Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF): Meaning, Pillars

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Zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) is a method of chemical-free agriculture drawing from traditional Indian practices.  It was originally promoted by Maharashtrian agriculturist and Padma Shri recipient Subhash Palekar, who developed it in the mid-1990s as an alternative to the Green Revolution’s methods driven by chemical fertilizers and pesticides and intensive irrigation. He argued that the rising cost of these external inputs was a leading cause of indebtedness and suicide among farmers, while the impact of chemicals on the environment and on long-term fertility was devastating. It is based on the premise that without the need of any credit facility, the cost of production could be reduced and farming made into a “zero budget” exercise, breaking the debt cycle for many small farmers. In June 2018, Andhra Pradesh rolled out an ambitious plan to become India’s first State to practise 100% natural farming by 2024.

Zero Budget Natural Farming

Pillars of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)

ZBNF works on four pillars:

  1. Jeevamrutha — It is a mixture of fresh desi cow dung and aged desi cow urine, jaggery, pulse flour, water and soil — on farmland. This is a fermented microbial culture that adds nutrients to the soil, and acts as a catalytic agent to promote the activity of microorganisms and earthworms in the soil. Jeevamrutha also helps to prevent fungal and bacterial plant diseases.
  2. Bijamrita – It is used to treat seeds, while concoctions using neem leaves and pulp, tobacco and green chilies are prepared for insect and pest management.
  3. Acchadana – Mulching: There are three types of mulching:
    • Soil Mulch: This protects topsoil during cultivation and does not destroy it by tilling.
    • Straw Mulch: Straw material usually refers to the dried biomass waste of previous crops, but it can be composed of the dead material of any living being
    • Live Mulch (symbiotic intercrops and mixed crops): It is essential to develop multiple cropping patterns of monocotyledons (monocots; Monocotyledons seedlings have one seed leaf) and dicotyledons (dicots; Dicotyledons seedlings have two seed leaves) grown in the same field, to supply all essential elements to the soil and crops.
  4. Whapasa – Moisture: It is the condition in which there are both air molecules and water molecules present in the soil. It encourages reducing irrigation, irrigating only at noon, in alternate furrows. It allows significant decline in need for irrigation.

Budgetary Support for ZBNF

  • The Centre revised the norms for the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana – Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied sector Rejuvenation (RKVY-RAFTAAR), a flagship Green Revolution scheme with an allocation of Rs 3,745 crore this year.
  • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana has an allocation of Rs 325 crore. It is meant to promote organic farming and soil health.

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