The growth story of organic farming in India

The growth story of organic farming is unfolding with increasing demand not only in India but also globally. In a world battered by the Coronavirus pandemic, the demand is already showing an upward trend and hence this is an opportune moment to be captured for a win-win situation for our farmers, consumers and the environment.


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What is Organic Farming?

• Natural farming is not a new concept in India, with farmers having tilled their land without the use of chemicals – largely relying on organic residues, cow dung, composts, etc since time immemorial.

• The primary aim of organic farming is to help soil stay in good health through the use of biological wastes, organic wastes and bio-fertilizers.

• Using organic manures help in sustainable crop production along with a pollution-free environment.

• The philosophy underlying organic farming of integration of the elements – soil, water, microbes, and ‘waste’ products, forestry, and agriculture is the correct recipe for sustainable use of natural resources, which are coming under severe stress due to ever-increasing requirement of food and feedstock for agri-based industry.

• This method avoids or excludes use of synthetic inputs like pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, etc.

Who is the father of organic farming in India?

Subhash Palekar

Subhash Palekar
NationalityIndian
OccupationAgricultural scientist, farmer, author

How ‘organic’ is India’s farming?

• India ranks first in the number of organic farmers and ninth in terms of area under organic farming.

• Sikkim became the first state in the world to become fully organic and other States including Tripura and Uttarakhand have set similar targets.

• North East India has traditionally been organic and the consumption of chemicals is far less than the rest of the country.

• Similarly, the tribal and island territories are being nurtured to continue their organic story.

Recent government initiatives to promote organic farming

• With the aim of assisting farmers to adopt organic farming and improve remunerations due to premium prices, two dedicated programs namely Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD) and Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) were launched in 2015 to encourage chemical-free farming, said Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare.

• With the simultaneous thrust given by the Agri-export Policy 2018, India can emerge as a major player in global organic markets.

  • The major organic exports from India have been flax seeds, sesame, soybean, tea, medicinal plants, rice, and pulses, which were instrumental in driving an increase of nearly 50% in organic exports in 2018-19, touching Rs 5151 crore.

• Infusion of digital technology: The organic e-commerce platform jaivikkheti.in is being strengthened for directly linking farmers with retail as well as bulk buyers.

Organic farming system in India is not new and is being followed from ancient time. It is a method of farming system which primarily aimed at cultivating the land and raising crops in such a way, as to keep the soil alive and in good health by use of organic wastes (crop, animal and farm wastes, aquatic wastes) and other biological materials along with beneficial microbes (biofertilizers) to release nutrients to crops for increased sustainable production in an eco friendly pollution free environment.

As per the definition of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study team on organic farming “organic farming is a system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic inputs (such as fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, feed additives etc) and to the maximum extent feasible rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, off-farm organic waste, mineral grade rock additives and biological system of nutrient mobilization and plant protection”.

FAO suggested that “Organic agriculture is a unique production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity, and this is accomplished by using on-farm agronomic, biological and mechanical methods in exclusion of all synthetic off-farm inputs”.

What is the significance of organic farming in India?

The benefits of organic farming include: to developed countries (environment protection, Increase of biodiversity, reduce energy use and CO2 emissions) and for developing countries like India (efficient use of resources, increase in crop yields, environment and biodiversity safeguarding, etc.)

How organic farming is important?

Organic farming which is a holistic production management system that promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity is hence important. Many studies have shown that organic farming methods can produce even higher yields than conventional methods.

Who started organic farming in India?

Sir Albert Howard

Organic farming, evolved on the basic theoretical expositions of Rodale in the United States, Lady Balfour in England and Sir Albert Howard in India in the 1940s, has progressed to cover about 23 million hectares of land all over the world.

Need of organic farming

With the increase in population our compulsion would be not only to stabilize agricultural production but to increase it further in sustainable manner. The scientists have realized that the ‘Green Revolution’ with high input use has reached a plateau and is now sustained with diminishing return of falling dividends. Thus, a natural balance needs to be maintained at all cost for existence of life and property. The obvious choice for that would be more relevant in the present era, when these agrochemicals which are produced from fossil fuel and are not renewable and are diminishing in availability. It may also cost heavily on our foreign exchange in future.

The key characteristics of organic farming include

  • Protecting the long term fertility of soils by maintaining organic matter levels, encouraging soil biological activity, and careful mechanical intervention
  • Providing crop nutrients indirectly using relatively insoluble nutrient sources which are made available to the plant by the action of soil micro-organisms
  • Nitrogen self-sufficiency through the use of legumes and biological nitrogen fixation, as well as effective recycling of organic materials including crop residues and livestock manures
  • Weed, disease and pest control relying primarily on crop rotations, natural predators, diversity, organic manuring, resistant varieties and limited (preferably minimal) thermal, biological and chemical intervention
  • The extensive management of livestock, paying full regard to their evolutionary adaptations, behavioural needs and animal welfare issues with respect to nutrition, housing, health, breeding and rearing
  • Careful attention to the impact of the farming system on the wider environment and the conservation of wildlife and natural habitats

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