Ecological Agriculture in India – Scientific Evidence on Positive Impacts and Successes
Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA)
Note on the book by by Kavitha Kuruganti of ASHA:
Very often, when ecological agriculture (whether it goes by the name of organic farming or natural farming or bio-dynamic farming) approaches are advocated for large scale replication in the country – especially in response to the severe agrarian distress in the country, the environmental degradation emerging with natural resources related to farming, the environmental health problems that are cropping up, the economic viability of farming getting eroded and in the context of climate change – there are many questions asked around the viability/profitability of organic farming, the productivity of organic farming, the scientific validation of many practices adopted by organic farmers, the environmental implications of adoption of organic farming, the socio-economic impacts related to organic farming (farm suicides, for example) and so on.
This compilation is on the scientific evidence readily available in India on the various benefits from organic farming, including on productivity and farm economics, on environmental impacts (soil, biodiversity etc.), on validation of various practices as well as on challenges facing organic farming. I chose not to bring in literature from outside India, just to point to the enormous evidence available right here. In this compilation, I also did not include a vast body of evidence on organic agronomic practices for System of Root Intensification (SRI). Similarly, evidence related to non-chemical IPM or NPM is also available as a large body of scientific literature.This is not an exhaustive compilation of all the studies that exist on the subject. As an area of emerging interest, it is seen that many doctoral theses are present in the NARS on the themes listed above, pertaining to Organic Farming. However, I was not able to tap into all such literature. Similarly, while searching for scientific evidence as part of this effort, I came across the abstracts and presentations made in two national seminars related to organic farming within the NARS in 2014 (Navsari and Palampur). However, it is seen that the soft copies of the hundreds of papers available therein are not readily available on the websites of the organizers. In fact it is this lack of ready reference material that this booklet seeks to address.This booklet is a preliminary effort which will be revised and structured better in future, and should be seen as work in progress. This compilation provides ample evidence on the scientific basis that underpins the practice of organic farming in the country. What is missing however is committed extension that takes the message to farmers. This booklet also shows that organic farming is not to be equated with only traditional farming as is often done, but is a scientific approach that effectively uses nature’s processes and products for sustainable management of productive resources for viability and profitability.
The papers that were included in the Challenges and Way Forward section also bring up an argument that organic farming needs a different appraisal and analysis framework, with different criteria and parameters to justify its impact on society and ecology. In the Indian agricultural research scenario too, this re-orientation is much-required. Papers that compared organic with chemical agriculture were put into the Yields/Productivity section while comparisons between various organic farming practices were categorized under the Scientific Validation section. It is seen that most research efforts are going into INM and very little into organic farming research.
I hope this compilation will be made use of, by various stakeholders, to ensure that ecological farming is promoted and practised on a large scale. Ananthoo of ASHA helped in collecting various papers and sorting them. Shamika Mone of Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI) also pitched in with some studies. I would like to acknowledge with sincere gratitude the support obtained from the Regional Centre for Organic Farming in the University of Agricultural Sciences-Bangalore (Dr N Devakumar in particular) and Prakash Selvaraj, Coimbatore. Parthasarathy VM created the Index painstakingly, crop-wise, practice-wise and location-wise.