Introduction to How to Start Organic Farming in India: Organic farming means cultivating crops without any use of synthetic chemicals, insecticides, etc. This way of farming uses manure, animal manure produced from animal farming like animal husbandry, manure produced from goat farming, manure, green manure, etc. so that the soil can be fertilized the soil. By using organic systems there is no adverse effect on the environment or human health.
The main objective of organic farming in India is to create ventures that are reasonable for the environment. Organic systems rely upon crop rotations, the use of crop residues, animal manures, legumes, green manures, bio-fertilizers, mechanical cultivation, and aspects of biological control to maintain soil productivity and to control insects, weeds, and other kinds of pests. Farmers, administrators, researchers, policymakers, and of course consumers are showing greater interest in the promotion and organic farming development in the country. Organic food products are mainly considered to be much safer and more nutritious than the products produced by conventional farming. Also, organic farming helps to restore soil health, protect the environment, enhance biodiversity, sustain crop productivity, and enhance farmers’ income. In this article we also covered the topics about organic farming in India;
- What are organic farming and its main benefits
- Is organic farming profitable in India
- Complete guide on how to start organic farming
- Things you need to know when starting an organic farm business
- Importance of organic farming
- Is organic farming a profitable business
A Step-by-Step Guide On How To Start Organic Farming In India, Cost of Organic Farming, And Schemes in India
Organic farming in India is an agrarian strategy that mainly involves utilizing organic information sources and diminishing the measure of synthetic substances. This includes no usage of growth hormones in any way that it brings decreased contamination and soil corruption. The scope of organic farming in India has been increasing day by day. Crop rotation, biological pest control, green manures and compost, and mechanical cultivation are the principal methods of organic farming.
What Is Organic Farming in India?
Crops growing organically means largely excluding the use of pesticides, synthetically compounded fertilizers, and growth regulators. It aims at cultivating the land and good health by using organic wastes to release crop nutrients for increased production.
The reason behind the organic farming business growth is;
- Its benefit to health, and benefit to the environment,
- Improved agricultural cycle,
- Reduced imports of pesticides and other foreign fertilizers and
- Increased employment generation
Promoting Organic Farming in India
Organic farming largely excludes the use of synthetic inputs to the maximum extent feasible relying upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, and a biological system of nutrient mobilization and plant protection. The food we consume post-production becomes healthier and then gets absolutely fresh and natural things to eat.
The organic products certification is based on the following principles;
- Organic production and processing standards must be laid down.
- The confirmation of production to these stands must be verified.
- Organic labels must be permitted only to those produced, which are found to conform to the set standards.
Organic farming uses natural ingredients free of any synthetic inputs in the process of growing plants. Organic farming yields healthier produce compared to mass production using artificial additives and users claim that organic food even tastes better due to the use of bio-based materials. Avoiding synthetic substances helps maintain soil fertility preserve the delicate ecological balance of grassland ecosystems, and minimize pollution.
Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra are the top 3 states where there are several subscribers to organic farming. Madhya Pradesh tops under organic farming with 0.76 million hectares of cultivable farmland.
Key Characteristics of Organic Farming
The key characteristics of organic farming include;
- By encouraging soil biological activity, maintaining organic matter levels, and careful mechanical intervention protecting the long-term soil fertility
- Providing crop nutrients indirectly by using insoluble nutrient sources which are made available to the plant by the action of soil micro-organisms
- Nitrogen self-sufficiency through the use of legumes as well as the recycling of organic materials effectively including crop residues
- Weed, disease, and pest control relies on crop rotations, organic manuring, some resistant varieties, and chemical intervention
- The extensive livestock management, and some animal welfare issues for nutrition, health, housing, breeding, and rearing
- Also, careful attention to the impact of the system on the wider environment
Advantages of Organic Farming
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- Organic farming helps to maintain environmental health by reducing pollution levels.
- It reduces human and animal health hazards by reducing the residue level in the product.
- Organic crops are structurally and metabolically superior to other types of farming.
- Input costs are significantly lower in organic farming compared to conventional farming.
- Organic growing plants can tolerate drought better and can grow even in areas with inadequate irrigation facilities.
- Plant diseases, weeds, and pests are naturally repelled or deterred through scientific crop rotation and other methods in organic farming.
- Crop yields from the same piece of land are higher.
- Income security and rich returns on investment are assured.
- Organic growing crops are less prone to rainfall and drought conditions.
- Plant diseases, weeds, and pests are repelled in organic farming because of natural crop rotation.
- Organic farming also improves soil health.
- Organic farming improves soil properties and improves water-holding capacity.
- It improves the soil’s chemical properties like supply and retention of soil nutrients, reduces nutrient loss into water bodies and the environment, and promotes favorable chemical reactions.
Tips for Soil Preparation for Organic Farming
Organic farming aims to build up the soil’s nutrients. Efficient management of soil nutrients, soil structure, and soil biology must ensure good crop yields. Soil health is the main foundation of organic systems. Fertile soil will provide essential plant nutrients while supporting an active biotic community that helps the soil resist environmental degradation.
Compared to regular farming, the organic system is a lot more difficult because you will have to prepare the soil and make natural fertilizers and pesticides.
Below are the most crucial things to remember for soil preparation;
- Prepare the soil by using cow dung and nutritious compost (to make your compost, order this kit)
- Look out for weeds, and pests after planting crops. Once the infestation happens, it isn’t easy to recover.
- Everyday care is a must. Watering with cow dung solution and natural fertilizers etc.
- Hang yellow or blue boards with castor oil spread on them to prevent pests in crops.
- Opt for plants that need more sunlight and need less water: tomatoes, beans, and climbers are good examples.
- Prioritize those that are vulnerable to an infestation in loose soil.
The primary method of organic farming in India is soil management. After the cultivation process, soil loses its nutrients, and its fertilizer goes down. The process in which soil is recharged with all the necessary nutrients is called a soil management system. It uses natural methods to increase soil fertility. It uses bacteria, available in animal waste, and the bacteria help in making the soil more productive and fertile.
Crop rotations, inter-cropping, symbiotic associations, cover crops, organic fertilizers, and minimum tillage are central to organic practices and these are the soil-building practices in organic farming. Such management methods also play an important role in soil erosion control.
Steps for How to Start Organic Farming in India
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If you are planning to start organic farming follow the below steps;
Step 1) Get Organic Certification
Getting the certification is one of the important steps in starting organic farming. If you don’t have your land, you can always take the land on lease or buy it if your budget permits organic farming.
The objectives to get the organic certification can be given below;
- Organic farming started to export the produce to other companies.
- Organic farming started to cater to the domestic need for organic produce.
Step 2) Selecting a Site for Organic Farming
The location of the venture plays an imperative part in any venture’s success. The area of your organic farming in India decides how the endeavor will turn out. The organic farming site ought to be close to a clean water source which means water is the most important asset for crop development and health.
In case, your water source is far away, it is significantly harder to deal with the irrigation measures in organic farming. As an initiation, this might seem to be a monotonous thought to make but on the other hand, is necessary for effective working on your farm. The closeness of the organic farming area to the commercial center adds the main function to the manageability of the farm. The organic farm’s closeness to the market includes easy communication for selling. Also, this helps spare costs while shipping materials to the farm.
The site plays a main role in any venture to be successful. An organic farm’s location determines how the venture will turn out. Make sure the farm’s closeness to the market allows for the easy transport of products for selling. Also, this mainly helps save costs when transporting materials to the farm. If the organic farm is not for a commercial purpose, the role of the above-mentioned factors will potentially decrease and the purpose of the organic farm also determines its size.
Step 3) Prepare the soil and make good compost
Soil is mainly considered to be the foundation base of your organic farming. Carefully starting from its appearance, well-being, and equalization everything is responsible for the production result. So, it essentially becomes important to get when and how to develop your soil and make the most ideal conditions for harvests to endure and flourish.
Organic farming needs healthy soils to provide your plants with all the adequate nutrients they need to grow healthy. All good organic farm produce starts with good soil for plant growth. Inorganic soil treatments potentially harm the environment, the crops that grow in the soil, as well as the consumers who eventually eat the food. Good soil is a mixture of compost, leaf and grass clippings, manure, and other vital compositions. Generally, farmers benefit when they make their compost onsite. It is very easy to make and saves a lot of money. Compost mainly helps conserve water, cut down on weeds, and keep waste out. This step is crucial when one starts organic farming.
Step 4) Select a suitable crop
Only a few crops can be cultivated through organic farming, practicing organic farming results in lower yields, and it is difficult to manage pests and diseases without chemical spray. We can also grow any crop organically. However, it is always advisable to grow the crop based on geographical, soil, and environmental conditions. Look around and then observe what other farmers are growing. Keep a note of market prices regularly and choose the commodity which fetches a good price and you can have a good profit at the end of the season.
Knowing about the weather conditions in your area and which crops can thrive in those climatic conditions is essential to selecting the right product. Multiple necessary factors need to be considered before making this decision. These are;
- Soil – pH, alkalinity, water retention, nutritional and porosity levels decide the health & quality of the crop
- Demand in the local market
- Water Availability and composition
- Organic inputs needed, their cost, and availability
- Equipment needed and their availability
Step 5) Start looking for Markets
If you have grown organic crops at your farm and you don’t know where to sell them after harvesting then you will be in big trouble. Not all wholesalers need organically grown crops. Therefore, once you think about practicing organic farming, you must have a clear idea of who will be the buyer. In which market you will sell your organic product? Once have some sort of idea on this front then it will be easy for you to sell the product after harvesting.
Step 6) Take care of what you plant
Organic farming takes time and needs more attention compared to conventional farming. Certain methods need to be considered depending on the plant and farm conditions. Also, the organic farming method could not necessarily work for all plants on the farm.
Step 7) Water Management for Organic Farming
Water is important for plant growth and health. For crop growth, regular watering is necessary. Generally, plants are watered 2 to 3 times a day depending on their type. Watering the plant in the morning is helpful as mornings are cool. Weeding is another important maintenance task in organic farming.
Pollution of groundwater courses with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides is the main problem in many agricultural areas. They are replaced by organic fertilizers through the use of greater biodiversity in terms of species cultivated. Reduce the risk of groundwater pollution by well-managed organic systems with better nutrient-retentive abilities. Conversion to organic farming is highly encouraged as a restorative measure in some areas where pollution is a real problem.
Organic Farming Practices in India
The organic agriculture concept requires some applicable methods. The common and approved ones include the following practices;
Crop Rotation – It means changing species on the same field season by season. This agriculture may also include a fallow period within a certain time interval. Compared to monoculture farming practices, crop rotation will;
- Also, prevents soil erosion with different root systems;
- Protects soil from depletion thus eliminating synthetic fertilizer applications that are disapproved in organic agriculture;
- Boost yields and reduce costs.
Cover Cropping – This implies covering the field with any plant species, either for a certain season between the crop rows partially or completely. Cover crops improve water filtration; and tackle soil erosion and aeration with their roots. Also, they eliminate weeding with the upper parts, by hiding unwanted vegetation from the sunlight.
Green Manures – Mixing green plants with the soil enriches it with organic matter and nitrogen in particular. Also, it increases moisture levels and adds nutrients for microorganisms, thus improving the soil quality. The method of agriculture also reduces weed infestation.
The process has restrictions as the material does not contain any synthetic additives, the soil must be tested before applications, and manures are allowed at least 3 months before harvesting. Composted forms are preferable then they are more compact in volume and contain fewer potential pathogens and contaminants.
Integrated Weed Management
Heavy chemicals are prohibited in organic farming. That’s why weed control is performed by other options of integrated weed management like prevention, biological, physical, and cultural:
- Avoiding weed penetration onto the field with machinery, and irrigation waters;
- Manual weeding;
- Crop rotation;
- Natural chemicals to stop germination;
- Haymaking before weed seeding;
- Introducing populations of birds or insects to consume weed seeds, etc.
The Relevance of Organic Farming
Organic Farming Startup Costs in India
To start any new agriculture business, you need loans. Securing a loan becomes a difficulty in many industries. But not in organic farming. Nationalized Banks provide loans to cover the initial setup costs. With a minimum of about 5 acres of land or having a certification in organic farming can easily avail the loans to farmers from the State Bank of India.
Some typical features of these loans are;
- Minimum 3-year term.
- About 1 Lakh loan can be sanctioned with a minimum of 5 acres of land. Out of this, 40% is for organic inputs and the rest for training.
- A maximum of about 20% subsidy can be availed by the farmer.
- The Central Government of India will provide subsidies that reduce the burden of loans. Therefore, this makes financing organic farming an attractive process.
Nutrient Management in Organic Farming
In organic farming, nutrient management is important to constantly work to build healthy soil that is rich in organic matter and has all the nutrients that the plants need. Several methods like green manuring, the addition of manures and biofertilizers, etc., can be used to build up soil fertility. These organic sources not only add different nutrients to the soil but also help to prevent weeds and increase the organic matter of soil to feed soil microorganisms. Soil with high organic matter resists soil erosion, holds water better, and thus needs less irrigation. Some natural minerals that are needed by the crops to grow and to improve the soil’s consistency can also be added. Soil amendments are added to adjust the soil’s pH level. However, soil amendment and water should contain minimum heavy metals. Several organic fertilizers used are recycled by-products from other industries that would otherwise go to waste. Also, farmers make compost from animal manure and mushroom compost. Some organic fertilizers and bacterial and fungal biofertilizers can be used in organic farming for crop growth.
Different Types of Organic Manures
Different organic manures used inorganic farming include oilcake, blood meal, fish manure, etc. These are also called organic nitrogen fertilizers. Before their organic nitrogen is used by the plants, it is converted through bacterial action into readily usable ammonia and nitrogen.
Green Manure – Green fertilizer mainly helps in fostering a superior soil structure and richness of the soil. They will provide organic matter, an extra measure of Nitrogen, particularly if you are going for vegetable cultivation.
Compost – New deposits from the farm and household residues can be accumulated, saturated, and then turned to get aerated at times by reducing the Carbon: Nitrogen proportion.
Below are some of the residues that you can use in organic manure;
- Crop straws
- Crop residues
- Groundnut husk
- Paddy husk
- Sugarcane trash
- Cattle dung and urine
- Kitchen and vegetable wastes
- Household garbage (biodegradable)
Pests and Diseases Management in Organic Farming
In organic farming, the presence of pests is anticipated in advance, and based on the planting schedules locations are adjusted as much as possible to avoid serious pest problems. The major strategy to combat harmful pests is to build up a population of beneficial insects, whose larvae feed off the eggs of pests. Then periodically beneficial insects are released, where the host crops serve as their home base and attract more beneficial insects over time. When faced with a pest outbreak that cannot be handled by beneficial insects, the use of natural or organically approved insecticides like neem pesticides is done. The important criteria for allowed organic pesticides are low toxicity and low persistence in the environment. These criteria are mainly determined by the National Organic Standards.
Several diseases are major constraints for reductions in crop yield and quality in organic and low-input production systems. Also, proper fertility management of crops through a balanced supply of macro and micronutrients and the adoption of crop rotation have been shown to improve the resistance of crops to certain diseases. Therefore, one of the biggest rewards of organic farming is healthy soil that is alive with beneficial organisms. These healthy microbes, fungi, and bacteria will keep the harmful bacteria and fungi that cause disease in check.
Organic pesticides are derived from naturally occurring sources. These include living organisms like the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis or plant derivatives such as pyrethrins or neem oil. Mineral-based inorganic pesticides like sulfur and copper are also allowed.
Biological control utilizes the natural enemies of pests like predatory insects (e.g., ladybugs) or parasitoids (e.g., certain wasps) to attack insect pests. Lastly, traditional plant breeding has produced numerous crop varieties that are resistant to specific pests. The use of such varieties and the planting of genetically diverse crops provide genetic control against pests and several plant diseases.
Government Schemes for Promoting Organic Farming
The Indian government offers capital investment subsidies for organic growers. It is mainly offered through the National Centre of Organic Farming (NCOF) under the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation with NABARD. The main objective is to readily make available organic resources for improving farm productivity without letting soil health and ecosystem balance deteriorate. Incentives are available for reducing dependence on chemical aids and then promoting the conversion of organic wastes into nutrition sources for plants. Credit-linked and back-ended subsidies are available for organic farmers.
For biological fertilizer and pesticide units, the subsidy amounts to about 25% of the net project cost about the maximum limit of INR 40 Lakhs per unit. The Indian Government is promoting organic farming through different schemes or programs like the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA)/ Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), and Network Project on Organic Farming of ICAR. For promoting Organic Farming, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare is a sub-component under NMSA (National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture). Under the scheme, financial assistance is mainly provided for the setting up of mechanized fruit and vegetable market wastes, agro-waste compost units, and the setting up of liquid carrier-based biofertilizer and biopesticide production units.
Different Schemes for Promoting Organic Farming
The Indian Government provides support for promoting organic farming across the country through different schemes.
Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) – It promotes cluster-based organic farming with Participatory Guarantee System certification. Under this scheme, cluster formation, training, certification, and marketing are supported. For organic farm inputs, the assistance of Rs. 50,000 per hectare /3 years is provided out of which 62% about Rs. 31,000 is given as an incentive to an organic farmer.
MOVCDNER (Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region) – The scheme promotes 3rd party certified organic farming of niche crops of the northeast region through Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) with a focus on exports. Farmers are given the assistance of Rs 25,000 per hectare for 3 years for organic inputs.
CISS (Capital Investment Subsidy Scheme) under SHM (Soil Health Management) – Under this scheme, agro waste compost farming units up to a limit of about Rs 190 lakh per unit 100% assistance is provided to the state government. It assists up to 33% of the cost limit to Rs 63 lakh per unit for private agencies and individuals as capital investment is provided.
National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP) – Under NMOOP, financial assistance at a 50% subsidy of Rs. 300 per hectare is provided for different components, Zinc Solubilizing Bacteria (ZSB), Phosphate Solubilizing Bacteria (PSB), Mycorrhiza, and vermicomposting.
National Food Security Mission (NFSM) – In organic farming, the NFSM scheme provides financial assistance for the promotion of bio-fertilizers.
Profitability of Organic Farming in India
Organic farming is a profitable business if the right market can be accessed. Profit increases in 2 ways-
- By using crop and animal residue, organic waste as bio-fertilizers reduces the cost of farm input.
- Market value and demand for organic products are high compared to traditionally grown farms.
Investment Required for Organic Farming Business
To start an organic farming business, the required investment is approximately ₹5 lakhs to ₹10 lakhs.
Government assistance available;
- Capital investment subsidy offered by the National Center for Organic Farming under NABARD
- About 25% amount of subsidy for biological fertilizers and pesticide units ( max limit 40 lakhs per unit)
- Subsidy amount of 33% for fruits and vegetables max limit of about ₹60 lakhs per unit
- Credit-linked and back-ended subsidies are made available for organic farming
Constraints Being Faced in Organic Farming
In the adoption of organic farming, the important constraints being faced by farmers are;
- Shortage of organic seeds.
- Lack of effective marketing system from farmer to consumer.
- Lower crop yields in some cases.
- Low income during the transition or conversion period hinders the spread of organic farming.
- Lack of technology about crop growth practices, soil, and climatic conditions.
- Limited availability of organic manures and biofertilizers.
- Complexities in certification processes.
Commonly Asked Questions about Starting Organic Farming
Why Organic farming is expensive?
Organic farming is expensive because growing organic foods is difficult as they need high involvement and more time to grow. Also, lower yields of such crops and a poor supply chain further increase the cost of production.
Where is organic farming done in India?
The main states to cultivate organic products in India are Sikkim, Uttarakhand, and Tripura. Other states for organic agriculture are Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra.
How does organic farming help mitigate climate change?
In organic farming, climate change poses critical risks for farmers and endangers the soil, water, and other resources depending on food production. Also, there is extensive research demonstrating the potential of organic systems to reduce agriculture’s contribution to climate change (i.e., mitigate climate change).
Are organic yields lower?
Organic farming produces lower yields compared to conventional agriculture. Organic farming is more profitable, gives more environmental benefits, and is healthier in terms of increased nutritional benefits and reduced dietary pesticide exposure.
What is nutrient recycling in organic farming?
Nutrient supplies to plants are continued through recycling and the management of biologically related processes such as nitrogen (N) fixation by clover and other legumes.
How do organic farmers supply nutrients?
For organic production of agronomic crops, manure, and compost are the main sources of added nutrients.
If you live in India and business plan to start organic farming, this article might be useful to set up your organic farm from scratch.
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