(The Gist of Kurukshetra) NATURAL
RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND BIO-DIVERSITY CONSERVATION [MAY-2019]
NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND BIO-DIVERSITY CONSERVATION
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Employment: The organic farming system, being labor-intensive can help
overcome rural employment.
- 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)
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
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.
- 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
- 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
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