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  Section: Medicinal Plants / Cultivation
 
 
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Ecological Farming Systems

 
     
 
Content
⇒ Eco-Friendly Farming
  ⇒ Evolution of Sustainable Agriculture
⇒ Organic Farming
⇒ Biological Farming
⇒ Nature Farming
⇒ Regenerative Agriculture
⇒ Permaculture
⇒ Alternate Agriculture
⇒ Ecological Agriculture
⇒ Ecological Farming Systems
  ⇒ Objectives of Ecological Farming
  ⇒ Prospects
  ⇒ Integrated Intensive Farming System (IIFS)
  ⇒ Low External Input Supply Agriculture (LEISA)
    ⇒ Low-Input Agriculture
    ⇒ Criteria for LEISA
    ⇒ Ecological Criteria
    ⇒ Economic Criteria
    ⇒ Social Criteria
⇒ Biodynamic Agriculture
  ⇒ Organic Farming vs. Biodynamic Farming
  ⇒ Principles of Biodynamic Farming
  ⇒ Rules for Using Biodynamic Agriculture
⇒ Organic Agriculture System
  ⇒ The Major Aims of Organic Farming
  ⇒ Concept of Organic Farming
  ⇒ Difference Between Organic and Conventional Farming
  ⇒ History of Organic Farming
  ⇒ Needs of Organic Farming
    ⇒ Needs for Organic Inputs
  ⇒ In Partnership With Nature
⇒ Basic Standards and General Principles for Organic Agriculture
  ⇒ Crop and Soil Management
  ⇒ Choice of Crops and Varieties
  ⇒ Crop Rotations
  ⇒ Nutrient Management
  ⇒ Management of Pests, Diseases and Weeds
  ⇒ Wild Products
  ⇒ Pollution Control
  ⇒ Soil and Water Conservation
    ⇒ Landscape
⇒ Principle Requirements and Pre-Conditions
⇒ Conversion From Conventional to Organic Farming
  ⇒ Farms With Plant Production and Livestock
  ⇒ Initiating Organic Farming
    ⇒ Medicinal Plants-The First Crops for Organic Farming
⇒ Important Tips for Cultivation of Medicinal Plants
⇒ Multi Tier Agriculture System for Cultivation of Medicinal Plants
    ⇒ Benefits of Multi-Tier Agriculture System (MTAS)
    ⇒ Selection of Shade Crops
    ⇒ Irrigation
    ⇒ Disease and Protection
    ⇒ Benefits for Farmers and the World
⇒ Indigenous Agricultural Practices for Cultivation of Medicinal Plants
  ⇒ Rationality of Indigenous Agricultural Knowledge/ Practices

Ecological Farming Systems
The shift from chemical to ecological agriculture should, however, be gradual. A sudden switchover can spell disaster and discourage farmers from taking to this course. At least two to three reasons will be needed fo; the transition, and during the interim years the farmers could build up a sufficient organic base to fertilize the fields and improve the productivity of the soil. Once a state of ecological balance is attained and there are a good number of beneficial organisms to check the explosion of pests and pathogens, crop yields of a high order can be ensured. The cost of cultivation can be brought down substantially as many farm-grown inputs can be integrated efficiently in the farming system.


Ecological farming can be sustainable and profitable too. It is a self-reliant method and has to be an integrated system. Since it is a knowledge-intensive practice, one has to keep pace with the dynamics of nature to increase the biological productivity of the soil. Since eco-farming uses several farm grown inputs, and less dependent on market purchased inputs, it is economically attractive to the growers. Case studies show that when a chemical far incurred about Rs. 11,250 towards the cost of cultivation per hectare of rice, an organic farm spent Rs. 10,590. Alternatively, if the biofertilizers and organic nutrient supplements such as neem cake are subsidized to extent the same monetary advantage as chemical fertilizers, the cost of ecological farming will come down significantly.


It has been observed that in chemical farming, fertilizers and plant protection chemicals accounted for nearly 30 per cent o( the total cost. The cost of market purchased inputs in ecological farming was far less, and bulk o( it went towards the purciiase of neem cake. In both the cases, the yield remained almost the same at 5,625 kg paddy per hectare. The straw yield was eight tonnes.


The net returns from the ecological farming system at the current cost of Rs. 3. 34 per kg paddy is Rs. 8,197. 50. The chemical farming, the net profit is Rs. 7,500. If one gets a premium price for the poison-free, organically grown rice, the economic returns from the ecological returns from the ecological farming system will be highly encouraging. While the modern system of farming expended nearly 31,000 MJ of energy, the ecological farming method accounted for only 23,400 MJ. High energy inputs such as fertilizer, plant protection chemicals, herbicides and high-speed diesel are substituted with biological inputs and low-energy human and cattle power. The output/input ratio in the case of modern farming is 3. 76, while in the case of ecological farming it is more than 4. 95.



Objectives of Ecological Farming
Bringing to match the crop, soil and climate of a region the ecology and farming and gaining from the economy and efficiency of inputs are the objectives of eco-farming. According to Sankaram (1996), this technology may be grouped into four categories.
  1. Those that reduce the environmental burden of green house gases (CO2 and CH4), global warming, ozone depletion. All attention to promote renewable sources of energy (draught animal power), electrical energy from garbage disposal and biogas from organic wastes.
  2. Those that reduce the demand on land, water and biodiversity without adverse effect on agricultural production and nutritive value of food. Nurse the soil back to health, change cropping patterns to maximize ecological productive efficiency, improve, water use efficiency- through conjunctive use of rain, tank, underground, well and river waters; reduce conveyance losses; phase out subsidies.
  3. Those that continue to improve crop productivity, under shrinking land resources. (Genetic and agronomic) hybrid vigour, gene pyramiding; multiple cropping patterns, integrated nutrient management and integrated pest management.
  4. Reduce hunger and poverty, adopt, cost effective farming to bring equity of food price and wage, encourage job promoted growth right in the village to arrest migration as ecological refugees.
For each specific location, eco-farming involves the search for the optimum rather than the maximum in cohesiveness and functional diversity. The fairly general nature of these properties makes it clear that the designation ecological cannot be applied in an absolute sense nor can it be expressed in quantitative terms. It relates, rather, to a development process in which changes in the ecosystem must be continuously assessed to determine whether or not specific measures are of value. This means that farming techniques are not good or bad per se; their value depends on their applicability within a particular system; e.g. whereas minimum tillage may be recommendable in one case, ploughing may be necessary in another. There are scarcely any objective and generally valid criteria for assessing the extent to which a technique is environmentally appropriate for a given farm situation.


Prospects
In contrast, eco-farming systems and techniques have been developed on the basis of a holistic view of man within the biosphere and the awareness of man's dependence on scarce natural resources. In some cases, recognition may have been reached that the use of certain external production inputs is undesirable from the ecological point of view or is, under certain circumstances, even unprofitable^ In other cases, as in some developing countries, the inputs may not be available on account of supply constraints where this level of consciousness of these economic conditions prevail. Intensification of farming is sought through more productive use of available resources such as soil nutrients, rainwater and local energy, together with the knowledge, labour and initiative of the people.


The term eco-farming implies that farming regions and individual farms must be treated as ecological systems. Ecology is a science, which deals with the relationships between organisms and their environment. But in this context the environment is not confined to the natural conditions (e.g. soil, climate); it encompasses the entire complex of physical, economic, social and cultural conditions which affect the growth and development of an organism or organic system.

Eco-farming can be sub-stainable and profitable too. It is a self-reliant method and has to be an integrated system. Since it is a knowledge-intensive practice, one has to keep pace with the dynamics of nature to increase the biological productivity of the soil.


Since eco-farming uses several farm grown inputs, and is less dependent on market purchased inputs, it is economically attractive to the growers. When a chemical farm incurred about Rs. 11,250 towards the cost of cultivation per hectare of rice, an organic farm spent Rs. 10,590. Alternatively, if the biofertilizers and organic nutrient supplements such as neem cake are subsidized to extent the same monetary advantage as chemical fertilizers, the cost of ecological farming will come down significantly. It has been observed that in chemical farming, fertilizers and plant protection chemicals accounted for nearly 30 per csnt of the tokil cost. The cost oS. market purchased inputs in ecological farming was far less.




In both the cases, the yield remained almost the same at 5,625 kg paddy per hectare. The straw yield was eight tonnes. The net returns from the ecological farming system at the current cost of Rs. 3.34 per kg paddy is Rs. 8,197.50. In chemical farming, the net profit is Rs. 7,500. If one gets a premium price for the poison-free, organically grown rice, the economic returns from the ecological returns from the ecological farming system will be highly encouraging. While the modern system of farming expended nearly 31,000 MJ of energy, the ecological farming method accounted for only 23,400 MJ. High energy inputs such as fertilizer, plant protection chemicals, herbicides and high-speed diesel are substituted with biological inputs and low-energy human and cattle power. The output/input ratio in the case of modern farming is 3.76, while in the case of ecological farming it is more than 4.95.


Ecological farming is more labour intensive, and several of its components such as vermicoinpositing, vermiwash, and generation of botanical pesticides and rearing beneficial insects such as Triclwgramma parasites, ladybird beetles, and spiders for release in the field as bio-control agents offer scope for unemployed and landless youth.



Group and community endeavour holds the key for successful implementation of ecological farming over larger areas. Community participation in pest control and rodent eradication will be rewarding. Even in the case of developing biofertilizers, such as blue green algae and Azolla, group action will pay rich dividends.


Instead of giving the labeled ecological or un-ecological approach, it would be more correct to refer to the degree of appropriateness of a farming techniques for a specific site and time.
 
     
 
 
     




     
 
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