From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : ZBNF
Mains level : ZBNF analysis
Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) has received an endorsement from the NITI Aayog, FM and the PM.
Challenges with ZBNF
- India’s premier academy of agricultural scientists came out against this “unproven technology”.
- They say that it brings no incremental gain to either farmers or consumers.
- Since the mid-1960s, India’s annual foodgrain output has risen from 80-85 million tonnes (mt) to 280 mt-plus. It has risen from 20 mt to 176 mt for milk and by similar magnitudes in vegetables, fruits, poultry meat, eggs, sugarcane, and cotton.
- A significant part of these increases have come from crossbreeding or improved varieties/hybrids responsive to chemical fertiliser application, and crop protection chemicals to ensure that the resultant genetic yield gains aren’t eaten away by insects, fungi or weeds.
- Without IR-8 rice, urea, chlorpyrifos or artificial insemination, the nation would simply not have been able to feed itself.
- The basic idea of “zero budget” itself rests on very shaky scientific foundations. Agriculture can never be zero budget.
- Its propounder claims that nitrogen, the most important nutrient for plant growth, is available “free” from the air. But being in a non-reactive diatomic (N2) state, it has to be first “fixed” into a plant-usable form — which is what ammonia or urea is.
- Even maintaining indigenous cows and collecting their dung and urine in microbial, seed treatment and insect pest management solutions — entails labor cost.
- Crop yields cannot go up beyond a point with just cow dung that has only around 3% nitrogen (as against 46%t in urea), 2% phosphorous (46% in di-ammonium phosphate) and 1% potassium (60% in muriate of potash).
What should be done
- Promoting techniques such as conservation tillage, trash mulching, green manuring and vermicomposting.
- Reducing the use of chemical fertilisers and insecticides through integrated nutrient and pest management.
- Eliminating fertiliser subsidies to encourage their judicious use.
- Give farmers a fixed sum of money per acre, which they can use to buy chemical-based inputs or to engage the extra labour necessary for organic agricultural practices.
Let the farmer choose between non-organic, organic or even ZBNF.