The Economic Survey presented January 31, 2022, highlighted government emphasis towards organic farming and crop diversification; it should promote biogas in organic farming as it will considerably reduce the synthetic chemicals used in pesticides
The Economic Survey presented January 31, 2022, highlighted government efforts towards helping small farmers and its emphasis towards organic farming and crop diversification.
The government has been doing a lot for organic farming. But one must remember that organic farming cannot achieve its optimal benefits without biogas plant slurry (fermented organic manure) utilisation.
The biogas industry has the potential to not only protect the environment, but also provide 50 million metric tonne per annum (MMTPA) of organic fertiliser once the 5,000 MoPNG SATAT projects are installed. The real potential is much higher than this.
In India, organic farming has been a healthy and ethical choice for farmers, as organically grown crops not only help in improving the health of consumers but are equally environment-friendly.
Organic farming has been reducing the contamination of air, water, and soil caused by the persistent use of pesticides and chemicals. However, the synthetic chemicals used in these pesticides stay in the environment and food chain with a half-life that can range four-five years.
Reduced yield is one of the major setbacks faced by organic farms. The yield of organic crops is around 25 per cent lower than that of conventionally grown crops. The easiest way to make it even more profitable is combining organic agriculture and biogas plants.
It will be a more sustainable practice, as it provides a number of advantages to farmers and helps them offset the low yield. Independent energy supply and reduced energy costs, closed nutrient cycles, availability of mobile and flexible fertilisers in the form of digestate are the secondary sources of income.
The government has been supporting organic farming through multiple schemes like Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region, Capital Investment Subsidy Scheme under Soil Health Management Scheme.
However, the importance of biogas in organic farming has been undermined over the years. The government should promote biogas in organic farming as it will considerably reduce the synthetic chemicals used in pesticides.
It can significantly help in the processing of organic products and increasing yields resulting from the on-farm use of processed materials and fertilisers. This can also help in maintaining the soil quality especially organic carbon at the same time.
Organic farming can help the government’s ambition of doubling farmers’ income by severely slashing cultivation costs. India might need to have states like Sikkim to ensure organic farming-based ecosystems for an overall growth perspective.
Countries are trying to achieve Sustainable Development Goals by striving to shift towards a circular economy through Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover.
Shifting to organic farming is also one of the prerequisites of a circular economy. The more the waste is recycled and reused, the less harmful it is to the surroundings and the environment.
The biogas plant is thus one of the leading contributors to a circular economy and can play a critical role in making organic farming sustainable and profitable. Considering the holistic benefits, linking organic farming and biogas is not an option but a must.
A R Shukla is President, Indian Biogas Association
Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth