Introduction to organic farming in West Bengal: Organic farming aims at human well-being without harming the environment and follows the principles of care for all, including health, the environment, and soil. Agriculture dominates both the land and the economy of West Bengal. Its proportion of agricultural land is the highest among all the Indian states. Agriculture plays such an important role in the state’s economy that about three out of every four people are directly or indirectly involved in agriculture. As agriculture is the main occupation of the state and the main source of income for the people of West Bengal. About 70% of the total population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Although the state owns only 3% of the arable land, it accounts for 8% of the country’s total food production.
West Bengal is an agricultural state. In West Bengal, there are about 71.23 lakh farm families of which 96% are small and marginal farmers. The average land ownership is only 0.77 hectares. However, the state is endowed with diverse natural resources and diverse agro-climatic conditions that help in cultivating a wide range of crops. In West Bengal, the Department of Agriculture also decided to distribute additional and special lands to the original agricultural laborers with the help of land reforms. This will be an additional benefit to the productivity of crops in West Bengal.
A guide to how to start an organic farming in West Bengal, organic certification, and organic crops in West Bengal
Organic farming is a system of management and agricultural production that combines high levels of biodiversity with ecological practices that conserve natural resources and have strict standards for animal welfare. Also, it responds to growing consumer demand for natural products, as well as allowing the environment to be protected in the context of sustainable rural development.
Principles of organic farming
The basic principles of organic farming are as follows;
Obtaining the organic farming certification that means it is an application from an approved organization is required. Businesses will then be certified if they show evidence of compliance with strict specifications that vary depending on the type of product.
Some of the common principles of organic farming can be given below;
- To maintain long-term soil fertility.
- Avoid all kinds of pollution that can be caused by agricultural techniques.
- High nutritional standards and adequate food preparation. Minimize the use of fossil energy in agricultural practice.
- Working as much as possible within a closed system, and acquiring local resources.
- Provide living conditions to cattle that confirm their physical need.
- Making it possible for agricultural producers to earn a living through their work and develop their skills as human beings.
- No use of “synthetic” chemicals – still, fertilizers or pesticides are allowed on their “natural origin”.
- No use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms);
- Recycle all organic waste;
- Crop rotation to improve soil regeneration;
- Pest control through biological agents;
- Prioritize broad-based and alternative medicine and prevention with organic food;
- Conservation and development of biodiversity (cultivation and breeding of different species, maintenance or planting of hedges).
- It is also important to note that a transitional period is required to convert a traditional form into a certified organic form. This period depends on the type of production but usually takes three years.
Need of organic farming in West Bengal
Organic farming requires organic fertilizer not only as a source of nutrients but also to increase the biodiversity and activity of the microbial population size in the soil. Excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers has affected crop yields as well as soil and the environment. Pesticide residues are the second leading cause of cancer after cigarettes. In addition, pesticides and fertilizers are present in the soil which are harmful to the beneficial microorganisms and scavengers of the soil and as a result reduce the fertility of the soil. We have taken the wrong path of instability in the name of growing more to feed the earth.
The effects already show a growing number of farmers with each passing year the horrific effects of suicidal pesticide spray a few years ago, India and a government-owned orchard in other parts of the country. The big picture that rarely makes the news, however, is that millions of people are still malnourished, and where they get enough to eat, the food they eat has the potential to eventually kill them.
Organic farming is found to be superior to conventional farming because of the increase in employment of human labor, lower cost of cultivation, higher profitability, better input utilization efficiency, and less risk which leads to an increase in income, farmers themselves, and livelihood security are enhanced and soil is maintained health and the environment. Indian agriculture has been sustainable for a long time only due to low external input factors. A key issue in organic farming involves organic farm yield reduction certification, marketing, and policy support. In addition, organic farming prohibits the use of inputs outside the farm as it contributes to food residues and adverse effects on the environment, whereas it contributes to the success of in-farm inputs for the success of organic farming development.
Agriculture in West Bengal also saw a significant increase in oilseed production from 0.24 million tonnes to 0.55 million tonnes in the last decade. Agriculture in West Bengal is also the second-largest producer of potatoes in India as it produces about 28% of the total potatoes grown in India. In addition to these food crops, West Bengal agriculture produces more than 60% of India’s raw jute fiber. West Bengal is known for its position in one of the leading industrial states of India.
West Bengal is a major hub for the jute and tea industries. Some kind of certification is required to improve the sales of organic produce in the domestic markets and third-party certification is very expensive for small and medium farmers in India. The Partnership Guarantee System (PGS) is designed to reduce farmers’ costs and provide a satisfactory level of assurance to local consumers. The growing demand for organic vegetables, especially among the urban population, has prompted the state government to formulate a policy on organic farming.
Key features of organic farming
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Maintain organic matter levels, promote soil microorganism activity, and improve soil conditions through careful mechanical intervention, supply nutrients to a year-round crop, root crop of legumes Increases organic matter inside and aids in the recycling of organic matter, including crop residues and livestock manure. Reduce the chances of weed, disease, and pest infections using cultural methods such as crop rotation, natural predators, diversity, organic fertilizers, resistant varieties, and limited (preferably minimal) thermal, biological, and chemical interventions.
Information about organic farming in West Bengal
- West Bengal is a state in eastern India, is heavily dependent on agriculture. The agriculture sector is an important occupation of West Bengal. The majority of the state’s population is farmers and agricultural laborers. Rice is considered an important food crop of West Bengal. Other major food crops include Maize, Pulses, Oilseeds, Wheat, Barley, Potatoes, and Vegetables. The state supplies about 66% of India’s jute needs. Tea is another important cash crop.
- Over the last two decades, West Bengal’s crops have grown significantly from 131% to 162%. West Bengal Agriculture maintains its consistency in achieving a track record in food production. The state ranks first among all other states in India in rice production.
- The Department of Food Processing Industries and Horticulture has asked rural farms to start organic farming and assured them of technical assistance as well as promotion and marketing assistance.
- The net area under cultivation in West Bengal is about 52,96,005 hectares with a cropping intensity of 182%. There are 67.89 lakh operational holdings of different land sizes with an average size of 0.82 hectares. The state’s farming style is dominated by food crops, which account for about 87% of the area under the basic crops in the state.
- The major crops grown in West Bengal include Rice, Wheat, Jute, Tea, Potatoes, Sugarcane, Pulses, and Oilseeds. It is the largest producer of rice. On the other hand, the Department of Agriculture has set a target of developing 32 organic villages across Bengal – especially in the northern and southern 24 Parganas, Howrah, and Hooghly districts. It has formed 120 clusters of 50 acres, where organic farming is taking place. About 194 farmhouses under the department are cultivating organic vegetables separately.
- In addition, the Department of Organic Farming is collaborating with private agencies on organic farming under the Swanirbhar Krishi Prakalpa. The growing demand for organic vegetables, especially among the urban population, has prompted the state government to formulate a policy on organic farming.
- The Department of Food Processing Industries and Horticulture has asked rural farms to start organic farming and assured them of technical assistance as well as promotion and marketing assistance. The department will provide greenhouses and packhouses with organic fertilizer. It will also provide cars to transport these agricultural products to markets.
- West Bengal State Department of Agriculture is ready to promote organic farming in the state. As part of its drive to increase organic farming, the state is focusing on increasing the production of certain varieties of fragrant rice such as Radhatilak, Dudhsar, Kalabhat, Kalonuniya. In addition to paddy, tea, flowers, and fruits are grown using organic farming methods. Organic fertilizers are essential for the cultivation of aromatic rice as the use of chemical fertilizers removes the aroma.
- West Bengal State Department of Agriculture is ready to promote organic farming in the state. As part of its drive to increase organic farming, the state is focusing on increasing the production of certain varieties of fragrant rice such as Radhatilak, Dodhsar, Kalabhat, Colony. Under organic farming, the department plans to bring another 10,000 hectares.
- In addition to paddy, tea, flowers, and fruits are grown using organic farming methods. Organic fertilizers are essential for the cultivation of aromatic rice as the use of chemical fertilizers removes the aroma. The use of organic manure has increased from 1.5 metric tons per hectare to 1.88 metric tons per hectare. Though, the use of organic manures will only facilitate aromatic rice cultivation.
Organic fish farming in West Bengal
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The West Bengal government is assisting farmers in cultivating organic fish in farmland. The West Bengal government has launched a project to increase the agricultural income of farmers by increasing the income from fish farming, also organically. The state agriculture and fisheries departments have launched the project in the Malda district and then extended it to other districts. The scheme is part of the state’s Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA) scheme.
For small farmers, the income from farming after reducing the cost of raw materials is not profitable. Therefore, because of the demand for fish in the state, fish is being released in the flooded fields after sowing of paddy. In addition, no pesticides or chemicals are being allowed for rice to aid in fish farming.
The types of fish that are being raised include Magur, Roho, Catla Koi, and Singhi. Fish will help crops because they will eat herbs and pests that can hinder the growth of paddy. Canals and small water bodies have been dug near the plots so that whenever the water level in the fields goes down, fish can swim across.
Status of organic farming in West Bengal
The total number of organic farmers in the study area and information about the total area under organic farming has been collected from the respective Project Implementation Authority (PIA) and organic farming systems over time area changes were the focus of our initial attention of field level study. It has been observed that 184 farmers in Panji village, an NGO activity area, and 119 farmers in Babpur village, which is a government activity area, are doing organic farming in the North 24-Parganas district.
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These farmers represent 37.32% and 24.34% farmers of Panji and Babpur villages respectively. It has also been observed that the farmers of Panji village have been doing organic farming for the last 17 years and the farmers of Babpur village have been practicing the same for the last 5 years. It also shows that in Panji and Babpur villages 6.57% and 6.14% of the cultivable area has come under organic farming methods respectively. There is an indication that the performance measured in terms of area under organic practice is better than the area of NGO activity in the 24 Parganas district. However, in the Jalpaiguri district, 925 farmers in Purba Satali village were under NGO supervision and 597 farmers in Ghughudanga village were under government supervision, out of which 47.24% farmers in Purba Satali and 18.59% farmers in Ghaghudanga village were engaged in organic farming. Were In terms of working area, out of 474.53 hectares (2.12%) of cultivable land, only 10.06 hectares could be brought under organic methods in 11 years. In Ghaghodanga village, however, the picture of organic methods is more encouraging than in Purba Satali village.
However, it is important to note that the status measured in terms of the number of farms practicing organic farming is more encouraging in the case of NGO areas in Jalpaiguri district and government areas in the North 24 Parganas district. Interestingly, the increase in area under organic farming is higher in North 24 Parganas district than in Jalpaiguri district in both NGO and government activities.
However, for both NGO (175.21%) and government (80.21%) area of activity, the percentage increase in land under organic farming among sample farmers was higher in Jalpaiguri district than in North 24 Parganas District. Organic farming in the North 24 Parganas district, the land of organic farmers has increased to 166.52% in the NGO area and 66.77% in the public sector. This may be due to the relatively easy access to organic fertilizers as well as organic fertilizers in Jalpaiguri district as compared to the Northern 24-Parganas district.
Minimum requirements for organic farming in West Bengal
In an organic farming system, some of the minimum requirements have to be met to meet its objectives. Only the form is then certified as organic.
Conversion – The conversion period is the time between the beginning of organic management and certification. If the whole field is not converted to organic at one time, then the farmers should have a change plan. In this case, it is important to keep the organic and inorganic sectors separate. In the long run, entire farms, including livestock, should be converted to organic. The duration of the change is determined by the past use of the land and the environmental conditions. Typically, the transition period is two years for annual crops and three years for perennial crops. However, if the requirements are fully met, the transfer period can be relaxed based on verification by a certification agency. During the transition, steps should be taken to maintain biodiversity.
Crop pattern – If annual crops are grown, crop rotation should be followed. The crop rotation should be covered with green manure as well as fodder crops. Cover crops like Kolinji (Tephrosia purpurea) must be grown to protect the soil. Monopropping should be avoided.
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Planting – The species and varieties to be cultivated should be according to soil and climatic conditions and resistant to pests and diseases. Seed/planting material should be obtained from organic sources. If not available, chemically treated seed/planting material can be used once. The use of genetically engineered seeds or planting materials such as tissue culture, pollen culture, transgenic plants is not permitted.
Manure policy – Soil fertility should be maintained/enhanced by cultivating green manure crops, legumes, etc. Plant residues should be added to the soil as much as possible after harvest. Bio-degradable materials of microbial, plant, or animal origin will be applied as manures. The use of synthetic/chemical fertilizers (e.g., fertilizer, vermicompost, farmyard manure, sheep penning, etc.) is not permitted. Mineral-based materials like rock phosphate, gypsum, and lime, etc. can be used in limited quantities when required.
The following products are allowed to be used for fertilizer/soil conditioning in organic fields;
- Farmyard manure, slurry, green manure, crop residues, straw, and other mulch from your farm;
- Sawdust, wood shaving
- Calcium chloride, limestone, gypsum, and chalk;
- Magnesium rock;
- Sodium chloride;
- Bacterial preparations (biofertilizers), e.g., azospirillum, rhizobium
- Biodynamic preparations;
- Plant preparations and extracts, e.g., Neem cake;
- Vermicompost in organic farming
Pests, diseases, and weed management practices in organic farming
In organic farming, chemical herbicides cannot be used. Therefore, weeding can only be done manually. In addition, biological (pathogen) methods can be used to treat the damage caused by weeds. When the soil has fallen, a covering crop can be planted to suppress weeds and improve soil quality. Whenever possible weed control can be limited by using drip irrigation, which limits the distribution of water in the plant line.
In organic farming, avoid serious pest problems in the presence of pests and diseases. An important strategy for dealing with pests is to develop a population of beneficial insects, whose larvae feed insect eggs. The key to populating beneficial insects is to establish boundaries (host crops) around fields planted with a mixture of flowering plants those beneficial insects are particularly like. From time-to-time beneficial pests are released into the fields, where the host crops serve as the foundation of their home and attract more beneficial pests over time. When there is an outbreak of an insect that cannot be controlled by beneficial insects, natural or other organically approved pesticides such as semi-insecticides are used. The two most important criteria for approved organic pesticides are less toxic to humans and other animals and less resilient to the environment. These standards are determined by national organic standards.
Disease management in organic farming – Diseases are a major barrier to crop yield. Proper management of crop fertility through a balanced supply of macro and micronutrients and adoption of crop rotation has improved crop resistance against certain diseases. These healthy germs, fungi, and bacteria prevent harmful bacteria and fungi that cause disease.
The use of synthetic/chemical pesticides, fungicides, and weedicides is prohibited. Natural enemies will be encouraged and protected. (For example, growing trees on a farm attracts birds that kill crop pests, nest construction, etc.) Products are collected from local farms, animals, plants, and microorganisms and produced on farms. Pests and diseases are allowed to be controlled. (eq. neem seed kernel extract, cow urine spray). The use of genetically engineered animals and products to control pests and diseases is prohibited. Similarly, the use of artificial growth regulators is not permitted. Slash wedding is to be held between the plants. Clean the weeds under the plant base and put mulch around the plant base. Products that are allowed to control pests and diseases are neem oil and other neem preparations.
Opportunities for organic farming in West Bengal
Good scope for improving crop intensity with better exploitation and management of surface and groundwater resources; diversification of crops with low water and profitable crops like pulses and oilseeds and vegetables. Development of ‘Organic Input Production Hubs’ through the introduction of soil health management comprehensive survey and Soil Health Cards, promotion of FYM, and provision of improved organic input through vermicomposting in farmers’ fields through the adoption of micro-irrigation system through reasonable use of groundwater resources.
Promote rainwater harvesting infrastructure, especially for recharging groundwater and additional irrigation in the red laterite zones. Increase seed production through promotion of seed villages for certified seed production with centralized processing/quality control facilities at block/district level.
Organic carbon content monitoring should be made a regular practice for the use of organic matter in the soil. The use of organic manures is an easy and effective way to overcome the deficiency of micronutrients.
Organic manures and Biofertilizers – Restoring soil fertility is an urgent need of the world, especially in the context of food security. The importance of organic fertilizers and bio-fertilizers has increased to increase the organic carbon content and microbial activity in the soil so that it becomes more responsible for crop production methods. Due to its geographical advantages, various naturally occurring organic nutrients are available in West Bengal. There is green manure, crop residues, biogas slurry, animal excreta, compost, vermin-compost, biofertilizers, etc. Promoting organic farming, large-scale production, and FYM, insect fertilizer, etc., to improve soil health.
Challenges in adopting organic farming in West Bengal
Farmers face many challenges in establishing organic farming, some of which are major constraints such as the high cost of organic inputs, the need for certification, the inadequate market for organic products, and low productivity and low cost are the main obstacles. In addition, high demand for organic products, difficulty in using organic techniques, high production risk, and unavailability of land suitable for organic farming.
Another challenge is that socio-economic barriers are the biggest problem, followed by infrastructure, technology, and conditions in the process of adopting organic farming. It requires more labor than conventional production. On the one hand, the rising cost of labor is one factor that makes organic food more expensive.
Organic farming has not yet succeeded in taking over the central stage of Indian agriculture. These challenges, if left unaddressed, could not only affect the quality of organic food products, but also the level of policy, commercial, and infrastructure, as well as the expansion of organic farming. More importantly, addressing these issues is crucial to the financial security of the farming sector. One of the major challenges is that the widespread use of pesticides and chemicals against insect and herb management has led to the evolution of insect and herb species. This is a major obstacle in the transition from conventional farming to organic farming.
Get organic agriculture product certificate in West Bengal – Procedure
Apply in person – A person (farmer/farmer group/processor/trader) who is looking for a certificate of organic farming for his agricultural produce should ensure that his form is from the National Organic Production Program (NPOP) according to the standards set by organic crop production. They must apply in the required format along with the fee and complete verification of the field specified by the National Program for Organic Production (NPOP). Please click on the link below to check the link of the nearest verification service agency. Refer to the service agency for the application form and other details required for verification.
Fees – Contact the nearest service agency for a fee.
Validity – The valid organic certificate is valid for one year from the date on the certificate. After entering the Certification System, you will need to apply for annual renewal to maintain the status of your certification.
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