The Proposal of the government to give fillip to Zero Budget Natural Farming is criticized as a hurried move. What are the concerns of the scientific community against Zero Budget Natural Farming?
Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her maiden budget speech announced a proposal to address widespread farmers distress through zero budget technique that would take India’s agriculture sector ‘back to basics’.
Zero Budget Natural Farming
Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is a farming technique devised by Subhash Palekar which advocates the use of naturally occurring materials such as cow dung, cow urine and neem as manure, fertilisers and pesticides and it is against the use of “chemical and organic” additives.
ZBNF was touted as a measure to improve crop productivity and soil fertility by way of fixing the atmospheric nitrogen and also to help farmers reduce the input cost.
Concerns against ZBNF
- There is a lack of credible scientific evidence on how natural farming would impact productivity, soil and plant health and farmers’ income.
- Recently the government has commissioned a project to understand the farmers’ perception about natural farming for different crops and its implication on crop yield and farmers’ income.
- The recently commissioned 6-month study by the government is not enough to study the impacts of the natural farming technique.
- For example, to ascertain whether ZBNF is a superior alternative to existing techniques of farming it is necessary to assess whether the prescribed fertiliser replacement, ‘jeevamrut’ – made of cow dung, cow urine, jaggery and pulse flour can provide the requisite variety and amount of nutrients needed by the soil and plant.
- This kind of assessment is not possible in six months and needs at least two years.
Hence the scientific community has urged the government to undertake a comprehensive study to monitor the soil and plants over a longer period of time. The study needs to understand the impact by using many samples over a period of more than one harvest season to be able to get pre- and post-harvest level of nutrients.