Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)

Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is a type of chemical-free farming where the total cost of growing and harvesting plants comes out to be zero (taking into consideration the costs incurred by the farmers are recovered through inter-cropping).

The topic, ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming,’ gained prominence when Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman mentioned it in her 2019 budget speech, speaking of it as a source of doubling farmers’ income. This article will mention the important facts about Zero Budget Natural Farming to help IAS Exam aspirants for GS-III preparation.

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About Zero Budget Natural Farming

Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZNBF) is the practice of growing crops without the use of any external inputs, such as pesticides and fertilisers. The phrase “Zero Budget” refers to all crops with zero production costs. The farmers’ revenue is increased as a result of ZBNF’s guidance towards sustainable farming methods that help to maintain soil fertility, assure chemical-free agriculture, and ensure a cheap cost of production (zero cost). Simply said, ZBNF is a farming technique that emphasises cultivating crops in harmony with the environment. Under the specific programme known as Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), the government has been encouraging organic farming. This programme supports all different types of chemical-free agricultural methods, including Zero Budget Natural Farming.

Principles of Zero Budget Natural Farming

Below are key principles of Zero Budget Natural Farming:

  • Zero external inputs
  • Crops to cover the soil for 365 days (Living Root)
  • Soil disturbance at a minimum
  • Biostimulants as essential catalysts
  • Utilize native seed for mixed farming
  • Mixed cropping
  • The incorporation of trees onto the farm
  • Conservation of moisture and water
  • Bring animals into farming
  • More organic debris in the soil
  • Using plant extracts to control pests
  • No artificial pesticides, herbicides, or fertilisers

Benefits of Zero Budget Natural Farming

Below are some of the major benefits of Zero Budget Natural Farming:

  • For all crops, ZBNF methods use between 50 and 60 per cent less water and electricity compared to non-ZBNF methods.
  • Through multiple aerations, ZBNF greatly lowers methane emissions.
  • By using mulching, it is also possible to prevent the burning of residue.
  • In ZBNF, cultivation costs are lower.
  • The primary reason for debt and suicide amongst farmers is the rising expense of external inputs (seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides). Over half of all farmers are in indebtedness, and nearly 70% of households in the agricultural sector spend more than they make, according to data from the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO).
    • The cost of production could be decreased and agriculture could be turned into a “zero budget” endeavour since under ZBNF there is no requirement of spending money or taking out loans for external inputs.
    • This will enable many small farmers to escape the debt cycle and pave the way for the income of farmers to double.
  • As ZBNF is a completely chemical-free technique, it is environmentally friendly and produces organic yields which fetch the farmers higher profits than from normal agricultural yields.
    • Organic foods thus avoid diseases which used to be caused by non-organic foods, in a long run will not only make people healthy but also reduce the burden on the healthcare infrastructure in general.
  • It suits all crops in all agro-climatic zones.

Concerns with Zero Budget Natural Farming

  • Government spending is low: In 2018, the government introduced the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, a centrepiece programme for the Green Revolution, with an appropriation of Rs 3,745 crore for the fiscal year 2019–20. While just Rs 325 crore was allotted to the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, which was created to encourage organic farming and soil health.
  • After observing that their ZBNF yields began to decline after a few years, many farmers switched back to conventional farming.
  • While ZBNF has unquestionably contributed to maintaining soil fertility, its impact on increasing productivity and farmers’ income is still inconclusive.
  • The first organic state in India, Sikkim, has noticed some yield declines since switching to organic farming.
  • The long-term effect and viability of the ZBNF Model should be properly validated before it is widely pushed across the nation, according to agricultural scientists.
  • ZBNF adoption on a large scale could have a negative influence on farmer income and food security. So it is necessary to conduct a proper scientific confirmation of ZBNF’s effectiveness.

Components of Zero Budget Natural Farming

There are four primary ZNBF components and models:

  1. Bijamrita: As native cow species are more adapted to our region’s climatic circumstances and easier for small and marginal farmers to maintain, the seeds are treated with formulations made using their dung and urine. While neem leaves and pulp, tobacco, as well as green chilli extracts are used to manage insects and pests, bijamrita is utilised to treat seeds.
    Benefits: Fungal and other seed- and soil-borne infections may impact the seeds sowed in the field. The seeds are shielded against illnesses by the “Bijamrita” seed treatment.

  1. Jiwamrita/Jeevamrutha: A natural resource utilised to restore the fertility and nutritional value of soil is cow dung. A gramme of cow dung may contain 300–500 billion helpful microorganisms. These bacteria help decompose the soil’s biomass and transform it into readily usable nutrients for crops. Cow dung and cow urine are used to make Jiwamrita. It is a component of the plants’ diet. It is a fermented microbial culture made from uncontaminated soil, jaggery, cow dung, urine, and pulse flour. When applied to soil, this fermented microbial culture enriches the soil with nutrients and acts as a catalyst to encourage the activity of earthworms and microorganisms. For each hectare of land, 500 litres of jeevamrutha should be applied twice a month; following three years, the system might become self-sustaining. A single native cow is adequate 30 acres of land.
    Benefits: By promoting soil microbial activity, this culture improves the availability of nutrients to plants, shields crops from soil diseases, and raises the carbon content of the soil.

  1. Acchadana/Mulching: The process of mulching involves adding cover crops, organic debris, or agricultural residue to the topsoil.
    Benefits: Decomposing the materials used for mulching results in humus, which not only improves soil nutritional status but also conserves topsoil, boosts soil water retention, reduces evaporation loss, and promotes soil fauna. It also inhibits weed growth.

  1. Waaphasa/Moisture (Soil Aeration): For plants to grow and thrive, the soil must have adequate aeration.
    Benefits: Applying Jiwamrita and mulching promotes soil aeration, humus content, availability of water, water retention capacity, and soil structure, all of which are essential for crop growth, particularly during dry spells.

Cropping Model of Zero Budget Natural Farming

The approach is based on producing polycultures, or short- and long-term (main crop) crops together, in order to recover the cost of raising the main crops from the income from the short-term crops, resulting in “zero” spending for the main crop. Accordingly, the term “Zero Budget Natural Farming” is used for this farming model.

States following ZBNF

  • Karnataka: In every one of the state’s ten agroclimatic zones, Karnataka has begun implementing the ZBNF on a pilot basis in an area of 2000 hectares through the relevant State Agriculture/Horticulture Universities as demonstrations/scientific experiments conducted in farmers’ fields and in the research facilities of the respective universities.
  • Himachal Pradesh: Since May 2018, Himachal Pradesh has been implementing the Prakritik Kheti Khusha Kisan programme, which is financed by the state. The results of studies carried out by the state demonstrated that ZBNF practice improved soil quality within a single cropping season and that invasive leaf miner incidence was much lower in the ZBNF system when compared to organic farming as well as conventional farming.
  • Kerala: In order to pique farmers’ interest in ZBNF, awareness campaigns, workshops, and training sessions are being held in Kerala.
  • Andhra Pradesh: ZBNF was introduced by Andhra Pradesh in September 2015 as part of the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana. In partnership with the University of Reading, the UK World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi, FAO, and resource NGOs/Civil Society Organizations such as the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), Hyderabad.

Who introduced Zero Budget Natural Farming?

Subash Palekar (Indian Agriculturist and Padma Shri Recipient) is the father of Zero Budget Natural Farming. He developed it in the mid-1990s as an alternative to the Green Revolution methods.

The points put forward by Subash Palekar in support of Zero Budget Natural Farming are:

  1. Lakhs of farmers are using the technique of Zero Budget Natural Farming in different agro-climatic zones and soil types.
  2. To grow a plant, whatever is needed is present in nature. No chemicals are required to grow a plant. An example – Earthworm excreta has seven times more nitrogen than the soil.
  3. A large number of small farmers are using this technique as they see Zero Budget Natural Farming as a tool that can free them from debts and defaults.
  4. It makes farming both profitable and sustainable.

Important terms related to ZBNF – Jeevamrutha, Bijamrita, Acchadana and Whapasa

Facts about Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)

A few important details about Zero Budget Natural Farming are given in the table below:

What is the application used in Zero Budget Natural Farming? ‘Jeevamrutha’ is applied in farming. Jeevamrutha is the mixture of:

  • Fresh desi cow dung
  • Aged desi cow urine
  • Jaggery
  • Pulse flour
  • Water and
  • Soil
What is the use of Jeevamrutha that is used in Zero Budget Natural Farming? It helps in the addition of nutrients in the soil and also in catalysing the microbial activities in the soil.
How is Jeevamrutha applied in Zero Budget Natural Farming? About 200 litres of jeevamrutha is sprayed twice a month per acre of land. After three years, the system is supposed to become self-sustaining
Which quality of cow is needed in Zero Budget Natural Farming? According to Palekar, a local Indian breed cow is sufficient for 30 acres of land
What is used in place of chemicals in Zero Budget Natural Farming? A mixture called ‘Bijamrita’ (‘Bija’ stands for seed) is used for the treatment of seeds while another mixture of neem leaves and pulp, tobacco and green chillies is used as an insecticide
What do Acchandana and Whapasa mean? Acchadana is Mulching, associated with Zero Budget Natural Farming while Whapasa is a condition where there is a presence of both air molecules and water molecules in the soil. Whapasa helps in reducing irrigation requirements.
What are the uses of Zero Budget Natural Farming? Apart from the least cost incurred in this type of farming, Zero Budget Natural Farming also promotes:

  • Soil aeration
  • Minimal watering
  • Intercropping
  • Bunds and
  • Topsoil mulching

Intensive irrigation and deep ploughing are not promoted in Zero Budget Farming.

Is Vermicomposting used in Zero Budget Natural Farming? No, Vermicomposting which is a method of using earthworms as a means to enhance organic waste conversion; is not supported in Zero Budget Natural Farming.

Palekar mentioned that European Red Wiggler (The most common composting Earthworm) that is used in vermicomposting absorb toxic metal and poisons the soil.

Which is India’s state to roll out a plan to become the first state to practice 100 percent natural farming by 2024? Andhra Pradesh

Zero Budget Natural Farming and Farmers’ Income

  • The major characteristic of Zero Budget Natural Farming is that the cost of production is zero and farmers do not have to buy any inputs to initiate this method of farming.
  • Against the conventional methods, the Zero Budget Natural Farming used only 10 percent of the water that is used in the former method.
  • As it promotes the use of the Indian local breed of the cow for 30 acres of land, it makes it possible for farmers to earn profits earlier than expected.
  • Palekar suggested that with Zero Budget Farming One can make an income of ₹6 lakh an acre in irrigated areas and ₹1.5 lakh in non-irrigated areas.
  • As the Zero Budget Natural Farming covers all kings of agro-climatic areas, it is mentioned to be suitable for all kinds of crops
  • Farmers can get more yields in the first year only giving them a benefit
  • The Zero Budget Farming is also seen to ease out the debt pressure on the farmers as they don’t have to take loans to buy any inputs for their farming
  • Farmers are expected to earn more money per acre and the chances of migration from villages to cities can also lessen.

List of Current Affairs Articles for UPSC

Zero Budget Natural Farming – Criticism

  • The concept of Zero Budget Natural Farming is not well-accepted by the scientific community. National Academy of Agricultural Sciences scientists mentioned that India cannot rely on Zero Budget Natural Farming as there is no scientific validation of the techniques used in Zero Budget Farming.
  • As against the name suggests, the farming method does bear a minimum input cost
  • The maintenance of the local cow breed is difficult as against those that are used currently
  • Organic certification of the crops planted by the Zero Budget Natural Farming will face another hurdle and it might lead to a difficulty in selling the products to the organic brands.

Zero Budget Farming – Conclusion

It is a farming method that Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned in the United Nations Conference on Desertification (COP-14) while stating that India is focusing on this method. The farming method offers resilient food systems. Through two of their initiatives:

The Government of India has been promoting organic farming in the country.

Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) – UPSC Notes:-Download PDF Here

Candidates reading the topic, ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’ are suggested to also read similar topics linked in the table below:

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana High Yield Crops in India Genetically Modified Crops

Interesting Facts on Intercropping

What is intercropping give example?

Intercropping is growing two or more crops next to each other at the same time. It is very important not to have crops competing with each other for space, nutrients, water, or sunlight. An example of an intercropping strategy is planting one crop that has deep roots with another that has shallow roots.

What is the difference between mixed cropping and intercropping?

Under Intercropping: There is a considerable difference in the life cycle and the duration of maturity in different crops. Under mixed cropping: All crops have a similar life cycle and duration of maturity

What are the advantages of intercropping?

  1. Diversity and stability of fields. 
  2. Reduction in chemical/fertilizer application. 
  3. A complementary sharing of plant resources, such as Nitrogen from N fixing plants.

Where is intercropping used?

Intercropping is widely practiced by cassava growers in Africa, but is less frequent in the more commercially oriented production systems of Latin America and Asia. Several experimental studies have investigated the potential beneficial effect of intercropping on cassava virus control in Africa.

What are the 3 types of cropping patterns?

  1. Mixed Cropping: Growing two or more crops simultaneously on the same piece of land. Minimizes the risk of crop failure
  2. Inter-cropping: Growing two or more crops simultaneously in the same field in a definite pattern
  3. Crop Rotation

List of Current Affairs Articles for UPSC

Relevant Links

IAS Salary Sikkim: India’s First Organic State: RSTV – In Depth
No-Till Farming National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) – NAPCC Mission
Agriculture Revolutions – List Of Agricultural Revolutions In India Major Crops of India and Cropping Pattern in India
Science & Technology Questions in UPSC Mains General Studies Paper – 3 Agriculture Questions in UPSC Mains General Studies Paper – 3
UPSC Mains General Studies Paper-III Strategy, Syllabus & Structure Topic-Wise General Studies Paper – 3 Questions for UPSC Mains


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