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| Last Updated:14/02/2024

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Natural farming: A silver lining for the long run

  Source: The Sangai Express / Nando Waikhom Imphal, August 31 2023: At a time when conventional and modern farming practices have posed a serious threat to the environment and human health because of use of chemical fertilizers, the importance and relevance of Natural farming has become more and more significant.

It has become a "ray of hope" for the farmers, as well as the Earth.

Believed to be initiated by a Japanese farmer and philosopher named Masanobu Fukuoka in the 1970s, Natural farming has already been adopted in many countries and several parts of India.

As the name suggests, Natural farming is a farming method which entirely depends on the laws of nature thereby rejecting the usage of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

It is a holistic system designed to optimize the productivity and fitness of diverse communities within the agro-ecosystem, including the soil organisms, plants, livestock and people.

Speaking to The Sangai Express, Imphal Professor Maibam Sumarjit Department of Agronomy, College of Agriculture, CAU, said that Natural farming is a diversified farming system that integrates crops, trees and livestock, allowing the optimal use of a functional biodiversity.

"In short, what is being done in Natural farming is making the process of growing food plants harmonious with the natural ecosystem just like the fruits and vegetables grown in forests and other natural systems," he added.

Explaining the mode of Natural farming, the Professor said that the soil is usually covered with unrefined mulch to create humus and nurture friendly microorganisms.

In Natural farming, manures like cow dung and urine which have high microbial contents are added to the soil.

The decomposition of organic matter by microbes and earthworms is also encouraged right on the soil surface itself and this gradually adds nutrients to the soil over a period, he said.

The farming method also uses naturally occurring pesticides in place of over-the-counter chemicals that may harm the soil, the environment and affect the health of the whole food chain.

Natural forms of pesticides that are extracted from neem leaves, chilli, garlic and tobacco leaves are used instead of the chemical pesticides for controlling pests and insects, he said.

People often confuse Natural farming with Organic farming.

Natural farming and organic farming are different in many ways, Professor Sumarjit said.

Unlike in Natural farming, usage of certain certified agricultural inputs or resources and approved chemicals which are considered safe for humans and the environment are allowed in organic farming.

Unlike the Natural farming that lets nature take its course, Organic farming also embraces several management practices like weeding and tillage of soil.

Meanwhile, Irabot Foundation, a civil body which promotes Natural farming in the State said that the farming practice has ample scopes for success in Manipur and is suitable to the State's topography and soil.

Irabot Foundation president Gopen Luwang said Natural farming can be done widely across the State if the Government introduces an appropriate policy and if farmers are willing to adopt the practice.

This method of farming is relatively cost-effective in comparison with other conventional and modern farming methods, and this will reduce the financial constraints often faced by the farmers of Manipur, said Gopen.

Since Natural farming encourages integration of crops, trees, livestock and nature, this farming method will give an ample opportunity to improve and enhance the income of the farmers.

A single setting of Natural farming will give them multiple sources of generating income.

They can earn by selling their crops, their livestock and poultry, he said.

Additionally, it will play a pivotal role in the process of environmental conservation thereby mitigating the negative impact of chemical fertilizers and other harmful substances used in the conventional and modern farming systems, he added.

Conventional practice of farming damage the soil, natural ecosystem and the environment at large when Natural farming does the opposite.

At a time when anthropogenic activities have greatly damaged the environment, climate change has become a reality.

With global warming on the rise, many experts too have warned of a serious environmental impact in the future if the environment, rivers and water bodies are not protected from anthropogenic activities that harm them.

Moreover, the conventional agricultural practices have become difficult to sustain with the changing climate.