Potential of Organic Farming in J&K

Jagdish Chander Raina
The organic farming has been receiving increasing attention throughout the world of recent because of growing consciousness on health hazards of chemical agriculture. The consumers are awakening and are raising the question of ethics in promoting poisons in our food chain. They are willing to pay a premium for chemical free, environmentally responsive and safe products. The agriculture chemicals like pesticides, weedicides, fertilizers, growth promoters etc. are affecting our soil, water bodies, air, food and animals. The traces of these chemicals have been found in the milk and even in the mother’s milk. There is no doubt that our agriculture scenario has been completely changed with the usage of modern technology particularly after green revolution. The use of high yielding varieties seeds coupled with increased usage of chemical fertilizers and plant protection measures have no doubt increased our production but it seems that the quality of the produce has deteriorated.
The demand and trend of organic products is bound to be more pronounced in the coming years.The prevalence of organic products is still concentrated in developed and most affluent countries. India is poised for faster growth with growing domestic demand of organics. Success of organic movement in India depends upon the growth of its own domestic markets. India has traditionally been a country of organic agriculture, but the growth of modern scientific, input intensive agriculture has pushed it to wall. The indiscriminate use of chemical inputs in agriculture raises fears for the contamination of foods with agrochemicals. The consumers are concerned about the vegetables or fruit or food they eat. Both the international and domestic communities are becoming more and more conscious on issues like residues of poisonous agrochemicals in the food items and their associated health and environmental hazards. This therefore made us to think about alternate form of agriculture to produce food devoid of contaminants. Organic agriculture is one among the broad spectrum of production methods that are supportive of the environment and restricts the use of synthetic inputs.
Organic farming is defined as a “holistic management system which promotes and improves the health of the agro-system related to bio-diversity, nutrient bio-cycles and soil microbial and bio-chemical activities. Organic farming emphasizes management practices involving substantial use of organic and green manures”. In its simplistic form organic agriculture may be defined as a kind of diversified agriculture wherein crops and livestock are managed through the use of integrated technologies with preference to more on the locally available resources. It emphasizes more on optimizing the yield potential of crops and livestock under given set of farming conditions rather than maximization.
In another definition FAO suggested that “Organic agriculture is a unique production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity, and this is accomplished by using on-farm agronomic, biological and mechanical methods in exclusion of all synthetic off-farm inputs”.
The crop residues, compost, farm yard manures, vermicomposts, biogas slurry, green manures, poultry manures are the major components of organic farming. Any type of biological waste used to fertilize the crops or plants is termed as organic manure. It is an integral part of organic farming that helps in activating the soil biologically, physically and chemically. Different crop residues like paddy straw, wheat straw, paddy husk, mash residues, vegetable parts, sugarcane trash, press-mud, beggasse, molasses, tree leaves, stubbles, weeds etc. are available with the farmers. The compost is prepared by decomposing a wide variety of organic wastes like farm residues, wastes, weeds, cattle dung, cattleshed wastes, ashes etc.
To ensure genuineness of organically farmed products reaching the markets the farmer, the processor, manufacturer, distributor and retailer must go through a process of certification. An organic cultivator has to adhere to well defined norms, protocols, procedures and practices for the preparation of land, application of inputs such as seeds, organic manures etc. conforming to strict production guidelines. In April 2000 National Organic Programme for Accelerated Promotion of Organic Farming Movement was launched in India. The programme is being implemented by APEDA (Agricultural Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) under the auspices of Ministry of Commerce.
Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) has been adopted by some states in our country. PGS is a quality assurance initiative that is locally relevant, emphasize the participation of stakeholders, including producers and consumers and operate outside the frame work of third party certification. Participatory Guarantee Systems are locally focused quality assurance systems. They certify producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange. PGS is a process in which people in similar situations assess, inspect and verify the production practices of each other and take decision on organic certification
There is high demand of organic products in the domestic markets in the country. A huge potential for production of organic basmati rice is there in the plains of Jammu due to abundance of crop residues, animal dung and low fertilizer usage or requirement. The farmers can be motivated from the low use of fertilizers to no use of fertilizers for organic production of basmati rice. Similarly, the organic production of Ratta Ranja, Chandaki rice can be promoted in Poonch-Rajouri Belt and Muskbudji, Kamad and Zag rice in Kashmir Valley. Agro-climatically the hilly areas of Jammu as well as Kashmir Provinces are best suited for the organic farming as the specific pockets or the belts can be effectively utilized for biological control measures coupled with restriction on entry of chemicals or fertilizers. The cost of carriage of fertilizers to the remotest and hilly areas is high and instead locally available materials can be converted for manuring. Low usage to no usage of chemical fertilizers will save our soil, water bodies and rivers from pollution. The lower Shivaliks, intermediate hills and upper reaches can supply a variety of organically produced fruits and vegetables. Many fruits like walnuts, cherry and pears produced in the hills without use of chemical fertilizers in hilly areas. There is a great potential for production, brand promotion and marketing of organically produced local specialities like Bhaderwah Rajmash, Marwah Rajmash, Poonch Rajmash, Kala Zeera, Kishtwar Kesar, Solai Honey, Turmeric, Garlic, Sweet Corns, Cowpeas, Peas, Desi Mash, Desi Kulath, Ganthia Thoom, Red Chillies, Sesame, Kashmiri Brinjal, Desi Kheera, Desi Gobhi etc. There is no data in the UT regarding chemical residues on the vegetables, fruits, pulses or cereals being consumed directly by the human beings due to lack of Plant Residue Laboratories.
The awareness of general public and the local consumers on residues and harmful effects of the poisonous molecules in the fruits, vegetable or food items will increase the consumption and demand of organic products besides prevention of health hazards. The production of chemical free vegetables and fruits can be encouraged in the rural, semi-urban and urban areas by segregating the vegetative household wastes and converting it into valuable vermicompost, utilizing the backyards, rooftops and growbags. The complete technical Know-how of organic farming needs to be provided to the growers and the field or extension functionaries through trainings and awareness programmes. Lack of assured marketing, costly certification procedures, attack of pests and diseases, lack of government incentives or support to the organic growers, undue profit by the intermediaries, unreliability of assured returns, initial low production and marketing of organic products are some of the major constraints in organic farming. The non-availability of organic manures or inputs coupled with their bulky nature mar the interest of farmers. There is need for Techno-economic Feasibility Studies, Project Formation and Start-Ups initiation in the potential areas for organics in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. The State Agriculture Production & Farmers Welfare, Horticulture and Allied Departments, State Agriculture Universities, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, Central/State Universities and NGOs can take a lead role in making J & K a hub of organic products.
(The author is an Agronomist)