Farmers in Doddaballapur in Karnataka say no to organic farming

Farmers in Doddaballapur in Karnataka say no to organic farming Organic is not organic in Doddaballapur taluk, near Bangalore. A lot of prodding has to go into convincing farmers to go organic. A recent study conducted by Svaraj/Oxfam India, Bangalore, showed that chemical fertilisers and pesticides degrade soil fertility. Following the study, the researchers conducted a workshop to educate farmers on the advantages of using organic inputs (see box: Nature cure).

But their awareness programmes didn't help. Farmers, of course, have their share of concerns. "We find it difficult to source organic pesticides and fertilisers as they are not available,' says a farmer. "Converting to organic farming takes about one year. During that period we will suffer losses. Who will bear the cost?' says another farmer.

The apprehensions of farmers are linked to the fact that Mukenhalli and Marahalli, the two places in the taluk where the study was conducted, have seen a shift from polyfarming to the chemical fertiliser-intensive contract farming. Many farmers prefer growing grapes as these have more commercial value. Cabbage, potato and tomato are the commonly grown vegetables. The average consumption of chemical fertiliser in the area is 500 kg per hectare (ha) and pesticide is consumed at a rate of 750 millilitres per 0.4 ha.

Besides, farmers are unable to move away from chemical fertilisers because there has been a reduction in biomass production in the deforested areas and a reduction in the on-farm biomass production itself. This reduction is a result of consecutive mono-cropping, which reduces nitrogen in the soil and adversely affects the biology of the soil. "It's a vicious cycle. Farmers use more fertilisers and pesticides to avoid diseases and get a better yield. But these chemicals lead to micro nutrient deficiency in soil, which then leads to plant diseases. Contract farming is leading to desertification as well,' says the researcher.

Faulty equations The researchers also found that the high use of chemicals was leading to increased water requirement for irrigation, which also reduced the intervals between irrigation cycles (see table: From bad to worse).According to them, excessive irrigation in a farm leads to waterlogging. One of the researchers tried to put the organic farming theory in practice by experimenting in two different plots of 0.4 ha each. He grew tomatoes of indigenous varieties there, and used only vermicompost