Nagpur: A few days ago, the Union government formed a committee headed by former agriculture secretary Sanjay Agrawal that will look into natural farming and crop diversification. Before that, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a pitch for natural farming as he addressed farmers at a conclave in Surat.
As Centre focuses on the issue again, Padma Shri awardee Subhash Palekar, who became synonymous with natural farming three years ago, has warned of India going the Sri Lanka way if the country relies only on organic farming.
The Surat model calls for having village-level committees to promote natural farming.
Palekar remains critical of other farming methods which may be called organic or natural. He says the method derived by him, known as Subhash Palekar Krushi (SPK), cannot be similar to any other system of natural or organic farming.
Palekar, who is based in Amravati, made news in 2019 when Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman mentioned about him in the Budget speech as she pushed for zero budget natural farming.
In the three years, the expert says, only Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh governments have held his training camps for the farmers. He has not been approached by the Centre for any kind of assistance in promoting the SPK pattern.
“When Amravati’s Anil Bonde took over as Maharashtra agriculture minister, he tried to arrange a meeting with the state government. The meeting did not happen for some reasons,” he says.
On the current state of affairs, Palekar says there is utter confusion about natural farming. He said there can be nothing like cow-based farming. At least he does not promote it in his own method, he says.
“In my method, cow has a role but that is limited. A formulation made with cow dung — Jeevamruta — is used for creating humus in the soil. Its role stops there. The soil takes in nutrients from the microbes on its own after that. A fully cow-based farming is not possible,” he says.
Palekar also hit out at organic farming saying it would take the country the Sri Lanka way. This is because inputs used in organic farming are too expensive and the yield does not match the cost. Organic farming leads to high emission of green house gases causing global warming, he says.
At the same time, natural farming, which calls for use of no inputs leaving it purely to the nature, is not feasible either, he says. In SPK, certain inputs are used which make it distinct from other theories, says Palekar. The inputs are needed to rejuvenate the soil weakened due to green revolution.
VM Bhale, vice-chancellor of Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyalaya, said Palekar was invited to the university to demonstrate his method but he did not turn up. On this, Palekar says he did not receive any official letter.
“Even as the university does promote organic farming, it basically advocates an integrated approach. Organic farming may give optimum, but not maximum yield. For farmers to profit, there needs to be a high yield for which an integrated approach using a mix of both techniques can be helpful,” said Bhale.