Organic Farming and Sustainability in Agriculture

Organic Farming and Sustainability in Agriculture

N Balasubramanian, CEO & Director, Sresta Natural Bio Products, 0

Balasubramanian N, a 1989 graduate in rural management, is a seasoned entrepreneur renowned for establishing five successful ventures in India. A visionary leader, he excels in guiding teams with clear direction, leveraging entrepreneurial acumen to drive ventures to fruition.

In an interaction with Bimlesh, Correspondent at CEO Insights India magazine, Balasubramaniam emphasizes the significance of organic farming while addressing the challenges faced by farming practices amidst technological advancements. He suggests training and education for farmers in sustainable agricultural practices. Below are the key excerpts from the following interaction:

What key aspects differentiate successful organic farming techniques from conventional methods?
India’s pursuit of organic and natural farming marks a significant stride towards self-sufficiency. PM Narendra Modi highlighted the pivotal role of organic methods in reducing fertilizer imports, benefiting small farmers, and curbing environmental impacts. Successful organic farming stands apart by offering multifaceted advantages. It addresses small farmer concerns, enhances income, minimizes fertilizer and water use, diminishes fossil fuel dependency, promotes carbon sequestration, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, it fosters soil fertility and encourages biodiversity through techniques like biological pest control, inter-cropping, and crop rotation.

Unlike conventional methods, reliant on synthetic additives and monoculture, organic farming champions native practices, eschews GMOs, and prioritizes farmer health. It fosters self-sufficiency by minimizing external financial dependencies and safeguards farmers from chemical exposure. Transitioning necessitates a shift in mindset, relying on insights from experienced organic farmers and tailored research. Conversely, conventional methods in India, reliant on synthetic inputs and monoculture, pose risk to soil health, biodiversity, and farmer well-being. Inefficiencies in water usage and health hazards underscore the urgency for India to embrace organic practices. Embracing this transition holds the promise of a sustainable agricultural future, benefiting farmers, consumers, and the environment alike.

What are the primary challenges hindering the widespread adoption of sustainable organic farming practices in India?
The adoption of sustainable organic farming in India faces multifaceted challenges that hinder its widespread acceptance and implementation. One of the primary hurdles lies in the transitional phase where yields are initially suppressed, and certified organic products struggle to command premium prices. This phase acts as a deterrent for farmers considering the shift to organic practices. Addressing these challenges demands a comprehensive approach. While governmental policies aim to promote organic farming, successful execution on the ground remains pivotal. Transitioning farmers to non-chemical methods requires support and training, coupled with access to profitable markets. Current initiatives emphasize capacity-building and incentives but fall short in establishing structured market opportunities.

Key stakeholders—farmer producer organizations, retail corporations, and state governments—play a vital role in facilitating access to markets. Initiatives by organizations like 24 Mantra (Sresta) focus on empowering farmers through training, resulting in increased income, improved soil fertility, and reduced health risks while maintaining ethical standards. Sresta's intervention eliminates intermediaries, ensuring fair prices directly to farmers at dedicated procurement centers. This transparent approach fosters trust and guarantees fair compensation, surpassing prevailing market rates. Effective solutions necessitate aligning policy frameworks with ground-level execution, emphasizing farmer support, and establishing transparent market channels to propel the widespread acceptance of sustainable organic farming in India.

How do you perceive the role of technology in enhancing the profitability of organic farming without compromising its sustainability?
Technology is reshaping the landscape of organic farming, effectively balancing sustainability and profitability. Farmers now wield mobile technology to access real-time weather updates, empowering informed
decision-making. Satellite mapping aids in comprehensive soil analysis, understanding its composition for cultivating healthier crops. Innovations in pest management facilitate early detection, preserving crop health naturally. Advanced irrigation systems, such as drip irrigation, optimize water use with scientific precision. Nevertheless, challenges persist in India's organic farming sector. Outdated storage practices limit chemical-free preservation, a cornerstone of organic farming. Modernizing infrastructure—especially storage techniques—is imperative. Adapting global technological advancements to small-scale farming, predominant in India, demands tailored solutions. Logistics, aggregating produce from small farmers for market viability, remains a hurdle.

By organizing farmers into clusters and providing targeted training, we have not just imparted knowledge but kindled a sense of community and ownership.

Technology serves a pivotal role in addressing these challenges. Assessing soil health, mechanization, and conservation agriculture bolsters yields while reducing environmental impact. Blockchain-enabled traceability ensures food safety and consumer trust, elevating market prices and returns for farmers. Government support, especially integrating certification agencies into blockchain systems, promises to eliminate fraud, bolstering organic exports. Embracing technology and enhancing infrastructure tailored for small-scale farming will optimize organic farming practices, ensuring sustainability and profitability for all stakeholders.

Tell us about organic agriculture practices that significantly improve agricultural productivity?
Organic agriculture, rooted in ethical practices and farmer-centric approaches, promises a sustainable farming future. Its transformative potential is evident in specific practices that redefine agricultural productivity. Crop rotations, inter-cropping, and symbiotic associations aren't just cultivation methods; they are soil health advocates. They elevate soil carbon, structure, texture, and water retention while acting as natural defenses against crop diseases without resorting to harmful chemicals.

Additionally, the incorporation of organic manure and minimum tillage revolutionizes soil fertility, showing a remarkable 50 percent to 100 percent increase in soil organic carbon compared to conventional methods. These practices extend their impact far beyond soil health, mitigating risks for small-scale farmers, reducing reliance on fertilizers and water, curbing greenhouse emissions, and adapting to climate change.
Innovative farming practices such as Amrit Mitti of 24 Mantra Organic can improve the net income of farmers, yield, nutritional, and physical quantity of the produce and bring about carbon sequestration. Amrit Mitti program is a baseline study of soil organic carbon (SOC) involving 3500 farmers. Organic farming improves SOC in agricultural soils. Farmers can earn additional income by trading carbon credits generated through carbon sequestration. Success in these initiatives not only benefits local farmers but sets the stage for scalable, sustainable agricultural practices, paving the way for a greener, more prosperous agricultural landscape.

How crucial is ongoing training and education for farmers in adopting and sustaining organic farming methods?
In the realm of agriculture, the transition toward organic farming methods stands as a beacon of sustainable practices. Central to this shift is the pivotal role of ongoing education and training for farmers. The significance of meticulous record-keeping cannot be overstated, forming the bedrock of organic integrity. It encompasses exhaustive details of production, processing, and marketing, essential for third-party inspections. By organizing farmers into clusters and providing targeted training, we have not just imparted knowledge but kindled a sense of community and ownership. These clusters, embedded within an Internal Control System (ICS), facilitate adherence to organic practices while boosting productivity, soil fertility, and farmers' financial security.

Farmers are increasingly recognizing issues like degraded soil quality due to excessive chemical use, leading to reduced effectiveness and higher costs. They're conscious that traditional practices are unsustainable, requiring multiple rounds of fertilizers. Yet, transitioning demands support. Comprehensive training, incorporating diverse farming methods like cattle or poultry, is essential. Trust-building through consistent guidance and scientific aid is crucial. Utilizing technology like farm-specific apps to monitor crops and offer prompt assistance reinforces this support system. Ultimately, amalgamating training, consistent aid, and trust-building are imperative for successful adoption and sustenance of organic farming.