If it has been said once, it has been said a hundred times that India has always been an agricultural country. Of course, the methodologies used in those days to produce food, were highly organic and healthy, unlike the chemical-oriented ways in vogue in modern India. Fortunately, better sense has prevailed and a larger number of farmers are going in for organic farming in India.
There are certain considerations to be borne in mind, while engaging in the organic farming business.
Are you sure about why you wish to go in for organic farming business?
Yes, of course, you are sure!
You are well aware that due to the large-scale usage of inorganic pesticides, insecticides and fungicides, people are being treated to contaminated foodstuffs. They are not getting sufficient nutrition or healthy food. As a result, they are succumbing to all kinds of illnesses. Since food is the basic ingredient required for the human body to function well, it would be good to grow crops with the aid of bio-based fertilizers or natural manures. Even technology is to be used wisely. If environmental conditions are made conducive for production of healthy crops, then, no one will go hungry.
The soil utilized for organic farming must be teeming with microbes, tiny fungi and creatures that reside in mud. They will help in turning over of soil, thereby keeping it rich and moist. They will also make it more fertile via their waste products. Regardless, you may do well to enrich your land from time to time. This is possible in three ways.
(1)Composting – With the help of an experienced person, have a compost pit dug in one corner of your field. Fill it up with fresh/green waste (leaves, grass blades, discarded plants and wastes obtained from food), cow dung, fish meal, chicken droppings, and dry/brown waste (sawdust, hay, dried leaves and wood shavings).
Ideally, a layer of waste should be followed by a layer of mud. This should be repeated until the entire pit is full. Over the next few weeks, ensure that the pit is kept moist and the materials are turned over for receiving sufficient oxygen. At the end of it all, you will obtain chocolate colored compost with a rich aroma. Thank the good bacteria, fungi, insects, etc, which are responsible for giving you this natural manure. When this binding agent called ‘compost’ is mixed with the soil, it permits retention of water and good drainage.
(2) Use Green Manure – Green/plant manure encourages nitrogen fixation. Nitrogen from the atmosphere is changed into a form that may be absorbed easily by a plant’s roots. Treat your soil prior to planting season.
(3) Vermi-Composting – Earthworms are farmers’ friends. They feed on all kinds of organic matter within the soil and throw out waste products filled with nutrients. In addition, they ensure that the soil remains well aerated, thanks to their burrowing habits. Use these mud-eating creatures to make your soil marvelously healthy.
Control of Pests
Now, not all creatures may be deemed as friendly towards your plants. There are certain insects, rodents and small mammals, which find your crops greatly to their liking. Well, do not go in for harsh chemicals in the name of pest control. Stay with organic measures only.
For instance, during planting season, crumble neem cake and mix it with the soil. Even basil (tulsi) is perfect for keeping pests away. Then again, you may prepare bio-pesticides from ginger, garlic, chillies, tobacco, dilute neem oil or turmeric.
If you find these methods tedious, you may go in for trap crops, similar to other organic farmers. Trap crops are placed in between the main plants, in order to lure pests. For instance, marigolds act as broad-spectrum traps, suitable for most pests. Castor is friendly with groundnut. If you are courageous, pick caterpillars off the leaves manually. Light traps are perfect for moths and other small insects. Pheromone (organic compounds) traps serve to keep male and female insects separate from one another, preventing reproduction and multiplication.
Use Local Resources
Seeds and saplings are indigenous to any region. Go in for local brands, since your crops will flourish. However, seed propagation is a better option, since commercial varieties tend to be poisoned. Whenever you purchase seeds, please rinse before use. Ensure that the water is disposed off in a safe place. You may also raise cattle, for their grazing will benefit your soil. Throw their waste products (dung) into the compost pit. Their urine may be diluted for use as a natural pesticide. Above all, the cattle will help you plough your fields well.
Avoid Use of Heavy Machinery In Organic Farming
Although you may be inclined towards the use of heavy equipment and machinery in your fields, please avoid the temptation as much as possible. You will only be harming your land. For instance, a tractor is so weighty that it presses down upon the soil, causing the underlying layers to become too compact. Even soil needs space for air, and air to breathe. Furthermore, the blades, front-end loaders, disc ploughs, etc, are made of heavy metal.
Therefore, they behave harshly with the soil. You are bound to lose top soil, and even beneficial worm, during the ‘tearing’ process, right before planting time. Further losses will be incurred through soil erosion and strong winds.
Do give serious thought to minimal tillage, wherein you use traditional ploughing (bullocks) and sowing (planting seeds by hand) methods. True, it is tedious work, but you will thank yourself for it later. If the soil’s natural ecosystem is left undisturbed, your crops will flourish. In addition, they will hold on to the topsoil so tightly that there is barely any chance for soil erosion to take place, regardless of strong breezes or heavy rains. Sustainable farming is the key to successful organic agriculture.
Have you ever been in a forest? If so, you must have seen that it is a multi-floral environment, wherein diverse types of plants co-exist. There are varied types of undergrowth, creepers, moss, bushes, lichen, vines, trees, etc. The entire environment is harmonious and balanced. This is how ‘nature’ is meant to be; yet, conventional farmers tamper with its policy, by going in for a single crop in a single field.
If you desire your organic farming business to be a commercial success and profitable, do go in for multi-cropping. Your land must display a perfect balance of diverse seasonal crops. When you do this, you will acquire dual benefits.
- First, every plant will receive sufficient nutrients from the top soil and the underlying layers. This is because the lengths of roots vary from plant to plant. As the roots become entangled deep within the soil, they manage to extract every bit of nutrition from the surrounding soil.
- Second, you will not suffer monetary losses due to pest attacks. Many pests are specific to certain plants. Therefore, even if one crop is destroyed fully or partially, the other crops are spared, thanks to mixed cropping. This would not be the case if your field were filled with one species of plants only.
Along with multi-cropping, you may also practice crop rotation. For instance, suppose you are keen to grow vegetables in your field. The first season, you may go in for cauliflower, spinach, potatoes, onions, cabbage, etc. All of them possess short roots, measuring anywhere between 18 and 36 inches. The next season, go in for plants possessing medium-length (36 to 48 inches) roots or long (over 48 inches) roots. Peas, turnips, carrots, beans, cucumbers, etc, belong to the medium-length category. Pumpkins, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, etc, belong to the long roots category.
You may not be aware of it, but crop rotation permits the absorption of soil nutrients from varied layers. Every layer of soil, therefore, receives the chance to regenerate nutrients, thanks to the microbes residing within it. In addition, pests become confused. They feast on one crop during a particular season, and then, discover that the crop no longer exists in the next season. Soon enough, they will stop visiting your field.
It is imperative to use available water economically and wisely. This natural resource should never be wasted. Towards this end, therefore, you should go in for drip irrigation or trickle irrigation.
In this method, slim, black-colored, plastic pipes with small diameters are attached to outlets known as emitters/drippers. These pipes possess holes at regular intervals. Controlled amounts of water (anywhere between two and 20 litres per hour) are released by the emitters. As the water flows through the pipes, it reaches the base of each plant through the holes. If you wish to, you may even mix organic fertilisers with the water. Watering the crops every day, or once in three days, in accordance with the needs of a particular crop, is fine. It is important that the soil always remains moist, for plants need water. In case, you would like the water to penetrate deeper, you may use tubes.
Other methods of irrigation, such as spinning sprinklers or surface irrigation, cause evaporation and water loss. Flooding the field will cause run-offs and make the soil saline in nature. Therefore, do not experiment with such things.
If you still feel that there is too much of water loss through evaporation, you may go in for mulching. Mulch refers to organic materials, including hay. When laid around plant bases, mulch behaves like a cap. It prevents water loss, while drip irrigation is taking place. Furthermore, it also makes the surrounding environment cosy, warm and shady. You need not worry about soil erosion any longer, despite the advent of moderate-to-severe winds.
Despite your caution and care, things may go awry at times. Therefore, do keep a close check on the quality of your soil. You do not want impurities or unwanted acids reaching your field from neighbouring areas. You may have professionals conducting soil and moisture checks regularly, at least, during the initial stages of your commercial adventure. Finally, make sure that your crops receive sufficient sunlight, neither too much nor too less. After all, they need the sun’s help to prepare their own food (photosynthesis).
Organic Certification Information
Since you are into a commercial venture, you obviously need authentic certification to sell your produce. Furthermore, people trust certified products. You will be able to market your goods at fair prices.
Now, what exactly is organic farming certification?
It refers to the fact that you are completely willing to adhere to the agricultural methodologies suggested by the Indian Government and the Organic Farming Association of India. These methods provide standard definitions for organic farming, handling of produce, food processing, quality of soil to be maintained, etc. Then again, the certificate also provides a list of banned substances, toxins and chemicals. When you apply for certification, you will have to allow governmental agencies to enter your fields and collect whatever samples they want. Only after the samples are tested and the results documented, will you receive certification. It is to be understood that the results must be in your favour.
What does certification imply?
It suggests that you are reliable, trustworthy, accountable and ethical in your farming methods. You are keen to help society devour nutritious food via your environment-friendly and holistic actions. Your pricing suggests that you are an economically responsible person too.
Are there different types of organic farmer certification?
Yes, there are four types.
- ISO is the best, providing the best guarantee to the customer.
- GMP is meant for clarification about standard farming techniques being used by you.
- NPOP India Organic raises you to national standards.
- HACCP refers to hazards analysis and critical quality control points, along with other things.
How do you obtain your certificate?
Do explore online websites for dependable information, for there are many governmental, non-governmental and private agencies interested in helping you obtain organic farming certification. They will even help you at every stage of your organic farming business plan, including sowing of seeds, harvesting and preservation. Above all, you will gain access to professionals with expert knowledge