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Natural Farming and Its Impact on Agriculture

Natural Farming

Context: The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) recently conducted a two-day workshop focused on Natural Farming, highlighting its potential benefits and challenges.

Why Natural Farming?

Imbalanced use of chemical fertilizers negatively affects soil productivity and properties, prompting a shift toward natural farming to enhance livelihoods and production.

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About Natural Farming:

Natural farming is a chemical-free approach rooted in Indian tradition, merging ecological understanding with resource recycling and on-farm optimization. Key aspects include on-farm biomass recycling, emphasis on biomass mulching, use of cow dung-urine formulations, and excluding synthetic chemical inputs. It’s considered an agro-ecology-based diversified system, integrating crops, trees, livestock, and biodiversity. Consequently, expected benefits include reduced dependency on purchased inputs, cost-effective practices, and the potential for rural development and increased employment.


  • Beejamrit: Ancient sustainable agriculture technique for seeds and seedlings.
  • Jivamrit: Stimulates soil microorganisms and phyllospheric activity.
  • Mulching: Covers soil to conserve moisture, regulate temperature, prevent erosion, and curb weed growth.
  • Whapasa: A mix of air and water vapor between soil particles.
Plant Protection:
  • Neemastra: Repels pests and diseases.
  • Brahmastra: Natural insecticide against pests.
  • Agniastra: Controls sucking pests and caterpillars.
  • Dashaparni Ark or Kashaya: Controls various pests based on infestation levels.
  • Fungicide: Effective in controlling fungus, prepared with cow milk and curd.

Natural Farming and Zero Budget Farming:

Zero-budget natural farming entails cultivating crops without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or external materials.

  • The natural farming approach is sometimes confused with ‘zero-budget’ farming. However, meeting the demands for high-yield farming often necessitates substantial organic supplements or essential elements like cow dung, a fundamental component in traditional mixtures.
  • Zero-budget natural farming fundamentally involves cultivating crops without relying on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or external materials.

Case Study: Andhra Pradesh Community-Managed Natural Farming (APCNF)

Government Initiative:
  • In a significant shift, the Government of Andhra Pradesh embraced farming methods harmonizing with nature, rooted in ecological science rather than input-driven economics.
  • Initially launched as zero-budget farming in 2015, the programme has seen substantial growth, with approximately 0.8 million farmers, constituting 14% of the state’s cultivators, adopting some form of natural farming.
Program Implementation:
  • The implementation of this initiative is overseen by Rythu Sadhikara Samstha, a non-profit organization established by the Department of Agriculture, Government of Andhra Pradesh.
  • This community-managed natural farming program focuses on unique agricultural practices. For instance, farmers employ pelletized seeds, coating them with substances such as cow dung and ash. These treated seeds are then planted in circular patterns, aiming to minimize soil disturbance while facilitating crop growth.


  • Regenerate soil structure through plant biodiversity.
  • Generate income from diverse crops with different growth durations.

Issues and Challenges:

Current State:
  • According to the Centre for Science and Environment, organic and natural farming in India is in its early stages.
  • The main challenges encompass rapid degradation and pollution of land and water resources. Additionally, there’s a decline in soil fertility, pesticide pollution, and the emergence of pest-resistance.
Agricultural Underdevelopment:
  • NITI Aayog recognizes key reasons for agricultural underdevelopment, such as insufficient extension services, gaps in the supply chain for quality seeds and propagation materials, limited institutional credit in various states, low agricultural investments, and inadequate technological advancements.

Additional Challenges:

Monocropping System:
  • The monocropping system within natural farming can significantly impair soil biology, reduce crop diversity, and diminish soil fertility over time.
Increased Cultivation Costs:
  • While natural farming might elevate cultivation costs, it could lead to non-remunerative prices for agricultural produce, causing financial indebtedness among farmers.
Labour Shortages:
  • The migration of agricultural labor to non-farm employment opportunities may result in labor shortages within the agricultural sector. Consequently, this can significantly impact farm operations and productivity.


Natural farming addresses food insecurity, farmer distress, health risks from residues, and environmental challenges. Offers employment opportunities and curbs rural youth migration.

Read Also: The Art and Science of Agriculture

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