Concept of Organic Farming
With the continued reduction of biodiversity and forest-pasture density to meet out the demand of rapid urbanisation (unfortunately undergoing horizontal expansion), the Indian traditional agriculture, had been losing its potential as subsistence for farmers. Then agriculture, in India, followed the path of synthetic fertiliser and pesticide application in farms. This kind of agriculture, known as intensive industrial agriculture, posed a question mark on food safety, environmental purity, biosphere coexistence and public health. The follow-up of integrated farming in India with production of hybrid crops could enable the country to reduce synthetic pesticide applications in farms and maintain the yield to some extent with diminishing results. This situation probably happened because farm soil features did not concern the entire biodiversity of earthworms and the expected complete mineral profile due to increasing soil erosion.
However, Indian farmers could maintain earthworms in farm soils along with animal excreta such as cow dung (CD), or with biogas plant slurry (BPS) through a biological process called ‘vermicomposting’. The kind of farming with use of earthworm (mostly Eisenia fetida) inoculated CD or BPS manures instead of synthetic fertilisers (urea, super phosphates, etc.) is called ‘organic farming’ in India. This practice definitely contributed to crop yield maintenance with comparatively stable and not so diminishing results as well as crop quality maintenance with insecticide contents below maximum residue limits (MRL) which are established by Indian, EU and USA Regulations.
Conceptually, organic farming in the Indian context is the middle path between conventional or industrial farming and traditional or biodiversity-based farming. In other words, this strategy represents a way for the minimisation of synthetic fertilisers and insecticides in farms with the aim of producing safe crops as per residue limits established by food laws.
On the other hand, crops produced in this way might be judged unsafe if their mineral profile is considered too low. In fact, organic farming with manure ver- micompost application tends to improve soil mineral profiles to a little extent if compared with results obtained via traditional farming with dense forest-pasture infrastructure. It is worth mentioning that in the absence of suitable agroenvironment with a biodiversity outside the production field (forests and pastures), the field biodiversity of earthworms in the forms of compost manures is quite capable to effectively enhance NPK nutrient contents of soils. At the same time, mineral micronutrient profiles are not ameliorated.
For example, zinc content is 110 ± 9 mg/kg in CD manure and 116 ± 3.4 mg/kg in CD-vermicompost (not much increased), while the EU limit range for zinc content in vermicompost is 210 to 4,000 mg/kg. In other terms, CD in Europe is much more enriched in mineral micronutrients if compared with India, perhaps due to much more conserved soils. In this context, it would be appropriate to mention that Europe is the ideal ‘eco-friendly’ continent where almost 40 % of the total land is covered by dense biodiversified forests. On the other hand, in India, only 5 % of Indian areas are densely covered with forests; 21.6 % of total lands are covered by forests in 2000 (Rudel et al. 2005), but biodiversity could not be entirely conserved. Consequently, infrastructure dense forest-pasture cover with entire biodiversity is the basic requirement for cost-efficient organic farming capable of producing mineral-enriched crops. It does not mean that European agriculture is defined ‘traditional’ or ‘organic’ in nature because average usages of synthetic pesticides per hectare in Europe are too high in comparison to India. However, the EU is still able to set the lowest MRL for food articles. It seems that EU farmers adopt safer techniques for pesticide application; alternatively or at the same time, it may be assumed that synthetic pesticides are degraded faster in case of more conserved soil.