Zero Budget Natural Farming: Another Case of 'Raw Wisdom' Over Science? -Kabir Agarwal
The Centre says the method will improve crop productivity and reduce input costs, but it remains unclear which scientific studies – if any – these conclusions are derived from.
New Delhi: During her budget speech in July, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman responded to widespread farmers’ distress by saying that they would be encouraged to adopt a ‘zero budget’ technique that would take India’s agriculture sector ‘back to basics’.
Zero-budget natural farming (ZBNF), as a formal technique devised by Subhash Palekar, a social activist from Vidarbha, advocates the use of naturally occurring materials such as cow dung, cow urine and neem as manure, fertilisers and pesticides. According to Palekar’s website, it is against the use of “chemical and organic” additives.
“Steps such as this can help in doubling our farmers’ income,” Sitharaman had said.
In a press release that followed, the government claimed ZBNF “improves the crop productivity and soil fertility by way of fixing the atmospheric nitrogen” and also helps “farmers [reduce] the input cost”.
However, it is unclear which scientific studies – if any – the government has used to qualify ZBNF. In fact, a derision towards the word “chemical” is a common part of the hype surrounding the putative benefits of organic farming but it has also become symptomatic of negligence towards the underlying chemical processes.
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