There is an urgent need to develop farming techniques, which are sustainable from environmental, production, and socioeconomic points of view. The means to guarantee sufficient food production in the next decades and beyond is critical because modern agriculture production throughout the world does not appear to be sustainable in the long-term. The agricultural community is thus setting it hopes on sustainable agriculture, which will maintain the cycles of input-output and ecosystem balance. Definition form FAO (1988), seems appropriate in this contest.
Sustainable rural development is the management and conservation of the natural resource base, and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to assure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for the present and future generations. Such sustainable development, in the agriculture, forestry and fishers sectors, conserves land, water, plant and animal genetic resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable.
Evolution of Sustainable Agriculture
In the 1960s and 1970s, a growing environmental agriculture movement evolved in response to increasing soil erosion, pesticide use, and groundwater contamination. Simultaneously, economic conditions for farmers were becoming more stressful and the number of family farms declined.
In 1980s Wes Jackson of The Land Institute in Salina, K.S., began using the term sustainable agriculture to describe an alternative system of agriculture based upon resource conservation and quality of rural life.
While sustainable agriculture has become the umbrella under which, many of the above-mentioned alternatives farming systems fall, it is important to note that sustainable agriculture is really a long-term goal, not a specific set of farming practices. In temperate zones sustainable agriculture was defined as such:
Sustainable agriculture is a philosophy based on human goals and on understanding the long-term impact of our activities on the environment and on other species. Use of this philosophy guides our application of prior experience and the latest scientific advances to create integrated, resource-conserving, equitable farming systems. These systems reduce environmental degradation, maintain agricultural productivity, promote economic viability in both the short and long term and maintain stable rural communities and quality of life.
In this context, sustainable agriculture embraces all agricultural systems, striving to meet these criteria. Many aspects of modern conventional agriculture are included in sustainable agriculture, just as are many aspects of alternative farming systems.
One aspect of modern agriculture receiving a lot of attention in the sustainable agriculture discussion is the use of chemical inputs to supply fertility and pest control. White agriculture chemicals will continue to play an important role in American agriculture. Many farmers are looking at alternatives due to environmental, economical, or regulatory reasons. In a transition to farming systems more reliant on biological methods of production, low-input farming serves as in intermediary step.
Sustainable agriculture emphasizes the conservation of its own resources. For a farm to be sustainable, it must produce adequate amounts of high-quality foods, be environmentally safe, and where appropriate, be profitable. Sustainable farms minimize their purchased inputs (fertilizers, energy and equipment) and rely, as much as possible on the renewable resources of the farm itself. This is especially important in the 90 per cent of farms that exist in the third world, where these inputs are often not available or affordable.
Scientists, the world over, have developed new technologies for application in the field. Over the years they have come to realize that these technologies must be integrated into existing farming systems, and have been going out into the fields to try to understand the problems and to see how the solutions are working. The large-scale adoption of technology-based agriculture can lead to a loss of knowledge of traditional farming methods, which were developed over many centuries and are adapted to the physical, biological and social environments of the people. The knowledge may be useful in devising strategies for sustaining agriculture in the developing regions. Traditional agricultural methods may be applicable for designing sustainable system in the developed countries. In other words, the rich and sophisticated can learn a lot from the poor and unsophisticated.
During the past one-decade, there have been important changes in the thinking of agricultural scientists and policy makers concerned with agricultural research in developing countries. It is clear that the type of research that led to the Green Revolution has benefited the resource-rich farmers, whereas resource-poor families have been left behind.
It is increasingly recognized that who produces food and where it is produced may actually be as or more important than how much is produced?
If resource-rich farmers produce food that subsistence farmers cannot purchase, there is no improvement in the food situation. Population projections show that many rural areas with fragile ecologies will have to continue supporting large populations.
Food can be produced in a more sustainable way that protects the resource base. The techniques are known, available and used by some farmers. Although more researches are needed, however, these techniques could find more widespread use given the proper incentives. Currently, the incentives (price supports, tax policies and export subsidies) favour industrial agriculture. Society needs to replace them with an incentive that favours sustainable agriculture. Because sustainable agriculture uses fewer inputs, this may cause some dislocation in the industrial sector and will be strongly resisted. In the Third World, much research on indigenous farming methods is needed, and the top-down approach to research needs to be replaced and/or supplemented by on-farm research.
Producing more food and agricultural commodities from less land, water and energy is a task that will call for the integration of the best in modern technology, with the ecological strengths of traditional farming practices.
INTEGRATION WITH ORGANICS AND BIOFERTILIZERS
Plants require at least 13 mineral elements for their growth and development. All these essential nutrients are present in all soils but one or more of these is invariably present in inadequate amounts of plant-usable form which makes external additions necessary (Table 1). Since each element has certain specific functions to perform, one cannot substitute for another. If a soil is deficient in even one nutrient, it cannot support a good crop unless deficiency of this element is made up. This is essentially where fertilizers and other sources of nutrients step into farming.
A crop is concerned more with the amounts of nutrients available for its use rather than where they have come from. Diverse sources of nutrients can be gainfully used as long as they are able to furnish the nutrients in readily or potentially-usable forms. If a plant root is about to absorb N as ammonium or nitrate, to the best of our knowledge it neither knows nor distinguishes between it's source be it a fertilizer, dung or green manure.
This chapter deals with two aspects (i) fertilizers and their role as nutrient suppliers in the context of fertility status of Indian soils and (ii) current status of information and issues involved in integration of fertilizers and other sources of plant nutrients towards the development of integrated nutrient supply packages. The first part is a counterpart of other chapters which deal with specific components of integrated plant nutrient supply systems (IPNS). The second part is a synthesis of available information on chemical, organic and biofertilizers.
Fertilizers are mined or manufactured commercial products which contain one or more essential plant nutrients. For a material to qualify as a fertilizer/it should contain nutrients in appreciable amount and in readily or potentially usable form. In addition, a fertilizer (plant food-carrier), just like any food item should not contain or produce any substance which is toxic to the soils, plants or humans above permissible limits. Many countries including India have laws as to what can or cannot be labelled as a fertilizer.
Fertilizers are used with the sole purpose of improving soil fertility so that it can support larger harvests. Fertilizers represent the most common currency used by farmers to deposit plant nutrients into their soils to ensure that adequate nutrients are available to feed the crop. Plant roots do not absorb fertilizer granules as they come out of the bag or dung particles as they are in a manure heap. Plants absorb nutrients in specific ionic forms (Table 1) which either a fertilizer furnishes when it dissolves in soil water or various chemical and biological agents in the soil convert fertilizer currency into local currency acceptable to roots. Since fertilizer use is determined primarily by soil fertility status and nutrient requirement of crops, a brief discussion of these two aspects is considered necessary.
Nutrient Uptake and Removal by Crops
To produce each tonne of grain, a cereal crop absorbs 50-65 kg of N + P2O5 + K2O plus lesser amounts of other nutrients. Absorbed nutrients are differentially distributed in different plant parts. While 70-80% of absorbed N and P, and 40-60% of S end up in the grains, 70-80% of potash remains in the straw/stover. The destination of absorbed nutrients varies largely with the nutrient in question and crop species and to a lesser extent with growth conditions. Such distribution has important implications for nutrient gains from residue recycling which would be maximum in case of K and least for N and P.
Some estimates of nutrients absorbed by crops in relation to yield are given in Table 2. Nutrient uptake by intensive crop rotations can be very high, approaching 600-900 kg/ha/yr of N + P2O5 + K2O. The extent of nutrient removal from a field depends on the relative composition of main and biproduce, extent of leaf fall, residues retained at harvest and those recycled later. Actual studies on these aspects in quantitative terms are few.
Average quality FYM contains 0.5% N, 0.2% P2O5 and 0.5% K2O, that is 12 kg nutrients/t. An assessment made several years ago showed each tonne FYM to be equivalent to 3 kg fertilizer nutrients in a single crop and 5 kg in double cropping in terms of yield responses generated Results of field experiments with HYV rice in West Bengal revealed that 10 tonnes of bulky organic manures on dry weight basis were as effective as 40 kg fertilizer N/ha in terms of impact on paddy yields. A large number of data on response yardsticks of rice to FYM have become available from experiments on farmers' fields. Yardsticks of responses to fertilizer application are also reported in the same publication. Because the number of trial involved is fairly large, fertilizer-FYM equivalents can be computed.
Table 12 provides response yardsticks of FYM applied to HYV rice in the kharif (monsoon) season in different geographic zones of India. On an average, 20t FYM produced a yield increase of one tonne paddy, the figure varying from 13.5t FYM paddy in the northeast to 37t in the central zone. To calculate fertilizer equivalents of FYM, an intermediate level of fertilizer N (80kg N/ha) is used. The table shows that 87.7 kg fertilizer N produced one tonne paddy. Therefore 20t FYM was equivalent to 87.7 kg fertilizer N (11 FYM = 4.4 kg fertilizer N or 230 kg FYM = 1kg fertilizer N). The inter-zone differences reflect differences in soil
Application of FYM and fertilizers on equivalent N basis to Sehima Heteropogon grassland showed that N from FYM was 40% as effective as fertilizer N in increasing crop yields, the figures with specific fertilizers being 30% as compared to AS, 40% in comparison to CAN and 60% as effective as urea-N. In case of oats FYM-N was 50% as effective as urea-N in increasing crop yield. Dry forage yield with 120kg N+80kg P2O5/ha was 5.2 t/ha (FYM + SSP), 7.8t/ha (urea + SSP) and 8.9 t/ha with 50% N as urea, 50% N as FYM and SSP. Basically similar treatment can be extended to composts if data are available.
Response rates to green manure are available from a large number of on-farm trials but unfortunately such data are only available for local rice varieties and not for HYVs. Therefore a comparison of green manure has been made with fertilizer responses on local rice varieties. On an average, each tonne green manure produced 39.1 kg paddy or 235 kg/ha when applied @ 6 t/ha (Table 14). Assuming N to be the major input through green manuring, equivalence in terms of fertilizer N has been worked out based on N-response rates. Paddy yield was increased by one tonne either through 112.4 kg fertilizer N or through 25.6t green manure with local varieties. Thus each tonne green manure gave as much yield as 4.4 kg fertilizer N. For local varieties, the following picture emerges:
This is a potential biofertilizer, technically of proven value, for flooded rice at moderate temperature regimes. Fresh Azolla is 94% water and contains 4-5% N on dry basis. Azolla can be grown alongwith rice in the main field or as a green manure before planting rice or even both as a green manure and as a dual crop. Azolla in its growth habits resembles a crop in many ways. It responds markedly to phosphate application and can grow well under moderate levels of fertilizer N. Some data on response rates to Azolla have been given in Table 16. Generally, 6t fresh azolla increases paddy yield comparable to 20-30 kg fertilizer N and 10-12t azolla is comparable to 50 kg N or so. In 25 experiments at 13 locations, incorporation of 6t azolla increased paddy yield by 200 to 1500 kg/ha. Inter-location variability was high but comparatively less than with BGA. Fertilizer N equivalent of azolla can be taken as 3.0-4.0 kg/tonne.
MANURING ON SIGHT
This is the method of manuring to the soil at the site. On the basis of origin of manure there are two types of in-situ manuring
1. Manuring by animals at site
2. Manuring with plant material grown at site, popularly known as green manuring.
Manure and compost have been the major traditional means sustaining plant nutrients in the soil throughout history, and they are equally as important today. However, in addition, the other methods of fertility maintenance are in-situ manuring, tapping flood water, cutting and carrying natural green manure species, slicing of weeds and soils from terrace risers, tree leaf litter decomposition in agroforestry and burying of crop residues on the land.
In-situ Manuring by Animal
This is a widespread practice in areas where herders traditionally migrate their flocks each year for the search of better pastures. There is a mutual advantage to both herders - who need a place to settle their sheep each night - and farmers, who get urine and manure right in their fields for a small fee. The manuring of fields by tethering the animals directly in the fields, is also an important strategy that farmers developed to suit their conditions.
Place in Farming System
Green Manures in Rotation
Growing green manures as part of a crop rotation is an important part of an organic farming system. These help to build soil fertility and are particularly useful when grown before crops, which need a lot of nutrients.
Green manures can be used in rotation:
1. Whenever there is no crop in the ground, rather than leaving the land bare and allowing weeds to grow and nutrients to leach out of the soil.
2. As break crops, when there is only a short time between main crops.
Timing of sowing is important. The green manure must be ready to dig in before the crop next is sown. There should not be a long gap between digging in the green manure and planting the next crop. This is to prevent nutrients from the green manure leaching out of the soil, before being taken up by the next crop.
Green Manures and Undersowing
Undersowing involves growing a green manure at the same time as a crop, among the crop plants. Sometimes they are sown with the crop or slightly later when the crops are already growing. This reduces competition between the green manure and the crop.
For example, undersowing is sometimes used with maize crops where a green manure is sown under the young maize plants. The green manure seeds are broadcast sown when the second weeding of the maize is carried out. In this way when the maize is harvested the green manure is already established and ready to grow quickly. This method means that no extra time is spent preparing the land and sowing the green manure.
Many a times in-situ manuring not able to fulfill the nutrient requirement of the soil on the other side plenty of organic waste from agriculture, animals and human being is available which is rich in nutrient and needs safe disposal and crop field are the best place for this. In the organic farming the nutrient cycle has to be maintain in which the nutrient taken out in terms of economic yield has to be returned to soil and use of agriculture waste is the appropriate solution for maintaining the cycle. Organic manures from agriculture/animal/human waste, contain essential plant nutrients and other growth promoting agents like enzymes and harmones, while no synthetic chemical fertilizer can supply all together thus they are indispensable from the manural schedule for any crop production. The organic manure through the process of decomposition and humification gives humus which helps to improve the physical, chemical and biological properties of soil.
Available Potential of Organic Materials for Ex-Stu Manuring
Agricultural wastes (animal manures and crop residues or mixtures of the two) are now considered quite an important component for horticultural crop production especially that based on organic systems. Agricultural wastes can now be considered to include crop after harvest and primary processing, tree residues organic/plant residues from social forestry, animal excreta and processing left-overs from the slaughter houses and agro-industrial wastes. Thus, agricultural wastes comprise all organic wastes produced and disposed of or used in primary agricultural production. Of course, these materials are essentially by-products of production rather than wastes in the strict sense of the word.
Residues left out after the harvest of the economic portions are called crop residues/straw. In the developing countries like India, they are mostly used as cattle feed. In the developed countries, harvesting is done using combine harvester and hence the straw cannot be used as cattle feed. They are generally burnt in the field itself .Straw has good manurial value since it contains appreciable amount of plant nutrients. On an average, cereal straw and residues contain about 0.5% N, 0.6 % P2O5 and 1.5 % K2O. The crop residues can be recycled by way of incorporation, compost making or mulch material.
Agro-industrial wastes are available in substantial quantities at processing sites and can be effectively utilized as manure.
It is the major by-product of the rice milling industry. Unhulled paddy grain constitutes 20-25% of husk. It is a poor source of manure and the nutrient content is very low (0.3-0.4% N, 0.2-0.3% P2O5 and 0.3-0.5% K2O). Rice husk should be incorporated into the wet soil and can be used in saline and alkaline soils to improve the physical conditions. It can also be used as a bedding material for animals.
The most important by-product of sugar industry is bagasse. It is mainly used as fuel in boilers of sugar factories. It can be used as manure raw or after composting. It contains 0.25% N and 0.12 % P2O5.
It is a by-product obtained during the process of sugar manufacturing. It contains about 1.25% N, 2.0% P2O5 and 20-25 % organic matter. Addition of pressmud is highly useful to acidic soils since it contains high amount of lime (upto 45%).
In the tea industry, tea wastes are available during the course of tea production, processing and storage. Tea wastes are used for extraction of caffeine. The decaffeinated tea wastes can be used as a manure. Nutrient content of the spent tea waste is 0.3-0.35% N, 0.4% P2O5 and 1.5% K2O.
It is a waste product from the coir industry and mostly dumped near the road sides. Coirpith contains high amount of lignin (30%), cellulose (26% ) and wide C:N ratio (112:1). To reduce the bulk and C:N ratio, composting is recommended. The composted coirpith contains 1.26% N, 0.06% P, 1.20% K with C/N ratio 24:1 The lignin content is reduced to 4.8%due to composting.
Nitrogen in liquid waste can exist in 4 forms, all of which are of interest to the agricultural sanitary engineer. The 4 forms are organic nitrogen, ammonia nitrogen, nitrite nitrogen, and nitrate nitrogen. The total of these 4 forms constitute total nitrogen.
Organic Nitrogen: All nitrogen present in organic compounds is considered to be organic nitrogen. The nitrogen-containing organic compounds are derivations of ammonia, the oxidation of which forms ammonia nitrogen.
Ammonia Nitrogen: The ammonia nitrogen is a result of bacterial decomposition of organic matter. Fresh sewage is generally high in organic nitrogen and low in ammonia nitrogen. The sum of organic and ammonia nitrogen should remain constant for the same liquid wastes, unless ammonia is allowed to escape to the atmosphere because of septic action. The total concentration of the two serves as a valuable index for evaluating the strength of liquid waste and for determining the type of treatment process to select.
Nitrite Nitrogen: Nitrite nitrogen is formed by bacterial oxidation of ammonia nitrogen. It is not present in fresh wastes but appears after bacterial activity has taken place. The presence of nitrite nitrogen indicate that the waste has undergone partial decomposition and is unstable. Nitrites can either be reduced back to ammonia or oxidized to nitrates.
Nitrate Nitrogen: Nitrate nitrogen is formed by the oxidation of nitrites and represents the most stable form of nitrogen. It is an indication of stability and is a determination of the completeness of the biological decomposition process.
GREEN MANURING: NUTRIENT POTENTIALS AND MANAGEMENT
The role of green manures in improving soil fertility and supplying a part of the nutrient requirement of crops is well known. Their use in crop production is recorded to have been practised in China as early as 1134 B.C. These are one of the main components of integrated nutrient supply system alongwiih inorganic fertilizers and biofertilizers. In India, an estimated 6.2 million ha were green manured during 1988-89 (4% of the net sown area). Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Uttar Pradesh (UP) account for 60% of green manured area and 88% treated area was in the six states of A.P., Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Punjab and U.P.
This chapter provides an overall assessment of green manures, their significance and various management aspects in modern agriculture. Green manures can meet a part of the nutrient needs (particularly N) of crops for optimum production and to that extent can result in savings in fertilizer costs. These cannot completely replace fertilizer N if the goal is to harvest moderate-high yields on sustained basis.
Green manure refers to fresh plant matter which is added to the soil largely for supplying the nutrients contained in its biomass. Such biomass can either be grown in situ and incorporated or grown elsewhere and brought in for incorporation in the field to be manured. Just any plant cannot be used as a green manure in practical farming. Green manures may be plants of grain legumes such as pigeonpea, greengram, cowpea, soybean, or groundnut; perennial woody multipurpose legumes viz., Leucaena leucocephala (subabul), Gliricidia sepium, Cassia siamea or non-grain legumes like Crotalaria, Sesbania, Centrosema, Stylosanthes and Desmodium.
Leguminous plants are largely used as green manures due to their symbiotic N fixing capacity. Some non-leguminous plants are also occasionally used for the purpose due to local availability, drought tolerance, quick growth and adaptation to adverse conditions.
Leguminous Green Manures : These differ widely in nitrogen concentration and yield. Among 86 species used in India as green manures for rice their N contents ranged from 2.0 to 4.9% N. Earlier results on the performance of some important green manure crops in lowland rice showed N-fixation of 74-134 kg/ha and about 200% increase on paddy yield over unmanured plots.
Green manure crops suitable for various cropping situations prevailing in India are listed in Table 1. Abundant availability of water and sufficiently long fallow period before raising the rice crop have made the green manuring a widely adopted practice in lowland rice ecosystems. Common green manure crops in rice fields of India and their potential of biomass and N contribution in 45-60 days of growth are provided in Table 2.
Non-grain Legumes: Recent evaluation of some of the promising green manure crops at Coimbatore indicated the potential of already popular dhaincha and the newly introduced stem nodulating S.rostrata (Table 3). The exotic stem nodulating S. rostrata of Senegalese origin has much promise for lowland rice especially with adequate irrigation. Another promising stem nodulating introduction from Madagascar is Aeschynomene afraspera which is capable of with standing water stress to some extent. Its potential under Indian conditions has not been fully explored.
Grain Legumes: Some annual grain legume crops are also used as green manure, after all or part of the grain is harvested. Greengram stover incorporated in the soil after pod harvest contributed about 60 kg N/ha to the succeeding rice crop. Evaluation of several grain legumes with Sesbania and Crotolaria showed that greengram was the best, yielding about 1t grain and 2.5t dry matter/ha equivalent to 50 kg N/ha. Greengram, blackgram (Phaseolus mungo) and cowpea could provide about 50-60 kg N/ha for the succeeding rice crop.
In studies at Coimbatore cowpea was the best among the grain legumes tested, contributing about 65 kg N/ha in addition to about 500 kg grain/ha. Its residues can also be used to supplement N-supplies for rice. Hence after grain harvest the legume stover grown in the pre-rice season could be incorporated as green manure to meet the partial requirement of N, provided there is no competing demand for the stover as cattle feed.
As a comparison, S. rostrata produced more biomass and contained 2.5-3 times more N than grain legumes in 60 days (Table 4). Where grains are harvested, the N-benefit to the following crop is reduced to the extent that absorbed N is taken away with the grains.
Perennial Trees and Shrubs: Loppings from such perennials are collected and used as green manure. Some of the perennials grown on bunds, avenues and waste lands and used as- green leaf manure were listed by Sanyasi Raju. Thespesia populnea, Cassia auriculata, C. tora, Pongamia glabra, Melia azadirachta, Calotropis gigantica, Jatropha gossypifolia, J. glandulifera, Gliricidia sepium and Ipomoea caruca are some of the multipurpose perennials commonly used as sources of green leaf manure in tropical Asia. Due to the utility of multipurpose trees in Asian farming systems and large scale extension efforts on agro-social forestry, some of these trees are being widely planted for fodder, fuel, timber and green manure purposes. Albizzia falcatoria, Calliandra calothyrsus, Erythrina spp, Sesbania gran-diflora, several species of Acacia and Prosopis, Flemingia macrophylla and Leucaena leucocephala are some of these. However, not much information is available on their biomass and N accumulation capacities.
Role of Green Manuring in Cropping Systems
Green manuring is an important practice in several cropping systems though it has received relatively more attention in rice-based and sugarcane-based systems than others.
Rice-based Systems: These are the mainstay of agriculture in large areas of Asia. In single crop rice lands, farmers raise Kolinji (Tephrosia purpurea) as green manure in rotation with rice. This plant withstands drought and contributes substantially to the yield of succeeding rice. The summer/south west monsoon showers received prior to the main ricegrowing samba season (Aug-Sep to Jan-Feb) in the Cauvery delta of Tamil Nadu, India, can be utilised to raise a green manure crop. In such situations sunnhemp performed better than other green manures tested in terms of biomass production in 45 days. In double cropped rice areas, dhaincha, pillipesara, etc., are grown as green manure crops during summer and ploughed in situ for the succeeding rice crop. Growing grain legumes as catch crops in summer rice fallow is also a common practice in river command areas. After the pods are collected, plants are pulled out and incorporated into the soil as green manure.
Sugarcane-based System: There are two distinct zones of sugarcane cultivation in India, sub-tropical north and tropical south. Though the climate of tropical south is most suitable for sugarcane growth, 70% sugarcane is grown in sub-tropical north. In south India, the response in general, is good with sunnhemp and cowpea. The response to dhainchain general, is somewhat lower and of the same order as that of guar. Raising blackgram as intercrop and incorporating the stover after removal of pods was found to improve the soil fertility in sugarcane fields. Green manuring has been a popular practice in places where feasible in Godavari delta of Andhra Pradesh and earlier estimates showed that it could provide about 50 kg N/ ha in the total N requirement without loss in cane yield. Soybean grown as an intercrop is reported to contribute about 100 kg N/ha to sugarcane.
In north India, several studies have shown that continuous sugarcane cropping without green manuring depleted soil organic carbon and N content by 0.06 and 0.011% respectively as compared to the soil where different crop sequences were practised. Soil pH increased from 8.0 to 8.5 after 12 years of cropping and a considerable decrease in available P and exchangeable K occured due to continuous cropping without green manuring (Table 5). In multiple ratooning, the soil becomes hard due to compaction with the result that the root system of successive ratoons become smaller and shallower. In such situations raising a green manure like cowpea in the inter-spaces and incorporating it helps not only in building up of soil N and release of K from non-exchangeable fraction but also in creating soil physical conditions favourable for good stand establishment and crop vigour with good root development.
Cotton-based Systems: In-situ green manuring is not a common practice but green leaves from outside are brought and incorporated in the soil. In irrigated cotton in the north, Egyptian clover is sown in the standing cotton crop before final picking. The clover is partly grazed and partly ploughed in and cotton resown. Greengram and blackgram are also used as green manures after one picking in some areas. In some cases in the north, clusterbean is grown for grain and then followed by cotton. Earlier work with rainfed cotton showed either a lack of response or even yield depression as in several Maharashtra locations. At few places, sunnhemp was found to be better than dhaincha and blackgram.
Potato-based Systems: Research on green manuring for potato has been recently reviewed. Among the green manure crops used are sunnhemp, cowpea, horsegram, guar and lupine. Green manuring with sunnhemp was better than dhaincha or cowpeas. Earlier work showed lupin and buck wheat to be good green manures in the Nilgiris. Burying of material brought in from outside was as good as growing them in-situ. Potato after sunnhemp yielded 1.5 t/ha more than potato after fallow. Contribution of dhaincha towards N supplies for potato range from very small, 10-12 kg N/ha to 45-52 kg N/ha. Some workers have also computed the P and K equivalents of green manuring.
Rainfed/dryland Systems: Green manuring of dryland crops is rare but practised in small pockets in India. The scope for growing a green manure crop and ploughing it under before planting the main crops is limited. However, cowpea intercropped with castor for six weeks and incorporated as a green manure with 10 kg N/ha through fertilizer produced yields on par with 40kg N/ha through fertilizers. Green manuring or green leaf manuring is possible in drylands under the two following situations: (i) sowing a legume such as greengram with the earliest monsoon showers, harvesting the pods at first flush, incorporating the residues and sowing a late monsoon crop or any early post-monsoon crop, and (ii) addition of loppings of Leucaena as green leaf manure.
Leaves and tender twigs of Leucaena contain about 3% N and decompose fast. While estimates of the net N contributed by such additions to the N nutrition of cereals vary considerably, the practice along with some fertilizer N is reported to hold great promise for the drylands. Leucaena when planted in alleys with Rabi sorghum and loppings used as manure, added 87.6 kg N/ha to the soil. The net effect of this input on sorghum yields was equivalent to that of 25 kg N/ha through fertilizers and incorporation of 5 t/ha ofLeucaena gave sorghum yield which was on par with that obtained with recommended fertilizer dose. Manuring with Leucaena or sunnhemp made a greater contribution to sorghum yields than the addition of sorghum or safflower stubbles, as expected.
Plantation Crops: Many of the plantation crops in the country are grown in hilly areas and undulating terrains and thus proper soil, water and organic matter conservation measures are of paramount importance. In most areas, interspaces between coconut palms are cultivated with tuber crops, cocoa, pepper and banana. Hence, the possibility of raising green manure in coconut plantations is rather limited even though several crops can bring in 66-153 g N/basin. The recommended radius for opening the basins in coconut is 1.8 m and such an area remains not fully utilized for each tree. Legumes like P. phaseoloides, Mimosa invisa and Calapagonium mucunooides have been recognised as suitable green manure crops for raising in coconut basins.
Fate of Green Manures on Application to Soils
Decomposition of added plant material depends on its chemical constituents and the physical and bio-chemical conditions in the surrounding environment. Among the organic constituents in plant material the water soluble fraction containing the least resistant components is the first to be metabolised. Cellulose and hemicelluloses do not decompose as fast as the water soluble substances, and their persistence is in the medium range. The lignins are the most resistant and consequently become abundant in residual decaying organic matter. Thus one fraction decomposes rapidly, usually during the early growth phase of the crop following incorporation and the other decomposes slowly over a longer period. The first fraction (fast N) determines the potential supply of N to the standing crop and the second fraction referred to as "slow-N" determines the residual effects. With most green manure crops, the first fraction is 50-80 percent of the total N. Residual effects (N supply to a second crop) are relatively small when green manure is applied only once, but the cumulative effects of several annual applications can be appreciable.
Availability of Essential Nutrients
The benefits of green manuring are generally interpreted in terms of their capacity to provide N or substitute for fertilizer N. The role of green manures in enhancing the availability of other macro- and micronutrients has not been documented as extensively. Higher availability of P from rock phosphate (MRP) has been reported in rice due to green manuring. In studies on the response of rice to P applied as SSP and MRP in combination with organic materials (e.g. Leucaena leucocephala leaves as green manure, water hyacinth (Eichhoria crassipes), compost and farm yard manure, combination of organic materials with MRP enhanced rice yields. Beri found that P applied to green manure in low-P soils increased the biomass of green manure which when incorporated supplied the absorbed P to the succeeding rice.
Crop Responses and Residual Effects
An efficient green manure must contain maximum nutrients at incorporation, immediately preceding the growing season of the main crop. Efficiency can be properly compared only for those legumes whose best growth periods are similar. Most of the earlier trials included only sunnhemp, Sesbania and Vigna spp. Sunnhemp proved better than Sesbania in low rainfall areas, and both were better than other green manures. Under good moisture conditions, Aeschynomene americana was better than Sesbania. Average responses of indigenous tall rice cultivars to varying doses of green manure are shown in Fig. 3. Average response in terms of rice yield was 240 kg/ha. In southern India the responses were of relatively higher magnitude.
It is difficult to compare the relative efficiency of green manures with chemical fertilizers, even on an equivalent nutrient basis. A more rational way is to determine the extent to which green manures could substitute for nutrient elements derived from fertilizers to obtain equivalent crop yields. Based on the review of the experiments conducted in different states yardsticks of yield increases in Kharif rice due to green manuring @ 6t/ha are presented in Fig. 4.
Green Manure Management
Management practices that influence the rate of N accumulation by a green manure crop deserve special consideration in rice-based cropping systems in order to increase the efficiency. Effective stand establishment at low cost is essential for the economic viability of the system. Treating the seeds of S.rostrata with concentrated sulphuric acid for 15 minutes and Tephrosia purpurea for 30 minutes gave the highest germination (90%) and vigour index. Such treatment becomes imperative for seeds which have thick coat or which are dormant, otherwise population establishment is poor. Among the two methods of sowing tested, broadcasting was found better for S. aculeata, whereas S. rostrata performed well when sown behind the country plough. Both the green manures produced high biomass in 60 days with a seed rate of 50 kg/ha.
Residual and Long-term Effects
Estimated contribution of nitrogen by green manures sometimes exceed 100-120 kg N/ha. This is higher than the total N recommended for wet season rice in many countries. Where the N input through green manure is high occasional residual effect might be expected on second crop as this N is in organic form. Earlier as well as later work showed that the residual value of green manure applied to rice is low. These results suggest that residual effects of green manure are related to the N in the green manure and, presumably, to the quantity on N lost as well as recovered by the first crop. However, regular green manuring over a long period of time would not only improve the soil fertility but also result in noticeable residual effect in intensive cropping systems.
Economics of Green Manuring
Substantial information is available on the contributions of green manure towards increasing crop yields and improving soil properties resulting in conditions favourable for sustained high productivity. A critical issue for wider adoption appears to be the practical and economic feasibility of green manure technology at the farm level.
Tillage and seeding operations are major components of the labour and cash outlay by farmers who grow green manure crops. Irrigation cost is an important item in several parts of India. Where land preparation is specifically for green manure crop, this cannot be shared with another crop. High labour costs and high opportunity costs of land use are two of the major constraints to the economic feasibility of green manure. The financial analysis seeks to compare costs and benefits, between the combined use of green manure and inorganic N, and inorganic N alone.
Constraints of Green Manuring
Two observations were found to be consistent regarding the fertilizer application rates of farmers producing rice with and without green manure. They are: (i) farmers substantially reduce N fertilizer rates when green manuring is practised, but in no case does green manure substitute entirely for inorgnic N. Farmers view organic and inorgnic nutrient sources as complementary or synergistic and wisely so. They do not find green manure crops adequate sources for the full nutrition of the rice crop, and (ii) estimated yield increases attributed to green manure were 15 percent in southern India and about 25 percent in eastern India.
PRODUCTION, DISTRIBUTION AND PROMOTION OF ORGANIC FERTILIZERS
Biological routes of improving soil fertility for optimum crop production are vital components of integrated nutrient supply systems. These routes are operated by microorganisms who either synthesis plant- usable forms of nutrients (N2 to NH4) or increase the availability and root accessibility of nutrients already present in the soil, as in case of P. Though most of these organisms are present in the soil and have been on the job for centuries, as manageable agricultural inputs they have received attention only during the 20th century. Due to several reasons, their importance is on the increase and therefore their production and distribution aspects assume practical significance.
This chapter deals with the various aspects of production, promotion and distribution of biofertilizers in the Indian context.
Definition and Classification
Microbial inoculants are biologically active products containing active strains of specific bacteria, algae, fungi, alone or in combination, which may help in increasing crop productivity by way of helping in the biological nitrogen fixation, solubilization of insoluble fertilizer materials, stimulating plant growth or in decomposition of plant residues. A number of biofertilizers are now available in India. Depending upon the nutrients provided, these can be broadly classified as follows:
In India, systematic study on biofertilizers started 70 year ago with the first report of the isolation and identification of Rhizobium from different cultivated legumes by Joshi in 1920. This was followed by extensive research on the physiology of the nodule bacteria and its inoculation for better crop production.
Today, Rhizobium and Blue-Green Algae can be considered as established biofertilizers; Azolla, Azospirillum and Azotobacter are at an intermediate stage and the rest are potential materials.
Soil fauna play a prominent role in regulating soil processes and among these the termites and the earthworms play a vital role in maintaining soil quality and managing efficient nutrient cycling. In organic farming practices the soil is considered to be a living component with is physical, chemical and biological characteristics.
Various aspects of earthworm activities in nature, and benefits that can be derived with mass culture, viz., for cast production, vermicomposting and commercializing live material, indicate needs of developing mass earthworm culture. This is popularly referred as vermiculture. Vermiculture, as a subject, involve background of various aspects on biology etc. of earthworm. All these are scattered in literature.
Varmi-compost is a method of making compost with the use of earthworms, which generally live in soil, eat bio-mass and excrete it in digested form. This compost is generally called vermi-compost or wormi-compost. It is estimated that 1800 worms which is an ideal population for one sq. meter can feed on 80 tonnes of humus per year.
Microbes are the primary decomposers while earthworms are the major secondary decomposers. Earthworm manure is formed from the dead issues of plant and animals and thus is naturally the source of macro and micro nutrients in limited quantities. The weather conditions and the soil type in the tropical countries do not favour the restoration of carbon resource in the soils. The application of organic manure replenishes organic carbon to the impoverished soils. The presence of high level of oxidisable organic carbon helps in the slow release of nutrients from the manure and curbs the leaching of nutrients. The beneficial activity because of the nutrient availability.
Earthworms and Plant Growth
The effect by earthworms on plant growth may be due to several reasons apart from the presence of macronutrients and micronutrients in their secretions and in vermicasts in considerable quantities. Certain metabolites produced by earthworms may also be responsible to stimulate plant growth. It is considered that earthworms release into the soil certain vitamins and similar substances. Though the NPK value of the vermicasts is always lower than any standard chemical fertilizer, several experiments have proved that wormcasts can promote lush growth of plants. This probably may be due to plant growth promoters like, cytokinins and auxins present in casts.
Earthworms play in important role in low-input agricultural systems. Their casting activity involves up to 11.6% of the organic carbon and 12.9% of the total nitrogen of the 0 to 15 cm topsoil in undisturbed or recovering systems Earthworms are very sensitive to changes in the ecosystem, expressed by strongly reduced surface casting activity. In improved cropping systems, earthworm activity can exceed that in the forest. This increase is due to the maintained groundcover and its reduced water consumption compared with forests. The negative impact of traditional cropping (lack of organic matter input through vegetation management) on casting becomes more important. The benefit of earthworm activity, apart from the effects on soil physical properties, is its concentration and deposition of large amounts of organic carbon and total nitrogen at the surface. Resources are placed at a location and in a form where (and in which) they are least likely to be lost. A firm conclusion on the effect of casts on plant nutrition is not yet possible.
Interaction of Vermicompost-Earthworm-Mulch-Plantroot (Vemp)
VEMP interaction is essential for an effective utilization of the soil ecosystem in agro-practices. Use of green manures in organic farming is also essential. The possibility of interactions of the root hairs with nitrogen fixing organisms may be increased by the VEMP interaction. It is very well known that earthworms prefer lower levels of lignin and tannin, and in case of green manuring younger plants are recommended for ploughing-in for an effective release and uptake of nutrients.
VAM is effective in cases of wheat and other crops and the population of VAM is very well enhanced in the presence of earthworms, as earthworms are reported to be vectors of viable propagules of VAM. The uptake of phosphate, though facilitated by VAM, dispersal of these spores and conservation of such microbes is facilitated by earthworms and other soil dwellers.
Vermicompost is a stable fine granular organic matter, when added to clay soil loosens the soil and provides the passage for the entry of air. The mucus associated with the cast being hygroscopic absorbs water and prevents water logging and improves water holding capacity. Thus, in the sandy soils where there is the problem of water retention, the strong mucus coated aggregates of vermicompost hold water for longer time.
In the vermicompost, some of the secretions of worms and the associated microbes act as growth promoters along with other nutrients. It improves physical, chemical and biological properties of soil in the long run on repeated application. The organic carbon in vermicompost releases the nutrients slowly and steadily into the system and enables the plant to absorb these nutrients.
Recycling of Wastes Through Verm-composting
Vermitech is useful in recycling the agro-wastes through and the effective utilization of VEMP reduces. Nutrients presenting vermicompost are readily available and the increase in earthworm populations on application of vermicompost and mulching lead to the easy transfer of nutrients to the plants providing synchrony in interfered ecosystems. The availability of microbes in the compost and the nutrients in soils tilled by earthworms are definitely more due to the formation of drilospheres. Vermicompost, therefore, leaves no doubt on its potential for good yields, the yield however depends on the management practices followed by the farmer.
Minimizing Pollution Hazard
Earthworm can minimize the pollution hazards caused by organic waste by enhancing waste degradation. The experiences of the farming community have shown that the exclusive use of chemicals to keep away the famine has turned out be a mirage. It is like giving alms for a day, instead of providing an opportunity to a person to earn for his life time to escape from poverty.
The ideal earthworm species of earthworms help to convert waste into wealth. If this operation is made successful by the own efforts of the farming community one can certainly by boneful of converting the waste land into a fertile land. It is this hope of the possibility of producing the needed top soil or humus by earthworms that has encouraged this effort. This may help in reaching the goal of green revolution from a different angle.
Adverse Effects on Crops
Earthworm activity can also to a less extent damage crops by either seizing fallen leaves of live plants and pulling them down or by uprooting delicate seedlings. Casts may show up as ugly structures in ornamental lawns or may form an obstruction on golf courses or football pitches. Earthworms have also been occasionally reported to transmit many parasites and diseases of plants and animals.
Vermin-technology is popular because it is a simple methodology with low investment. It technology does not need sophisticated infrastructure. All that is required is some pits or containers to initially decompose organic waste and tanks made out of stone slabs or wooden planks, trenches or plastic troughs or for any convenient material just to protect earthworms from pests and predators. Therefore, the investment on this is directly related to the choice of the material used to build tanks. Stone slab is subjected to availability while plastic bins would be less durable and expensive. Thus, tanks built using cement and bricks could suit all situations. However, trenches without any cement are popular in low rainfall areas. The cost of bricks and amount spent on construction vary from place
It is very simple and easy to method. It needs careful step wise programme. However, like all live animal or culture of any biological material, first step is to start purely as a test experiment on a small scale. This enables acquire personal experience(s) on various aspects. For beginners, hobbyist and farmers, simple procedure should be first to start on experimental scale and record every detail of steps followed and responses on earthworms.
Selection of Suitable Species
The selection of suitable species for vermiculture is based on the requirement, viz., for composting, poultry and animal feed, marketing for fish or other forms of culture and sale for fish baits. As yet demands in India for fish bait is meagre and lack for wanting development of fresh water sport fisheries, including for selected fish species (like Eel Fish) culture and also large scale culture. For all culture feeds, care has to be taken that earthworm feed does not harbour parasites and pathogens.
RESPONSE OF CROPS TO ORGANIC FERTILIZERS IN SALT AFFECTED SOILS
The applications of various organic manures are very useful practices for reclamation of salt-affected soils. Besides source of plant nutrients, organic manures produce favourable effect on soil physical properties. It counteracts the unfavourable effect of exchangeable sodium. The decomposition of cattle manure and plant residues liberate carbon dioxide and organic acids which help to dissolve any insoluble calcium salts in soil solution and neutralize the alkali present. Decomposition of organic matter improves soil permeability and bacteria present in it increase, water stable aggregate.
Organic materials which have been tried for reclamation of salt-affected soils are farmyard manure, compost, green manures, molasses, press-mud, paddy straw, crop residues and different weeds, particularly Argemone mexicana. The results on green manures are generally not included in this bulletin since these have been discussed in chapter on ‘Green Manures' in the publication of ‘Handbook of Manures and Fertilizers' of the I.C.A.R. However, in trials where green manures have been tried with other organic materials, their data has also been incorporated for the sake of comparison. Organic materials have been tried singly or in combination with other organic and inorganic amendments.
The data of past experiments have been converted into metric system for the sake of uniformity.
Response of Crops in Salt-Affected Soils of Punjab and Haryana
In Punjab at Nissang experimental farm, application of 22.2 tonnes/ha of FYM to highly sodic soil doubled the yield of rice as would be evident from the data in Table 1.
Kanwar carried out trials in alkali soils at Kamma (Punjab) from 1956 to 1959-60 and found high response to FYM applied annually at the rate of 38.2 tonnes/ha (Table 2).
Singh reported that on an alkali soil in Punjab, FYM at 10.2 tonnes/ha plus dhaincha green manure at 13.9 tonnes/ha proved superior to green manure with 27.7 tonnes/ha (Table 3).
Dargan et al. (1971) initiated some experiments on the use of FYM and gypsum on a sodic soil (Annual Report-CSSRI, Karnal) and found that in the first crop of berseem, sugarcane and rice grown in separate fields having pH 10.5 and above, there was high order interaction of combined application of FYM and gypsum (Table 4).
In the experiment started with berseem as the first crop, rice crop variety ‘IR8-68' was taken in kharif 197l and berseem in rabi 1971-72 without adding any more FYM or gypsum. Results reported showed that the effect of F.Y.M. added to the first crop of berseem was significant on two succeeding crops of rice and berseem (Table 5). In the same fixed layout, there was no further response of FYM in rice of 1972 and berseem of 1972-73. In kharif 1973, FYM at 0, 25 and 50 tonnes/ha was added again as per original treatments and maize variety ‘Vijay' was taken. Dargan reported that the direct effect of FYM @ 25 tonnes/ha was highly significant on maize grain yield (Table 6).
In field experiments at C.S.S.R.I., Karnal initiated in 1970 on sodic soil with pH above 10.0, Yadav found that the growth of Eucalyptus hybrid after treating the soil with gypsum @ 50 percent G.R. and FYM in planting pit was almost as good as in the original alkali soil replaced with good soil. Yadav made similar observations on height increment of different species during the period of September 1974 to September 1975 in the same experiment (Table 7).
Yadav in a separate field experiment at C.S.S.R.I., Karnal observed that the height growth of Eucalyptus hybrid during 1971 to 1974 in combined application of gypsum and FYM treatment was as good as in the normal soil and was much superior to that obtained in treatments of gypsum or FYM applied alone (Table 8).
Mendiratta reported that in jowar-wheat and fallow-wheat rotation, gypsum in combination with either FYM and/or dhaincha, appeared to be the best treatment in increasing the yield of wheat grain in Ballop area (Kota) of Chambal Command affected with salinity and alkalinity (Table 9).
BACILLUS THURINGIENSIS : AN EFFECTIVE BIOINSECTICIDE
Entomopathogens (pathogens of insects) have been suggested as controlling agents of insect pests for over a century. Synthetic organic chemical insecticides in vogue today were not available until about 50 years after control of an insect pest was demonstrated by using an entomopathogen. Obviously, the development of microbial insecticides has been slow, and therefore, increased awareness of the impact of toxic, broad-spectrum chemical insecticides is essential.
Of the nearly one million species of known insects, only about 15,000 species are considered pests and only about 300 are destructive enough to warrant for control. Fortunately, most insect pests have pathogenic microorganisms associated with them. About 1500 entomopathogens belonging to bacteria, viruses, fungi or protozoa are known. Of these, bacteria and viruses have been developed into commercial products in some countries.
Criteria for Microbial Insecticide
An entomopathogen must satisfy certain technical criteria before it can be developed into a microbial insecticide. Three most important criteria are:
a. Availability or feasibility of a systematic continuous production technology
b. Minimal or no toxicity or pathogenicity to Man, non-target animals and plants and
c. Proven effectiveness against intended target pest
Control of insect pests with bacteria was probably first attempted by d'Herelle. White succeeded in demonstrating control of the Japanese beetle by distributing spores of Bacillus popilliae. Undoubtedly, this success stimulated other investigators to reinvestigate bacteria and literature began appearing on the effectiveness of Bacillus thuringiensis. Issuance of eight patents between the years 1960 and 1963 for B. thuringiensis further attested to the revived interest in bacterial insecticides.
The group of microorganisms referred to in Bergey's Manual as Bacillus thuringiensis is characterised primarily by the formation of one or more proteinaceous parasporal bodies or crystals intracellularly which is a rare event in the living system.
Material and Methods
The insecticidal property of B. thuringiensis var. thuringiensis is studied against the insect pests of some economic plants like jawar, potato and gram crop. The bacterium was grown in glucose-yeast extract salt medium and the culture was used for the preparation of "whole culture", spore-crystal complex and crude B-exotoxin.
The fifth instar larvae of Armywarm (Spodoptera spp.), potato tuber moth and gram crop were used as test insect pests. These larvae were infected with whole-culture, spore-crystal complex and crude B-exotoxin separately by feeding them with the leaves treated with these components.
The larvae treated with B-exotoxin and whole culture showed an increased activity, while after 72 hrs the hyaluronidase activity decreased in all treated cases (Fig. 1). However, after 72 hrs, the acetylcholinesterase activity increased in all the treated cases (Fig. 2).
Hyaluronic acid is a cell cementing substance of insect tissues. The gut damage and subsequent leakage of gut contents in haemocoel is possible only after destruction of hyaluronic acid by increased hyaluronidase activity. Decreased acetylcholinesterase activity as a result of spore-crystal complex and whole culture caused gut paralysis followed by the general paralysis.
Increased hyaluronidase activity and decreased acetylcholinesterase activity in larvae by B. thuringiensis infection has a cumulative effect as a biological pest control agent. The death of larvae after feeding on the larvae with B. thurigniensis components was due to the toxic action.
The insecticidal properties of Bacillus thuringiensis were studied against the insect pests of some economic plants like jawar, potato and gram with special reference to hyaluronidase and acetylcholinesterase activity. The larvae were infected with whole-culture, spore-crystal complex and B-exotoxin prepared from B. thuringiensis. Increased hyaluronidase activity in larvae has a cumulative effect of B. thuringiensis as a biological pest control agent. The bacterium showed effectiveness against armywarm, potato tuber moth and larvae of gram crop.
COMPOSTING OF AGRICULTURAL AND INDUSTRIAL WASTES
The organic matter content of cultivated soils of the tropics and sub-tropics is low due to high temperature and intensive microbial activity. Therefore, soil humus has to be replenished through microbial activity and periodic additions of organic manures for maintaining soil productivity as increased cost of fossil fuels, shortages in energy and production of chemical fertilizers are expected to accentuate in the near future. Availability of chemical fertilizers to the farmer at a reasonable cost will be a real problem. There is, thus, a need for utilising organic manures/wastes for supplementing chemical fertilizers. Preparation of organic manures from rural and urban wastes would provide not only plant nutrients and humic materials but also will result in hygienic disposal of the organic wastes which, otherwise, may cause pollution problems.
Sewage sludge, biogas slurry, waste water, fish pond effluent, pressmud, coir pith, seaweed residue, arecanut waste, tannery waste and wastes from different industries and mined areas are some of the wastes which can be effectively utilised as organic fertilizers after giving proper treatment. With the mounting disposal problems and widening gap between demand and supply of nutrient sources, the concept of composting of organic (agricultural/industrial) wastes, is getting renewed attention. Composting is a process by which the organic component is biologically decomposed until the material forms a stable, inoffensive organic fertilizer.
Composting is a process by which organic wastes are converted into organic fertilizers by means of biological activity under controlled conditions.
Composting is defined as a method of solid waste management whereby the organic component of the solid waste stream is biologically decomposed under controlled conditions to a state in which it can be handled, stored and/or applied to the land without adversely affecting the environment.
It is an important technique for recycling organic (agricultural/ industrial) wastes and for improving the quality and quantity of organic fertilizers. The objectives in composting are to stabilize the putrescible organic matter in raw agricultural/industrial wastes to reduce offensive odours, to kill weed seeds and pathogenic organisms and finally to produce a uniform, slow release organic fertilizer which stimulates soil life: improves soil structure; helps plants to tolerate/resist pests and diseases.
Composting of Coir Pith
India ranks third in the world in the production of coconuts with an annual production of 100.43 m nuts from an area of 1.5 m.ha. The area under coconut in Tamil Nadu is 2.40 lakh ha with more than 1.7 lakh t of coirpith production. The coir pith or dust is a waste product in the coir industry after extracting the coir. The coir wastes (dust and bits of fibres of lesser length) accumulate in large quantities near the location of coir industries and its disposal is posing a serious environmental problem. However, this material can be converted into valuable organic manure by composting. The material contains high amount of lignin and carbon compounds with small amount of nutrients like sulphur and phosphorous. First, an area of 5 m length and 3 m width, preferably in a shady place, is selected. Spreading of 100 kg of coir pith is done. One bottle (300g) of Pleurotus sajorcaju spawns is spread uniformly on the surface of the coir pith. After applying fungus, sprinkling of water is to be done to maintain 200 percent moisture content. Above this, another layer; is formed with 100 kg coir pith on the surface of the second layer one kg of urea is uniformly spread and sprinkling of water is done as that of first layer. This process of sandwiching Pleuertous and urea in alternate layers of coir pith is repeated till the heap reaches one metre height. The heap is periodically sprinkled with water to maintain 200 percent moisture content which should be felt with hands. At the end of 30 days, coir pith turns into dark brown mass of compost. The chemical composition of raw and composed coirpith is given in Table 3.
• Methods of combining biofertilizers with the composted organics have to be taken up, so that the efficiency of both can be combined.
• Research has to be carried out to hasten and stabilize composting.
• Organics have to be composted and produced in forms that will be easy for transportation.
• Collaborative work with engineering professionals is needed to design various bio-reactors for efficient and large scale composting.
• Recommendation is to be given on the dosage of the composted organic materials for various crops-
• Awareness on the use of composted-organic manures is to be created among farmers.
ECONOMICS AND MARKETING OF ORGANIC FARMING
Prices for organic foods reflect many of the same costs as conventional foods in terms of growing, harvesting, transportation and storage. Organically produced foods must meet strict regulations governing all these steps so the process is often more labor and management intensive, and farming tends to be on a smaller scale. There is also mounting evidence that if all the indirect costs of conventional food production (cleanup of polluted water, replacement of eroded soils, costs of health care for farmers and their workers) were factored into the price of food, organic foods would cost the same, or, more likely be cheaper.
Studies have shown that organic agriculture is economically viable, that farmers can achieve more income as a result of premiums and hat they need fewer inputs to maintain returns. Organic systems are based on the optimum use of local resources and technologies and can give farmers greater independence and more control over their means of production. However, more comprehensive monitoring is needed to analyze their sustainability and impact.
Many farmers enter organic production because they want to farm in a more holistic way. Other major stimuli for developing organic agriculture include environmental and social concerns, economic necessity, a lack of chemical inputs, and market demands. Small farmers are also encouraged to take up and stay in organic farming by the prospect of being able to produce more food at the subsistence level, having a larger surplus for local sale, or being abele to cultivate a product of significant export value. Farmers are most responsive to organic agriculture when they have not been exposed to the ‘chemical message' and their farming systems involve traditional or nil inputs. When production is relatively labour intensive and if farmers have the chance of developing the organic concept themselves they are also more inclined to convert to organic agriculture.
The Challenge of Going Organic
Organic agriculture relies on natural predators and an understanding of local soil and environment. It is knowledge intensive and, from the beginning, requires more design and management. When farmers only known chemical solutions, implementing control of pests and diseases through measure such as rotation, composting and time of planting represents a major change. Organic agriculture requires time and well-trained extension workers. Active organic management is required for a least twelve months before organic status is conferred. Benefits will not be immediate and small farmers will require considerable support in the first years. High input farmers will require financial support such as capital grants or annual area payments to offset the financial problems associated with conversion. Studies show that, in Western Europe, farmer's enthusiasm for organic agriculture correlates closely with the size of the conversion grants available.
Farm Production and Profit
Absolute yield levels under organic management are increased over time, but at a slower rate than for comparable conventional systems, and are significantly higher than yields achieved in pre-1950s agriculture, to which organic farming is sometimes likened. Absolute yield are, however, subject to considerable variability due to a number of factors, including variety selection and plant breeding, soil type, climate, rotation design and nutrient management, length of time under organic management, management ability and developments in scientific knowledge and technology.
In developing countries, organic farming methods seems to provide similar outputs, with less external resources, supplying a similar income per labor day as high input conventional approaches. Large increase is observed where local farmers adopt organic farming systems, up to 400%, reaching levels similar to those of high-input systems. Direct comparisons of yields are difficult because of the differences in the farming systems adopted under high-input or organic management.
The output mix tends to widen, mainly as a result of conscious efforts to maximize the synergetic effects of organic farming. This is also the case in operating aimed at a single crop, such as Estate Tea-India and Estate Coffee-Mexico, which both have dairy production as a side activity. In these cases, the dairy herd produces not only a new output, but also a valuable internal input (manure).
The wider mix has the not yet quantifiable advantage of reducing dependency on one crop, and thus spreads risk. Even if the total farm area remains unchanged, the "new" products do not necessarily displace any of the cultivated area of the original crop (for example, Estate Tea-India). If they do, for example in Contour Farming-Philippines and Alley Cropping-Tanzania, the drop in acreage is offset by higher yields. Market outlets for the new products will be one of the factors that determine overall profitability of the new output mix, as shown in Cotton-Turkey.
The total output value of the organic farm is higher than in conventional farming. Often this is the result of a wider output mix, sometimes because of higher yields (for example Contour Farming-Philippines and Community Coffee-Mexico). In a few cases the increases is due to both factors (Alley Cropping-Tanzania). In Cotton-Turkey and Sugarcane-Brazil, despite a virtually unchanged output mix and lower yields, total output value was higher due to the premium for organic quality.
Output quality is in many cases perceived to be higher. Usually this is the case for export crops, where certified organic quality translates to pay high premium. The fact that Western consumers are willing sometimes to pay high premiums for certified organic foods has been the reason to begin a number of organic projects. In Vegetables-Indonesia and Vegetables-Senegal a premium is also paid on the local market.
In Estate Tea-India and Soya-Paraguay, the market for organic products is still too limited to take all the product, but in Community Coffee-Mexico, the coffee is not only marketed as organic, but also as "socially just," another quality aspect valued by a sector of Western consumers.
It is considered a very important advantage of Organic Farming Systems that diversification leads to a greater self-sufficiency in food, fertilizer, and fodder. The presence of animals provides the farm population with milk meat, and a cash income in Estate Tea-India, Alley Cropping-Tanzania, and Dates-Morocco. These are important aspects, but hardly mentioned and certainly not quantified in the cases. Emoluments are not calculated by farmers, and thus evade economic analyses for this moment.
The input mix is invariably quite different from that prevailing under conventional methods. In many cases, it is also more diverse, in particular when the output mix is widened (for example, Peanuts-Paraguay). Two elements are outstanding:
• There is an overall shift away from off-farm inputs in favor of internal inputs and inputs available from nearby farms (for example manure versus chemical fertilizers).
• Labor requirements are generally higher.
The overall input costs of organic farming is in many cases considerably higher than the customary alternatives in the area: Sugarcane-Brazil reports their costs, including labor, to be nearly four times higher, whereas the figures for Estate Coffee-Mexico show costs to be nearly twice as high as the HEIA(High External Input Agriculutre) alternative, and nearly four times as high as the traditional alternative. Estates Tea-India estimates production costs to be twice as high as under the HEIA alternative.
Generally speaking, the larger part of these costs are labour. In one case, Soya-Paraguay, the costs of the non-labor inputs are higher.
Organic inputs are cheaper than the conventional ones in Vegetables-Indonesia, and Bananas-Dominican Republic).
Requirements of inputs other than labor tend to be lower in cases where synergistic effects occur, such as less soil erosion (for example Peanuts-Paraguay), or nitrogen fixing and nutrient recycling (for example Farm Systems Research-India). Where these synergistic effects do not occur (Bananas-Dominican Republic, Sugarcane-Brazil), input levels are high.
Investment levels are lower and of a different nature. Generally speaking they involve more labor and less capital. This is an advantage for motivated starters.
Quality of Organic Product
Food produced using organic methods tastes better and contains a better balance of vitamins and minerals than conventionally grown food. However, there is no clear scientific evidence with some studies showing increases in vitamin C, minerals and proteins and others not. The vitamin and mineral content of crops is controlled by a complex interactions of factors, including soil type and the ratios of minerals in added composts, manures and fertilizers. It is therefore difficult to separate the influences of the environment and farming system. Holistic quality methods, such as picture-developing methods, have been used successfully to distinguish between crop products from different farming systems. Organic wheat usually has lower protein levels than conventionally grown crops .However, milling quality in organic wheat can be achieved through careful choice of variety and management, such as cutting or grazing in early spring No differences is measured in mycotoxins or pesticide residues between wheat produced organically or conventionally.
Premium prices are important for the financial success of organic farms, but their availability between countries varies. In the European Union Premiums are more widely available in Northern European countries and for crops, whereas for livestock produce and in the Southern European countries access to premiums is more limited. Typical farm gate prices for winter wheat range from 50-200% above conventional prices. An increasing number or market outlets and better co-ordination of supplies for livestock products has led to increased access to premium prices for livestock products, and premiums for milk and meat ranged between 8-36%. The situation of different in other parts of the world, where premiums for non-horticultural organic crops intended for export are less widely available and farmers consider that their organic systems should be able to function profitably without premium prices.
Level and availability of premiums is closely related to the choice of marketing outlets. In some cases, particular efforts on the side of the farmer are made to realize premiums, such as farm shops or other forms of direct marketing or on-farm processing and the actual price realized depends on the quantities sold through the various sales channels. The importance of different sales channels varies between countries, even though some common trends apply. For example, the share of produce sold through alternative marketing channels was commonly high for potatoes, whereas cereals were commonly sold through wholesalers. The costs of these activities, in particular, the increased labor and capital requirements, are not usually specifically identified, so that it is difficult to judge whether the emphasis on premium markets is really worthwhile. In the absence of higher prices to compensate for reduced yields, good financial performance of the organic system depends entirely on maintaining output and cost reductions .
Premium prices are largely a consequence of demand exceeding supply, but the share that the farmer received is also influenced by distribution and marketing costs. As the supply of products increases, prices to the consumer are likely to fall, but economies of scale in distribution and marketing may mean that prices to producers can be maintained. As the market grows, short-term oversupply may be encountered, leading to lower prices, until a critical mass of products is available to allow new traders and processors to enter the market and prices are restored. The sustainability of premium prices of producers seems secure in the medium to long-term.
Unless alternative approaches to trade become mainstream, the inequity and environmental damage inherent in conventional trading practices will remain . There is need for a more appropriate economic framework to redirect the world economy towards sustainability. This is not a feasible option in the short-term. A more immediate approach would be a new type of protectionism in which governments formulate trade regulations based on socially fair and ecologically sound standards capable of creating enabling conditions for green and Fair Trade .
Priority to Local Economics
Even if such legislation were to be adopted, it would not be possible to eliminate completely the negative social and environmental effects of international trade. There will always be an important group of farmers who unable to compete on the (inter) national market and whose farms fall in the margins of the globalising economy. International trade is wholly dependent on fossil energy, itself an important source of pollution and, in this sense, International Trade is inherently unsustainable. To avoid the environmentally unsound transport of agricultural products over long-distances and a risky dependence on distant consumers, sustainable development and protection of the local economy. Particular attention should he paid to marginalized peoples and guaranteeing ecological and cultural appropriateness.
It would seem that in some cases fair trade procedures have not been adapted to the operational needs of farmers' organizations, especially under present unstable market conditions. In addition, the fair trade labeling organizations have not paid sufficient attention to the development and organization of the necessary management support services. Management is also a critical factor at farmer level. The minimum scale of operations needed to run an export business is far beyond the scope of small and often isolated farmers. Lacking the management skills needed to operate the business, they have to hire in managers over whom they may have little control. In this way a vicious circle develops and the co-operative is excluded from credit and loans because it has become uncreditworthy and its commercial liability has been further compromised by inadequate quality control.
Many co-operative organizations, however, have successfully exploited the opportunities of the fair trade market and built up and diversified their businesses to the benefit of their members. Critical success factors seem to be the availability of highly component and reliable management, sustained management support, and market diversification into conventional, fair trade and organic markets.
In today's globalize world, export success is one of the major routes to economic progress for developing countries. But the conditions for success are changing as producers face rising environmental expectations in key export markets, resulting from tightening regulations, new corporate practices and changes in consumer values and lifestyles. There new expectations reflect the growing recognition that current patterns of consumption, particular in the richer, industrialized world, are not environmentally sustainable. Profound changes in the ways in which goods and services are produced, traded and consumed will be required, both to reduce the burden on the global environment and to ensure that a growing population has resources to meet its needs.
For these who can adapt to these requirements and start moving to anticipate trends, there are new opportunities to be found in sustainable trade that can generate financial, environmental and social benefits. Already growing numbers of farmers in the Sought are receiving higher prices and more long-term security by selling their products into environmentally friendly or fair trade markets in the North. Consumer demand for organic products is gradually increasing in responding to concerns about the environmental and health implications of industrial agriculture.
New Opportunities in a Growing Market
Latin American producers have been quick to tap into these markets. The organic sector in Mexico, for example, is now estimated to be worth US$ 500 million and Argentina is making serious efforts to development its organic sector with sales rising from US$ 1.5 million to US$ 20 million in the last six years. This rapid development has been supported by efforts to overcome the bureaucracy surrounding EU recognition imported organic goods. Argentina became the first developing country to obtain a place in the EU provisional list, thereby gaining market advantages.
New products have no established market; emerging markets suffer from either insufficient supply or over-supply of products. This contradiction also rules emerging markets for eco-friendly produce, necessitating a balancing act between supply and demand. Investments have to be made; initial losses, though inevitable, need to be pegged down, through judicious promotional campaigns and production planning, to avoid a demand-supply gap. No compromise is possible regarding timely production targets, both qualitative and quantitative, to satisfy and maintain the trust of an emerging clientele. Production has to be so organized that producers are able to conventional inputs. Here the issues are the short shelf-life (of eco-friendly inputs such as bio-fertilizers and bio-control agents which are living organisms) and the crop-specific or pest-specific action of many of these. The fact that these inputs are in great demand and in large quantities, but only during specific times -grow in season - complicates production planning and marketing.
Third, being eco-friendly also implies minimizing environmental damage in the course of transport and storage of the produce. Since energy-intensive operations have to be curtailed, transport and cold storage of eco-friendly foods for the right market become controversial. To overcome such dependence on non-renewable energy, production systems tuned to local markets and seasonal products may be well worth exploring.
However, wherever local production potential is limited, the required product range, be it for a healthy diet or a healthy, has to be met through export from high-potential areas.
Experiments to develop parallel markets have shown that it is not easy to do so. The problems encountered range from regularity of supplies and storage problems (space, shelf-life and eco-friendly storage methods) to retaining the goodwill of consumers. The tiniest upset can result in clients dropping out. There are several realities about alternative marketing that are gradually coming to light.
Role of the Trader
It is almost impossible for a small organic farmer to sell all his/her produce in the village. This calls for a whole chain of arrangements, including the presence of a trader. Fair trade considerations mean that a balance of power has to be ensured between producer and trader. To achieve this, producess collective must be organized.
More often than not, in our villages, the trader is a key socio-economic actor as money lender, input supplier, transport provider and linking agent with the larger market. By providing flexible and timely loans, assured transport and access to markets, he becomes an ally of small-scale producers, despite their indebtedness to him. He influences farmers' crop choices by being their financier and by sharing his intimate knowledge of markets; in turn he also creates a system for loan recovery.
Any opportunity to earn quick money can increase the chances of producers and marketers cutting corners. It is not uncommon to come across organic produce with pesticide residues - eco-friendly inputs that are either spurious or have crossed the prescribed expiry date - being marketed. Such problems arise because of some unethical elements operating among producers and traders. Hence, quality guarantee through inspection and certification by independent bodies becomes inevitable. Besides quality, fair trade also implies that profit margins in the production-trade chain need scrutiny and certification.
Who should pay for inspection and certification? Reasonably speaking, the producer, trader and consumer should share the expenses. For effectiveness, a local-level certifying body could be constituted and governed by representatives from organizations of producers, traders and consumers. It could assume responsibility for defining standards, checking quickly, and even promoting the use of eco-friendly produce. To bolster this, the retail outlet should use an identifiable tag to indicate the marketing of certified produce.
In general, the average consumer does not take pains to buy eco-friendly produce. Considerations such as appearance, price, product diversity, retail points in the neighbourhood and easy mode of payment, prevail over assurance of product safety and quality. The consumer prefers products to be conveniently available, even if WHO standards of acceptable pesticide residue levels are violated. Any irregularity in supply, even those caused by unfavourable weather, makes the average customer walk away, confirming the saving-Trust comes by foot and leaves on horseback.
These are the realities that producers and traders have to take into account, to create suitable production and marketing systems for eco-friendly produce.
Various attempts at agro processing, either shelf-life or to add value and increase profits have floundered, because processing is not tailored to market realities. Entrepreneurs are pure prone to embarking on such ventures without thoroughly assessing and understanding al aspects of eco-friendly processing, as well as demand and scale of operation. Inappropriate products pile up, cost estimations go awry, qualities suffers and the enterprise closes down. Besides, there is the added complexity of providing the "environment-friendly" guarantee.
Certification of Organic Produce
Organic farming has a major difference from other approaches to sustainable agriculture, is the existence of production standards. Certification procedures and, in many countries, a legislative basis giving a clear dividing line between organic and other farming systems, primarily for marketing purposes.
Organic farmers have imposed limits on the range of acceptable production practices and technologies. As organic farming has developed, acceptable production practices have been recorded in technical guides and handbooks. However, organic farming systems operate at a financial disadvantage relative to other producers, because they seek to deliver environmental and sustainability benefits and internalize externalities within the farming system. It was therefore necessary to look to consumers to help compensate through a price premium for organic produce. The market for organic products therefore developed as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.
Besides the usual information on transport logistics, custom regulations, tariffs and price mechanisms necessary in exporting any product, trading within the organic sector requires a particular type of knowledge. Most of this cannot readily be found in the literature on economics and marketing. Perhaps one of the most effective ways of developing an understanding of how the organic market works is to attend one of the several international organic fairs. The most international, prominent and by far the strictest of these ‘organic' fairs is the Biotech which takes place in Germany every year
A number of donor organizations including SIDA and GTZ and development agencies in the North have established promotion and training programmes to foster export opportunities for organic products. These projects have already helped to encourage producers in developing countries to enter the rapidly growing market for organic products.
Small and medium-sized exporters often face serious capacity constraints in responding to the challenges presented by sustainable trade. Conventional trade barriers in the industrialized world, such as restrictive trade policies in the agricultural and textile sectors, perverse subsidies and bureaucratic regulations are also serious barriers to Southern producers. Partnership along the product chain is essential in overcoming these problems. NGO's government agencies and by years in the North canal play an important role by providing technical or financial assistance, long-term security or in helping to develop producer organizations. Positive policy choices also help expand sustainable trade opportunities.
Governments in industrialized countries should ensure that policy making processes are transparent to exporting countries and that new regulations are phased in such a way that producers have time to make the necessary changes. Whilst Northern governments could play a much more proactive role in developing the market and improvement access for sustainably produced goods, governments in developing countries can do much to promote sustainable trade by integrating environmental factors into their export promotion strategies.
Meaning of Certified Organic
Certified organic refers to agricultural products that have been grown and processed according to strict uniform standards, verified annually by independent state or private organization. Certification includes inspection of farm fields and processing facilities. Farm practices inspected include long term soil management, buffering between organic farms and any neighboring conventional farms, product labeling, and record keeping. Processing inspections include review of the facility's cleaning and pest control methods, ingredient transportation and storage, and record keeping and audit control.
An organic label indicates to the consumer that a product was produced using certain production methods. In other words, organic is a process claim rather than a product claim. An apple produced by practices approved for organic production may very well be identical to an apple produced under other agricultural management regimes.
Partnerships are Needed
Organic certification can be a slow, laborious and relatively costly process and a particular challenge to smaller producers. A common solution is to form co-operatives to share the load. In Uganda, for example, the Lango Co-operatives Union has made the transition to organic cotton production with the support of the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). SIDA provided technical assistance, organized crop finance, and ensured organic certification. It also supported the training of local certifiers thus reducing the cost of third party inspection. The way prices were set was another innovative feature of this project. Before conducting business all partners in the chain list their costs and claim a fixed margin based on open books. A fair trade organization then looks for the best possible price on the market. Any excess funds are paid out to the producers, either as extra premiums or as development find contributions. For the 5,500 farmers involved in organic cotton production in Lango, this has meant a 20% average increase on farm gate prices.
Links between members of the supply chain has meant that Lango solved one of the major problems facing Ugandan exporters: banks that refuse to pay crop finance. With the help of the Dutch government, the project received a loan, at commercial rates, and SIDA arranged that risks were covered by the Dutch HIVOS/Triodos Fund that provides funding for environmental and social projects in developing countries.
Another organic cotton partnership that has paid dividends is that between the Swiss cotton trading company Remei, and Maikaal Fibers, a spinning mill in Madhya Pradesh, India. Eighty-five villages produce cotton for Maikaal, which is certified by a Swiss company. The project guarantees to buy cotton and provides extension services, interest-free credit and a price premium of around 20% An estimated three-quarters of the cotton is sold through the Swiss Co-op, which launched a new range of clothes- Natura Line in 1995 and aims to be entirely organic by the year 2000. It should be noted that the Co-op has kept the price of Natura-Line products at the same level as conventional brands, despite the premium price paid to cotton growers. Partnerships are needed
Organic certification can be a slow, laborious and relatively costly process and a particular challenge to smaller producers. A common solution is to form co-operatives to share the load. In Uganda, for example, the Lango Cooperatives Union has made the transition to organic cotton production with the support of the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). SIDA provided technical assistance, organized crop finance, and ensured organic certification. It also supported the training of local certifiers thus reducing the cost of third party inspection. The way prices were set was another innovative feature of this project. Before conducting business, all partners in the chain list their costs and claim a fixed margin based on open books. A fair trade organization then looks for the best possible price on the market. Any excess funds are paid out to the producers, either as extra premiums or as development find contributions. For the 5,500 farmers involved in organic cotton production in Lango, this has meant a 20% average increase on farm gate prices.
Links between members of the supply chain has meant that Lango solved one of the major problems facing Ugandan exporters: banks that refuse to pay crop finance. With the help of the Dutch government, the project received a loan, at commercial rates, and SIDA arranged that risks were covered by the Dutch HIVOS/Triodos Fund that provides funding for environmental and social projects in developing countries.
Organic Farmers and Export Markets: The Role of Co-operative - Case Study form India
Magosan Exports, a company launched in 1993, which obtains international certification for organic farmers (provided they are 100% organic). He also makes specific suggestions about action to put organic farming on a sound footing.
As of now in India, even successful organic farmers lack awareness about marketing. Many local micro initiatives in cities lack quality control and do not link with other networks. Both these factors are necessary to operate on a large scale.
With the increasing preference of consumers in developed countries for certified organic foods, the demand has been rising by about 12% to 17% every year, but the availability certified organic foods worldwide is only in the range of 3% to 8%. This indicates the excellent potential for exporting organic foods, which can perhaps be tapped best through group initiatives in organic farming.
Magosan Exports (ME) was launched in 1993, in Karnataka, following contacts between the promoters and organic traders in Europe. It is perhaps the only officially licensed export company in India that has been able to negotiate international certification on behalf of its member farmer. We have a tie-up with the certifying agency SKAL in the Netherlands, which has been inspecting and certifying all our farms and products since 1994. The SKAL inspector visits each farm twice a year to scrutinize and gather samples for analysis. Small farmers can overcome the prohibitive cost of certification, if they work collectively and avail of the certification facility. It gives them access to consumers in advanced countries who are willing to pay higher prices for products that bear the pro-environment EKO mark.
A statutory requirement for certification is that a farm has to be 100% organic - i.e. no dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides for at least the previous three years and only restricted farm inputs allowed thereafter. The compost pit and water source should be located at least six metres away from the border of any other conventional farm. Meticulous book-keeping of inflow and outflow of inputs, and maintaining a clean and congenial environmental - thereby creating natural habitats - are essential for organic certification.
While certification gives reliability to product as organic, the certification itself would need a guarantee. This is provided through a system of accreditation. Until now there has been no international system to guarantee the organic certification in different countries. But now International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) Germany has established the IFOAM Accreditation Programme.
IFOAM and Certification
Briefly IFOAM is a global umbrella network of farmers, scientists, processors, traders, agriculture extension workers and consumers, who share the common interest in developing farming and food production system that provide healthy produce without depleting natural resource base. The IFOAM has a Standards Committee (SC) which is responsible for preparing standard documents. During the last few years the Standards Committee of the IFOAM concentrated on the following 3 major tasks:
1. Updating the Basic Standards on plant production and animal husbandry
2. Introducing processing standards
3. Reflection and cooperation with various state and superstate institutions on guidelines for organic production, i.e. FAO/WHO Codex-Alimentarius and the EEC regulation.
Organic Foods Certification in India
Proper standards of production and certification of organic foods have not been drawn up for application in India where agro-climatic conditions and farming systems exhibit wide variations. To commence with certification, the following steps have to be undertaken:
1. In order to reduce confusion, the use of the wood ‘sustainable' can be made synonymous with ‘organic' and ‘natural'. These are the major terms used world wide meaning food is produced without the use of synthetic chemicals and with an awareness of sustainable soil management practices as they affect the ecosystem of the farm and surrounding environment.
2. Develop a working group of farmers to establish ‘Organic Farmers' Certification Organizations. Discussion between farmers is necessary to share information on problems and solutions to growing crops without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
3. Define what is meant by ‘Natural', ‘Organic' and ‘Sustainable' Farming. Organic farmers themselves must get together to decide on what they mean by sustainable farming practices.
4. Standardize farming practices and materials (farm inputs) which are acceptable to the organization. With the increasing participation of farmers in natural, organic and sustainable farming, the need to establish standardization of practices and materials (farm inputs) becomes necessary and has to be addressed.
Farm inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides labels ‘Organic' need to verified. The farmer should have some way of knowing that the material purchased are acceptable brands to be used in sustainable farming practice. Guidelines need to be developed concerning acceptable and nonacceptable inputs.