SPNF (ZBNF) ‘s critique

5 minute read

Subhash Palekar has claimed in TOI’s editorial page a few months back that ‘Organic farming is worse than an atom bomb‘. This blog comes a little too late. But this was on my mind and in the drafts of my blog posts in the WordPress app. I just got around to complete it. SPNF, Subhash Palekar Natural Farming was known as ZBNF, Zero Budget Natural Farming earlier.

For the sake of promoting his method, he is doing the same mistake which a lot of people do – disconnect from the core of the matter at hand. His idea of farming is focused on Jeevamrutham, neemastra and beejamrutha so much that people are not talking about adding mulch/organic matter to the soil as much. Which, I think is much more important than any other step in converting a land to natural /organic cultivation. He does talk about it in his lectures and speeches though.

The difference between natural and organic, for the sake of the blog : while organic relies more on composting to prepare farm yard manure, natural relies more on fermentation and mulching to add fertility to the soil.

IMO, while converting any conventionally cultivated land to more natural, less intervention ways of farming, preparation of compost is a key step. The key difference is that Compost (aka farmyard manure) contains organic matter as well as hosts microbial population. Whereas, fermented mixtures such as Jeevamrutham only host microbial population and don’t add carbon and other nutrients to the soil by themselves. The key similarity between natural and organic farming is that both focus on enriching the soil by adding mulch /organic matter and cultivating cover crops, which is the most important aspect of regenerating industrially cultivated soils. Jeevamrutham or Panchagavya will only activate dormant life (which will start recycling nutrients from surroundings) but they do not supply enough food for earthworms for them to live on them alone. The food for earthworms is mostly decomposing organic matter which comes from compost or direct mulching. It won’t be possible to realise the full potential of soils with only Jeevamrutham use.

The only problem Subhash Palekar seems to have is the introduction of foreign earthworms in the compost making. I agree to this argument by him. I don’t think there is any need to add any earthworms to compost making. When you layer nitrogen rich and carbon rich material alternatively, dormant life will activate automatically in the surroundings and get introduced in the compost pile (be it under ground or above ground). That’s what we have learnt from AuroOrchard, Auroville. We observed it in the 5 compost piles we have made in the last 12 months, since we have had cows. Three months is all it takes for a compost pile to break down completely, if done right.

There are multiple ways of practicing natural and organic farming. Taking one example of organic farming and making a blanket statement that ‘Organic farming is worse than an atom bomb’ is an irresponsible action by someone espousing and promoting climate friendly ways of farming. I think his energy would be better spent on fighting the ubiquitous nature of industrialized agriculture than nitpicking on certain techniques of organic farming.

P. S. I am not adding links to my claims on data because most of the data I have gathered is by reading the books I have mentioned in my reading list. I will try to keep updating the list with interesting blog links I come across from time to time.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. ravivenkatraman89 says:

    Can you provide a link to the editorial you are referring to in your blog itself?

    Liked by 1 person

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