Pointing out that “principles of natural farming are rooted in concepts defined by Vrikshayurveda, the ancient Indian Science of plant life”, Dr Neelam Patel, senior adviser, NITI Aayog, said Tuesday said over 6.5 lakh hectares of agricultural land in 11 states are already under this form of farming.
“You all might be having a doubt, why we are suddenly talking about natural farming. But we at NITI Aayog have been working on it since 2018,” said Patel while addressing a pre-Vibrant Gujarat summit on “Agro and Food Processing: Entering a new era of cooperation”, a three-day event at Anand Agricultural University (AAU) where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to address the valedictory session.
In her presentation, she pointed out how fertiliser application rate in India has risen from 12.4 kilogram per hectare in 1969 to 175 kilogram per hectare in 2018. “The depletion of organic carbon in soil has been massive,” she added.
Patel also talked about how Andhra Pradesh leads with 2.15 lakh hectares of area under natural farming in India, followed by Gujarat (1.17 lakh hectares) and Madhya Pradesh (99,000 hectares).
Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat who inaugurated the summit, defended natural farming and said it was not devoid of science. “Some friends ran a campaign across the country that natural farming is devoid of science. When you have not conducted any experiments, how can make such announcements. You can object, if you have conducted a research and did not find anything substantial.”
Asking farmers in Gujarat to return to natural farming, Devvrat claimed organic farming has not been able to increase production in the past 30 years. “Organic farming will not increase production. We will have to leave it. Please return to natural farming where earthworms and other microorganisms thrive,” he said.
While most farm inputs used in natural farming are managed from local ecosystems, organic farming relies on externally purchased farm inputs like bio-fertilisers and vermicompost.
Claiming that Rs 1.25 lakh crore is spent every year on subsidising urea because chemical fertilisers kill micro organisms in soil, the governor said natural farming promotes growth of such organisms leading to increase in organic carbon in soil.
Organic farming relies on earthworms imported from other countries, the governor said, adding that these imported organisms die when temperatures rise beyond 28 degrees Celsius and falls below 16 degrees Celsius.
A Gujarat government publication, “Aatmanirbhar Farmers of Gujarat: Roadmap 2030”, was also unveiled at the event.
Agreements worth Rs 2,359 cr signed
On the first day of pre-Vibrant Gujarat summit on agriculture sector at Anand Agriculture University, MoUs worth Rs 2,359 crore were signed, which includes three agreements for producing grain-based ethanol.
The agreements signed between the Gujarat government and the private sector included a Rs 650-crore MoU for setting up a 500 kilolitres ethanol plant by Luna Chemicals Pvt Ltd, a Rs 500-crore agreement for setting up an ethanol plant of similar capacity by UPL (formerly United Phosphorus Limited) and a Rs 192-crore agreement for a 150-kilolitre ethanol plant by Aamanya Organic Pvt Ltd.