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Natural Farming in Andhra Pradesh Outperforms Conventional Methods in Yielding More Produce: Study

According to a new research of the state's natural farming program, Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) has resulted in significantly higher crop yields in Andhra Pradesh when compared to organic or conventional (synthetic fertilizers & pesticides) farming.

Shivangi Rai
The yield of groundnut kernels was increased by 30-40% with the ZBNF treatment
The yield of groundnut kernels was increased by 30-40% with the ZBNF treatment

The Andhra Pradesh Community Managed Natural Farming (APCNF) program, which was launched in 2016, has been pushing for chemical-free agriculture. It has worked on natural farming with 0.63 million farmers out of a total projected six million farmers in the state during the last six years.

Researchers from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom and Rythu Sadikara Samstha, a non-profit established by the government in 2014, found that yields remained the same in natural farming and increased in ZBNF when compared to conventional treatment.

Synthetic insecticides and fertilizers are used in conventional treatment. Organic treatment does not use synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or mulch, but rather buys organic inputs such farmyard manure and vermicompost. ZBNF does not utilize synthetic pesticides or fertilizers and instead relies on homemade inputs such as desi cow dung and urine mixed with mulch, with no inputs purchased.

Aside from the enhanced yield, nutrient availability in ZBNF remained constant, according to the study, which was published on March 23, 2023 in the journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development. This is an important finding because there have been claims that conventional fertilizers treatment, which uses synthetic fertilizers, increases extractable nutrient concentrations as compared to organic and ZBNF treatments.

The researchers conducted controlled field studies in 28 farms from June 2019 to 2020, comparing ZBNF to conventional and organic treatments. Soil pH, moisture content, yield, nutrient content, temperature, and earthworm abundance were all compared. The farms were dispersed over six districts in Andhra Pradesh (Kadapa, Anantapur, Krishna, Prakasam, Nellore, and Vishakhapatnam), spanning more than 800 miles and representing various agro-climatic zones.

In Nellore, Prakasam, and Kadapa, the results showed that ZBNF yield was much higher than both conventional and organic treatments. Whereas in Krishna, ZBNF was significantly higher than the conventional treatment alone, ZBNF was significantly higher than the organic treatment alone in Anantapur.

The conventional treatment yield decreased from the first to the third season (1>2>3), although the organic and ZBNF mean yield increased modestly across the three seasons. The researchers described it as the most comprehensive on-the-ground assessment of ZBNF performance in the region to date.

Groundnut kernel yield was 30-40% higher with the ZBNF treatment in Andhra Pradesh alone, a significant finding given that groundnut is a key oilseed crop in India, covering 537,000 hectares.

"However, the efficiency of the ZBNF treatment was context specific and varied according to district and crop in question," the researchers wrote. The benefit of ZBNF production is most likely due to mulching, which creates a cooler soil with increased moisture content and a larger earthworm population."

Previously, it was predicted that if ZBNF covered 25% of the crop area in Andhra Pradesh, $70 million in fertiliser subsidies would be saved each year.


Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers provide a range of financial hazards to farmers, as well as risks to human health, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation. Reduced usage of purchased inputs and reduced involvement in agri-business may also result in financial gains while yields are enhanced or maintained.

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