Ushering-in an Organic Revolution
That chemical-based agri farming is causing adverse effects on human health, apart from the fauna and flora, soil, environment and ecology, is gaining currency in society. The scientific community, contends that adverse effects are the result of indiscriminate and unregulated use of agro-chemicals, policy distortions and neglect of scientific advice by the farmers for balanced use of chemical and bio inputs. There is also pressure to put a check on unsustainable use of natural resources. This has led to search for alternative farming systems and many systems are gaining popularity in limited pockets.
There is, however, apprehension of a significant yield penalty due to the shift from chemical-based farming to organic farming and other types of non-chemical farming. Hi-tech farming, precision farming and sensor-based farming are emerging as viable options for producing large quantities from small areas under controlled conditions and for improving efficiency. Future food system has to reckon with all these changes.
Addressing the UN Food Systems Summit
2021, Prof Ramesh Chand, NITI Aayog member observed that Technology is very critical for food systems transformation. There are a whole gamut of technologies like seed technologies, watersaving, energy-conserving technologies, soil health, post-harvest technologies, and market-linkage technologies, among others, which come into play for building sustainable food systems. Modern biotechnologies like genome-editing can play a significant role in development of environmentfriendly biotech products. Technologies like conservation agriculture should not be ignored; rather, they are more meaningful today. There is a need to promote minor neglected crops by putting in more research, more technologies to increase their productivity and market access. There has been an immense growth of digital technologies in the agricultural sector in India in the last five years. Digital tools or apps, based on AI for providing better farm management practices are gaining wide acceptance in India. Public-private partnerships have gone up, so also there's been a surge in many new agri-ech companies and startups in the agricultural sector.
To address the issues of unregulated use of agro-chemicals, Government of India is promoting Natural Farming through Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Padhati (BPKP), introduced during 2020-21 as a sub scheme of Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) for the promotion of traditional indigenous practices including Natural Farming. The Centre has been implementing dedicated organic farming schemes of PKVY and Mission Organic Value Chain Development in North East Region (MOVCDNER) since 2015-16 to encourage farmers to produce organic manure and to promote organic farming of food grains. Until now, under Natural Farming, an area of 4.09 lakh ha has been covered and a total fund of Rs 4980.99 lakh has been released to eight states. The Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) has constituted a committee for developing the syllabus and curricula of Natural Farming at undergraduate and postgraduate level.
Many state governments have already launched organic farming policies to encourage more farmers and agriprenuers to take up Natural Farming. Chhattisgarh, recently took initiatives to promote rural livelihoods along with organic farming. Odisha introduced an organic farming policy in 2018. Uttarakhand was the first state to have an organic farming policy in 2000. Uttarakhand passed the Organic Agriculture Act, 2019, and declared 10 of its blocks fully organic. In 2017, Karnataka brought a new organic farming policy. Punjab has been supporting organic farmers by purchasing their crops through Punjab Agri Export Corporation and exporting. While presenting the Union Budget on February 1, 2022, Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs, pointed out that India will promote chemical free Natural Farming throughout the country. Initial focus is on farmer’s lands in 5 km wide corridors along the river Ganga. Agricultural diversification, promotion of organic and natural farming, increasing capacity-efficiency of farmers, crop evaluation, farmer drones, irrigation, adding courses in agricultural universities, agricultural research are all unprecedented provisions, announced in the Union Budget 2022-23, which will bring about a paradigm shift in the agriculture sector.