Zero Budget Natural Farming

About- Zero budget farming is a set of farming methods that involve zero credit for agriculture and no use of chemical fertilisers.

  • ‘Zero Budget’ means without using any credit, and without spending any money on purchased inputs.
  • ‘Natural farming’ means farming with Nature and without use of fertilisers.

ZBNF in India:

  • It has attained wide success in southern India, especially the southern Indian state of Karnataka where it first evolved.
  • The movement in Karnataka state was born out of collaboration between Mr Subhash Palekar, who put together the ZBNF practices, and the state farmers association Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS).

ZBNF is based on 4 pillars:

1-Jeevamrutha is a fermented microbial culture. It is a mixture of fresh cow dung and aged cow urine(from indigenous cow breed) jaggery, pulse flour, water and soil; to be applied on farmland.

2-Bijamrita is a treatment used for seeds, seedlings or any planting material. It is a mixture of neem leaves & pulp, tobacco and green chilies prepared for insect and pest management, that can be used to treat seeds.

3-Acchadana (Mulching): It protects topsoil during cultivation and does not destroy it by tilling.

  • There are 3 types of mulching:
    • Soil Mulch: This protects topsoil during cultivation and does not destroy it by tilling. It
      promotes aeration and water retention in the soil.
    • Straw Mulch: Straw material usually refers to the dried biomass waste of the dead material of any living being (plants, animals, etc).
    • 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.
      • For instance, legumes are of the dicot group and are nitrogen-fixing plants. Monocots such as rice and wheat supply other elements like potash, phosphate and sulphur.

4-Whapasa: It is the condition where there are both air molecules and water molecules present in the soil. Thereby helping in reducing irrigation requirement.

Other important principles of ZBNF and points to note:

  1. Intercropping – This is primarily how ZBNF gets its “Zero Budget” name. It doesn’t mean that the farmer is going to have no costs at all, but rather that any costs will be compensated for by income from intercrops, making farming a close to zero budget activity.
  2. Contours and bunds – To preserve rain water, Palekar explains in detail how to make the contours and bunds, which promote maximum efficacy for different crops.
  3. Local species of earthworms. Palekar opposes the use of vermicompost. He claims that the revival of local deep soil earthworms through increased organic matter is most recommended.
  4. Cow dung– Accroding to Palekar, dung from the Bos indicus (humped cow) is most beneficial and has the highest concentrations of micro-organisms as compared to European cow breeds such as Holstein. The entire ZBNF method is centred on the Indian cow, which historically has been part of Indian rural life.
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