Regenerative agriculture is a holistic approach to agriculture that focuses on improving soil health, increasing biodiversity, and reducing the negative impact of agriculture on the environment. In India, regenerative agriculture is gaining ground as farmers seek sustainable and profitable alternatives to traditional farming practices.
Traditional farming practices in India have largely centred around monoculture, heavy use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and mechanization. These practices have led to soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, and reduced crop yields
What is Regenerative Agriculture?
Regenerative agriculture is a holistic approach to agriculture that focuses on regenerating and improving soil health, promoting biodiversity, and creating sustainable ecosystems. It is a set of practices and principles that prioritize land regeneration, rather than resource depletion, and seeks to promote long-term soil health and productivity.
Regenerative agriculture emphasizes the use of natural processes and systems, rather than chemicals and synthetic inputs, to promote healthy soil and crop growth. This may include practices such as cover crops, crop rotation, conservation tillage, intercropping, agroforestry, and livestock integration. These practices help improve soil structure, increase water retention, and promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the soil.
Regenerative Agriculture Practices in India
In India, regenerative agriculture has gained popularity in recent years due to the increasing demand for organic and sustainable food production. Farmers in India are adopting regenerative agriculture practices to improve soil health and increase crop yields. These practices are also helping to reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving water, and improving soil health.
One of the successful examples of regenerative agriculture practices in India is the SRI method of rice cultivation. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is a set of practices aimed at improving the productivity of rice crops while reducing the use of water, fertilizers, and pesticides.
The SRI method involves transplanting young rice seedlings at wider spacing, providing them with a nutrient-rich soil, and managing soil moisture to promote plant growth. The SRI method has been successful in increasing rice yields while reducing water use and greenhouse gas emissions.
India’s steps to promote regenerative agriculture
- The National Project on Organic Farming
- Systematic rice intensification
- Zero-budget natural farming, which is now known as the Subhash Palekar Natural Farming
Activities taking place under regenerative agriculture
Regenerative agriculture is an agricultural production system that prioritizes the regeneration of the soil, the improvement of biodiversity, and the creation of sustainable ecosystems.
- Conservation tillage: This involves minimizing soil disturbance during planting and other agricultural practices to preserve soil structure, prevent erosion, and promote soil health.
- Cover cropping: Cover crops are planted during fallow periods to help maintain soil health, reduce soil erosion, and promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms.
- Crop rotation: Crop rotation involves alternating different crops in the same field to help maintain soil fertility, reduce pest and disease pressure, and promote biodiversity.
- Intercropping: Intercropping involves planting two or more crops in the same field at the same time to maximize space utilization, promote soil health, and increase biodiversity.
- Agroforestry: Agroforestry involves the integration of trees with crops or livestock to improve soil health, enhance biodiversity, and provide additional sources of income.
- Livestock integration: This involves integrating livestock with crop production to improve soil fertility through the use of manure and other organic matter.
- Water management: Regenerative agriculture promotes water conservation and management practices such as rainwater harvesting, irrigation systems that reduce water waste, and the use of drought-resistant crops.
Need for Regenerative Agriculture in India
The Green Revolution of the 1960s was a pivotal moment in India’s history, saving the country from starvation and transforming it into a self-sufficient food producer that could even export its surplus to the world.
However, this revolution had unintended consequences, including making India the largest extractor of groundwater globally. Currently, India extracts 251 cubic km of groundwater per year, accounting for more than a quarter of the world’s total. Agriculture is the main culprit, consuming about 90% of this extracted water.
To continue feeding the country’s undernourished population and driving the economy, agriculture must work in harmony with nature, not against it. Therefore, the Union and state governments in India, including Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, and Gujarat, are promoting regenerative agriculture practices. These practices aim to reduce the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides while also lowering input costs for farmers.
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