Natural farming practices
What is natural farming? Natural farming is a farming practice that imitates the system of nature. It can be interpreted in several ways and sometimes people misinterpret the notion of natural farming since the word “Natural” is used so casually in many places. Natural farming also called as Do-nothing farming or No-till farming.
The most critical aspect of natural farming is to let nature play a dominant role to the maximum extent possible. Hence, no-till, farm biodiversity, integration and symbiotic farm components and protection of soil cover all have a place in this process of farming.
The immense importance placed on no-tillage has led to natural farming being referred to as No-till farming. The term ‘Do Nothing Farming’ originated because the farmer is considered to be a facilitator and the real work is done by nature herself. Hence, while there are lots to think about and do in natural farming, actual physical work and labor have really been seen to reduce by up to 80% compared to other agricultural systems.
Natural farming is popularly known as “do nothing” farming, natural farming is an environmentally sustainable way of growing food, founded not in practice, but in the principle that an equitable relationship between farmer and nature must form the foundation of the farmer’s actions. Natural farming is an agricultural practice that has no side effects. Is natural farming realistic? There is no way for any system of production to continue if it constantly takes more resources from the Earth that can be replaced. Our best science, as well as in-field practice, tells us clearly that industrial-scale farming is absolutely, unquestionably, unrealistic. There is no system around this, and no amount of technology or innovation can ever reconcile the biological fact no farm can maintain to feed the planet if it is based on pollution and extraction instead of regeneration of the Earth’s habitats and resources. Now let’s get into details of natural farming practices and principles.
Difference between natural farming & organic farming
The important differences between natural farming & organic farming:
Effort: Organic farming wants activities such as mixing of manures or compost, plowing, and tilting whereas there is no plowing or tilting or fertilizers in natural farming. “In natural farming, decomposition of organic matter by microbes and earthworms is encouraged right on the soil surface itself, which gradually releases nutrients into the soil”.
Environmental impact: Organic farming has an effect on the surrounding environment while natural farming does not and it conforms to local biodiversity.
Natural farming practices
Natural farming or Do nothing farming does not want chemicals or organic compost inputs like vermiculture. But, natural farming promotes a natural catalyst of biological activity in the soil and natural protection from diseases.
The nutrients (Nitrogen, Phosphate, Potash, Iron, Sulphur, and Calcium) which are present in the soil are not in an obtainable form for the plants. They first require to be transformed through the action of micro-organisms (bacteria, microbes, and local earthworms) that are usually present in the soil as well. But the excessive use of chemicals has destroyed these micro-organisms. What is this zero budget natural farming? Zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) means for all the crops, the production cost will be zero. In the ZBNF nothing has to be purchased from the outside. All things required for the growth of the plant are obtainable around the root zone of the plants. There is no require adding anything from outside. Our soil is prosperous-complete of nutrients. How many nutrients the do crops take from the soil? Only 1.5 to 2.0 % remaining 98 to 98.5% nutrients is taken from the air, water, and solar energy.
Natural farming is working with nature to produce healthy food, to keep ourselves healthy, and to keep the land healthy. Everything in Nature is useful and serves as a principle in the web of life.
Natural farming differs from Organic farming by not using any type of organic manure like FYM and vermicompost. In Japan, Fukuoka started Natural farming by experimenting with Nature and following the natural methods of crop propagation. He achieved yields related to those of chemical farming but without soil erosion. The essence of natural farming is reducing the external inputs to the farmland, which degenerate the soil nature. At first, because there was no habitat for several of the insects, he had to make natural insecticide like pyrethrum which comes from chrysanthemum roots, and he had to spray that on his vegetables in order to maintain pests like cabbage worm and cabbage moths away. Zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) is planned by Subash Palekar, in India, with the same philosophy but with the indigenous supplements. In ZBNF, the soil is supplemented with the microbial inoculums like Beejamruth and Jeevamruth to accelerate the propagation of soil microflora, helpful to soil enrichment.
Principles of natural farming:
The principles of natural farming utilize crop production to conform to these dynamic and balanced production systems in nature, which are an effect of the interactions of sunlight, water, soil, plants, animals, and microorganisms in natural ecosystems.
It is important to observe nature without being too confident of our knowledge but with a modest, clear and pure state of mind. In addition, growing good crops requires the growth of affection to the crops. A farmer can realize the requirements of soil and for crops to grow healthily, and hence carry out necessary management practices. An agricultural production is an act of seeking truly balanced health of all kinds of life forms, including humans as well as the soil, the crops, and the livestock.
Products of natural farming, which are safe and full of vitality, have saved different people suffering from diseases, such as children having atopic dermatitis and adult cancer patients. Natural Farming can achieve these. It is a farming process that shows the fundamental way of living to human beings.
The system works along with the natural biodiversity of each farmed area, encouraging the complexity of living organisms and both plant and animal that shapes each particular ecosystem to thrive along with food plants. Fukuoka saw farming both as a means of making food and as an aesthetic or spiritual approach to life, the ultimate goal of which was, “the cultivation and perfection of human beings”. He suggested that farmers could advantage from closely observing local conditions. Natural farming is a closed organism, one that demands no human-supplied inputs and mimics nature.
Below are the principles of natural farming:
No, till farming – plowing the soil alters the natural environment of the soil and promotes the development of weeds.
No weeding by tillage or herbicides – weeds are not eliminated however, can be suppressed by spreading straw over freshly sown land and growing ground cover.
No chemical fertilizers – this is because adding chemical fertilizers help in the development of the plant but not of the soil, which continues to deteriorate.
No dependence on chemical pesticides – natures have balancing act prevents any one species from gaining the upper hand.
Tilling could destroy crucial physical characteristics of soil such as water suction, its ability to send moisture upwards, even during dry spells. The produce is due to pressure differences between soil areas. Also, tilling most certainly destroys soil horizons and hence disrupts the established flow of nutrients.
Tilling over-pumps oxygen to local soil residents, such as bacteria and fungi. As an effect, the chemistry of the soil changes. Biological decomposition accelerates and the microbiota mass increases at the rate of other organic matter, adversely affecting most plants, including trees and vegetables. It is well-known to gardeners and farmers that for plants to thrive, a definite quantity of organic matter (around 5%) must be present in the soil.
Tilling uproots all the plants in the region, turning their roots into food for bacteria and fungi. This damages their capability to aerate the soil. Living roots drill millions of tiny holes in the soil and thus supply oxygen. They create room for beneficial insects and annelids (the phylum of worms). Some types of roots contribute directly to soil fertility by funding a mutualistic relationship with certain kinds of bacteria (most famously the rhizobium) that can fix nitrogen.
Different practices of natural farming
No-Tillage: Annual tillage chemical fertilization and pesticide use consistently modify populations of earthworms. When tillage is avoided, soil moisture substance is increased, augment the propagation of earthworms. Earthworms are known to create the soil porous and enrich the soil with their castings. Seeds are scattered and enclosed by straw before harvesting the previous crop. Seeds are germinated by the arrival of the next favorable period. In ZBNF, this perform is not given prominence.
Mulching: Grain crops, healthy orchard trees are developed with a ground cover of vegetables, weeds and white clover. Mulching with straw develops soil moisture content and conducive to the growth of microorganisms and earthworms. It improves seed germination without tillage. Growth of the covering plants like white clover holds back weeds efficiently. Growth of covering crops like legumes increases the nitrogen fixation in the soil. Harvesting weed before flowering and covering the open land reduces the area for the crop weed and develop the organic matter content in the soil. With this practice of herbicides, usage can be avoided.
Mulching is one of zero budget natural farming’s four wheels. It is necessary to make the micro-climate under which micro-organisms can best grow, that is 25 to 32°C temperature, 65 to 72 % moisture and darkness and warmth in the soil. Mulching certainly conserves humidity of the soil (therefore diminishing the need for irrigation), cools it and protects its micro-organisms.
Beejamruth: Application of Beejamruth is followed in zero budget natural farming. It is a seed treatment mixture arranged from cow dung, cow urine, lime and a handful of soil. Naturally occurring beneficial microorganisms are creating in cow dung. These microorganisms are cultured in the form of beejamruth and functional to the seeds as inoculum. It is reported that seed treatment with beejamruth protects the crop from harmful soil-borne pathogens and helpful in producing indole acetic acid (IAA) and gibberellic acid (GA).
Jeevamruth: Soil microorganisms play an active function in soil fertility as they involve in the cycle of nutrients like carbon and nitrogen, which are required for plant growth. They are dependable for the decomposition of the organic matter entering the soil and therefore in the recycling of nutrients in the soil. Cyanobacteria and mycorrhiza constitute soil microorganisms. They participate in decomposition, mineralization and nutrient provide to the plants.
Phosphate Solubilizing Bacteria (PSB) and mycorrhizal fungi can raise the availability of mineral nutrients (phosphorus) to plants. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria can change nitrogen in the atmosphere into soluble nitrogenous compounds useful for plant growth. These microorganisms, which develop the fertility status of the soil and contribute to plant growth. They may show antagonism (biological control) to pathogens. Soil is saturated with all the nutrients, but these are in the non-available type to the roots of the plants. Beneficial micro-organisms in Jeewamruth convert the nutrients in non-available type into the dissolved form, when it is inoculated to the soil. Jeewamruth is either sprayed or sprinkled on the crop field or added to the irrigation tank in regular interval of 15 days until the soil is enriched
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Main features of natural farming in India
- Physical work and labor can be highly reduced when compared to other agricultural systems.
- Yields similar to chemical agriculture is possible.
- There is an increase in soil fertility year after year.
- Water requirement is minimized.
In India, natural farming or no-till farming is often referred to as ‘Rishi Kheti’, which is based on ancient Vedic principles of farming like the use of animal waste and herbal juices for controlling pests and promoting the growth of plants.
That’s all folks about natural farming practices, principles, and advantages. Keep farming!.