Of late, concerns like climate change, environmental degradation, lifestyle related ailments etc. have made the words organic food, natural farming, integrated farming, zero budget farming etc. quite fashionable. Many people who weren’t associated with agriculture or farming earlier are interested in getting into natural farming and keen to acquaint themselves with the basic principles of organic farming before they wade into farming as either a secondary occupation or for recreation purposes.
An integrated farm is absolutely essential to produce organic food, especially if the organic food has to be economically viable. Organic food production can be made economically viable only by producing the inputs necessary for the farm within the farm itself. With this understanding in place, you might ask, how do I draw the architectural framework for carrying out natural farming? The answer is, the architectural framework for organic food production has already been drawn up by nature through a process of evolution and working wonderfully well. Just follow it.
Let us now try to understand the two key words, namely, Integrated farm and Organic food that is critical to natural farming and zero budget farming: –
Integrated farm is where different components of natural food production are available right on the farm itself. Agriculture, horticulture, livestock, poultry, fisheries, bees etc will coexist, supplement and complement one another with certain interdependence to survive and grow. The design of an integrated farm should be such that the waste generated by one component will become the input for another component of the farm. This will bring down the input cost considerably for the farm.
Organic farming by definition is the absence of human intervention in the natural food production process. However, in organized agriculture, organic farming has come to mean zero tolerance for chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides and the use of organic waste as nutrients and natural fertilizers.
Be patient: You may be in a hurry, but nature never is. A traditional variety paddy crop may need 180 days to reach harvesting stage from the time it was sown. To try and reduce the duration of the crop lifecycle from 180 to 120 days will involve intensive cultivation methods which goes against natural processes. Similarly, from the time it is hatched, a chick will take about 8 months time to reach a weight of 1 Kg through free grazing. Intensive chemical based processed feed is needed to make a chick attain a weight of 1 Kg in 45 days which is what most broiler chicken farmers do. If you want to succeed in organic farming, learn to be patient by taking comfort from the adage, ‘All good things come to those who wait’.
Have reasonable expectations: Keep your expectations reasonable if you want nature to supply you safe and healthy food. Greed is the biggest enemy of nature. Just like nature can’t be hurried, it can’t be forced to do your bidding either. Most crops absorb their nutrient requirements from the soil and soil has its own processing and supply chain mechanism to deliver the goods to the crops. To try and increase the crop output is to meddle with the soil’s capabilities to increase its output and that eventually will lead to an imbalance and the entire architectural framework of nature will get destroyed.
To take the example of paddy again, if the natural tendency of Ponni variety paddy is to yield 25 bags per acre with normal organic fertilizers, you need to supplement the crop with additional chemical-based nutrients to obtain 40 bags out of it. This process of supplementing the crops with chemical-based fertilizers and nutrients is called as intensive farming. It would be pertinent to bear in mind always that there is no such thing as intensive farming in nature’s scheme of things
Kill your ego: Humans tend to think that they are at the top of the food chain and also at the center of the food production universe. Nothing could be farther from truth. Sometimes, I think that nature cultivates human beings as a crop to feed and enrich its soil J and that actually renders us to the bottom of the food chain.
If you wish to obtain safe and healthy food for yourself, move away from the center to the periphery of the food production universe. Regard hay, husk, oil cakes, crop residues, pulse skins, nut shells, vegetable plant leaves and stems, cow dung, goat pellets etc as the primary products of the farm. When you do that, rice, cereals, pulses, edible oils, vegetables, greens, milk, eggs etc become the byproducts of the farm and these byproducts will be safe and healthy for you to consume. Come to think of it, are you still at the center of the food production environment?
Let us now get in to Natural farming:
Bring cattle in the form of cows and buffaloes, livestock comprising of goats, and sheep, poultry birds like chicken, ducks, turkeys and guinea fowls into and farm and make them live there. Make your farm attractive to insects and bees so that they come and stay on your farm. Start farming to feed the non-human residents of the farm, give the primary produce of the farm to the residents and take the by-products for yourself.
The cows will be enriching the soil through its dung and urine, the goats and sheep will keep the grass, weeds and shrubs under control on the farm and also offer its pellets to the soil for it to enhance itself. The poultry birds will help you keep the insects under control on the farm as they can seek and search out the insects and pests hiding on the leaves, beneath the leaves, inside curved leaves and in the subsoil. With these livestock on the farm, earthworms will on their own invite themselves to the organic farm and convert the farm waste into micronutrients and make the soil what it should ideally be.
Insects and bees are essential on the farm for the trees, plants and crop to pollinate and reproduce. Not all insects are harmful to crops. There are two types of insects, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Vegetarian insects raid crops and non-vegetarian insects feed on the vegetarian insects. You will be tempted to eliminate vegetarian insects from the farm completely since they cause damage to the crops. But if there are no vegetarian insects on the farm, there is no incentive for the non-vegetarian insects to visit your organic farm and if they don’t pay a visit to your farm, your yield will go down since there are no cross-pollination agents on your farm. Therefore, have food for vegetarian insects also on the farm and this you can do by planting marigolds and other yellow colour flower plants on the farm.
After reading through this lengthy sermon, I am sure you have come to the conclusion that, when it comes to organic food, biodiversity is the only mantra. Everything else is mumbo jumbo.
More information can he seen here…. https://youtu.be/TqhncQ1RrZs
Organic food through integrated farming