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Zero farming helps Indian farmer restore soil fertility

Jun 18, 2009

Disheartened with drop in yield, a farmer in south India took to ‘zero farming’ to fix the natural balance of the soil. The use of the technique has not only increased food productivity but also transformed the field into a mini-forest, which helps in preserving the natural habitat.

“No ploughing, fertilisers or weeding needed to get a good harvest.”

That may sound like a fairy tale. But if one visits the farm of M.K. Kailash Murthy, of Doddinduvadi village of Kollegal taluk in Chamarajanagar district, you will realise it is true.

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A banker who left his job to become a farmer, Murthy says, “external inputs are not necessary for getting a good yield.”

Inspiration

He calls this system of farming “zero farming method” and says, “reading the book The One-Straw Revolution written by Masanobu Fukuoka, a pioneer in natural farming in Japan, motivated me to follow this technique.”

The concept of natural farming, “revolves around the theory that ‘nature knows best’ and hence it is better to leave everything in her care,” he says.

In his 6.5 acres, Murthy, like several farmers, used fertilisers and pesticides and got a good yield.

“However, to my dismay, the yield started reducing steadily every year. Desperate to find a solution for this declining yield, I decided to experiment on the zero farming technique in my field.

“Except seeds, I did not use any other external input and a remarkable transformation started taking place gradually," says Murthy.

Mini-forest

The natural balance of the soil got restored, which transformed his fields into a mini-forest. Thousands of plant varieties, including many medicinal plants, started growing.

Several bird species and reptiles made their homes in the farm. “But this transformation was not an overnight miracle. It takes time,” he cautions.

On an experimental basis he harvested about 3 tonnes of paddy by this method from one acre against 1.18 tonnes harvested by his neighbours using fertilisers and modern techniques.

“Farmers must understand that pests are natural occurrences. Left alone, the crops develop a resistance to them. Merely spraying the crops with pesticides will not control the pests. Initially it may seem to control, but in the long run the pests become immune,” he explains.

Zero farming method requires no investment but guarantees good yield. It dispels the myth that hybrid seeds, fertilisers, and pest-control techniques alone can guarantee good yield.

“Visitors can personally come and see my farm and if they desire, can emulate it,” says Murthy. Switching directly from chemical farming to natural farming is a risky proposition, according to him.

Rejuvenating land

“It is better to maintain soil productivity by adopting organic farming for at least three years before switching over to natural farming,” he explains.

In future, more than food crises, global warming threatens to create serious harm to the planet.

With this method of farming one can reduce global warming, which in turn increases food production and protection of biodiversity, according to him.

But how far is this technique reliable to feed the world population?

“In the last five to six decades, we have inflicted irreparable damage to the lands as a result of which agricultural output is declining.

“This method rejuvenates the land, which directly increases the food output. Instead of worrying about what to do to the land, we have to think about what not to do,” he concludes.

Scientists from the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research, Bangalore visited his farm and endorsed his zero farming technique.

Source : The Hindu
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