Home / News / India /  PM to address natural-farming event amid scientists’ concerns

NEW DELHI : Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address a national summit to popularize zero-budget natural farming (ZNBF) on 16 December in Gujarat’s Anand, as policymakers prepare for a big push for the technique scientists say is yet “unproven".

The National Summit on Agro and Food Processing, in which the PM is set to make a valedictory address via video-conferencing, is being organized by the Gujarat government. Nearly 5,000 farmers are expected to take part in the summit, apart from 80 federal institutes of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Krishi Vigyan Kendras.

“In the summit, basic knowledge on how to adopt ZNBF will be showcased. The purpose is to impart knowledge," Union agriculture secretary Sanjay Agarwal said at a media briefing on Monday.

On 11 November, at a rally held in Uttar Pradesh’s Balrampur after the inauguration of the Saryu Canal project, Modi called upon cultivators to adopt natural farming to save costs and increase yields.

On 19 November, the PM, while announcing a decision to repeal three farm laws, had said the Centre would set up a committee to ensure minimum support prices and promote zero-budget farming.

ZBNF, a technique of farming developed by Padma awardee Subhash Palekar of Maharashtra, aims to help farmers bring down input costs by shifting away from agricultural chemicals and relying instead on natural inputs, mainly an admixture of urine and dung of native Indian cows.

The technique has not been scientifically validated and there is no evidence to show if it yields added any value for farmers, as per scientists.

In 2019, the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) wrote to the PM, expressing concern over the possible negative impacts of ZBNF on farm incomes and food security. This followed a a day-long brainstorm of top scientists by NAAS, which has nearly 650 fellows, to scrutinize the scientific evidence around ZBNF in August 2019. This was attended by the director-general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Trilochan Mohapatra, and Ramesh Chand, a member of NITI Aayog.

“We had recommended that unless there is scientific evidence about its efficacy and benefits, there is no need for the government to rush for it," said Panjab Singh, former president of NAAS.

At the heart of ZBNF is the idea that nearly 98% of nutrients needed by crops such as CO2, nitrogen, water and sun are available naturally and free of cost. The remaining nutrients need to be absorbed from the soil. They are converted from non-available to available form through the action of microorganisms and a admixture of cow dung and urine.

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