What is Natural Farming? How is it Different from Organic Farming?
About Natural farming:
If you have ever been to the forest, you must have seen wild mango, tamarind, gooseberry, Jamun, jackfruit, and other trees bearing unusual fruits in summers. These trees never miss the flowering and fruiting season, and they produce a large quantity of fruits year after year. These are summer delights for all the wild animals, birds, insects and there is plentiful left for everyone.
Ever wondered who looks after these trees? Who provides the dosage of fertilizers? Who keeps them safe from pests and diseases? Who irrigates the lands? And who maintains these plants?
There is only one answer to all these questions: NATURE.
Natural farming is a system where the laws of nature are applied to agricultural practices. This method works along with the natural biodiversity of each farmed area, encouraging the complexity of living organisms, both plants, and animals that shape each particular ecosystem to thrive along with food plants.
Natural farming is an ecological farming approach established by Masanobu Fukuoka (1913–2008), a Japanese farmer and philosopher, introduced in his 1975 book The One-Straw Revolution.
Similarities between natural farming and organic farming:
- Natural and organic both are chemical free and more or less poison free farming methods.
- Both systems discourage farmers from using any chemical fertilizers, pesticides on plants and in all agricultural practices.
- Both farming methods encourage farmers to use local breeds of seeds, and native varieties of vegetables, grains, pulses and other crops.
- Organic and natural farming methods promote nonchemical and homemade pest control methods.
You may want to read more about Natural Pest Control Methods.
Key differences between natural farming and organic farming:
- In organic farming, organic fertilizers and manures like compost, vermicompost, cow dung manure, etc. are used and added to farmlands from external sources.
- In natural farming, neither chemical nor organic fertilizers are added to the soil. In fact, no external fertilizers are added to soil or give to plants whatsoever.
- In natural farming, decomposition of organic matter by microbes and earthworms is encouraged right on the soil surface itself, which gradually adds nutrition in the soil, over the period.
- Organic farming still requires basic agro practices like plowing, tilting, mixing of manures, weeding, etc. to be performed.
- In natural farming there no plowing, no tilting of soil and no fertilizers, and no weeding is done just the way it would be in natural ecosystems.
- Organic farming is still expensive due to the requirement of bulk manures, and it has an ecological impact on surrounding environments; whereas, natural agriculture is an extremely low-cost farming method, completely molding with local biodiversity.
- There are many working models of natural farming all over the world, the zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) is the most popular model in India. This comprehensive, natural, and spiritual farming system is developed by Padma Shri Subhash Palekar.
Read about What is organic gardening?
Features of Zero budget natural farming (ZBNF):
- Commercial level farming can be done in almost zero budget only by using locally available and farm-based resources.
- According to ZBNF principles, plants get 98% of their supply of nutrients from the air, water, and sunlight. And the remaining 2% can be fulfilled by good quality soil with plenty of friendly microorganisms. (Just like in forests and natural systems)
- Soil microclimate: The soil is always supposed to be covered with an organic mulch, which creates humus and encourages the growth of friendly microorganisms.
- Desi cow: The system requires cow dung and cow urine (Gomutra) obtained from Indian breed cow only. Desi cow is apparently the purest as far as the microbial content of cow dung, and urine goes.
- Cultures: A farm made bio-culture named ‘Jeevamrutha’ is added to the soil instead of any fertilizers to improve microflora of soil. Jeevamrutha is derived from very little cow dung and cow urine of desi cow breed.
- Natural, farm-made pesticides like Dashparni ark and Neem Astra are used to control pests and diseases.
- Weeds are considered essential and used as living or dead mulch layer. Understand mulching.
- In ZBNF, multi-cropping is encouraged over single crop method.
Read more about Five Farming Methods to Save Mother Earth!