has been increasing in India during the past thirty years at a rate of almost half a million tonnes on an average, a year. It was only 13.13 kg/ha in 1970-71, 31.83 kg/ha in 1980-81 and 74.81 kg/ha in 1995-96. It shot up to about 96 kg/ha during 1999-2000. Table 5 shows the consumption of fertilizers in India from 1970-71 to 2001-02.

Table 5 : Consumption of Chemical Fertilizers in India. Go to page 40.
Source : Indian Agriculture in Brief.

The present use of about 96 kg of fertilizers per ha in India appears to be modest compared to the advanced countries. Currently about 80 per cent of the fertilizer is consumed in only about 120 districts constituting less than 33 per cent of the gross cultivating area. Experts point out that the efficiency of fertilizer use in India is only 30-35 per cent as the balance 65-70 per cent reaches the under ground water. The intensity of their use in a few regions and a few crops are causes of serious concern to human health, soil, water, environment and thus to the sustainability of agriculture production in the country.

It is true that the increasing use of fertilizer at high rates has boosted agricultural production in the country. But it has also caused adverse impact on soil and water as well as environment. Several studies on the effects of high level of fertilizer application on soil health have confirmed the adverse impacts (Singh et. al., 1995).

Both drinking and irrigation water wells in large numbers have been found contaminated with nitrates, some of them are having even 45 mg per litre, well above the safe level.

Long term continuous use of high doses of chemical fertilizers badly affects the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil. A study at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore confirmed the deterioration of soil health because of the reduction in water holding capacity, soil pH, organic carbon content and the availability of trace elements such as zinc in case of ragi crop even with the application of normal doses of fertilizer in the long run (Hegde, et. al., 1995).

In the long run, increasing nitrogenous fertilizer use leads to the accumulation of nitrates in the soil. The application of sulphatic fertilizers leaves sulphates in the soil. Rainfall and excessive use of irrigation water cause these chemicals to change the alkaline or acidic nature of the soil. The nitrates go to the rivers, wells, lakes etc. And also leak into the drainage system which goes into the drinking water contaminating the environment. It also causes depletion of the ozone layer adding to the global warming. Use of nitrogen in the form of ammonium sulphate in the rice crop emanates ammonia polluting the atmosphere. The heavy metals present in the fertilizers and sewage sludge leach into ground water. Table 6 shows the content of some heavy metals in fertilizers and sludges.

Table 6 : Content of Heavy Metals in Fertilizers and Sludges Go to page 41.
Source : Deb and Joshi (1994).

The use of chemical pesticides began with the discovery of toxicological properties of DDT and HCH during the Second World War. Many chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides like aldrin, dieldrin, toxaphane, chlordane, endosulfan, etc. came into the market during the second half of the last century. Simultaneously, organophosphate and carbonate compounds were employed in agriculture. A new group of insecticides, such as premethrin, cypermethrin, fenalerate, etc. which were effective at low doses came into being in the 1970s.

The use of pesticides has helped in increasing agriculture production and also led to the development of resistance in pests, contamination of the environment and resurgence of many pests.

There are about 1000 agrochemicals in use in the world over. India accounts for about 3.7 per cent of the total world consumption. At present, our consumption is about 90,000 tonnes of plant protection chemicals. It comes to about 500 grams per ha compared to 10-12 kg/ha in Japan and 5 kg/ha in Europe. However, the use of pesticides in India is uneven like the fertilizers. While in cotton it is about 3 to 4 kg/ha, in pulses it comes to below 500 grams/ha (Kathpal and Beena Kumari, 1997). Pesticide application is also concentrated in some areas as in the case of fertilizers mentioned earlier.

Agricultural chemicals have become a major input in Indian agriculture with the increasing demand for food, feed and fibre. The pesticide consumption was about 2000 tonnes annually during the 1950s. India happens to be the second largest manufacturer of pesticides in Asia after Japan. It is also of interest to know that in spite of increased consumption of plant protection chemicals, the produce loss due to insects and pests increased by 5 times during the period from 1988 to 1995.

Increasing application of fertilizer also leads to increasing use of pesticides to control pests and diseases. The trend of increasing fertilizer use also compels the farmers to enhance the use of pesticides as well. For example, the use of fertilizers in increasing amounts leads to growth of weeds and in the process of weedicide use many plants growing nearby also get killed, which reduces the biodiversity. Meanwhile, the weeds also develop resistance to herbicides and the quest to formulate even powerful herbicides begins.Pesticide consumption in India from 1970-71 to 2000-01 is shown in Table 7.

Table 7 : Pesticide Consumption in India. Go to page 43.
Source : Indian Agriculture in Brief.

Consumption of pesticides increased from 24.32 thousand tonnes in 1970-71 to 75 thousand tonnes in 1990-91 and it slowed down during the subsequent period. Insects, pests and diseases like viral, bacterial and fungal affect the high yielding varieties of crops.

Almost all pesticides are toxic in nature and pollute the environment leading to grave damage to ecology and human life itself. This indiscriminate use leaves toxic residues in foodgrans, fodder, vegetables, meat, milk, milk products, etc. besides in soil and water (Dhaliwal and Singh, 1993).

High doses of pesticides severely affect the aquatic animals, fish and the wild life. Insects develop resistance to insecticides in crops like cotton and in turn force the farmers to the excessive use of them. Cases of pesticide poisoning and human and animal deaths are also reported. Pesticides irritate the skin and the respiratory system in the humans gets damaged.
It was found that all water bodies like, rivers, canals, lakes, tanks and ponds and also the costal water were contaminated with high amounts of DDT, HCH and other organochlorine pesticides. River water is seen as more contaminated than other water sources.

Contamination of drinking water with DDT and HCH is reported from different states. Since the concentrations of contaminants are higher than MRL (0.5 ppb) values fixed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the seriousness of the problem can be gauged.

Pesticides also contaminate animal feeds and fodder. Green fodder, paddy and wheat straw contain residues of DDT and HCH. Several studies have confirmed this trend (Kathpal, 1997).

Milk and milk products are also affected by the pesticide use. Both bovine and human milk showed high levels of pesticide contamination. The sources of contamination of bovine milk are traced to the fodder and feed concentrates and in case of the human milk, the consumption of contaminated food by the lactating mothers is reported to be the reason.

Infant formula/baby milk powders also showed DDT and HCH contamination level ranging from 94 to 100 per cent. Butter and ghee, the other animal products revealed high contamination levels in many parts of the country.
Cereals like wheat and rice were seen contaminated highly by pesticides like, DDT, HCH and malathion. The case of vegetable, vegetable oil, honey, fish etc. is also not different as they too have unacceptable high pesticide residue content levels.

The adverse effect of pesticide contamination on humans in India is understood from the study of dietary intake. Such studies, although a few in number, have confirmed high levels of pesticides (mainly, DDT and HCH) contamination which come to more than 3 to 5 times than the agriculturally developed countries.

The daily intake of pesticide per individual is estimated to be about 0.51 milli-grams which is above the accepted level. The Indian Institute of Horticulture Research has reported contamination of 50 per cent of the fruits and vegetables sold in the Bangalore market with the residues of DDT and HCH (Prakash, 2003).

Use of herbicides over a period results in the shift of the weed flora. The weeds of minor importance, often, become major weeds. Repeated application of weedicides helps the development of resistance in weed at alarming proportions.

 The remedy recommended is rotation of herbicides or the use of other herbicides. Any way, the end result is contamination of ground water and soils inflicting damage on environment.

The number of herbicides registered in India comes to about 28 in 1997-98 which was only 10 before 10 years. This is often compared to about 300 herbicides available in the North America. There are only 10 herbicides manufactured in the country and the herbicides consumption was about 6000 Tonnes during 1994-95. It is reported that the level of herbicide use in rice, wheat, and tea in India is almost the same that of the world at large. Sugarcane, soyabean, groundnut, coffee, cotton, onion and potato are the other crops, which find widespread application of herbicides in India.

The contamination of water, air and soil with toxic synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides leads to increasing deaths of many creatures, and to human illness and mortality.

The end result is loss of biodiversity and natural harmony, increased expenditure to purify water, air, etc. The toxins in the food crops cannot be removed and the threat to human existence itself seems to be real.
The firms engaged in the manufacture and supply of agricultural inputs have a vested interest in keeping the input use increasing. Besides, they influence the government policy towards agriculture.

Salinity and Water logging
Water is one of the important inputs for the vigorous growth and high yields of crops. The modernisation of Indian agriculture has resulted in the increased use of irrigation water. The area under irrigation has grown substantially during the past three decades. Table 8 shows the gross irrigated area in the country. Please see the parent document for a complete showing of tables. 

The gross irrigated area of 38.18 million ha in 1970-71 increased to 49.73 million ha in 1980-81 and the next decade ending 1990-91 saw this further rising substantially to about 62.47 million ha. It increased to 72.78 million ha during 1997-98.

Heavy irrigation is necessary to get high production, as the new varieties cannot withstand water scarcity. This leads to salinity and water logging leaving the land uncultivable. Over exploitation of underground water is another effect. When water table falls, increasing energy will be required to lift water for irrigation.

Irrigation is necessary for the vigorous growth and high yields of crops in the modern method of cultivation. Many of the crops, particularly the rice and wheat high yielding varieties need more irrigation water than the traditional varieties. The area under irrigation in the country is only about 35 per cent and the remaining is still dependent on rains. So, there is a necessity to use irrigation water judiciously. Its excessive use results in severe ecological dangers like water logging of vast cultivated areas by seepages from canals. The loss of water through seepages and evaporation is estimated to be about 38 per cent. Flooding also results in run off and leaching losses of fertilizer nutrients, pesticides and soil particles. Excessive use of canal water makes the field vulnerable to soil erosion. The excessive irrigation in certain areas results in wastage as evident from the water logging of vast cultivated areas caused by the seepage from many virater sources.

Water logging is harmful to the soil. Seepage of canal water leads to salts present in the lowest layer of soil come up to the surface and the soil may turn alkaline or saline. Dams and multipurpose projects degrade the soil in the command area due to soil salinity and water logging. The chambel region in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the command area of the Bhakra Nangal, etc are the examples of water logging created by huge water irrigation projects.

Crops irrigated by sewage water have adverse effects on the health of the human population consuming the produce. The workers work on these farms also face health hazards.

Depletion of Energy Resources
Chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc are manufactured using the non-renewable materials like the fossil fuels. The global demand for oil and natural gas is increasing and thus the price of the inputs to agriculture is bound to rise. India’s petroleum resources, which presently meet only about 30-35 per cent of the consumption demand, are under pressure. Increasing demand for chemicals and energy in agriculture sector will have affects on our energy sources.
The investments in agriculture have to be increased to meet the rising input costs and larger areas are brought under farming to earn profits. Large farms have to transport the produce to distant areas. Again, energy will be required for transportation, processing and packaging.

The rice-wheat cropping pattern and the cultivation of crops like sugarcane require high irrigation, which results in the depletion of water level. Singh and Singh (1996) found that the water level in the states of Punjab and Haryana had gone down by 0.3 to 1 m per annum during a period of 10 years due to the excessive use of water for paddy crop.

Input-Output Imbalance
A crop, in its growth process, incorporates a part of the soil fertility into the parts of the plant. The roots remain in the soil. The leaves and stems are fed to the cattle/burnt as fuel/directly returned to the soil. The consumed part by cattle and human also go back to the soil. The practice of commercial farming leads to continuous export of the soil fertility to outside the farming areas as the organic matter leaves the locality. The soil nutrients in the form of farm produces continue to be exported. The import of chemical fertilizers cannot compensate the loss of soil nutrients through exports. The soil becomes powdery and gets eroded by wind or rain. If the harvests are exported from the country, the loss is higher (Anon, 1996).


Expansion of Cultivated Area
Not only the intensive cultivation through the use of technological inputs, but also the extensive crop production through Increase in the area under cultivation has been an important aspect of modern agriculture seen in India. Increasingly areas under forests are brought under plough along with the marginal, sub-marginal and undulating land. The net sown area was 140 million ha in 1970-71 and stood at 142 million ha at the end of 1997-98.

Reduction in Genetic Diversity
The genetic base of crops is very important and a reduction of genetic diversity leads to the emergence of pests on a large scale. Farmers, in olden times, apart from’ using the crop rotation methods to maintain the soil fertility also relied on the genetic means to increase crop production. Relying exclusively on nation’s own reserves of fertility and immunology, the farming community by evolving trial and error methods discovered.Hhybrid varieties of crops by crossing the related strains. These crosses were from the same environment and no violence was used to separate them from nature by maintaining the ecological balance (Alvares, 1996).

The high yielding varieties of crops are the crosses from different environments and distantly related strains. For example, the high yielding rice variety got by the crossing between the dwarf and non-dwarf varieties has major genetic weaknesses. The dwarf gene is susceptible to pest and viral attacks and the seed cannot manifest its potential without chemical fertilizer. Thus, an artificial environment has to be created for the growth of the crop (Alvares, 1996).

Thus synthetic fertilizers supplant natural fertility, which results in larger population of pests. The new technology adopted then depends upon the replacement of the local/traditional varieties of seeds. But this results in the reduction of genetic diversity and increase in genetic erosion. These modern technologies are but the result of clever manipulations of nature’s genes.
Low Productivity
The productivity of cereals, millets, oilseeds, pulses and plantation crops is very low in comparison with those in other countries in the world. This is in spite of our success in improving the quality of seeds and adoption of efficient technology. The impact of green revolution is showing signs of weakness and production appears to have decreased even after an increase in the inputs used (Veeresh, 1999).

The production of foodgrains in the country increased very substantially during 1960 to 1980 to reach 160 million Tonnes from 60 million tonnes. But the decade ending 1990 and 2000 did not witness such increases and the attainment of the targeted production of 240 million tonnes to meet the demand of the population by 2010 seems to be difficult.T

he reasons attributed to the low productivity are the drastic reduction in soil nutrients in the areas where fertilizer is used intensively in which the organic matter is not supplemented (Veeresh, 1999).

2.2.2 Benefits of Organic Farming
Organic agricultural practices are based on a maximum harmonious relationship with nature aiming at the non-destruction of the environment. The developed nations of the world are concerned about the spreading contamination of poisonous chemicals in food, feed, fodder and fibre. Naturally, organic farming system is looked upon as one of the means to remedy these maladies there. However, the major problem in India is the poor productivity of our soils because of the low level content of the organic matter.

The efficiency of the organic inputs in the promotion of productivity depends on the organic contents of the soil. There were many resemblances of organic farming principles in the traditional agriculture of India. But the former gives a more open and verifiable scientific foundation than the latter.

Healthy Foods
A study conducted in USA on the nutritional values of both organic and conventional foods found that consumption of the former is healthier. Apples, pears, potatoes, corn, wheat and baby foods were analyzed to find out ‘bad’ elements such as aluminum, cadimum, lead and mercury and also ‘good’ elements like boron, calcium, iron, magnesium sellenium and zinc. The organic food, in general, had more than 20 per cent less of the bad elements and about 100 per cent more of the good elements.

Improvement in Soil Quality
Soil quality is the foundation on which organic farming is based. Efforts are directed to build and maintain the soil fertility through the farming practices. Multicropping, crop rotations, organic manures and pesticides, and minimum tillage are the methods employed for the purpose. Natural plant nutrients from green manures, farmyard manures, composts and plant residues build organic content in the soil. It is reported that soil under organic farming conditions had lower bulk density, higher water holding capacity, higher microbial biomass carbon and nitrogen and higher soil respiration activities compared to the conventional farms (Sharma, 2003). This indicates that sufficiently higher amounts of nutrients are made available to the crops due to enhanced microbial activity under organic farming. The effect of organic cultivation on soil fertility as reported at the farm of Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur is given in Table 9. See the parent  document for all tables.

Increased Crop Productivity and Income
Field trials of organic cotton at Nagpur revealed that during the conversion period, cotton yield was low compared to the conventional (using fertilizer and pesticides) and integrated crop management (using 50 per cent each of organic and inorganic inputs). However, the yields of organic cotton started rising from third year. Cotton yields under organic, conventional and the mixed systems were 898, 623 and 710 kg/ha respectively at the end of the fourth year of the cultivation. The yield of soyabean under organic farming was also the highest compared to the other two systems (Annexure – 2).

The Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur conducted a study of economics of cotton cultivation in Yavatmal district of Maharashta. The cost of cultivation of cotton was lower in the organic farming than in the modern system (Annexure – 3). The low costs were due to the non-use of fertilizers and chemical insecticides. As a result of the low yields during the conversion period, the net income from the organic farm was lesser than the conventional farm. But the yield under organic method increased progressively equalling it to that of the conventional system by the sixth year (Annexure – 4). The input costs were low under organic farming and with a 20 per cent of premium prices of output, the net income increased progressively from fourth year under organic fanning. The appreciation of net income from organic cotton cultivation by the sixth year was 80 per cent over the conventional crop (Sharma, PD, 2003).

Results reported from 1050 field demonstration cum trials under the National Project on Development and Use of Biofertilizers in different parts of the country show* an increase of 4 per cent in yield in plantation crops, 7 per cent in fruit crops, 9 per cent in wheat and sugarcane, 10 per cent in millet and vegetable, 11 per cent in fibre, condiments and spice crops, 14 per cent in oilseeds and flowers and 15 per cent in tobacco (Bisoyi, et. al., 2003).

A study of 100 farmers in Himachal Pradesh during a period of 3 years found that the total cost of production of maize and wheat was lower under organic farming and the net income was 2 to 3 times higher. Both productivity and premium prices contributed to the increased profitability. Another study of 100 farmers of organic and conventional methods in five districts of Karnataka indicated that the cost of organic farming was lower by 80 per cent thanthat of the conventional one (Thakur, et. al., 2003). The cost benefit ratios mentioned for various crops table.  See page  52.

Low Incidence of Pests
The study of the effectiveness of organic cotton cultivation on pests at the farm of Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur revealed that the mean monthly counts of eggs, larva and adults of American BoUworm were far lesser under organic farming than under the conventional method (Sharma, PD, 2003).

Bio-control methods like the neem based pesticides to Ti-ichoderma are available in the country. Indigenous technological products such as Panchagavya (five products of cow origin) which was experimented at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore found to control effectively wilt disease in tomato (Prakash, TN, 2003).

Employment Opportunities
According to many studies, organic farming requires more labour input than the conventional farming system. Thus, India which has a very large amount of labour unemployment and under employment will find organic farming an attraction. Moreover, the problem of periodical unemployment will also get mitigated because of the diversification of the crops with their different planting and harvesting schedules resulting in the requirement of a relatively high labour input.

Indirect Benefits
Several indirect benefits from organic farming are available to both the farmers and consumers. While the consumers get healthy foods with better palatability and taste and nutritive values, the farmers are indirectly benefited from healthy soils and farm production environment. Eco-tourism is increasingly becoming
popular and organic farms have turned into such favourite spots in countries like Italy. Protection of the ecosystem, flora, fauna and increased biodiversity and the resulting benefits to all human and living things are great advantages of organic farming which are yet to be properly accounted for.

The report continues. I will highlight sections throughout the year. If you are interested and would like to download (for research purposes -not commerical purposes) and/or link to the report, please see “Print and Download” in my blog menu bar.

The report continues  with:

  • Proposed objectives in organic farming in India
  • International Conference on “Indian Organic Products-Global Markets” at the end of 2002.
  • Production and Exports
  • Regulations, regulatory framework
  • Accreditation  and certification of Organics. 
  • Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), Coffee Board, Tea Board and the Spices Board.
  • Development and Commerce.
  • Inspections, Research and Training
  • A National Institute for Organic Farming  (setup 2003)
  • Problems and Constraints
  • Absence of an Appropriate Agriculture Policy
  • The cost of certification, Low Yields
  • Vested Interests. Chemical and fertilizer companies.
  •  Lack of Quality Standards for Biomanures
  • Improper Accounting Method
  • Political and Social Factors
  • Prospects
  • Successes