CSE’s organic experiment: Challenge starts with procuring right seeds

Native retailers and India’s premier analysis institute failed to supply natural seeds of vegetable

Chemical compounds in meals harms human well being and the atmosphere in numerous methods and the Centre for Science and Setting (CSE), Delhi-based suppose tank, has been flagging this for a very long time now. 

There may be an pressing want of offering all vital help to scale up natural / pure farming in India, the non-profit has highlighted. 

The organisation just lately began an essential work of capability constructing of state’s agriculture extension officers on natural / pure farming, in partnership with the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad. 

Seeing is believing. So, the 2 organisations performed a stay demonstration of natural / pure farming at CSE’s Anil Agarwal Environmental Coaching Institute’s campus in Nimli village, Alwar district, Rajasthan. Alwar is positioned within the northern plain, together with Aravallis within the sizzling, semi-arid agro ecological sub-region.  

The concept was to have first-hand expertise, monitor and doc the outcomes of the demonstration plot. 

It is usually crucial to grasp the circumstances and challenges the farmers face whereas making an attempt to transition to chemical-free farming. 

We will safely say that farming is a raffle. There are such a lot of uncertainties in a farmer’s life. Which crop to develop? Will the chosen crop fetch a very good value available in the market? 

Then there are climate uncertainties and crop losses. Whether or not seeds, fertilisers and pesticides bought from the market or obtained from the agriculture division will work is one other concern. 

The second we, the researchers of CSE, put ourselves within the farmers’ footwear and began engaged on the 0.25 acre demo plot, we have been additionally met with the identical questions.

We began planning for our demo plot in August 2022. The journey since then has been crammed with pleasure, pleasure, fears and real-life challenges.  

Kalpatharu mannequin: Fulfilling wishes 

We opted for a staggered vegetable manufacturing mannequin referred to as Kalpatharu mannequin. Kalpatharu is a mythological divine tree, which fulfills all wishes. 

This mannequin includes rising a wide range of greens on the identical farm. It goals for steady provide of varied sorts of greens, fulfilling dietary necessities for households and offering a every day revenue to farmers via common harvest. 

The farmer’s  collection of crops for his or her farm is commonly influenced by components like crops grown historically of their area, technical information of a selected crop, suitability to native agro-climatic circumstances and most significantly, the market value. 

Our want record was to develop a various set of greens, which may very well be suitably grown within the native agro-climatic circumstances. Greens are a vital a part of Indian diets and farmers use an enormous quantity of agro-chemicals on vegetable farms. 

We made a complete record of greens which can be appropriate for the demo area. These are  grown by farmers at current or have been grown previously. 

Out of those crops, we finalised greater than 20. These included coriander, fenugreek, bakla (broad beans), garlic, peas, radish, beetroot, turnip, French beans, amaranthus, carrot, spinach, sorrel, lettuce, mint, tomato, brinjal, chilli, cabbage, cauliflower and knol-khol. 

Crop choice was additionally influenced by the provision of natural seeds. 

The place are the natural seeds?

Having natural seed is the fundamental requirement of natural / pure farming. We have been conscious of the challenges find natural or conventional seeds, as this subject was repeatedly raised to us throughout our interactions with natural farmers. 

However we discovered that the seeds obtainable within the normal market and in addition with the agriculture division have been hybrids. We approached nearly all of the sellers and retailers obtainable in our locality for natural seeds and obtained the identical response: No natural seeds have been obtainable. 

Individuals related to the native agriculture division additionally confirmed that no natural seed is obtainable with them. 

We requested round for different seed retailers in close by cities or cities however to no avail. 

We enquired with a number of natural farmers in native areas however in addition they couldn’t present us the wanted seeds for some cause or the opposite. They informed us that they have been additionally struggling to seek out natural seeds and infrequently needed to journey lengthy distances to collect these seeds.

After an exhaustive however unsuccessful hunt for native seeds in and across the area, we moved our search to Delhi, the place the non-profit is headquartered. 

We assumed that somebody within the nationwide capital would have the required seeds. The historic Roshanara Highway, a well-liked vegetable market in North Delhi, is named a hub for every type of seeds promoted by non-public corporations. 

We combed the market full of personal seed sellers and wholesalers however discovered nothing within the title of ‘natural seed’. 

Subsequent, we approached the Indian Council of Agriculture Analysis (ICAR), Pusa, New Delhi. It’s India’s premier physique accountable for coordinating agricultural training and analysis in India. 

The place designated for sourcing good high quality seed is the seed improvement centre of Indian Agricultural Analysis Institute (IARI) and the Nationwide Seeds Company Restricted (NSCL)  positioned in the identical campus. 

Not a single natural seed of greens was discovered at both locations throughout our go to.

This was an enormous disappointment certainly, because the central and state governments are selling natural / pure farming however their premier analysis institutes shouldn’t have natural seeds. Who else ought to we anticipate to maintain them? How can we think about selling natural / pure farming in our nation with out offering the natural seeds to farmers? The fact felt too stunning and painful to simply accept.

However there’s at all times a hope, particularly with farmers and farmer-based organisations. The farmer-based Beej Bachao Andolan organisation in Uttarakhand offered us with natural seeds of chilli, tomato, bitter gourd, ridge gourd, pudina and spinach. 

Equally, Kheti Virasat Mission in Punjab that procure natural seeds from farmers additionally offered us seeds of coriander, ridge gourd, spinach, carrot, beans, fenugreek, turmeric, mustard, radish, flax seeds, peas and kasuri methi. We additionally received some seeds from our companion organisation CSA. 

There are additionally farmer-based seed conservation organisations like Sahaj Samrudha in Karnataka however we needed to stay to native natural seeds. 

As natural seeds procured by us have been from completely different agro-climatic circumstances, we determined to acquire open-pollinated seeds from the IARI and NSCL as nicely. These have been chemically handled and so, we washed them correctly earlier than utilizing them for sowing at our farm. 

 Seeds procured from completely different locations of Uttarakhand, Punjab, Delhi and South India. Photograph: CSE

Solely after procuring the seeds may we go forward with the remainder of the process. These included getting ready the farms, testing the soil, selecting the package deal of practices and arranging for natural and biofertilisers. 

That is the primary in a sequence of tales documenting CSE’s experiment with pure / natural farming. 

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