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Selected Paper Asian Agri-History Vol. 21, No.

3, 2017 (267-285) 267

A Critical Discussion on the Methods Currently Recommended

to Support Organic Crop Farming in India
YL Nene

Chairman-Emeritus, Asian Agri-History Foundation; 47 ICRISAT Colony -1, Brig. Sayeed Road,
Secunderabad 500009, Telangana State, India (email:

Date of acceptance: 15 July 2017

Excessive use and abuse of agro-chemicals during the Green Revolution period led to
serious concerns about environmental pollution and that resulted in a shift to the reduced
chemical' or non-chemical farming methods. Beginning in 1990s, researchers and farm
policy makers all over the world, including India, re-focused their attention to organic
farming . I have described and discussed most of the methods currently recommended in
different parts of India. These methods are: (i) The natural way of farming or Do Nothing
farming by Fukuoka, (ii) Biodynamic agriculture by Steiner introduced in India, (iii)
Vermi-culture developed by Appelhof introduced in India, (iv) Natueco culture by
Dabholkar, (v) Zero Budget Natural Farming by Palekar, (vi) Rishi-Krishi by Deshpande,
(vii) Agnihotra by disciples of Gajanan Maharaj of Akkalkot, (viii) Panchagavya by
Natarajan, (ix) Krishi-suktis and Vrikshayurveda by sages and scholars of ancient and
medieval India, (x) Compost tea by Ingham introduced in India, and (xi) Bokashi tea by
Higa introduced in India. I have also discussed potential of all these methods in supporting
food security of India.

Modern-day organic farming in ancient times included use of other

India methods of manuring such as night
Since ages in India, the entire industry of penning of sheep, green manuring, and
agriculture was based on using organic applying non-edible oilcakes. I have not
techniques, where the fertilizers and discussed these methods in this paper.
pesticides were prepared from plant and From 1905 to 1924, the British botanist Sir
animal products. Organic farming was the Albert Howard and his wife Gabrielle,
backbone of the Indian economy and herself a plant physiologist, worked as
owning a number of cows was equated with agricultural advisers and Howard was in-
wealth. The cow not only provided milk charge of a government research farm at
but also provided bullocks for farm Indore, where they documented traditional
operations and dung as fertilizer. In Indian farming practices and came to
addition, traditional farming since the r eg a r d t h e m a s s u p e r i o r t o t h e i r
268 Discussion on organic crop farming in India

conventional agriculture science. Their for its food supply, reduced its imports
research and further development of these every passing year. In the 1990s, India had
methods is recorded in his writings, surplus food grains and had once again
notably his 1940 book, An Agricultural become an exporter of food grains to the
Testament , which in uenced many rest of the world.
scientists and farmers of the day (Howard, As time went by, extensive dependence on
1943). By and large the British and the chemical farming showed adverse side-
other Europeans were unaware of the effects on crops. The land has been losing
excellent practices described in different its productivity, thus increasing the
Krishisuktis and Vrikshayurvedas. demand for larger quantities of fertilizers
During the 1950s and 1960s, the ever- every season. Some serious crop pests have
increasing population of India, along with developed resistance or immunity to crop-
frequent natural calamities, led to a severe pesticides, requiring the farmers to use
food scarcity in the country. As a result, the stronger and costlier alternative pesticides
Indian government was forced to import that resulted in polluting the environment.
food grains from foreign countries. To Due to the increased cost of farming,
increase food security, therefore, the farmers started falling into the trap of high-
government had to take radical steps to interest loans, and their economic
increase food production. At this time condition became deplorable beyond any
Howard's work was placed in cold storage. imagination. The situation therefore
The Green Revolution became India's compelled consumers, farmers, voluntary
agship in the mid-1960s. Several hectares organizations, and the policy makers to
of additional land were brought under look for alternatives for correcting the
cultivation. Hybrid seeds and new varieties practices, thereby shifting gradually back
of wheat and paddywere introduced. to predominantly organic farming, based
Natural and organic fertilizers were on innovations in traditional farming
signi cantly replaced by chemical methods in India.
fertilizers and the traditional pesticides It is believed by many that organic farming
were replaced by chemical pesticides. is the much healthier and sustainable
Large chemical factories such as the option. Although the health bene ts of
Rashtriya Chemical Fertilizers Ltd. were organic food are yet to be proven fully,
established. consumers belonging to high income
Before the Green Revolution , it was groups are willing to pay a higher premium
predicted that millions of poor Indians for organic produce.
would die of hunger in the mid-1970s. Many farmers in India are shifting to
However, within a few years, the Green organic farming due to the domestic and
Revolution showed its impact. The international demand for organic food.
country, which greatly relied on imports According to the International Fund for
Asian Agri-History Vol. 21, No. 4, 2017 269

Agriculture and Development-IFAD, India human cultivation of soil, plowing or

is now becoming an important tilling are unnecessary, as is the use of
international supplier of organic food p ow e r e d m a c h i n e s ; ( i i ) p r e p a r e d
( The total organic area in fertilizers, preparing compost, and
Asia is nearly 2.9 million hectares. This weeding are unnecessary, instead only
constitutes nine percent of the world's minimal weed suppression with minimal
organic agricultural land, and 230,000 disturbance; (iii) applications of pesticides
producers were reported. The leading or herbicides are unnecessary, and pruning
countries are China (1.6 million hectares) of fruit trees is unnecessary.
and India (1 million hectares) (Wikipedia, In Japan, where Fukuoka had few
2017). The history of this modern revival followers or associates, his critics argued
of organic farming was, to a great extent, an that the "inner world and the connection
aftermath of green revolution wherein between humans and nature does not,
there was a growing reliance on new however, exhaust reality". A lot of interest
synthetic, non-organic methods. Reverting was generated in Fukuoka's method in
to organic agriculture began more or less India by a few ecologists, politicians, and
simultaneously in Central Europe and the mass media. However, the large body
India. of Indian farmers are not convinced about
In the following paragraphs, some organic the practicability of Fukuoka's method.
farming methods that are currently From the hunter-gatherer stage in
recommended in India are discussed. The human evolution in which the do
last paragraph/sin italics contain my nothing farming was in practice, the
assessment of the method in the context of mankind moved to plow agriculture for
India's food security. obvious bene t of ensuring food security.
The natural way of farming or To me do nothing farming means to go
“Do-Nothing” farming back in time, which just can not happen.

Masanobu Fukuoka (1913 2008), a Biodynamic agriculture

Japanese farmer and philosopher was a Bio-dynamic (BD) agriculture is a form of
proponent of no-till, no-herbicide grain alternative agriculture similar to organic
cultivation farming method, traditional to farming, but it includes various esoteric
many indigenous ultures. This became concepts drawn from the ideas of Rudolf
known widely as "Natural Farming" or Steiner (1861 1925), an Austrian
"Do-nothing Farming". Masanobu philosopher, social reformer, architect, and
Fukuoka's book, One-Straw Revolution , esotericist . Developed since 1924, it was
was rst published in 1978 (Fukuoka the rst of the organic agriculture
Masanobu, 1985). movements in Europe. It treats soil fertility,
The principles of Natural Farming are: (i) plant growth, and livestock care as
270 Discussion on organic crop farming in India

ecologically interrelated tasks, and Interest in BD agriculture has greatly

emphasizing spiritual and mystical increased over the past ve years among
perspectives. organic farmers in India. There are now
Bio-dynamics has much in common with more than 500 small and big farms
other organic approaches it emphasizes practicing BD agriculture throughout the
the use of manures and composts and country. Three major initiatives located in
excludes the use of manufactured the north and south are promoting BD
chemicals on soil and plants. Methods, agriculture among 3000 small farms. The
unique to the BD approach, include its Bio-Dynamic Association India
treatment of animals, crops, and soil as a Koramangala, Bangalore 560 034, India
single system, an emphasis from its (BDAI) is committed to provide training
beginnings on local production and on BD agriculture, to link up with the
distribution systems, its use of traditional international Bio-dynamic Movement and
and development of new local breeds and to promote and support the trade and
varieties. Some methods use an commerce connected with BD agriculture
astrological sowing and planting calendar in India through interaction (Rajendran et
that was so common in ancient and al., 2000; For
medieval India. Biodynamic agriculture stimulating humus formation, the BDAI
uses various herbal and mineral additives recommends two main formulations:
for compost and eld sprays; these are  500: (cow horn-manure) a humus
sometimes prepared by controversial mixture prepared by lling the horn of a
methods, such as burying ground quartz cow with cow manure and burying it in
stuffed into the horn of a cow, which are the ground (40 60 cm below the
said to harvest "cosmic forces in the soil". surface) in the autumn. It is left to
There are certi cation agencies for BD decompose during the winter and
products, most of which are members of recovered for use the following spring.
the international bio-dynamics standards  501: Crushed powdered quartz
group Demeter International. prepared by stuf ng it into a horn of a
The movement started in India in the early cow and buried into the ground in
1990's. Peter Proctor, a farmer from New spring and taken out in autumn. It can
Zealand working in BD agriculture since be mixed with formulation 500, but
1965, was asked to come to India by Shri usually prepared on its own (mixture of
TGK Menon of Indore in 1993 to teach 1 tablespoon of quartz powder to 250
Indian farmers about BD farming. He & liters of water). The mixture is sprayed
Rachel Pomeroy have been coming since under very low pressure over the crop
then twice a year to run seminars, during the wet season, in an attempt to
workshops, and courses for all farmers in prevent fungal diseases. It should be
villages or those running big estates. sprayed on an overcast day or early in
Asian Agri-History Vol. 21, No. 4, 2017 271

the morning to prevent burning of the mixture of decomposing vegetable or food

leaves. The application rate of the bio- waste, bedding materials, and Vermi-cast.
dynamic eld spray preparations (i.e., This process is called Vermi-composting.
500 and 501) are 300 grams per hectare Vermi-cast (also called worm castings,
of horn manure and 5 grams per hectare worm humus, or worm manure) is the end-
of horn silica. These are made by product of the breakdown of organic matter
stirring the ingredients into 20-50 liters by an earthworm. Vermi-compost contains
of water per hectare for an hour, using a water-soluble nutrients and is therefore a
prescribed method. nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and a soil
Bene cial outcomes of practicing BD conditioner. Increases in the total nitrogen
have not been scienti cally established content in Vermi-compost, an increase in
between certi ed BD agricultural available nitrogen and phosphorus, as well
techniques and similar organic and as the increased removal of heavy metals
integrated farming practices. Research from sludge and soil have been claimed.
into BD farming has been complicated by Exotic species of earthworms have been
the dif culty of isolating the distinctively used in India for Vermi-composting.
BD aspects when conducting comparative Internationally, three species have been
trials. Consequently, there is no strong found more ef cient than others; these are
body of material that provides evidence of the exotic Eisenia foetida and Eudrilus
any speci c effect. Acceptance of BD eugeniae, and the endemic Perionix
practice by farmers has been minimal, excavates. There is no need to import
and possibly has no future in India. earthworms from elsewhere as in the past;
local species of earthworms, P. excavatus
and Lampito mauritii, have been found
Modern day Vermi-culture was inspired by equally ef cient.
Mary Arlene Appelhof (1936-2005), an
Bhawalkar Earthworm Research Institute
American biologist, Vermi-composter ,
(BERI) was set up in India in 1981 by Uday
and environmentalist. As a Michigan
Bhawalkar (Sinha et al., 2010). BERI has
(USA) biology teacher, Appelhof in 1972-
established six large-scale Vermi-
73 wanted to continue composting in
composting projects, and motivated nearly
winter months even though she lived in a
5,000 farmers in 16 Indian states to use
temperate climate. She ordered worms from
worms in their farming practices. Results
a bait shop nearby and set up one of the rst
of several experiments have proven that
indoor composting systems. She found her
Vermi-culture can contribute signi cantly
composting system to be a success.
to crop yields and quality, and quadrupling
Vermi-compost is the product of the grass pasture production. Savings on input
composting process using various species costs such as fertilizer and water have
of earthworms, to create a heterogeneous dramatically increased pro ts.
272 Discussion on organic crop farming in India

Over the last 15 years, Maharashtra liquid (Vermi-wash) are 'growth promoters
Agricultural Bioteks (MAB) in Pune, India and protectors' for crop plants.
has prompted over 2,000 farmers and Too much Vermi-compost can block the
institutions to switch from conventional functions that trigger the positive
chemicals to the organic fertilizer, Vermi- responses. Another negative feature
compost. In 1991-92, MAB and the Indian might be that the Vermi-compost with
Department of Science and Technology epigeic earthworms such as Dendrobaena
promoted the adoption of Vermi-compost veneta and Perionyx excavatus in soil and
technology in 13 states in India. The group compost may aid proliferation of
has also established a Vermi-compost unit Escherichia coli in early stages of
with Chitrakoot Gramodaya University, contamination, long-term persistence of
Madhya Pradesh, which produces ve tons the pathogen appears to be unaffected
of Vermi-compost per month (Jambhekar (Prysor et al., 2006). It is used in small-
Personal communication). scale, sustainable, organic farming.
The positive effects of Vermi-compost are Vermi-culture has potential to be used by
due to microbial activities, which aremost farmers on large scale. More studies are
likely associated with plant growth needed on this health-related issue
regulators and increased levels of humic (Asgrow, 2017).
acid and folic acid found in Vermi-
Natueco culture
compost. Increased growth effects were
more frequent and more pronounced at Dabholkar (2001) coined the word
s p e c i c c o n c e n t r a t i o n l eve l s a n d Natueco that combines two words
together, Natural and ecological .
application rates. Optimum germination,
Natueco has been conceived of as a holistic
growth, owering, and heavier yields
way to meet our farming and food
occurred only in a speci c formulation that
requirements. It addresses serious issues of
included nutrients other than what is in the
a farm, like (i) staying in synergy with
Ve r m i - c o m p o s t ( K a l e R a d h a a n d
Nature, (ii) reducing dependency on
Karmegam, 2010).
external inputs to a farm, and (iii) working
Earthworms restore and improve soil scienti cally within the available
fertility and signi cantly boost crop resources in the surroundings of a farm,
productivity. Earthworms excreta (Vermi- without harming its ecology and at the
cast) is a nutritive organic fertilizer rich in same time gaining high bene ts from it.
humus, NPK, micronutrients, bene cial According to Dabholkar, the features of
soil microbes --nitrogen- xing and Natueco culture distinguish it from the
phosphate-solubilizing bacteria and Natural Farming and/or Organic
actinomycetes, and growth hormones Farming ; and he calls it Beyond Organic
auxins, gibberellins, and cytokinins. Both Farming . He explains that Natural or
earthworms and its Vermi-cast and body Organic farming is done trusting Nature
Asian Agri-History Vol. 21, No. 4, 2017 273

through the empirical wisdom of the ages. climate to assure self-suf ciency. It follows
In Natueco Farming, however, farming is the principles of nature's ecosystem in our
done by knowing Nature better through farming systems and emphasizes harvesting
critical scienti c inquiries and through a critical application of scienti c
experimentation. inquiries and experiments that are rooted in
The key features of this Natueco farming the local resources.
technology of growing crops are: (i) plants Natueco farming has potential for
are grown on small heaps of Amrut Mitti gardeners and orchardists. It is not
(nectary soil), the Natueco process of suitable for large-scale farms.The
building fertile soil covered with mulch, method may partially contribute to food
hence no ploughing, Amrut Mitti is the key security. One should note that the method
ingredient - a compost - in the form of takes an important component from
heaps that are always kept moist, (ii) need- Ku n a p a j a l a p r e p a r a t i o n , t h a t i s
based sowing and harvesting of crops, (iii) fermentation of Amritjal. Thus, one of
does not need any external input in terms of the components, Amritjal is a variant of
the agro-chemicals, (iv) weeds are allowed Kunapajala.
to grow until owering and are seen as a
resource, (v) high diversity on a small Palekar's Zero Budget Natural
piece of land - over 125 crop species with a
mix of annuals and perennials, (vi) The Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)
trenches around the farm for rain water has 4 key elements; Bejamrita (seed
harvesting, and (vii) live fencing around treatment), Jiwamrita (microbial culture),
each farm created for multiple purposes. Achhadana (mulching), Waaphasa (soil
aeration), according to Palekar (2005,
Amrutjal (nectary water) is prepared by
2006). Jivamrita is a fermented microbial
mixing 10 liters of water, 1 liter of cow
c u l t u r e , l i k e t h e Ku n a p a j a l a o f
urine, 1 kg of fresh cow dung, and 50 grams
Vrikshayurveda that is discussed later. It
of jaggery. Ferment this mixture for 3 days,
provides nutrients, and also acts as a
stirring it well twice or thrice each day. On
catalytic agent that promotes the activity of
the 4th day, the concentrated suspension is
microorganisms in the soil including that
ready. One part of this suspension is diluted
of earthworms. During the 48-hour
to ten parts with water. Amrut Mitti is
fermentation process, the aerobic and
prepared from green and dry plant anaerobic bacteria present in the cow dung
biomass, both are dried and crushed well. and urine multiply as they decompose the
The dried biomass is immersed in Amrutjal organic ingredients (like pulse our). A
in a container and then kept as such for 24 handful of virgin soil is also added as native
hours. Dabholkar's Natueco method was micro ora. Jivamruta also helps in
popularized by Suchde (2011), who preventing fungal and bacterial plant
explains that it is possible to create a micro- diseases. Palekar suggests that Jivamruta
274 Discussion on organic crop farming in India

is needed only for the rst 3 years of the material that will decompose in due
transition to ZBNF, after which the system course, and form humus through the
becomes self-sustaining. To prepare activity of the soil biota,(iii) Live mulch
Jivamruta, 200 liters of water are placed in (symbiotic intercrops and mixed crops) -
a barrel and following materials are added: this is essential to develop multiple
10kg fresh local cow dung, 5 to 10 liters cropping patterns of monocots and dicots
aged cow urine, 2 kg of cane jaggery, 2 kg grown in the same eld to supply all
of pulse our, and a handful of virgin soil. essential nutritive elements to the soil and
The mixture is fermented for 48 hours in crops. Palekar's justi cation is that the
the shade. Two hundred liters of Jivamruta legumes (dicots) are nitrogen- xing
were found suf cient for one acre (0.4ha) plants, whereas the monocots such as rice
of land. Jivamruta is applied to the crops, and wheat would supply other elements
twice a month, through irrigation water or like potash, phosphate, and Sulphur.
as a 10% foliar spray. Whapasa. It is vapor-moisture. Palekar
Bijamrita. It is used for seed dressing or challenges the idea that plant roots need a
root-dipping. Bijamrita is effective in lot of water, thus questioning reliance on
protecting young roots from soil-borne and irrigation. According to him, roots need
seed-borne pathogens that commonly water vapor. Whapasa is the condition
affect plants especially after the monsoon where there are both air molecules and
period. It is composed of similar water molecules present in the soil.Palekar
ingredients as Jivamruta - local cow dung encourages reducing irrigation by
and cow urine, lime, and soil. Application irrigating only at noon and in alternate
of seed dressing is done prior to sowing by furrows.
adding bijamrita to the seeds of any crop, Palekar's ZBNF is clearly suitable for
coating by mixing with hand, and drying small farm operations. It may contribute
them well. For the pulses seed, quick seed- to partial food security. Features similar
dipping and drying is done. to methods of Kautilya, Dabholkar, and
Acchadana. (Sanskrit-acchadana means Vrikshayurveda(Kunapajala) are
to cover ) means Mulching. According to present.
Palekar (2005, 2006), there are three types
of mulching: (i) Soil mulch -this protects
Rishi-Krishi Deshpande
Technique Methodology
topsoil during tillage-it promotes aeration
and water retention in the soil, (ii) Straw
mulch -straw material usually refers to the This technique is similar to ZBNF of
dried biomass waste of previous crops, but Palekar described earlier. Deshpande
Palekar also suggests, it can be the compost (2005) claims that the technique is based
of the dead material of plants, animals, on Vedic literature and cosmic energy
etc.); this would provide dry organic (Table 1). The aim of Rishi-Krishi (literally
Asian Agri-History Vol. 21, No. 4, 2017 275

Sage-Agriculture ), as claimed, is to keep with Amrut Pani. The drenching should be

the soil alive forever with the help of between the rows and not directly on the
cosmic energy, which is the only source of plantings. For seedlings of crops, such as
energy for plant growth. There are four chili, tobacco, or fruit trees, small amount
steps : (i) Angara (Holy Ash) that of water that is needed to wet the area
consists of 15 kg soil from the base of a around; instead use of Amrut Pani is
banyan tree (a sacred tree) to increase in the recommended. Excess of Amrut Pani is
population of the living organisms in the always bene cial and will not harm young
soil. According to Deshpande, such soil is plants; (iii) Beej Sanskar (dressing of seeds
biologically rich, as it has the excreta of for planting); for dressing of seeds with a
birds, fallen leaves, and the adventitious hard coat such as rice, wheat, corn, bhindi
roots have hormones and enzymes for (okra) etc., a thick paste by mixing one kilo
reproduction; con rmed by Patil et al of Angara and suf cient Amrut Pani is
(2015), (ii) Preparation of Amrut Pani prepared; and (iv) Achhadana (mulching),
[Amrit (Sanskrit: am ta) is a word that which is similar to that described earlier.
literally means "immortality"; in meaning The RKDT has similarities to methods of
somewhat close to ambrosia. Pani is Dabholkar and Palekar. The method is
water]. Materials used are one-quarter kilo suitable for farmers with small holdings.
ghee from an indigenous cow breed; one- RKDT may contribute food security only
half kilo of honey; 10 kilos of fresh dung p a r t i a l l y. N o fe r m e n t a t i o n a s i n
from a desi cow; and 200 litres of water. Kunapajala is involved in preparing
The procedure is to thoroughly mix ghee Amrut Pani. It is used fresh after making.
with cow dung and then blend honey with
this mixture. Two hundred liters of water Agnihotra
are added while stirring continuously. The No ancient text on agriculture mentions
mixture thus obtained is called Amrut Pani. Agnihotra as a farm-related ritual.
The blend was prescribed by Kautilya (c. Agnihotra is known as a ritual to seek
300 BCE). Two hundred litres of Amrit prosperity for the family. It is a prayer to
Pani is needed for one acre (0.4 ha). the Vedic God Agni ('Fire'), rst prescribed
Sugarcane, turmeric, ginger, etc. should be in the Yajurveda (events-c.7000 BCE), and
planted after dipping into Amrut Pani. later elaborated in the Atharvaveda
Roots of seedlings are dipped into Amrut (c.1000 BCE). Agnihotra was that re that
Pani before transplanting. While watering was burnt at the time of marriage. The
sugarcane and other crops with canal or person was supposed to carry the re home
well water, mix Amrut Pani in the main and there after keep it burning till the end of
watering channel stirring all the time. The his life. This re was kept burning all the
seeds need dressing for rain-fed or the time without letting it get extinguished.
monsoon crops. After sowing, when the And every other re that was used in the
soil has moisture, it should be drenched house like cooking, heating and other
276 Discussion on organic crop farming in India

domestic application was basically coming offerings include those that are material
from that original Agnihotra re. And the and symbolic such as grains, clari ed
people who were following this kind of butter, milk, incense, and seeds. If cow
rituals were called as Agnihotris . dung and ghee are readily available they
In 1969, Param Sadguru Shri Gajanan should be used in greater quantity when
Maharaj of Akkalkot, Maharashtra State, doing Agnihotra. The Agnihotra copper-
India (1918 - 1987), widely known as pyramid is believed to be a generator of
Shree , initiated Vasant Rao Paranjpe and life-sustaining energies (www. agnihotra.
MG Potdar, in his spiritual path. Mr Potdar org., 2015).
propagated Agnihotra message right from According to the followers of Paranjpe,
1963 to 1974 i.e. till his passing away from treating seeds by following the Homa
this world. He worked with farmers mainly Therapy can make them more disease and
in Central India. On orders from the pest resistant that would give an initial
Sadguru, Paranjpe went to Peru in 1972 to boost. For backyard plantings/small
spread Agnihotra over there. The reason gardens: (i) placing seeds in cups or jars
for Paranjape's going to a far-off land to and labeling each container with the name
demonstrate Agnihotra are not disclosed. of the seed, (ii) covering seeds with cow's
In 1996, Paranjpe selected in Nueva urine and soaking them for one to two
Requena, Peru, an area of three hectares of hours, depending on the size and nature of
bananas, which was seriously affected by the seed; large seeds for 2 hours and small
the Sigatoka-black disease and looked seeds for one hour, and (iii) removing the
nearly dead. It was claimed that the disease seeds and covering them in moist cow dung
was completely controlled. and the Agnihotra ash spreading before
There are plausible reasons for the semi-drying them. The mixture can then be
bene cial in uence of Agnihotra. crushed and sown.
Knowledge that we have today reveals that Ash from other Homas may be used in
the materials used in Agnihotra sacri ce addition to Agnihotra ash in compost or
produce and release biochemicals to the applied directly onto the eld. Agnihotra
atmosphere through smoke, which could ash is believed to be the key to success;
eliminate or reduce harmful bio-pollutants, Agnihotra ash water solution is very useful
and thereby purifying the environment for natural control of dif cult pests and
(Nene, 2014). enhancing plant growth. The ash contains
Paranjape's Agnihotra is the basis of Homa oxides of silicon, sodium, potassium and
Farming. (Homa is a Sanskrit word that magnesium; carbonates are also formed by
refers to a ritual, wherein an oblation or any the oxides reacting with the carbon dioxide
religious offering is made into re). The Agnihotra farming method, adapted
However, Homa is more accurately a for use in farming only recently can be
"votive ritual". The re is the agent, and the practiced by individual orchardists or
Asian Agri-History Vol. 21, No. 4, 2017 277

village groups. The method can banana, tender coconut, and water. When
contribute only a little to food security. suitably mixed and used, Natarajan claims
Smoke was prescribed in Vriksh- miraculous effects on treated crops.
ayurvedas. The following items are mixed and
Panchagavya fermented, in a large container, in steps, for
30 days; cow dung - 7 kg; cow ghee - 1 kg;
For the Hindus, the formulation and use of
cow urine - 10 liters; water - 10 liters; cow
fresh Panchagavya has been well-known,
milk - 3 liters; cow curd - 2 liters; tender
since the time of Puranas (c. 200 BCE to
coconut water - 3 liters; and cane jaggery -
c.750 CE) for house puri cation after
3 kg. The mixture is stirred well. This is
deaths, etc. It's use as a fermented product
called stock solution . Natarajan insists
with adjuvants such as cane jaggary and
on products from Indian breeds of cow ,
coconut water has only recently been
and avoiding products from buffalos.
extended for use in crop farming.
Generally, Panchagavya is recommended
Dr. K Natarajan, [President, Rural
for all the crops, as foliar spray at 3% level
Community Action Center (RCAC),
(3 liters Panchagavya in 100 liters of
Kodumudi 638151, Tamil Nadu], a
water), in irrigation water (50 litres for one
physician and a disciple of Swami
ha), as dipping seed and planting materials,
Jeevananda, thought of using
or before seed storage.
Panchagavya, after he had read the books
of Fukuoka and Carson. Theories and Panchagavya has gained popularity with
concepts of organic agriculture were farmers in several states of India,
developed and popularized under different especially southern India. It has excellent
names, viz., organic agriculture, green potential to contribute to food security. It
culture, natural farming, and do-nothing should be noted that Panchagavya, as
farming, etc. The enlightened public modi ed by Natarajan, is essentially
started demanding toxin free food Kunapajala minus esh. Thus, we could
products. The market demand for organic call it a Kunapajala variant.
produce gave further momentum to the Krishi- suktis and Vrikshayurveda
organic movement, all this stimulated
Natarajan to use Panchagavya in farming. The Indian science of health management,
Ayurveda, was well-documented by the
According to Natarajan (2003), time of Susruta (c.400 BCE), a surgeon,
Panchagavya, also spelled as Panchkavya, and Charak (c.700 BCE), a physician.
an organic product has the potential to play Cotemporary physicians began applying
the role of promoting growth and providing t h e k n ow l e d g e o f Ay u r v e d a t o
immunity in plant system. Panchagavya domesticated animals and the garden
consists of nine products viz. cow dung, plants, especially the perennials such as
cow urine, milk, curd, jaggery, ghee, shrubs and trees. Our ancient and medieval
278 Discussion on organic crop farming in India

agricultural texts basically describe what management of water reservoirs, stresses

we now label as organic farming and also participation of people of all castes in
described the operations required for farm-related activities, ef cient soil
production of all kinds of crops - grain, management, and cattle management
ber, sugar, fruit, vegetable, and others. (Sadhale, 2004). Manures were similar to
Rigveda includes references to eld those described by Parashara.
agriculture and animal husbandry (Nene The rst mention of Vrikshayurveda is
and Sadhale, 1997). Sanskrit texts on found in Kautilya's Arthsastra (c.300
farming of eld crops and animal BCE; Shamasastry R. 1961 but even by the
management were called Krishi-suktis time of Varahamihira (505 587CE), who
(Sukti is a Sanskrit word which means compiled BrihatSamhita (Bhat, 1981), the
Wise Saying , good or friendly speech, science of Vrikshayurveda was in early
Verse, or Stanza). The rst well-known stages. The rst systematic text on
text on Krishi-sukti was Krishi-Parashara Vrikshayurveda was written in Sanskrit by
(c. 400 BCE). Another one was Surapala (c. 1000 CE). It's translation in
Kashyapiyakrishisukti by Kashyapa (c. English was published rst time by the
800 CE; Ayachit, 2002). A few texts Asian Agri-History Foundation (AAHF) in
written in later centuries have also been 1996. Almost around the same time,
unearthed. Lokopakara (1025 CE) in old Kannada
Krishi-Parashara (KP) is probably the was compiled by Chavundaraya in
rst-ever 'textbook' on agriculture in which Kalyani, near Bidar in northern Karnataka
information is logically organized in (Ayangarya, 2006). Subsequently, texts on
chapters. KP deals in details the parts of Vrikshayurveda with titles, such as
plow and other implements of the time, Upavanavinoda, Vishvavallabha, etc.,
agronomic practices and management - in were compiled.
principle similar to modern ones, cattle All ve Vrikshayurvedas emphasized
sanitation, health, and nutrition, seed health, gardening, raising and managing herbs,
and prediction of seasonal rainfall based owers, fruits, and vegetables. Most
astrological models that are followed by practices followed were similar to the
thousands of farmers even today. Manures modern ones. The most signi cant
used were the stored cow dung and excreta innovation, probably rst time in world
from other farm animals; and then small agri-history, was the development of
balls of the manure were placed in seed- fermented liquid manures from organic
sowing furrows (Sadhale, 1999). wastes Kunapajala (literally lthy uid)
The text of Kashyapiyakrishisukti covers o r Ku n a p a m bu ( f e r m e n t e d l t h ) .
practices followed in growing irrigated Kunapajala could be used for seed-
rice, advises rulers to provide strong dressing, soil drench, or for sprinkling on
support to farmers and their activities, plants.
Asian Agri-History Vol. 21, No. 4, 2017 279

Surapala's procedure involves collecting the traditionally applied organic matter

and storing animal wastes as and when (Neff et al., 2003). It is only the farmers
available. Although wastes from dead boar and sages of ancient India who took pains
were mentioned rst, Surapala (Sadhale, to formulate and use improved organic
1996) expanded the source of wastes to manure mainly for perennial plants.
other animals, especially those with horns. Spraying diluted Kunapajala, with
The wastes are cooked and then stored after excellent sprayers, is a modern innovation.
mixing husk. When needed for use, Valmiki's insecticide- Indsafari is a
addition of sesame oil cake, honey, and fermented product of 'safari', a tiny weed
soaked black gram, and nally the ghee. sh, in cow urine (Ayangarya, 2005). This
The suggestion to store animal wastes preparation is in line with the
underground (anaerobic?) was possibly to recommendation of Chakrapani Mishra in
contain foul odor, as also to protect Vishvavallabha (Chapter VIII, Verse 39),
materials from omnivorous scavengers. wherein to control external insects,
Surapala has mentioned that wastes from powders of the barks of aragvadha (Cassia
other animals such as cow, porpoise, cat, stula), arishta (Sapindus emarginatus),
deer, elephant, etc. can be used. In addition karanja (Pongamia pinnata), saptaparna
to these, animal skin was suggested by (Alstonia scholaris), and bidanga
Chakrapani. Kunapajala can be prepared (Embelia ribes) soaked overnight in cow
from virtually any animal waste and, urine, are pasted on affected parts. The
therefore, gives exibility to farmers in saphari sh was suggested as manure for
preparing Kunapajala according to their rice by Kautilya (Nene, 2002). Cow urine
convenience. contains chemical labeled as
It is generally accepted that plant roots bioenhancer that increases ef cacy of
utilize chemical fertilizers faster than the drug/active principle mixed withcow
organic manures. This is true when the urine (Khanuja et al., 2003).
organic manures, which are soft and semi- Indsafari is sprayed on foliage for control
dry, are scattered in the eld. Application against all sorts of insect pests, and in
of Kunapajala is different from those of particular the Looper caterpillar
other organic manures. Kunapajala is a (caterpillars of three major species,
liquid and therefore ready to reach root Hyposidra talaca, H. in xaria, and Buzura
zone in a short time. Secondly, the suppressaria). Cow urine is also used to
ingredients of Kunapajala have been ferment Polygonum aviculare, a weed with
fermented, which means the mass swollen knobby joints on its stems that is
(proteins, fats, etc.) is already broken down found in abundance in the tea-growing
into simple low molecular weight regions of the north east. The resulting
products, and therefore, these would liquid is sprayed against Red- spider mites.
become available to plants faster than from To control the tea-mosquito, Parmar
280 Discussion on organic crop farming in India

(2017) formulated fermented solution of Kunapajala does produce phenomenal

Vi t e x n eg u n d o o r C l e ro d e n d r u m and interesting results. The Kunapajala
infortunatum, the plants commonly found preparation and application techniques
growing by the roadside across West need to be researched more Bhat et al.
Bengal, the Northeast, and Nepal. This (2012).
concoction is very effective in controlling
Helopeltis theivora. Other concoctions
Compost tea. It is claimed by Brehaut
The liquid organics Panchagavya and
(1933) that methods for brewing compost
Kunapajala individually as well as in
combination proved their ef cacy in teas date back to early Roman, Greek and
promoting the growth and yield attributes Egyptian times. Names of Cato the Elder
of vegetables crops (Sarkar et al., 2014). (234 BCE 149 BCE) and Pliny the Elder
The degree of ef ciency of individual (AD 23 AD 79) have been mentioned as
treatments varied but Panchagavya + the documenters. No further details are
Kunapajala together were found to be available in the literature for veri cation of
best in better utilization of leaf nitrogen, this 'history'.
ef cient photosynthetic activity, and in The Compost tea received a boost since
improving yields. In the modern-day late 1990s; this speci c term and technique
farming, with increase in organic inputs was developed by Dr. Elaine Ingham, well-
in the of high value vegetable crops, use of known soil scientist. Use of Compost tea is
such growth promoters through soil popular in the West. It is a liquid extraction
drenching, will be ef cient and of nutrients and microorganisms from
economically better choice for the nished compost or worm castings used as
farming community. At the same time a foliar spray or soil amendment. Compost
Panchagavya+ Kunapajala can be used tea can be made by leaching the nutrients
as prophylactic measure against the
and microorganisms with aeration. Often,
disease incidence of vegetable crops.It is
other supplements are added during the
to be noted that fermented Panchagavya
steeping process to aid in the proliferation
is also a variant of Kunapajala.
of the bene cial microorganisms and
Kunapajala of Surapala contains esh
bacteria. Molasses are added as a food
unlike Panchagavya. Panchagavya plus
source for feeding the bacteria (Ingham,
Kunapajala, no wonder, gave better
results than either of them (Sarkar et al.,
2014). Kunapajala can be bene cial in Bokashi tea . Dr. Teuro Higaof Japan,
growth of medicinal plants with probably developed around 1982 a technology using
minimal toxic effects on human body when Effective Microorganisms (EM), which is
compared to chemical fertilizers. also called Bokashi composting, (bokashi
Discussion on organic crop farming in India 281

Table 1. A Summary of methods of crop farming in India.

Method Innovator/year Constituents Scope/Future Other

“Do Nothing” Fukuoka, 1978. Nothing except It will not be Impossible to
Japanese farmer and minimal weeding widely accepted have food
philosopher. security
Biodynamic Steiner, 1924. Cow horn manure Very limited No major
Austrian Philosopher. and cow horn following contribution to
quartz (silica) food security
Vermi-culture Ms Applehoff 1972- Use of Has potential for Can contribute to
73. Michigan biology earthworms to use on large scale. food security
teacher and enrich compost
environmentalist. with nutrients
Natueco-culture Dabholkar, 1967. Mulching-no Has the potential Can partially
Mathematician in plowing; Amrut for gardeners and contribute to
Sangli (MS) who Mitti-a name orchardists. Not food security.
inspired organic given by Late OP suitable for large Fermented liquid
farming method. Rupela; compost scale farms. is a variant of
strips made for Kunapajala
raising crops;
fermented cow
dung and urine
with jaggary.
Applied as
nutrient liquid.
Zero budget Palekar, 2005-06 Four key For small scale Partial food
Natural farming elements: operations security.
Beejamrita-seed Features similar
treatment, to Kautilya,
Jevamrita- Dabholkar, and
fermented Kunapajala are
microbial culture, present.
mulching, and
Waaphasa; no
Rishi-Krishi Deshpande,1970. Four steps: Has similarities to Can contribute to
Science graduate Angara-soil from methods of partial food
majoring in Banyan tree Dabholkar and security. No
mathematics. With trunk; Amrit-Pani Palekar. Suitable fermentation.
his land in district [ghee, honey, for small farmers.
Kolhapur (MS), he cow dung in
developed a passion water; Beej
for experimental Sanskar [seed
agriculture, dressing with
paste of Angara
and Amrit-Pani,
and Achhadana
282 Asian Agri-History Vol. 21, No. 4, 2017

Method Innovator/year Constituents Scope/Future Other

Agnihotra /Homa Potdar Inspired and Ghee, grains, Can be practiced Can contribute a
farming Paranjpe by milk, piece of by individual little to food
“Sadguru”. 1970 to dried cow dung orchardists or a security. Smoke
2000. burnt in copper village group. was prescribed in
pyramid. Smoke Vrikshayurvedas.
purifies the air
Panchagavya K Natarajan, 2003, a Mixing 5 Panchagavya has Excellent
physician, Kodumudi, products of cow, gained popularity potential to
Tamil Nadu. coconut water with farmers in contribute to
and cane jaggery. several states of food security.
Fermented for 30 India
days. Seed dip,
soil drench, foliar
Krishi-suktis Parashara [c.400 Sound practices Kunapajalahas Excellent
and BCE], Kashyapa [c. for raising of gained limited potential to
Vrikshayurveda 800 CE], Surapala [c. crops. Animal popularity because contribute to
1000 CE] dung manure to use of flesh is food security.
field crops and unacceptable to Also waste
Kunapajala [KJ] most people. management.
mainly for Fermented
perennial crops. Panchagavya does
KJ is a fermented not have flesh and
liquid manure therefore readily
prepared from acceptable.
flesh, animal and
plant wastes, and
cow products.
Compost tea Elaine Ingham, soil Liquid extraction Anaerobically Has gained
and Bokashi tea scientist.1990s of nutrients and composted animal popularity in
microbes from and plant wastes, several countries.
finished compost, bran, inoculated Can contribute to
molasses added. with “effective food security.

in Japanese means or gradation or waste, including meat and dairy. It is a safe

fermented organic matter). It is claimed soil builder and nutrient-rich tea. The
that Bokashi composting, originate in the inoculum is a consortium culture of
far east, with many researchers specifying different effective microbes commonly
Japan or Korea as the rst country to use. occurring in nature. Most important among
The truth is that Kunupajal was rst them are: N2- xers, P-solubilizers,
formulated in 1000 CE. photosynthetic microorganisms, lactic
The EM or Bokashi composting is an acid bacteria, yeasts, plant growth
anaerobic process, which relies on promoting rhizobacteria, and various fungi
inoculated bran to fermented kitchen
Asian Agri-History Vol. 21, No. 4, 2017 283

and actinomycetes. In this consortium, displacing native microorganisms and

each microorganism has its own bene cial nutrients, which may be harmful to the
role in nutrient cycling, plant protection survival of native plant species (Smith,
and soil health and fertility enrichment. 2001). This may be true, and more
Organic fertilizer that was inoculated and research is required on soiltructure at
fermented with a microbial inoculant (EM) local levels.
contained large populations of propagated
Lactobacillus spp. Actinomycetes, photo-
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