Recent trends in organic farming and farm mechanization
Organic farming also known as ecological agriculture8 or biodynamic agriculture,9 works in harmony with nature i.e. the agricultural practices followed in organic agriculture do not cause any harm to the environment. Due to eco-friendly nature of the organic farming it is considered as an viable alternative in comparison to chemical based farming, in a scenario where excessive use of chemical based fertilizers and pesticides have raised the concerns for ecotoxicity and health hazards. Nutrient management in organic agriculture is based on agronomic practices like crop rotations, soil fertility building via nitrogen and nutrient recycling using organic material like crop residues, farmyard manure and minimization of use of chemical based fertilizers.Control of pest populations in organic farming relies on use of resistant crops, crop rotation, increase in predators for natural control of the pests and increase in genetic diversity along with the judicious use of water resources and animal husbandry.
While extensive use of pesticides and fertilisers increase crop production, they also create the burning issues relevant to food quality. That’s why, the modern world has begun to focus on food quality not quantity, and is shifting towards organic agriculture.
Organic agriculture is a holistic production management system which promotes and improves health of agro ecosystem including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity.Organic fertilisers include animal and green manure, fish and bone meal, and compost.
And the organic pest management focuses on prevention through such method as: growing resistant varieties of crops and in the proper season of the variety; improving soil health to resist soil pathogens and promote plant growth; rotating crops; encouraging natural biological agents for control of disease, insects and weeds; using physical barriers for protection from insects, birds and animals; modifying habitat to encourage pollinators and natural enemies of pests etc.
Today, insect pest management in organic agriculture involves the adoption of scientifically based and ecologically sound strategies as specified by the international and national organic production standards. These include a ban on synthetic insecticides and, more recently, on growing curbs on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The General Assembly of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements has approved four principles of organic agriculture: health, ecology, fairness and care.
Principles apply to agriculture in the broadest sense, including the way people tend soils, water, plants and animals in order to produce, prepare and distribute goods. They are concerned the way people interact with living landscapes, relate to one another and shape the legacy of future generations. Each principle is followed by an action oriented explanation.
Various techniques are utilised for farming organically, some extensively, others rarely. Biodynamic farming stress biological methods in regard to humane treatment of animals, food quality and soil health (such as green manures, cover crops and composting).
The other method is natural farming. There is no water, no pesticide, no fertiliser and no herbicide utilisation except seed sowing. It is also known as ecological farming solely established by a Japanese farmer. Another farming practice is principally ‘bio intensive,’ which uses low energy input, fosters healthy soils, and conserves space, while maximising yields and increasing sustainability. Some others are permaculture, no-tilling and holistic management etc.
The issue has also to be seen in the context of gross domestic product (GDP) which is supposed to measure the wealth of nations and has emerged as the dominant concept in our times. However, economic growth hides the poverty it creates through the destruction of nature, which, in turn, tends to deprive communities of the capacity to provide livelihood for themselves.
Organic products are usually more expensive than ‘conventional’ agricultural products because there is an ‘extra cost’, called ‘organic premium’ to be paid in addition to the ‘reference price’. Some of the key factors that make organic products expensive include health and nutritional concerns, superior taste, food-safety concerns, and environmental friendliness. Consumer’s willingness to pay more represents a price premium for environmental quality and health.
However, when a farmer starts organic farming, the land, soil and the environment is not as good as it should be. With the organic farming practices over time, the land and environment becomes poison-free and totally healthy for growing of healthy crops, and farmer also acquires experience of organic farming.
So, on the start of almost fifth year, organic farming gives outcomes comparable with modern synthetic agricultural practices. If we critically compare the inputs, we come to know, as no synthetic fertiliser and pesticide is added, the organic farming requires less cost. On the other hand, due to its premium quality, it is sold at 3-4 times higher prices than other produces and farmers earn 3-4 times more profit.
The agriculture sector in India has witnessed a considerable decline in the use of animal and human power in agriculture related activities. The trend has paved a way for a range of agricultural tools. A large number of these are driven by fossil fuel operated Though, farm mechanization in India stands at about 40%-45%, which is still low when compared to countries such as the U.S. (95%), Brazil (75%) and China (57%). While the level of mechanization lags behind other developed countries, it has seen strong growth through the last decade.The farm power availability on Indian farms has grown from 1.47 kW/ha in 2005-06 to 2.02 kW/ha in 2013-14.
In India, the level of mechanization varies greatly by region. States in the north such as Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have high level of mechanization due to the highly productive land in the region as well as a declining labor force. The state governments in these states have also provided timely support in promoting mechanization of farms.