From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : ZBNF
Mains level : Debate over efficiency of ZBNF
- Addressing the COP14 to the UNCCD, PM mentioned that India was “focusing on Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)”.
- The National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) however, criticised the “unproven” technology of ZBNF citing no incremental value gain to either farmers or consumers.
- ZBNF is a farming technique that seeks to bring down input costs for farmers by encouraging them to rely upon “natural products”, rather than spending money on pesticides and fertilisers.
- The concept behind ZBNF is that over 98 per cent of the nutrients required by crops for photosynthesis — carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water, and solar energy — are already available “free” from the air, rain, and Sun.
- Only the remaining 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent nutrients need to be taken from the soil, and converted from “non-available” to “available” form (for intake by the roots) through the action of microorganisms.
- The idea is that since these too, need not be purchased, farming remains practically “zero-budget”.
Components of ZBNF
- To help the microorganisms act, farmers must apply ‘Jiwamrita’ (microbial culture) and ‘Bijamrita’ (seed treatment solution).
- It uses ‘mulching’ (covering plants with a layer of dried straw or fallen leaves) and ‘waaphasa’ (giving water outside the plant’s canopy) to maintain the right balance of soil temperature, moisture, and air.
- To manage insects and pests, ZBNF recommends the use of ‘Agniastra’, ‘Brahmastra’ and ‘Neemastra’, which, like ‘Jiwamrita’ and ‘Bijamrita’, are based mainly on urine and dung of Indian cow breeds.
- Proponents claim this system is also more environment-friendly, since it does not require chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
- Apart from increasing crop yield and leading to healthier produce, this model can also help prevent farmer suicides.
- Farmers fall into the debt trap mainly because input cost of agriculture is high, they claim, and ZBNF brings it down.
What is the criticism?
- Scientists say there isn’t much evidence to support claims of the efficacy of ZBNF, and that giving up modified high-value seeds and fertilizers can actually hurt agriculture.
- There is no verifiable data or authenticated results from any experiment for it to be considered a feasible technological option.
- 78 per cent of air is nitrogen, but it is not freely available to plants.
- Being non-reactive, atmospheric nitrogen has to be fixed into a plant-usable form such as ammonia or urea.