Organic Farming In Punjab, How To Start

Introduction to starting organic farming in Punjab, tips, and ideas for beginners: Punjab’s agriculture is very popular all over India. Punjab is famous for its agricultural activities and plantations. Agricultural activities have taken over a high percentage of land in Punjab as its land is suitable for cultivation. Organic farming in Punjab is a system of production that maintains the soil, the ecosystem, and the health of the people. The main goal of organic farming is to develop a self-sustaining farming system in harmony with nature that provides environmentally and economically sustainable pure food that enhances the surrounding biodiversity and all its components. Punjab farmers are taking up pesticide-free crop production with a growing awareness of the health benefits of organic produce.

Organic farming can be described as agricultural production that combines a high level of biodiversity with ecological practices that conserve natural resources and have rigorous standards for animal welfare. In addition, organic farming responds to growing consumer demand for natural products, as well as allowing the environment to be protected in the context of sustainable rural development.

In general, this type of cultivation does not use chemical fertilizers and pesticides but instead uses organic manure (cow dung, residues from cooking oil emissions, etc.) and other such to promote growth. Uses for Crop application methods facilitate bio-fixing of nitrogen. Instead of mono-cropping, inter-cropping is practiced, and many plants and animals are raised on organic farms.

A guide to starting organic farming in Punjab, tips, and ideas for beginners

Organic Rice Farming in Punjab
Organic Rice (Image source: pixabay)

Why farm organically?: Organic practices provide long-term benefits to people and the environment. The goal of organic farming is to increase the long-term fertility of the soil. Control pests and diseases without harming the environment and make sure the water is clean and safe. Use the resources that the farmer already has, so the farmer needs less money to buy agricultural equipment. Prepare nutritious food, animal feed, and high-quality crops to sell at a good price.

Organic farming is gaining momentum around the world. Growing awareness of health and environmental issues in agriculture has led to the demand for organic food production. Low-cost organic farming can be a sustainable option for farming in India, especially in rain-affected areas by small farmers, and help improve their food and income security. It helps the country’s producers and consumers produce and supply adequate, safe, and nutritious food. Farmers were asked why they opted for organic farming. The majority of farmers about 55% started organic farming practices because they are aware of the environment. 

Choosing a site for organic farming in Punjab

The location of your project plays a key role in the success of any project. Places selected for organic farming should be close to clean water sources, water is the most important asset for crop growth and health. If the water source is far away, it is very difficult to deal with irrigation measures. This can be a monotonous thought, but on the other hand, it is important to work effectively on your farm. Similarly, it helps to spare additional costs when shipping goods over long distances.

Soil management for organic farming in Punjab

In organic farming, soil fertility can be maintained through the recycling of organic matter, the nutrients of which are supplied to crops through the action of soil microorganisms and bacteria. Soil rich in organic matter has more air and water and yields more than soils low in organic matter. They also provide stable release of nutrients to plants, prevent erosion, and host strong populations of beneficial microorganisms.

Basic principles of organic soil management increasing organic matter are by adding compost by using cover crops and mulches, and limiting tillage. Current nutrition guidelines for organic farmers are quite common in nature. Organic farming systems should be implemented in such a way as to ensure that the damage from pests, diseases, and weeds is minimized. Emphasis is placed on the use of a balanced fertilizer program, use of crops and varieties well adapted to the environment, increase and develop fertile soil of high biological activity, adaptive rotations, companion planting, and green fertilizers, etc. When choosing land for growing natural organic crops, only the National Organic Program (NOP) should consider organic land policy, such as taxes, soil quality, and ease of access, water availability, and more.

Successful organic farming requires a lot of knowledge about natural process management and working possibilities. For successful organic farming, it is important to know the possibilities of supporting natural processes to maintain and improve crops. Farmers adopting organic farming methods are recommended to contact local farmers, who are already practicing organic farming to learn from them.

Information about organic farming in Punjab

  • In recognition of Punjab’s efforts to promote organic farming and implement programs to support organic farmers, Punjab has been selected in the category of the best state government’s “Jaivik India Award”. A state government official said Punjab is implementing such programs by providing institutional assistance to farmers under various schemes of the central government through the Punjab Agri Export Corporation (PAGREXCO). Most of the organic farmers were identified in selected districts of Punjab such as Ludhiana, Patiala, Bathinda, and Muktsar.
  • Punjab has successfully brought 8000 acres of land under certified organic production with 2100 farmers. There are 22 districts in the state of Punjab which are divided into three areas namely Malwa, Majha, and Doaba. For this, a simple sampling method has been used. Easy sample of 100 organic farmers of 15 districts; 11from Malwa, being a large area (Patiala, Mansa, Sri Mukhtar Sahib, Fazilka, Faridkot, Ferozepur, Barnala, Sangrur, Moga, Bathinda, and Ludhiana), two districts from Majha (Tarn Taran and Amritsar) and two from Doaba (Kapurthala and S. Bhaghat Singh Nagar) of Punjab have undertaken. Preliminary data have been compiled through questionnaires with semi-fabricated interviews with various officials of the Punjab Department of Agriculture and various agro-based NGOs such as the Kheti Virasat Mission. These districts have been selected because most of the farmers in these areas of Punjab are cultivating organic crops. Awareness of the harmful health effects of the use of pesticides has led to a growing interest in organic farming among farmers in Punjab.
  • Farmers were asked about their total land area under organic farming. The results show that only 13% of farmers are doing organic farming on their total agricultural land. 40% of people are cultivating only one acre. 30% are doing organic farming on their 2 acres of agricultural land and 17% are on 5 acres.
  • Certified agricultural products demand has increased as national and international consumers demand greater transparency and accountability in the supply chain. According to Punjab Agro Industries Corporation Limited, agro plans to bring traceability in 20,000 acres of organic production area in Punjab.
  • Punjab state is one of the most fertile areas on earth. With 5.03 million hectares of land, Punjab is one of the smallest states in India. In these, 4.2 million hectares have a net cultivated area, which includes less than 17% of housing area, roads, rivers, canals, and wastelands, etc. However, with the intensity of cropping at 90%, the cropped area amounts to around 8 million hectares which accounts for 4.5% of the cropped area in the country.
  • Punjab farmers are now moving towards organic farming due to environmental and health awareness.

Nutrient management for organic farming in Punjab

Nutrient management in organic farming presents a major challenge, as the use of inorganic fertilizers is not permitted. Therefore, organics should improve the range of soils, crop rotation, and fertilizer management to ensure nutrient supply that guarantees maximum crop yields and minimizes damage to the environment. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to define the food cycles in the farming systems, which are possible in different ways.

Some organic methods are crop rotation; cover cultivation, the addition of manure / FYM, use of green manure, use of crop residues, additional use of organically approved modifications, use of animal manure, and bio-fertilizer. Appropriate amounts of microbial, plant, or animal origin biodegradable substances produced on organic farms will form the basis of a nutrition management program to at least maintain its fertility and the biological activity contained within it.

Fertilization management should minimize nutrient losses. Accumulation of heavy metals and other pollutants will be prevented. Non-synthetic mineral fertilizers and imported bio-fertilizers (biological origin) will be considered as surplus and not as an alternative to food recycling.

The certification program will establish procedures that prevent the animal race from becoming over-fertilized where there is a risk of contamination. Mineral fertilizers will be used only in the additional role of carbon-based materials. The use will be allowed only when other methods of managing fertility have been improved. Mineral fertilizers will be used in their natural composition and will not be more soluble than chemical treatments. The certification program may provide an exception and these concessions should not include nitrogenous mineral fertilizers. The certification program will prohibit the use of relatively high-heavy metallic materials and/or other undesirable substances in minerals such as potassium, magnesium fertilizers, trace elements, manures, and fertilizers, such as basic slag, rock phosphate, and sewage sludge. All synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are prohibited.

Schemes for organic farming in Punjab

KVM (Kheti Virasat Mission) – KVM receives the support of experts and personalities in the fields of environmental health, agriculture, and ecology, etc. KVM is present among the farmers of Punjab at a strong grassroots level. Its outreach, training, and awareness programs have impacted the conversion of 20 farms into natural/organic farming, with more than 200 farms in the process of conversion and more than 500 growing organically for self-use.

KVM has two distinct functioning bodies: In KVM, the two distinct functioning bodies are Vatavaran Panchayats and EHAG (Environmental Health Action Group). EHAG is a forum for physicians, medical professionals, and life sciences experts who raise environmental health issues.

To provide organic certification under the Participatory Guarantee System, Kheti Virasat Mission is the authorized regional council in Punjab.

NPOF (National Project on Organic Farming) – To help organic farming reach its current stage, it is necessary to build technical capacity, generate scientific knowledge and identify constraints and strategies to overcome them.

It is important to promote organic farming and focus on enhancing technical capabilities;

(a) Scientific knowledge and technical capacity building

(b) Promotion, production, and quality control of organic inputs

(c) Soil health assessment from an organic and biological point of view

(d) Research and the development of technology and information products through their dissemination

(e) To strengthen the product quality assurance system and

(f) To create widespread awareness through print and electronic media.

The National Project on Organic Farming in its present form focuses on technical capacity building, technology development, input production, and quality control facility, human resource development, development of certification system, and awareness through seminars/conferences and advertising.

National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (Soil Health Management) System

SHM aims to promote sustainable soil health management of crops as well as location-specific crops, including residue management, maps of soil fertility through organic farming methods. Provides support for macro-micronutrient management, proper use of land according to the suitable capacity of the land, proper use of fertilizers, and minimization of soil erosion/degradation. This will be done through thematic maps based on Geographic Information System (GIS) and extensive field-level scientific survey through the database on soil and soil properties.

Key Objectives are;

  • To make agriculture more productive, sustainable, compensatory, and climate-resilient by promoting integrated/composite farming systems
  • Preserving natural resources through appropriate soil and moisture conservation measures
  • Adopt comprehensive soil health management based on soil fertility maps, soil test-based application of macro and micronutrients, and use of fertilizers, etc.
  • Achieve “higher yields per drop” to increase coverage through efficient water management to improve water resource utilization.

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana.

Under PKVY, organic farming is promoted through a cluster approach and the adoption of organic farming through PGS certification.

The concept of the scheme is;

  • To promote commercial organic farming through certified organic practices.
  • The production will be free of pesticide residues and will play a role in improving the health of consumers.
  • This will increase the farmer’s income and create a potential market for traders.
  • This will encourage farmers to mobilize natural resources for input production.

Choice of crops and varieties for organic farming in Punjab

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Organic Wheat/Barley Farming in Punjab
Pic source: pixabay

Kharif and Rabi are the two main crops grown in Punjab’s agriculture.

Kharif crops in Punjab include Maize, Cotton, Rice, Sugarcane, Pulses (Excluding Grams), Millets, Peas, Millet, and Vegetables such as Gourds, Onions, and Peppers.

Rabi crops cultivated in Punjab are Gram, Barley, Wheat, Fodder Crops, Potatoes, Oilseeds, and Winter Vegetables.

Agriculture in Punjab is very deep in terms of land, nutrients, agricultural components, and water, etc.

The crops selected for organic farming based on some factors;

  • All seed and plant material will be organically certified. Cultivated species adapt to soil and climatic conditions and are resistant to several pests and diseases. In selecting varieties, genetic diversity will be taken into account.
  • Organic seeds and plant material should be used when available.
  • When certified organic seed and plant material is not available, conventional non-chemically treated seed and plant material will be used.
  • The use of genetically engineered seeds, transgenic plants, or plant materials is prohibited.
  • Genetic diversity must be taken into account when choosing varieties.

Organic crops and processed products are given below;

Rabi season – Wheat, Mustard, Coriander, Methi, Black gram, Potato, radish, Carrots, Peas, Barley, Oats, onion, Turnips, Palak, Sunflower, Cauliflower (gobhi), Cabbage, Chukandar, Garlic; horticulture produce: citrus family fruits – Keenow and malta, and others; oil seeds – Taramira, halon.

Kharif season – Some Kharif crops are Cotton, Paddy, basmati, Maize, Green gram, Arhar, Urad, Groundnut, Soybean, Castor, jawar, Okra, brinjal, Cowpea, Tomato, Kheera, Brinjal, Chilli, Turmeric, and Sugarcane, etc. Fruits – Jamun, Guava, and Peach.

Organic Products: Besan-gram flour, Moth dal, Bajra flour, Cornflour, Gulab Jal, Basmati rice, Okra seeds, Mustard oil, Sharbat, Rice, Wheat Atta, and Desi moong dal.

The area under organic farming in Punjab

DistrictsArea in hectares
Ferozepur, Mukatsar, Bathinda, Faridkot, Sangrur, Mansa1214.5  
Ropar Nawanshehar, Mohali283.4
Ludhiana, Moga, Patiala485.8
Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Kapurthala404.8  
Fatehgarh Sahib101.2
Birla Farm, Ropar141.7
Total Area2631.5

Diversity in crop production and management plan in organic farming

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Organic Maize Farming in Punjab
Maize field (Image credit: pixabay)
  • In organic farming, the basis of crop production should take into account the soil structure and fertility and the surrounding ecosystem, to reduce nutrient losses.
  • Organic farms are required to maintain sufficient diversity in a manner that takes into account pressure from some problems (insects, weeds, diseases, and other pests) while increasing soil, organic matter, fertility, and general soil health. For non-perennial crops, this is common, but not special, obtained through crop rotation, preferably through fruit crops.
  • Soil fertility will be maintained, among other things, by cultivating fruit or deep-rooted plants and using green manures, as well as by establishing crop rotation programs several times a year and fertilizing with organic inputs.

Water management in organic farming

Organic farming aims to improve the use of agricultural resources and the sustainable use of natural resources. Maintaining active water, harvesting, and storing water are important methods, especially for organic farmers. Organic farmers know that it is first important to improve water retention and soil infiltration.

Maintain soil moisture – During dry periods, some soils are high and some crops are in a low watering position. The ability of soil to absorb and store water depends largely on the composition of the soil and the content of organic matter. Soil-rich soils can store up to three times more water than sandy soils. Soil organic matter acts as water storage, just like a sponge. Therefore, crop residues or a cover protects crop soil, prevents surface crusting, and slows the flow. Roots, insects, and other soil life have cracks and holes in the soil. Fewer water flows, and more sinks into the soil.

Reduce evaporation – A thin layer of mulch can significantly reduce water vapor from the soil. This protects the soil from direct sunlight and prevents the soil from overheating. Though, shallow digging of dry topsoil can help dry out the bottom soil layers. Better soil retention saves on irrigation costs.

Better use of seasonal rainfall – Crop harvesting during the dry season allows farmers to plant earlier at the start of the rains.

Weeds, pests, diseases management in organic farming

Weeds, pests, and diseases should be controlled through various protective cultural techniques that limit their growth, such as proper rotation, green manure, a balanced fertilizer program, early and pre-prepared seed preparation, mulching, mechanical control, and disruption of pest development cycles. Natural enemies of pests and diseases should be protected and encouraged so that the management of pests can be managed by understanding and intervening in the environmental needs of pests through the provision of adequate housing for hedges, and nesting sites, etc. An ecological balance must be created to balance the pest predator cycle.

The organic farming system will be implemented in such a way as to ensure that the damage from pests, diseases, and weeds is minimized. Products used to manage pests, diseases, and weeds, which are produced on the farm from local plants, animals, and microorganisms, are allowed. If the quality of the ecosystem or organic product may be compromised, the method of estimating the additional input of organic farming and other relevant standards will be used to determine whether the product is acceptable. Branded products should always be evaluated.

In organic farming, the use of synthetic herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and other pesticides is prohibited. The use of artificial growth regulators and synthetic dyes is prohibited.

Farmers in organic farming are responsible for protecting organic fields from being sprayed with artificial pesticides. An organic farmer can grow organic food and fiber. To avoid the flow of pesticides on crops from neighboring farms, organic farmers should use one of the following measures to protect organic farms.

The use of natural hedges on the boundaries of neighboring fields can prevent the risk of spraying pesticides through wind or run-off water. The wider the border area around the fields is the better.

Organic farmers should remove water or talk to farmers about how they can work together to reduce the risk of water pollution. Organic farmers who are interested in conserving nature should share their knowledge with their neighbors to help them adopt organic methods or minimize the risk of polluting nature.

Crop protection practices in organic farming

Knowledge of plant health and the environment of pests and diseases helps the farmer to choose effective crop protection measures. As many factors affect the development of pests and diseases, it is important to step into the most sensitive areas. This can be accomplished by the right timing of administrative methods and the right combination of different methods. The following are some important crop protection measures.

1) Select resistant varieties – Choose varieties that are well adapted to local environmental conditions, as it allows them to be healthy and repel pests, and strengthen against disease infections.

2) Select clean seeds – Use safe seeds that are inspected for pathogens at production stages. Use safe planting materials.

3) Use of appropriate cropping systems

Mixed cropping systems – It is defined as the process of growing two or more crops on the same land simultaneously. It can limit the pressure of pests and diseases.

Crop rotation – Crop rotation reduces some chances of soil-borne diseases and increases soil fertility.

Green manure and cover crops – These practices increase biological activity in the soil and can enhance the presence of beneficial organisms  

4) Use of balanced nutrient managemen

Moderate Fertilization – Stable growth makes the plant less vulnerable to infection. Too much fertilizer can cause salt damage to the roots, which can lead to secondary infections. A balanced potassium supply helps prevent fungal and bacterial infections.

5) Input of organic matter – Increases the density and activity of microorganisms in the micro-soil, thus reducing the population density of pathogenic and soil-borne fungi. Stabilizes soil structure and thus improves water aeration and infiltration. Substances provide supplies that strengthen the plant’s defenses.

6) Use of proper soil cultivation methods

  • Helps the decomposition of infected plant parts.
  • Weeds regulation serves as hosts for pests and diseases.
  • Protects the micro-organisms that control soil-borne diseases.

7) Use of good water management

  • No water logging – It puts pressure on the plant, which encourages pathogen infection.
  • Avoid water on the foliage, as waterborne diseases are spread by droplets and fungal diseases germinate in water.

8) Protection and promotion of natural enemies

  • Provide an ideal habitat for natural enemies to grow and regenerate.
  • Avoid products that harm natural enemies.

Organic certification in Punjab

It is defined as the process for organic food producers and other organic agricultural products. Requirements vary from country to country and typically include a set of production standards for growing, storage, processing, packaging, and shipping, including;

1. Avoidance of synthetic chemical inputs.

2. Avoid genetically modified seeds.

3. Use of farmland that is free of prohibited chemical inputs for many years.

4. Adherence to specific requirements for livestock, feed, housing, and breeding.

5. Detailed written production and sales record.

6. Maintain strict physical separation of organic products from uncertified products.

7. Periodic inspection on site.

Participatory Guarantee System – Partnership Guarantee Systems are locally focused quality assurance systems. It is a process in which people under similar circumstances, inspect and verify each other’s production methods and decide on Organic Certification (PGS-Green and PGS Organic).

Organic certification addresses the growing demand for organic food worldwide. Its purpose is to ensure quality and to promote trade. Small farmers would sell their produce directly to markets, with the popularity of organic grown, more and more consumers sought traditional channels.

Challenges faced by organic farmers in Punjab

Major problems and constraints for organic farming are;

  • Lack of Awareness
  • Output Marketing Problems
  • Shortage of Bio-mass
  • Inadequate Supporting Infrastructure
  • High Input Costs
  • Marketing Problems of Organic Inputs
  • Low Yields

Farmers often complain that there is no minimum support price for crops grown other than wheat and rice. Also, they are afraid that their products will not be sold because there is no organized market for the products obtained through organic farming. Moreover, they do not want to risk the supply of input and machinery on credit from their old buyers. The Department of Horticulture in Punjab is informing the farmers about the minimum use of pesticides and insecticides. Also, it is promoting packaging and labeling training. Overall, the current chemical input creates some major health issues for crop biodiversity and requires immediate attention. Farmers in all states of India should move towards organic farming.

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