Organic farming business in India is economically sustainable and assures of rich returns.
In the bygone year, the sector has experienced a growth of 35% in terms of export and new entrants. Presently 0.65 million organic farmers practice it over 0.72 million hectares of agricultural land.
Its future is promising considering that health conscious consumers are progressively growing, government incentives are galore, and the practice is environmental friendly.
How to start organic farming?
- Conduct initial research
Your decision to start organic farming is laudable as increasing number of people are turning away from chemical infested agricultural produces.
Before embarking on the journey, you need to become conversant with the business so as to succeed on a commercial scale. Search for firms that engage in organic farming, visit their facilities, and broach about the requirements and other preparations with the owner.
Your focus should be on learning more about resource mobilization to start the business and then sustaining it profitably after launch.
You can also take to internet to understand potential pitfalls and teething problems.
- Ascertain crop’s compatibility with prevailing conditions
Next, you need to assess the type of produce you want to grow by factoring in attributes like compatibility of crop with soil, prevailing climatic conditions, popularity in local market, etc. The soil can be tested from local governmental agency for assessing pH, alkalinity, water retention, nutritional, and porosity levels. Don’t let your personal preference prevail over market’s demand, else you may incur losses.
- Craft a comprehensive business proposal
In order to secure loan for your venture, you need to draft a detailed business plan indicating your aim, type of organic crop to be focused on, targeted market, competition present, finance needed, management proposal, and scope of organic farming in your area. This plan will also serve as your roadmap of growth later on.
- Ready your firm and mobilize resources
Once you have adequate finance, you need to prepare your farm for planting the crop. You need to ensure availability of sufficient water not contaminated by chemicals and that every inch of your farm receives enough sunlight. Hire experienced workmen to plant and then tend your crop. Never hesitate to invest in modern equipment to till and aerate the soil.
Training for organic farming
To leverage the immense potential of organic farming in Indian perspective, you need adequate training about different facets to enjoy rich returns of investments. You can visit nearby organic farms to witness the efforts and resources put in for strategic growth.
However, to gain decisive insights into proven ways of farming, you need to be a part of the National Project on Organic Farming (NPOF). This scheme had been flagged off by Central government in its tenth Five Year Plan and is continuing till date.
National Centre of Organic Farming, Ghaziabad is at the helm of affairs. Seven other regional centers operate at Imphal, Bangalore, Bhubaneshwar, Jabalpur, Panchkula, Patna, and Nagpur. The center that is closest to your farm can be contacted for comprehensive training support. You stand to benefit from technology transfer, technical capacity set-up, human resource training, and qualified inputs on biological methods to bolster organic farming. You can avail of print and electronic manuals that are intended to build your awareness.
The best part of NPOF is that you can learn about bio and organic fertilizers that can boost your production without polluting the crops with toxic chemicals. The quality control laboratory keeps analyzing different fertilizers and publicizes reports about those which comply with Fertilizer Control Order 1985.
Quality control standards and protocols that are in sync with latest advances in research and technology would help you organize your farming in a manner that is export friendly. The center also extends support to help develop market for your produce.
Another stellar advantage of being a part of this training project is that you can get the efficiency of bio-fertilizer strains and mother cultures tested prior to applying the same on your farm. You can also source bio-fertilizers and waste decomposing organisms from the culture collection bank.
Your credibility as a top notch organic farmer can be established through ‘Participatory Guarantee System’ certification from the various centers. NPOF also offers financial support in the form of Capital Investment Subsidy Scheme (CISS) for setting up farms.
Methods of organic farming
The methods of organic farming in India are diverse and strategically suited to the type of produce focused upon. Numerous methods are in practice, however the most successful of them have been discussed below.
Farming operations are carried out based on astronomical calendar. Special sprays are prepared for sprinkling on farm and compost heaps. The focus is on improving health of soil and plant, controlling pests, and developing nutrient rich composts to enhance food’s vitality. If you have biodynamic certification for your farm, you can market produces with ‘Demeter’ symbol worldwide.
- Agnihotra/ homa farming
Homa farming is practiced from Vedic period and involves chanting of energizing Sanskrit mantras at auspicious moments of the day in front of holy fire. Ash from the spiritual practice is sprinkled on composts, farm, and crops to energize them for best outcomes.
- Weed and pest management
Indians believe that snuffing out pests or weeds can adversely impact the spirit of organic farming. As such, they use prophylactics like vermicompost tank’s fluid or diluted cow urine in various strengths to drive away pests. Natural bio-pesticides can be prepared from plants like ginger, pivet, custard apple seed, neem, garlic, turmeric, tulsi, sweet flag, etc.
You can also grow trap crops like maize around cotton plantation to check weed population. Pheromone traps and biological weedicides like Trichogramma, Heliothis, etc. are also very effective
- Poly-cropping and crop diversity
Monoculture is detrimental for soil health. Crop rotation involving planting of different crop types in close succession like legumes and cereals helps in replenishing of the soil minerals and natural nutrients that have been consumed by the previous crop. Multi-cropping or concurrent cultivation of a number of crops to complement the soil’s natural nutrition fixation cycle is also practiced.
It further helps in repelling pests that may target one plant but cannot withstand another. Inter-cropping involves planting crops in the spaces left within rows of main produce on farm. This helps in optimization of resources and no part of the farm is left fallow. Leaves falling from one plant serve as manure for another and also keep pest population under control.
- Effective microbe culturing
Aerobic and anaerobic genetically unmodified microbes like photosynthetic and lactic acid bacteria, ray and filamentous fungi, and yeasts are used for soil health improvement, natural pest control, compost preparation, and maintaining hygiene at farm. Animal waste is decomposed effectively to release nutrients that can render the soil more fertile.
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This special composting preparation method involves deployment of earthworms for ingesting and disintegrating farm wastes to transform them into superior quality compost within a short time. Vermicompost tea is an effective pest deterrent and crop disease repellant. Compost is properly sieved before applying on farm.
- Soil conservation with water harvesting
Groundwater recharging is promoted through prevention of rainwater run-off by construction of trenches and bunds from soil dug out along a continuous or overlapping line along the farm.
Soil erosion is also arrested. Building of percolation tanks along with construction of small circular wells filled with porous sand or gravel around the periphery of main well also helps in water conservation through recharging of natural sources.
Government schemes for promoting organic farming
Indian government offers capital investment subsidy for organic farmers. It is offered through National Centre of Organic Farming (NCOF) under Department of Agriculture and Cooperation with NABARD. The prime objective is to readily make available organic resources for improving farm productivity without letting soil health and ecosystem’s balance to deteriorate.
Incentives are available for reducing dependence on chemical aids and promote conversion of organic wastes into nutrition sources for plants. Credit linked and back-ended subsidies are available.
The subsidy amounts to 25% of net project cost (maximum limit INR 40 Lakhs per unit) for biological fertilizer and pesticide units, and 33% of fruit and vegetable compost units (maximum INR 60 Lakhs). The time period allocated for organic farming project to be materialized is 15 months with grace of 3 additional months.
Future of organic farming in India
Organic agriculture in India has a promising future. Increasing health awareness among masses, framing of stringent governmental regulations for controlling pollution of natural resources, and reducing emission of greenhouse gases, granting of attractive subsidies, and relaxing of export laws for organic produces would offer needful impetus for promoting organic farming in India in coming days.
Implementation of GST (Goods and Service Tax) however has turned out to be a spirit dampener of sorts. Bio-inputs which earlier used to attract 0-5% tax now draw a GST of 18%. This has driven up the production cost to a good extent considering the fact that bio-fertilizers make up about 20% of inputs.
The consequent price hike of produces would weaken the competitive quotient of domestic manufacturers in international markets. The finance minister is however reviewing the tax rates in quarterly GST meetings and taxes are slated to be slashed in coming days. India is envisioned as becoming the ‘Organic Hub of the world’ by 2020.
Advantages of organic farming
To conclude, it would be prudent to summarize the benefits of organic farming in a nutshell.
- Organic crops are structurally and metabolically superior to other crops
- Such crops are less vulnerable to rotting or molding and can be stored for protracted period
- Input costs are significantly lower compared to conventional farming
- Organic plants can tolerate drought better and can grow even in areas with meager irrigation facilities
- Organic produces are tastier as sugar content in them is richer due to better quality nutrients absorbed by plants
- Plant diseases, weeds and pests are naturally repelled or deterred through scientific crop rotation and other methods
- Yields from same piece of land are higher
- More and more customers are willing to pay more for organic products
- Security of income and rich returns on investment assured
Don’t vacillate any more. Realize your organic farming related aspirations conclusively right now.