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An Introduction to Zero Budget Natural Farming

Hitul Awasthi
Hitul Awasthi

Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is a holistic alternative to high input cost based agriculture. Green revolution led to the increase in production of crops but it emphasised on the increased use of external inputs like high yielding variety seeds, agro chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides, and intensive agronomic practices. These methods helped in boosting production at the initial stages but with the passage of time its’ adverse impacts started to appear. Farmers’ distress and agricultural crisis due to inefficient extension activities, environment degradation, loos of biodiversity, degrading soil quality and debt cycles due to high input costs started to become visible in Indian Agriculture System. Events like farmers suicides and widespread peasant movements, forced policy makers to come up with a more profitable and sustainable farming system. 

Padam Shri Subhash Palekar ji came up with an idea of Zero Budget Spiritual Farming. In this farming technique, emphasis was laid on the locally produced inputs and dependency on external inputs was reduced. Use of cow dung and cow urine of indigenous breeds is prompted in this system of farming. With reduced use of chemicals in the farmlands soil micro biome rejuvenated and aided in the production of higher yields. ZBNF is based on the principles of agro-ecology and emphasises on sustainable agriculture.  

Four pillars of ZBNF  

Jivamrita – 

It is a fermented microbial culture and helps in promoting the activity of earthworms and microorganisms in the soil. Both aerobic and anaerobic microbes multiply in this. Jivamrita is needed for first three years of transition, so as to restore the soil biota. It is applied twice a month in irrigated water or as 10% foliar spray. 200 litres of jivamrita is sufficient for treating an acre of land. 

Preparation - Put 200 litres of water in barrel and add 10kg fresh cow dung and 5-10 litres of aged cow urine. Add 2 kg of jaggery, 2 kg of pulse flour and handful of soil. Stir and let ferment for 48 hours in shade. 

Bijamrita – 

Used for seeds, seedlings and planting material. Applied as seed coating and then these seeds are sown. Bijamrita is prepared from cowdung, urine, lime and soil. It protects young plants from the attack of pathogens causing diseases. 

Preparation –  5kg cowdung tied in cloth is dipped in container having 50 litres of water overnight. 5 litres of cow urine, handful of soil and 50g of calcium chloride is added to this extract. 

Acchadana – 

Soil mulch protects top soil during cultivation and promotes water retention and aeration. 

Straw mulch refers to the dried biomass and live mulch refers to the multiple crops on the same field. Conservation and availability of these three mulches is very essential for the higher yields.  

Whapasa – 

Whapasa is a condition when soil has both water molecules and air present. ZBNF technique thus aid in reducing the irrigation needs of the farmers. 

Many state governments in India have started promoting ZBNF practices by organising different training camps. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh are the leading states that have participated in its effective implementation. Soil conservation, quality produce, reduced farm expenses and debt free farming has led this practice to become a widespread peasant movement for sustainable agriculture and livelihood security. 

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