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Vol. 18 No. 1 - January 2012

Organic Farming and Food Security

By: Sunaina Lal*

Agriculture in India is one of the most important sectors of its economy. It provides livelihood to almost 2/3rd of the work force in the country and accounts for 18% of India’s GDP. Agriculture plays a vital role in the overall socio-ecomic development of India. Large scale use of inputs, both organic and inorganic has been a common sight in many of the farming situation in the past several decades. In recent times, the concept of organic farming is being forcefully projected, as the only method for sustaining agricultural production in the country. 

Organic farming is a form of agriculture which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides, plant growth regulators and livestock feed additives. Organic farming relies on crop rotation, crop residues animal manures, biofertilizer and mechanical cultivation to maintain soil productivity and tilth to supply plant nutrients to control weeds, insect and other pests.

At present, there is a gap of nearly 10 million tonnes between annual addition and removal of nutrients by crops which are met by mining materials from soil. A negative balance of about 8 m.t. of NPK is foreseen in 2020, even if we continue to use chemical fertilizer, maintaining present growth rates of the production and consumption. It is seen that only about 20-30% nutrient needs of Indian agriculture can be met by utilizing organic sources.

India’s food situation is at a precarious level, as food production has not kept pace with the population growth in the recent years. A recent UNESCO report states that 305 million children die every year in India due to malnutrition. In this disturbing scenario, the need of the hour is to increase our agricultural productivity. Given the constraints of shrinking land area, drinking water resources, the only way is to increase the agricultural production i.e. crop yield per hectare  through modern farming techniques and scientific inputs. With a growing population and precarious food situation, undue emphasis on “Organic farming” would put our national food security at a greater risk.

Crop productivity also declines under organic farming and the extent of decline depends on the crop type, farming system /practices. The cultivated area required to maintain the present level of food grain production in India, without using fertilizer will be more than Geographical area of the country.

In order to raise organic crops, massive quantities of farmyard manure or green manure would be required and for this we need to raise a large cattle population which need manure quantities of feed. All these will necessitate more area being brought under farming, even converting forest lands into farm lands.

Scientific inputs like hybrid seeds, synthetic fertilizer and pesticides have helped our first green revolution and the same will usher the country into the second’ Green Revolution’. Integrated crop management with the balanced use of organic and inorganic inputs and sustainable use of natural resources will help us to move towards an "Ever green revolution" for the benefit of present and future mankind.

*Department of Environmental Science, Jhunjhunwala P.G.College, Faizabad, <[email protected]>

This article has been reproduced from the archives of EnviroNews - Newsletter of ISEB India.

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