Organic Farming

Over the years, the farmer in India had been using cow dung and cow urine as manure in his fields. However, due to unscientific methods of collection and management of the by-products such as dung and urine, a lot of wastages occurred. 


Also, a good part of the dung collected was being dried and used as fuel-cakes. With the advent of composting methods, production of organic manure on a scientific basis resulted in the yield of a product, many times richer in soil nutrients than plain cow dung manure.

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 We have already noted the close and intricate relationship of interdependencies between land, man and cattle. The economists who postulate the theory that man and cattle are competing for limited land resources and, therefore, cattle numbers have to be kept limited to a sustainable level, which is an euphemistic way of saying that surplus cattle should be slaugthered. However, as pointed out by Dasgupta (Dasgupta, Cow in India, Vol.1, p.17) this triangular conflict theory had left a gap for plants, and the theory should actually be seen as a quadrangular theory, where plant life plays a vital link and production of crops should be maximised to contibute to the food and feed chain. Even when Dasgupta wrote his book (in the early 1940s), as noted by him, the crop yield per unit area of land was twice in China and three times in Japan, as compared with India.


 Dasgupta has described the pioneering work of one Dr. Erhart Bartsch, who converted a life-less piece of land in Marien-hole in East Germany into a vibrant farm, using cattle as the central figure. Starting with an inheritance of 13 sickly cattle, who were infected with all kinds of diseases, Dr. Bartsch first grew fodder to feed the cows, which then gave manure back to the soil, resulting even better yields of fodder crops. Through intensive bio-dynamic manuring, the farm was rejuvenated, over-flowing with milk, which was supplied to neighbouring estates. (Dasgupta Satish Chandra, Cow in India, Vol.I, p.25, 1945).


 On similar lines, Sir Albert Howard, who came to India as Imperial Economic Botanist to Government of India in 1905, initiated what came to be known as the Indore Process, which involved collection of vegetable and plant waste and treating the heap with cattle dung and urine, to produce compost which had much better manurial qualities than dung directly applied. As a result of this Process, it was found that, in view of the shortage of cattle dung, which was being mostly used as a fuel for cooking and heating purposes, the solution of the manurial problem was to be found in the combination of animal and vegetable wastes. 

    Thus, the concept of green manuring and composting came into being. At Pusa, Sir Howard proved that the use of chemical fertilisers and occurrence of plant and soil diseases go hand-in-hand. He kept six pairs of bullocks, which were fed on organic produce of his farm. These bullocks became healthy and resistant to diseases like Foot and Mouth Disease, even when other animals at Pusa got infected with the disease.


 In the context of the wide-spread use of chemical fertilisers in Western agriculture, Dasgupta quotes from Sir Howard’s book entitled ‘Agricultural Testament’ as follows: “ In the years to come, chemical manures will be considered as on of the greatest failures of the industrial epoch. The teaching of the agricultural economists of this period will be dismissed as superficial” (Dasgupta Satish Chandra, Cow in India, Vol.I, p.36, 1945). These words of Sir Howard, written so many decades ago, have indeed proved to be prophetic. Today, Western countries are increasingly moving towards organic and bio-dynamic farming processes, with organically produced agricultural produce fetching higher returns for the producers.


 It is now established that by use of mechanical tractors to replace bullock power and by using chemical fertilisers, quick profits can be obtained in the short term, due to higher yields and quicker cultivation processes. However, the devastating effects on soil fertility, the health (human and animal) hazards of pesticide residues in food items including milk, and the cost of restoring the nutrients to the soil are all to be taken into account. In the long term, therefore, these practices prove much more costly and all the profits vanish. The age-old practices of using dung from cattle for manuring the fields and using bullocks for ploughing so that their dung goes back into the land, need to be restored. With the process of converting cow dung into compost, which is many times better than spreading the dung directly on to the fields, value can be added and the results in the form of better yields, more healthy foods and feeds can be perceived quickly.

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