Karthik Madhavan

ERODE: The district is all set for the next level in agriculture by going for Zero Budget Farming, or ZBF. The move is to provide farmers a viable alternative farming practice to boost yields and incomes. It involves cultivation without external inputs. No fertilizer or pesticide, not even organic inputs, will be used.

“The practice involves using inputs available only in and around the farm, balancing the soil’s air-moisture ratio, mulching, and so on. It is a manner of organic farming,” says R. Selvam, secretary, Organic Farmers Association of Erode.

He says ZBF involves raising simultaneously different crops at a place, helping the farmer increase revenue. “Banana, drumstick, thoor dal, paddy, marigold and a few vegetables can be grown at the same time in a plot, and there are successful models that demonstrate the practice,” he says.

There are over 30,000 hectares under ZBF in Maharashtra and Karnataka, thanks largely to Subhash Palekar, who conceived it 15 years ago and propagated it.

According Mr. Selvam, Erode is going for it “to help farmers, who, after having burnt their fingers with chemical farming, are contemplating quitting the profession for want of sufficient returns.”

With support from the district administration and Myrada Krishi Vigyan Kendra, 54 farmers visited ZBF farms in Karnataka recently. Mr. Selvam, who was part of the team, says farmers are convinced that Subhash Palekar’s technique would help them increase yield with zero external input.

Following positive feedback from farmers, the district administration is to help them adopt the technique. Said Collector T. Udhayachandran: “We will soon hold a four-day residential training programme on ZBF for 1,000 farmers, 600 of who will be from the district.” Based on feedback from the trained farmers, the district administration will plan the next stage, he added.

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