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Experts Predict High Yield Loss Owing to Adoption of Zero Budget Natural Farming

Shivani Meena
Shivani Meena
Natural Farming

Large-scale acceptance of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) — farm practices that exclude all chemically synthesized inputs and encourage the use of on-farm organic material — would lead to a 'tremendous reduction' in agricultural production, endangering India's food security, according to an expert committee formed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). 

The ICAR established the committee in 2019 to empirically confirm the findings of the ZBNF, which has been endorsed by Maharashtra-based Subhash Palekar, and the farm practice was noted in two budget speeches by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in 2019-20 and 2020-21, where she termed to it as an "innovative method for doubling farmers' income." 

"If ZBNF is used on a big scale, there would be enormous yield reduction, which may threaten India's food security," V Praveen Rao, vice-chancellor of Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University and chairman of the ICAR-appointed member committee, told FE. 

The committee is expected to present its report soon. While emphasizing the importance of conducting long-term field trials on ZBNF, the 16-member committee comprised of agricultural scientists and farmers has proposed that future research on ZBNF be conducted only in rainfed regions rather than irrigated zones, which produce the majority of agricultural crops in the country. 

Instead of Zero Budget Natural Farming, the ICAR committee recommends an integrated production system based on agricultural practices such as conservation agriculture using farmyard waste, intercropping, crop variety, and integrated nutrient management to improve soil health. According to Rao, the ICAR team read more than 1,400 scholarly papers on various approaches to promoting sustainable agriculture, in addition to speaking with farmers in seven states who claimed to have adopted ZBNF. 

BPKP has covered a total area of 4.09 lakh hectares. Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar recently stated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's perspective of reducing farmers' reliance on input materials through ZBNF, which lowers agricultural costs by relying on existing field-based technologies that result in better soil health through natural farming, should be fulfilled.   

Meanwhile, ICAR has chosen to build a curriculum in collaboration with agriculture institutions and subject specialists for the integration of ZBNF in the undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum. 

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