Thursday, October 20, 2011

Nanak Kheti : The Science of High Yield without Poisonous Pesticides and Synthetic Fertilizers

Science of High Yield without Poisonous Pesticides and Synthetic Fertilizers - - Nanak Kheti*

Om Prakash Rupela

India’s growing population needs a proportional increase in food production. Much of the land is already under agriculture and therefore the needed increase has to come largely through increased productivity (yield per unit land). Agricultural education in the past at least five decades is the one based on agrochemicals - Green Revolution (GR) technologies and this has eventually influenced the agricultural research for development (AR4D) and the resultant policies accordingly.

Manufacture/supply of the three major inputs of GR technologies – fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation – need fossil fuels and/or expensive energy and are in turn associated with serious environmental and/or health issues (eg. Bhatinda is the cancer endemic district of Punjab, linked to pesticides). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has conceded that agriculture (conventional, modern or GR) as practiced today by majority farmers has negative environmental impacts including production of greenhouse gases (GHG) ( /techrepI/agriculture.html) but has not suggested any solutions/alternatives.

* Prepared for sharing with the participants of the session on Nanak Kheti on the auspicious occasion of the Gaddi Divas of Shri Guru Granth Saheb, 20 Oct. 2011, Amritsar, Punjab.

Organic agriculture (=Nanak Kheti) in the past about 20 years has emerged as the effective alternative and is based on sound scientific principles. Several organic farmers have claimed to harvest yields comparable to their neighbor farmers using chemicals. Despite this, the official stand of the AR4D system (agricultural universities, agricultural departments in different states and at the centre) does not support organic farming (=Nanak Kheti). Their official stand is (a) crop yield reduces with organic farming in the absence of fertilizers, (b) there is not enough farm-yard manure or compost to replace the chemical fertilizers, (c) chemical pesticides are essential to protect crops, and (d) Bt-crops are being developed to reduce the use of the harmful pesticides. This official stand is indeed based on experiments, conducted largely at research farms. However, all these experiments do not honor the basic tenets of organic farming and are done on small plots. The successful organic farmers (Table 1) follow (a) the needed crop diversity, (b) integration of trees, animals and crops to enhance plant biomass as source of crop nutrients and to manage crop pests, (c) recycling of crop residues, instead of burning them, (d) encouraging birds and friendly insects for managing insect-pests for high yield. The AR4D system does not invest in the needed research, including verifying the claims of high yield without agro-chemicals and articulating science to the agri-practices of the organic farmers. Different stakeholders of the AR4D, including consumers, need to ponder why the system does not wish to promote organic farming (Nanak Kheti) for the masses. As a scientist educated/trained in the modern agriculture of agro-chemicals but having done research comparing it with the agriculture with low-cost biointensive agri-practices without agro-chemicals, the presentation is focused on sharing the science behind these agri-practices for high yield. Some facts are listed below.

1. A crop needs 30+ elements, in balanced form, for good growth and yield and not only the N, P, K widely available in market.

2. All the 30+ elements are available in most soils and in the plant biomass (leaves, branches, flowers, fruits of every plant), but their composition differs.

3. Each of the 30+ elements exist in two forms – available or water soluble form and un-available or bound form. Majority of the concentration of each of these elements in soil and in plant biomass is in un-available or bound form.

4. Bound form of all these elements can be converted to available form by microorganisms in soil and on root system and by macro-fauna – widely available in cowdung and in traditional knowledge ferments eg. Amritpaani, prepared by using cowdung.

5. Chemical fertilizers negatively affect the population and/or functions of the agriculturally beneficial microorganisms like ‘rhizobia’ – known to convert atmospheric inert nitrogen in air to plant utilizable form of nitrogen (called nitrogen fixation).

6. Agriculturally beneficial microorganisms perform functions such as nitrogen fixation, phosphate and potash solubilization, plant growth promotion, antagonists of disease causing fungi and entomopathogens of insect-pests. They are found in large numbers in the different types of ferments widely used by organic farmers.

7. It is not essential to have large quantity of compost for successful organic farming. Compost be seen as bio-agent to enhance the population of agriculturally beneficial microorgisms and macrofauna in soils.

8. Trees (including fruit trees, biomass trees, medicinal trees – diversity) grown in alleys 50 to 60 feet apart all along the length of fields can provide all the nutrients needed for high yield, when used as surface mulch. The trees access these nutrients from deeper soil zones and provide us on soil surface. The trees should be managed as hedge, instead of big trees so that they do not shade crops.

9. Traditional knowledge microbial agents like Jeevamrit, Amritpaani are rich in population of agriculturally beneficial microorganisms (stated in the item 6 above) and every farmer can make these at low-cost at his/her own farm.

10. Regular addition of plant biomass used as surface mulch and microbial agents result in high soil organic matter leading to high soil health – making plants tolerant to drought and pests.

11. There are predators and parasites in nature for every insect-pest that damage our crops. For example, pod-borer of legumes or boll worm of cotton has about 300 types of natural enemies and each of these can occur in large numbers. Population of these natural enemies increases in the absence of chemical pesticides.

12. For majority of the birds (at least 90%) insects are their food. This natural food habit gets disturbed when poisonous pesticides are applied on crops.


Table 1: List of Successful Organic Farmers in India. All are award winners for their Innovations and/or High Yield without agro-chemicals.

Note: This is a dynamic list and gets revised periodically. The last revision was made on 06 Mar 2010.



Name and brief address

Phone no. in India


Andhra Pradesh


Nagaratnam Naidu, Hyderabad

09440424463, 040-24063963

Babu Jagjivan Ram Award by ICAR in 2008, Highest rice productivity with SRI under organic system.


Narasimha Raju, G. Gudiwada, Krishna dist. Andhra Pradesh


“Padmashri” by the Government of India, in 2009, for technical developments in agriculture



Bhaskar Save, Deheri, Umbergaon dist.


Award winner in CA and later in OF of Gujrat Government’s, 2002



Abhay Mutalik Desai, Tilakwadi, Belgaum


Krishi Pundit award in 2005-2006


Ashok Tubachi, Tilakwadi, Belgaum


Krishi Pundit award in 2006-2007


Basavaraju, B., Santeshwara, Hasan dist.


Best farmer award 2000. State-level G. Made Gowda Pratisthan award in 2008


aSuresh Desai, Chikodi, Belgaum dist. Karnataka



Krishi Pundit award, 2005. High sugarcane productivity (about 14 t ha-1), plus dry turmeric (about 2.9 t ha-1), plus soybean (about 2.4 t ha-1) plus groundnut (about 1.0 t ha-1) - all three as intercrop.



Viswan, T.S., Karikadu, Cherthala, Alappuzha


Karshaka Mitra Award, 1997. Vegetables as major crops



Manohar Parchure, Amboda, Wardha dist., Maharashtra


2003: Sheti Mitra Award


Diliprao Deshmukh, Maharashtra


2001: Krishi Bhooshan Award, 2002: Sheti Mitra Award


Manoj Jawandal, Katol, Nagpur dist., Maharashtra


Krishi Bhooshan 2008


Prakash Kochar, Hinganghat, Wardha dist. Maharashtra


Krishi Pandit 2001


Prasad Deo, Nanded,


Marathwada Bhooshan 2007


Raosaheb Dagadkar, Amangaon, Amravati


Krishi Bhooshan 2000


Subhash Sharma, Dorli, Yavatmal


Award winner in CA and later in Org. Farming (“Krishi Bhooshan” in 2002)


Vishwasrao Patil, Mhasvad, Pachora, Jalgaon dist.


Krishi Bhooshan Award, 2006

Shri Ghanshyam Chopde, Wardha

Madhya Pradesh


Deepak Suchde, Bajwada, Dewas dist.


Vasantrao Naik’s Pratishthan Award 2005. Maximum diversity ever seen on a farm.

Uttar Pradesh


Shri Prakash Singh Raghuvanshi

Village Tadia, Post Jakhini, Dist. Varanasi, U.P.


Has developed improved varieties of wheat, paddy, arhar, moong, peas and vegetables. Given seeds free to about 20 lakh farmers, Awarded by the president APJ Abdul Kalaam in 2007.

Sources: (a) Personal contact with the farmers, (b) contacts who know the farmer personally, (c) ‘Organic Source Book’ 2009, Other India Press Goa.

Om Rupela

former Scientist, ICRISAT,

120-1, Saket Colony, ECIL post, Hyderabad 500062.