(The Gist of Kurukshetra) NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND BIO-DIVERSITY CONSERVATION [MAY-2019]


(The Gist of Kurukshetra) NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND BIO-DIVERSITY CONSERVATION [MAY-2019]


NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND BIO-DIVERSITY CONSERVATION

Introduction

  •  Driven population food demand by the under by continuous the limited rapidly agricultural increase growing human inland, the excess application of synthetic fertilizers coupled with mechanical soil disturbances led to a continuous Joss of soil fertility, deterioration in food quality, increase in water pollution and generation of resistant pests. These have forced the scientists to explore possibilities for opting 'organic farming' as a holistic production management system supportive to the environment, health and agricultural sustainability.
    Highlighting the data
  •  Organic farming although yields a bit lesser (10-15%) than the conventional farming, the lower yields are compensated by lower input costs and relatively higher profit margins. Organic farming is now being practiced in over 130 countries covering 3 total area of Rs. 30.4 million hectares, 0.65% of the world's total well accepted as an important benefit of
    agricultural land. organic management. So far,
  •  India, although occupies the second place
  •  the available evidence clearly indicates with respect to the number of certified that organic farming plays a significant farms (44,926), comes at 13th position for role in preserving and conserving the the area under organic agriculture. In biodiversity resources. India, Rs.528171 ha area is under organic
  •  There is clear evidence of elevated farming accounting for Rs. 0.3% of total bacterial and fungal abundance and agricultural land. activity under the organic system. Pandey
  •  Organic farming industry in India is and Pandey (2009a) have reported 17-26% entirely export-oriented, running as a increase in microbial biomass contract farming system under a financial
  •  and activity in organically managed agreement with the firms. experimental plots. Bacterial feeding

Opportunities in organic farming

  • A. Conservation perspectives: Organic farming practices are ecologically sustainable in terms of (1) soil fertility stability, (2) increased diversity of microbes, plants and animals, (3) increased carbon sequestration and, (4) reduced energy dependence.

(1) Soil fertility stability

  •  The degraded soil quality is an important constraint in agricultural productivity in our country. Despite continuous use of synthetic fertilizers, driven by soil quality degradation and nutrient mining, the agricultural productivity in India reduced from about 234.5 million tons in 2008-09 to about 218.2 million tons in 2009-10.

(2) Biodiversity Conservation

  •  Organic farming is now seen as a potential solution towards reducing the loss of biodiversity. As organic farm practices are largely intrinsic and enhance food resource, habitat heterogeneity (management of field margins and non-crop habitats), prey-predation relationships, and reduce toxic influences (prohibited use of chemical pesticides/ inorganic fertilizers), these are expected to support species vulnerable to otherwise conventional farm practices.
  •  Although a number of caveats apply for making a generalization, promotion of biodiversity conservation has been now nematodes were found to be more abundant under organic management.
  •  Higher earthworm abundance has been reported in organic than in conventional fields. Organic management supports more active earthworm population, number of species and more juvenile earthworms regardless of crop type.
  •  Organic management supports a significantly higher number of butterflies, spiders and beetles.
  •  Higher abundance and species richness of carabids and epigeal spiders have been reported
  •  in organic farms. Also, the organically managed fields support a number of species of non-coleopteran arthropods than the conventionally managed fields.
  •  Studies show that organic fields support a greater number of vertebrate species (mammals and
  •  birds). Studies conducted in other countries show that small mammals such as the wood mouse (Apodenus syivaticus), common shrew (Sorex aroneus) and bank vole (Clethrionomys gtareolus) in organic farms did appear greater in number than the conventional fields. Many species of bats actively select organically managed habitats. High abundance and diversity of invertebrates and plants in organic fields support a variety of avian community.
  •  Management of field margins and non-crop habitats support higher abundance and richness of weeds and non-crop flora in organically managed fields. In particular, these differences have been show to be greater for broad-leaved weed speciesbelonging to Fabaceae, Brassicaceae and Polygonaceae. Hedges of organic fields display significantly higher species diversity than those supported on conventional farms.
  •  Organic farming, by definition, reduces pollution of water bodies by pesticides and inorganic fertilizers. The overall effect is a significant increase in richness and abundance of aquatic species in waterways located downstream organic fields.

(3) Carbon sequestration

  • Knowledge of C-storage relative to flux in agro-ecosystems is essential for predictive geosphere-biosphere modeling and for reducing the excess of atmospheric CO2 levels through C-sequestration. As per the IPCC (2007), the soil carbon sequestration is cost effective and may contribute to '-'89% of total C mitigation. Our country with almost all major climatic zones and range of land usage has vast opportunities for soil C-sequestration. Conversion agricultural land use may lead to loss of SOC poof by 60% in temperate soils and over 75% in the soils of tropics (Lai, 2010). Compared to the carbon stored in a forest, the SOC in agricultural soils can effective: benefit food production and improve agricultural sustainability. An increase of 1 ton of soil C pool of degraded cropland may increase crop yield by about 10 to 20 kg/ha of maize, 20 to
    40 kg/ha of wheat and 0.5 to 1 kg/ha of cowpeas indicating a strong link between C-sequestration and crop production.

(4) Reduced energy dependence

  • The conventional farm systems require more overall energy inputs than do the organically managed systems. Fossil fuel energy input is required in farm machinery, transport, production of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides, etc.
  • Synthetic fertilizers, used in conventional systems, are produced employing fossil fuel energy whereas cattle manure, legumes, etc., with very low energy needs, are used in organic practices. In a study, Pimentel et al. (2005) have quantified that fossil fuel inputs in organic production of corn were ~30% lower than the conventionally produced counterparts. This marks the additional benefit in terms of comparatively lesser release of CO2 to the atmosphere and therefore helps mitigate climate change. Reduced energy use in organic farms thus not only reduce economic load but also share to solve environmental problems such as climate change.

B. Economic sustainability

  1. The conventional mode of agriculture, which works on the principle of diminishing return, may cause long-term economic risks influencing the overall balance of trade compared to its sustainable counterpart. In a sustainability perspective of organic farming, the following issues need concern:
  2. Export orientation: The Indian organic produce market is export-oriented. It involves hidden costs such as transport and has risks to local food security. Policies considering local demands/markets are needed for a rational balance of trade.
  3. Market risk: Concentrating on specific commodities is vulnerable to market risks. A disproportional sweep in the international market may lead Indian farmers to risk. As a WTO signatory, the government is bound to open its economy to the global market and thus, unable to protect the farmer's Interest in this respect.
  4. Employment: The organic farming system, being labor-intensive can help overcome rural employment.
  5. Cost-benefit analysis: Agriculture forms the base of economic policies and poverty alleviation in
    many countries including India. Model estimates show that organic farming can reduce pesticide use  by 50% to 65% without compromising crop yields and quality together with 50% less expenditure on the fertilizer and energy use. Constraints in Organic Farming A. Environmental constraints (1) Water quality:
  •  Accumulation of heavy metals in agricultural crops depends on soil processes and properties, plant and soil physical factors, mobilization of metals, concentrations of heavy metals in soil and in irrigation water.
  •  Wastewater irrigation has become a very common practice in many countries including India. Some
  •  countries recommend wastewater irrigation for grain crops and those grown for fodder and slaughter stocks.
  •  Wastewater is increasingly being used for irrigation in urban and peri-urban areas of the developing countries due to easy availability and scarcity of unpolluted water. Irrigation of crops with wastewater may cause heavy metal accumulation and degrade soil quality.
  •  The overall effect is reduced crop growth and risks to human health. For the success of organic farming, efforts should be made to ensure the availability of contamination-free fresh waters. In this context, a massive drive to manage surface and ground waters for irrigation and other usage is essential.

(2) Atmospheric deposition:

  •  High atmospheric deposition and accumulation of heavy metals in crops and vegetables have also been reported in India.
  •  It can affect human health through dietary intake and food chain associated routes. Atmospheric deposition of heavy metals has been shown to lead multifold accumulation in eggplant, tomato, spinach, carrot, amaranthus and radish and cause damage to microbial activity in organically amended soil.
  •  Thus, the atmospheric deposition of heavy metals may constrain compromising organic farming with respect to its ability to stabilize soil fertility and provide toxin-free produce.

B. Resource need

  •  Livestock resources play important role in strengthening agricultural practices for large masses in India. With the advent of technology, the livestock population in our country has declined sharply.
  •  Between 1997 and 2003, cattle population in India declined by 10.23% and those of mules, camel and donkey the declines were 20.36, 30.70% and 26.30 respectively.
  •  Improved pasture and rangelands are essential for supporting livestock and restoring C-pool, nutrient cycling and soil quality. The natural pasture cover in India is rapidly declining and the problem is more acute in dry regions.

C. Certification

  •  Problems associated with certification, for instance, a time lag of three-years (conversion stage), often constrain small landholders from adopting organic farming. The certification is essential to authenticate organic produce and to validate the price margin in the market.
  •  The Director General of Foreign Trade (India) permits the export of organic produce if these are produced and processed under a valid certification.
  •  Lack of knowledge and access to certification discourage the small farm holders in India. To overcome these issues, training and institutional demonstration with fiscal incentives is being provided to encourage small farm holders.

D. Social acceptance

  •  The increasing demand for organic produce is viewed as a new opportunity to aspire the economic boom with lucrative export markets. However, the majority of  small farm holders depend on government incentives and are striving for a profit margin in the indigenous market. Therefore, small farm holders in our country are apprehensive towards adopting organic farming.
  •  Major issues that need to be resolved to encourage acceptance in small farm holdings include access to certification, lack of local market, cost-benefit anomalies, lack of appropriate knowledge to RMPs and non-availability of organic supplements.

Conclusion

  •  Indian agriculture has evolved as an ecologically sustainable approach based on natural inputs to obtain desired crop yield. The modern innovation and technology-based agriculture although increased the yield by many folds have caused a large-scale environmental degradation including the loss of biodiversity. With a large geographical area and diversity of eco-region, our country has a considerable potential to capitalize on organic farming.
  •  However, small farm holders in India are constrained by issues such as resource availability, certification, lack of local market and other factors. Therefore, an integrated effort is needed by the
  •  government and non-government organizations to remove constraints encouraging small farm holders to adopt organic farming as a solution to meet food demand while conserving the soil, water, energy and biological resources.

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