There are a number of fallacies that surround organic farming, both in favour of and against. Some of the more common ones are :
Not so. When properly followed, yields in organic farming are, in the long run, far greater than those obtained by chemical farming. In horticulture crops, the effects are even better. A look at agriculture in Punjab will tell the full story. The origin of the “Green Revolution”, Punjab’s agricultural yields have remained the same for the past many years while the quantity of agro-chemicals required to maintain these static yields have steadily increased.
In the case of a chemical farm converting to organic however, there is often a loss in yield and it takes a few years before yields increase and stabilise at a level often higher than that achieved under a chemical regime. It is therefore recommended to convert gradually over a period of three to four years if income from the farm is a key issue.
Again, not so. While certain practices such as composting and mulching do entail greater costs on account of labour, the overall cost of cultivation is usually lower than chemical farming. An important point to note here is that the farmer has to be self-sufficient in his requirement for composts and pest control measures (easily done), otherwise economics do get skewed. Farms and farmers who would like to make their own inputs may read “Making your own organic farming inputs”.
This is a common argument put to use by all detractors of organic farming, especially academicians. If one calculates the percentages of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous in fertilisers and composts, the difference is indeed vast. Going by these “scientific” calculations, one may find that in lieu of say 200 kgs. of mixed fertilisers, one needs over 30 tons of composts, fairly impossible to supply two or three times a year. In organic farming however, the concept of feeding the plant does not exist. The attempt here is to feed the soil, keep it healthy and living and keep a PROCESS in motion. Much of the work is done by the numerous soil organisms and microorganisms that thrive in “living” soils. The various practices of organic farming ensure that soil fertility is maintained and this symbiotic relationship is kept alive and vibrant. The analogy we can think of is meeting your day’s entire nutritional requirements (calculated for you by a dietician) by swallowing a few tablets and capsules. Your nutritional needs are met, but will you remain healthy?
A myth propagated by over-enthusiastic supporters perhaps. So far in India, most organic farmers have turned (or in some cases remained) organic because of their beliefs. The “organic market” exists for a small number of farmers who have access to a few specialised outlets. Otherwise, till people wake up, it is difficult to see every organic farmer getting a premium for his (undoubtedly superior) product. An option for exports has also opened in the last decade which organic farmers can explore only if they are “certified” as organic. There are a few internationally-recognised agencies operating from India who inspect and certify organic farms.
On our part, we have attempted through our organic food division, to bring organic growers and interested organic buyers together. Farmers within our network are assured of a fair price and regular purchase of their produce (subject to following organic management practices as specified by us), and buyers have access to a wide variety of organic food at reasonable prices. Farmers outside our network have to be organic certified or ethically-certified. For more information, please click here.
The last important myth is that simply avoiding the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides is organic farming. That is not so. While organic farming is all about maintaining soil health (“feeding the soil” rather than “feeding the plant”), it entails producing the highest yields possible, in a sustainable, eco-friendly manner using a number of techniques. Indeed, for any agriculture system to succeed, it must take a responsibility towards feeding the earth. Organic farming entails a lot of hard work and even systems like Do-nothing (or Natural) farming – as propagated by Fukuoka and used so effectively by Bhaskar Save at his Gujarat farm – entail tremendous understanding of nature, natural agriculture, the local ecosystem and require a little hard work even though the name may suggest otherwise! You may learn about many techniques that can be used by an organic farmer in the section on organic farming techniques.
External inputs, even if eco-friendly or bio-degradable are ecologically questionable and commercially unsustainable for an organic farm. Work is hence required on-farm to produce inputs such as composts and biopesticides. Farms and farmers who would like to make their own inputs may read “Making your own organic farming inputs”.