Farmers get hands-on training on organic agriculture.
Photo: A. Sharma


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In India’s arid zones, farms are traditionally managed with no or very low chemical inputs. This “natural” organic production method helps maintain the fragile ecological balance but provides only low yields. The Central Arid Zone Research Institute is supporting the traditional farmers with on-farm research to enhance their productivity by making use of modern agricultural and ecological technologies and know-how.

India’s low rainfall areas (<500 mm/year) cover about 45 million hectares, about the area of Sweden. They are mostly found in Rajasthan and small parts of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Tamil Nadu. Rainfall is erratically distributed and there are frequent droughts, a condition further aggravated by climate change and causing economic uncertainties for local farmers. Multi-component farming systems which include annuals, perennials and livestock are prevalent. Such systems have very low external inputs and rely heavily on recycling of local resources. This type of production can therefore also be referred to as “organic by default”.

During the last 50 years, efforts have been made to improve productivity of these farms by use of synthetic external inputs, e.g. fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides etc. However, success was limited to good rainfall years. Use of organic manure is an effective alternative as it provides at least some produce even under prolonged dry spells thanks to its highly efficient nature in recycling of nutrients.

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