Mainstream, VOL 60 No 39-42 September 17 - October 8, 2022 - Bumper issue
Myth of Organic Farming Being Low Yielding Busted in the Heart of Green Revolution Region | Rajinder Chaudhary
Friday 16 September 2022#socialtags
by Rajinder Chaudhary*
Renowned agriculture scientist Norman Borlaug opined that “Even if you could use all the organic material that you have—the animal manures, the human waste, the plant residues—and get them back on the soil, you couldn’t feed more than 4 billion people. ... don’t tell the world that we can feed the present population without chemical fertilizer. That’s when this misinformation becomes destructive” (Bailey 2000). Nobel Laurate was not alone in questioning the yield potential of farming without agro-chemicals. Recently, Ashok Gulati in a piece titled ‘Feeding humanity, saving the planet’(Indian Express, September 4, 2022) claimed that most of the studies conducted by ICAR show that yields go down by 30-50% with adoption of organic or chemical free farming. He used this claim to bypass organic or natural farming as an alternative and went on to promote alternatives which will convert Indian farming into corporate farming: “... use of sensors, drones, doves, and LEOs (low earth orbits), space technologies, cloud computing, are all bursting out to provide the basis for a revolutionary epoch. Drips, hydroponics, and aeroponics, vertical farming, are all available for mankind to get much more with very little exploitation of the planet’s natural resource endowment.”
Alternative voices challenging this dominant paradigm have been there for long but have been relegated to the margins. An ‘International Conference on Organic Agriculture and Food Security’ organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2007, which had some 350 participants from more than 80 countries including five inter-governmental institutions, 24 research institutions, 31 universities concluded that ‘organic agriculture has the potential to secure a global food supply, just as conventional agriculture today, but with reduced environmental impacts’(Scialabba 2007) but as we shall see later, ICAR-Indian Institute of Farming Systems Research still recommends organic farming for niche areas. While there are numerous claims of organic farming being equally productive from India too yet most of the examples are from Southern or Central India. (Alvares 1999) and hardly any example from Haryana and Punjab, the core area of green revolution and granary (at least of marketable surplus) of India. However, a public hearing (Jaivik Kheti Jan Samvad) organised at Rohtak by Kudarti Kheti Abhiyaan (Natural Farming Campaign; henceforth KKA), Haryana on 12th September 2021 showcased yield potential of organic farming even in hardcore ‘green revolution’ area. In this public hearing, on a day marred by unseasonal rains, in presence of about 300 participants including non-organic farmers, representatives of state
agriculture university etc and representatives of farmers’ organisations, evidence was presented to the effect that comparable or even better yield has been achieved by organic farmers in Haryana without the use of conventional agro-chemicals and in fact even without external non-farm organic inputs. We present this evidence here for wider scrutiny. But before coming to this evidence, few words about KKA are in order.
Origins, structure and strategy of Kudarti Kheti Abhiyaan: In 2009 a multi-dimensional, unfunded and volunteer driven village level intervention was planned in Jhajjar and Rohtak districts of Haryana. However, it neither gathered enough external interventionists nor a good response at village level. However, one of the interventions, organic farming, did receive somewhat positive response at village level.  So, organic farming became the main focus of intervention by default rather than being a priori choice and in due course this initially unnamed initiative took the name of KKA.
Evidently, “Organic agriculture is not homogeneous. Its multiple expressions range from subsistence producers committed to health and environmental values to input-substitution entrepreneurs attracted by lucrative markets” (Scialabba 2007). Though broadly speaking underlying principles are more or less same, there are crucial differences in the practice of each of these alternatives.  KKA has been promoting self-reliant organic farming that does not rely on purchased non-farm inputs. While organic farming does require stopping the use of chemical inputs (and GM seeds etc), it is not limited to it. Whole paradigm of farming, particularly in case of self-reliant organic farming has to change; mono-cropping has to change into mixed/diversified cropping, irrigation methods also have to change, trees and animals have to be integrated into farming and so on. KKA adopted this broader view of organic farming rather than narrow view of it as mere substitution of chemical inputs alone.
Organic farming has multiple benefits including environmental and health benefits, and all these must be taken into account while evaluating it. However, for an isolated small farmer relying on farming for survival, profitability is crucial. Profitability in turn can be achieved variously, e.g., through reduced input cost and better realised price of output. While steps for input cost reduction are built into adoption of self-reliant organic farming and every organic farmer can benefit from it, for price premium separate effort has to go into marketing, which all farmers are not able to undertake. Anyway, price premium only becomes essential to profitability comparison if there is decline/significant decline in yield. If with similar or often lower input cost, yield is comparable, then even if there is no price premium and farmer has to sell organic produce at the normal market price, it would be profitable for him/her to shift to organic farming. Moreover, while price premiums can make it profitable for individual farmers to shift to organic farming and farmers do deserve price premiums for providing safer, more nutritious product, yet if yield is not comparable, then organic farming would not be able to meet the charge of Borlaug cited at the outset and economists looking at macro food security issues would not be persuaded either.
Based on review of secondary literature (Chaudhary 2008), KKA adopted strategy that was based on the understanding that done right, yield would be comparable. Hence, KKA focused on providing farmers basic technical knowledge of organic farming principles and methods. It did not assure any marketing support. KKA was keen to establish comparable/high yield potential of organic farming.
Anyway, with no marketing or financial support, strategy of KKA perforce had to be focussed on yield enhancement from the very beginning or farmers depending on farming for survival would not shift to organic farming.  Basic tools for promotion of organic farming were a free four page pamphlet listing basic principles and methods of self-reliant organic farming, a nominally priced Hindi booklet elaborating the same (it has had a print run of 12500), and couple of training sessions each year. Initially these training sessions had external resource persons and would run for 2-3 days and there would be 2-4 such events every year. However, since 2016 (and till corona epidemic put an end to it) one day training sessions have been held on first Sunday of every month. These monthly training sessions for new farmers, who wanted to adopt organic farming, were held in different districts. These were accompanied by one or two review sessions every year, which were usually 2-day affairs, for practicing organic farmers. These two activities were reinforced with farm visits within Haryana (earlier such farm visits were outside Haryana), meeting with expert organic farmers and participation in national events. KKA has been an active participant in two national level networks, OFAI (Organic Farmers’ Association of India) and ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture) and it has immensely benefited from these interactions. All this was done without any full-time structure; KKA was mainly managed by a committee of practicing organic farmers who have converted whole of their holding to organic farming and few consumer supporters. All external visits were paid for by participants and other expenses were managed through voluntary donations by participants in its activities. With this brief description of strategy and functioning of KKA, let us now move on to survey.
Background of Survey: Wheat and rice are two main crops of Haryana along with sugarcane, pearl millet (bajra), cotton and mustard. While in case of rice and other crops, yield under organic was comparable from the very beginning, wheat was a different ball game all together. For many years KKA could not offer local examples of high yielding organic farms. Even most committed organic farmers were not getting good results in wheat. This led to consultations with experts and re-examination of package of practices being promoted. It was soon realised that while package of practices given in material prepared by KKA was more or less fine, in its training programmes all aspects were not being adequately emphasised. If trainers did not emphasise all aspects adequately, there was very low chance of all practices being implemented even though these were listed in the published material. Even committed organic farmers were not convinced of need and feasibility of adopting all recommended practices. But all this changed with farm visit to Maharashtra and MP in 2016. After seeing all organic recommendations being implemented at grassroots level and resultant good crops, committed organic farmers started implementing recommended organic practices at their own farms. This also led to changes in training sessions and once training programmes started emphasising hitherto neglected elements, other farmers too started adopting those practices. This in turn led to improved results.
Process was slower than KKA had bargained for, but eventually even wheat yields started improving, particularly after 2016 farm visit. By 2019 good number of farmers were reporting high yield. But by the time this data was ready for wider sharing, corona came up. Consequent delay in public sharing of this data however enabled collection of data for cropping season for 2019-2020 too. It is this data which was presented in the public hearing held on 12th September 2021 in Rohtak (Haryana) where many concerned farmers were present for cross-examination.
Methodology and results of survey: KKA maintains an attendance register of participants in its training programmes. This attendance register formed the basis of universe of survey. Survey was limited to those organic farmers who had participated in the programmes conducted by KKA at least 2 years before the conduct of survey. Attempt was made to telephonically contact all such farmers but not all farmers coming in this category could be contacted; either the phone numbers had changed or phones were not picked up even after repeated attempt. Email contact hardly elicited any response. This exercise was done first in April- June, 2019 and was repeated in 2020. In 2019, ninety farmers were also visited personally but in 2020 due to corona pandemic, personal visit was not possible. In case of farmers personally visited a detailed questionnaire covering yield of all crops grown in last year was administered. Mailed questionnaire elicited only one response. Since the beginning of the campaign, farmers had reported that in case of other crops either the yield was comparable or better, or even if it was less than yield under chemical farming, then it was only marginally low but in case of wheat, often the difference was substantial. Hence during telephonic survey, focus was on wheat yield alone. Other benefits of organic farming like health benefits to farmer and farm animals or improved soil health (it becomes soft requiring less ploughing and holds more water thus contributing greater resilience to adverse weather conditions) reduced pest and disease attack, no straw burning, were more or less universally reported by practicing organic farmers and hence data on the same was not collected. Similarly, profitability was not documented because slow but steady increase in number of fulltime farmers dependent on farming for livelihood practicing organic farming, without any subsidy or other financial or marketing support, and hardly any back-tracking, clearly indicates that the farmers are finding it more profitable than conventional farming.
Salient features of the survey results, which covered farmers from 14 districts of Haryana, out of total 22, are given in Table 1.
Survey results of organic farmers of Haryana with at least two years standing
|1||Number of farmers doing organic farming on their total landholding||92||46||132||32.51|
|2||Number of farmers doing organic farming on part of their landholding||108||54||254||62.57|
|3||Total number of farmers doing organic farming and in contact with KKA||200||100||406||100|
|4||Number of farmers surveyed||225||283|
|5||No farmers whose wheat yield data available||83||218|
|6||No of farmers providing wheat yield (desi) data^||53||156|
|7||Range of wheat yield (desi) per acre||6-20 quintal||4-25 quintal|
|8||No of farmers with more than 10.4* q per acre yield of desi wheat (% share out of those whose yield data of desi wheat available)||39||73.58||86||55.13|
|9||No of farmers providing wheat yield (non-desi) data||37||78|
|10||Range of wheat yield (non-desi) per acre||10-27||6.6-28 quintal|
|11||No of farmers with more than 18.4* q per acre yield of non-desi wheat (% share out of those whose yield data of non-desi wheat available)||11||29.73||14||17.95|
|12||No of farmers with more than 20 q per acre yield of wheat (% share out of those whose yield data of non-desi wheat available)||6||16.22||11||14.1|
|13||Total number of farmers who have above average yield of wheat (% share out of those whose yield data of wheat available)||50||60.24||98||44.95|
Source: Primary Survey
^ Some farmers had sowed desi as well as non- desi wheat separately. Hence, total of observations of desi and non-desi wheat yield is more than the number of farmers whose wheat yield data is available. Three farmers in 2019 and eleven in 2020 had mixed some amount of non- desi wheat seed into desi wheat plot too.
* Yield classification categories are based on the following criterion: 10.4 quintal per acre is average yield of C-306 variety of wheat, which is the preferred desi variety of wheat in Haryana (Gupta 2018). We have taken this cut off for other desi varieties of wheat too. Average yield of wheat in Haryana for three years ending 2017, which was the latest year for which data was then publicly available, was 18.4 quintal per acre (Government of Haryana, nd). Hence, this was used as benchmark for non-desi or HYV varieties. An additional category of 20 quintal was used as it is widely believed to be good yield of wheat.
This self-explanatory table clearly shows significant improvement from 2019 to 2020 in terms of absolute numbers in all categories.  Once some local farmers started getting yield under organic comparable to chemical farming even in wheat, other organic farmers too picked up from their experience and incorporated henceforth excluded elements of organic practices in their farming. This improved their wheat yield. In 2020 about 98 farmers which is 45% of organic farmers for whom wheat data was available, had more than average state level yield.  It must be underlined that this number includes both those who had better than state average yield for popular desi wheat variety of Haryana, C-306 and those who had better than aggregate state average yield. C-306 is a preferred variety of wheat for domestic consumption in Haryana. Though technically it is not a traditional or desi variety as it is a released variety of Indian Council of Agriculture research, yet it is a tall variety and is customarily treated to be a desi variety in Haryana. We have used officially announced average yield for this variety for other desi varieties sown by organic farmers of Haryana. For non-desi varieties, benchmark of comparison has been the average yield of wheat in Haryana for three years ending 2017, which was the latest year for which data was publicly available. 
Survey results of 2019 were put out in a review meeting of experienced organic farmers of Haryana (invite was limited to those with minimum of two years of organic farming) in which 80 such farmers participated. List of farmers, who had got above average yield or were otherwise ‘happy’ having converted, was put out on notice board/emailed with contact details for cross verification (which had already been cross checked once either through repeat phone call or through a neighbourhood farmer). Over a two-day review, it was concluded that ‘based on our own experience in Haryana, now there is no doubt that if all elements of organic farming are practiced, yield comparable or even better than chemical farming is possible under organic farming too’. In recent public hearing too, a poster exhibition of their experience under organic farming was put up by organic farmers and list of these 98 farmers getting better than state average was put out along with their contact details so that participants could verify it for themselves.
During 2019 survey, it also emerged that while most organic farmers were treating organic farming to be just co-terminus with stoppage of agro-chemicals, yet almost all recommended organic principles and practices were being adopted by some farmer or the other. This indicated that there are no technological barriers to adoption to all organic principles and practices. Only personal reasons and circumstances were responsible for not adoption of all the organic principles, and consequent low yield experienced by many farmers. First and foremost, reason being that some organic farmers were not full time, hands on organic farmers or were often doing organic farming just for self-consumption. So, either they could not devote enough and continuous time to farming, an essential requirement of successful organic farming  or were not particularly keen on maximising the yield as they were happy as long as they were getting enough for their self-consumption. Another set of farmers, had developed their own marketing channels and were able to command a price premium. This on the one hand made their organic farming profitable in spite of yield levels and on the other hand marketing effort left them limited time for farm operations. This set of farmers too could not adopt all the organic practices. Only those farmers who were fulltime farmers and did not have to devote much time to marketing, could devote themselves to farming fully and practice all organic principles and methods. It is only this last set of farmers who could be expected to get comparable yields. 
During 2019 review, it was decided to revise the manual of organic practices that KKA had been using. Some select 30 farmers were invited for this and based on two rounds of consultations; a revised manual based on grassroots level experience of Haryana was prepared. This revised manual along with survey results was released in this public hearing. All practices suggested in this new manual have been adopted in Haryana by one or the other organic farmer.
Public hearing conducted in September 2021 confirmed the observation that organic farmers in Haryana were getting yield at par with conventional farming. However, some may find that the evidence presented here is not ‘proper scientific evidence’. Fortunately, this result from Haryana, that organic farming can be equally productive, is also supported by a long-term study conducted by mainstream agricultural institutions. Results from on farm experiments by ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research)-Indian Institute of Farming Systems Research, Modipuram, Uttar Pradesh (henceforth, IIFSR) which has been running a ‘Network Project on Organic Farming’ (henceforth NPOF) since 2004 in 20 centers spread across 16 Indian states show that comparable yield is possible under organic farming. It is reported that ‘Based on research studies in scientific organic management under ICAR-Network Project on Organic Farming, 18 crops responded positively to yield on par or higher under organic systems after the conversion period (2—3 years). Organic management of basmati rice, rice, maize, green gram, chickpea, soybean, cotton, garlic, cauliflower, tomato resulted in yield advantage to the tune of 4 to 14% over inorganic management’ (For a detailed discussion of IIFSR results see Chaudhary 2020).
Unfortunately, in spite of their own experiments showing results that favour organic farming, policy recommendations of NPOF limit organic farming to ‘niche areas and crops’. For ‘intensive agricultural areas (food hubs)’ like Haryana, recommendation is for ‘Accelerated adoption of “towards organic” (integrated crop management) approach’, which is just a euphuism for retaining use of chemical fertilizers while adding organic manures (IIFSR 2016: 1). This policy paper provides no explanation for this reluctance to mainstream organic farming in spite of their own experimental results.
If today organic farming, which does not involve any rocket science, and mostly involves return to traditional farming practices with few farmers induced innovations,  can be as productive as chemical farming even in ‘green revolution’ areas, then it puts a question mark on often made assertion that, in the then prevailing circumstances, there was no alternative but to go for green revolution. This data from KKA and IIFSR reinforces the argument of Kumar (2019) and Stone (2019) which raise serious doubts on ‘ship to mouth’ story, unavoidability of PL480 imports and the claim that the ‘green revolution’ was necessary. That high yields are possible with organic farming is not just borne out by recent ICAR or KKA data alone. Data given in Table 2, which reports yield levels of “Krishi Pandit” awardees of post-independence and pre-green revolution period, also confirms it. These yield levels of pre-agrochemical and pre-high yielding varieties era are not available to most chemical farmers even today. Krishi Pandit awards were given after a five-stage competition. In the first stage, after a four-stage competition, state level awards were announced and the next year state level winners competed at the national level. So, these yield levels were repeated at least twice. Secondly, details of practices adopted by these farmers indicate that these were same as what today are being called organic farming, and what is being promoted by KKA (PIB 1955). Incidentally, in the aforesaid public hearing, representative of local agriculture university found this data to be too good to be true and hazarded a guess that the reported yield levels were per hectare rather than per acre. So, unbelievably good were these pre-‘green revolution’ yield levels!
Having dealt with the charge of organic farming necessarily being low yielding, there is one more charge that may flow from statement of Norman Borlaug quoted at outset. Is there enough organic input to enable whole scale shift to organic farming. As recommended in new manual prepared by experienced organic farmers of Haryana, dung and urine of one animal per acre per year is sufficient to get good yield. Official data shows that India has 0.87 bovines per net sown acre and if we add goats and sheep etc to the number of cows and buffalo, it comes to 1.54 livestock per net sown acre (Government of India 2020). So, there is no dearth of organic inputs even if the whole country were to shift to organic farming provided proper institutional arrangements are put in place for proper utilization of animal waste and farmers are trained and facilitated to do so.
|Yield Levels of ‘Krishi Pandit’ Awardees in Immediate Post Independence Period|
|Crop||Yield Quintal per acre||Year||Name of Farmer|
|Paddy||27.52||1949-50||JC Pani, West Bengal|
|Wheat||21.77||1949-50||Jagdish Prakash, Mererut, UP|
|Potato||253.60||1949-50||Rattan Prakash, Hapur, UP|
|Paddy||46.28||1950-51||K Vellaiya Gounder, Salem, Tamil Nadu|
|Wheat||22.26||1950-51||Padam Singh, Meerut, UP|
|Potato||270.9||1950-51||Madho Kirpal, Hapur, UP|
|Paddy||50.81||1951-52||JC Sangayya, Coorg, Karnataka|
|Wheat||26.72||1951-52||Gurdev Singh, Ludhiyana, Punjab|
|Sorghum||10.93||1951-52||Vaman Ramchandra Marathe, Khandesh, Maharashtra|
|Potato||274.53||1951-52||Jaipal Chandra, Bulandsahar, UP|
|Pearl millet||31.56||1951-52||Bhimginda Dada Patil, Kolhapur, Maharashtra.|
|Gram||17.19||1951-52||Walaiti Ram, Ludhiana, Punjab|
|Potato||242.37||1953-54||K Byatrangapa, Bangalore,Karnataka|
|Wheat||24.00||1953-54||Ramkrishna Singh, Bulandsahar, UP|
|Wheat||26.90||1954-55||SS Rishabh Kumar, Sagar, MP|
|Sorghum||33.05||1954-55||Venkatrao Bhaga Patil, Khandesh, Maharashtra|
|Paddy||38.14||1954-55||Narayan Lal, Bhandara, Maharashtra|
It is pertinent to note that these farmers repeated their performance at least over two years. Only winners of state level awards after 4 levels of competition, compete for national award next year. Practices of these farmers are similar to those of self-reliant organic farmers: mixed farming, changes in crop cycle, use of compost, green manuring, use of crop residue etc. Source: PIB 1955. Courtesy: Soumik Banerjee, Conservation Researcher, Jharkhand |
Road Ahead: From the very beginning KKA was clear that on its own, it cannot lead to mainstreaming of organic farming in Haryana, leave alone India. Its goal was to check the viability of organic farming for intensive agro-chemical use areas like Haryana and create local examples (and not just refer to what had been achieved in other states or countries or for other crops) so that the local community, particularly farming community itself is convinced of the alternatives and pressurises the government to promote organic farming. Without community itself demanding organic farming, advocacy by few enlightened ones may not be adequate to get institutional support from the government and without government support, mainstreaming of organic farming is not possible; it will remain niche activity catering to niche market.
Institutional support is required because organic farming does not just imply stoppage of agro-chemicals and its replacement by farm-yard manure. It requires many other changes in farming methods and for that farmer needs extensive training and initial hand holding. There is a period of trial and error before locally suitable practices are firmed up and this period may involve, though it is not inevitable, yield reduction which majority of small and marginal farmers may not be able to afford. New agronomic practices involving mixed cropping require new tools for sowing, weeding and harvesting, which initially, when numbers are small, are not readily available in local markets. Moreover, one shot training and motivation doesn’t often suffice for anything, so how would it suffice for such a major change as shift to organic farming. Regular follow up and review is required for which there has to be dedicated full time structure. All this does require government support.
In fact, it requires more than that; it requires change in paradigm. Mono-cropping, crop to crop comparison, have to give way to holistic longer time horizon comparisons. For such change in paradigm to emerge, it must be ensured that practicing successful organic farmers should be at the centre of official strategy for promotion of organic farming. Scientists and bureaucrats must engage with them not in a top-down fashion but as equals, which is a very difficult ask for any government functionary! However, without this, first hand sharing and learning, organic promotion strategy cannot go very far.
Now, that viability of organic farming even in terms of yield has been shown in even ‘green revolution’ areas, and that too without any external support, it is time organic farming is mainstreamed or at the least “experimentation and demonstrations on government farms on 50:50 area basis on organic farming and other forms of farming” is done as was recommended by report of the “Task force on Organic Farming” submitted in 2001(as cited in PIB 2001). Hopefully, this will also motivate farmers’ organisations to critically look at farming methods and technologies in addition to taking up marketing and institutional issues.
But the biggest challenge to organic farming is the fact that the larger social dynamics is such that farming itself, whether organic or chemical, is a fall-back option of the last resort (or post retirement option for the very rich). Even successful small organic farmer would any day prefer regular government job! But food, nutritious and healthy food, will always remain bedrock of human life itself. So, neglect of food producers will not do but how to ensure that is another ball game all together and goes beyond the issue of method of food production, organic or chemical based.
*(Author: Rajinder Chaudhary, Former Professor, Department of Economics, M D University, Rohtak and currently Advisor, Kudrati Kheti Abhiyan, Haryana.)
** (Declaration of probable conflict of interest: Author is actively involved in Kudarti Kheti Abhiyaan, the survey and public hearing that is reported herein.)
- Alvares, Claude (Ed.) 1999: The Organic Source Book, The Other India Press, Mapusa, Goa.
- Bailey, Ronald 2000: Billions Served: Norman Borlaug interviewed, available at http://www.reason.com/news/show/27665.html accessed on April 5, 2007
- Chaudhary, Rajinder (2020): “Green Revolution and the Yield Question” Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 55 no 50, 19 December 19.
- —2008: “Is Alternative Agriculture Revolutionary” Alternate Economic Survey, India 2007-2008- Decline of the Developmental State, Daanish Books, Delhi.
- Government of Haryana(nd): “Crop wise area, average yield and production of major crops in Haryana” available athttp://agriharyana.gov.in/index.php?r=site%2Fstatistics accessed on 18.05.2020
- Government of India 2020: Agricultural Statistics at a Glance 2020, Delhi, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare , Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare, Directorate of Economics and Statistics, available at https://eands.dacnet.nic.in/PDF/Agricultural%20Statistics%20at%20a%20Glance%20-%202020%20(English%20version).pdf accessed on September 1, 2021
- Gulati, Ashok (2022): “Feeding humanity, saving the planet” Indian Express, September 4, 2022 available at https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/precision-farming-needs-to-be-promoted-to-get-more-output-with-less-exploitation-of-natural-resources-8131126/
- Gupta, Arun et el (2018). Wheat Varieties Notified in India since 1965, Karnal, ICAR- Indian Institute of Wheat & Barley Research, available at https://www.aicrpwheatbarley.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/wheat-varieties-notified-in-india.pdf accessed on June 29,2019
- IIFSR (2016): “Workshop on Organic Farming: Concerns about Crop Productivity and Soil Health,” 7 January 2016, available at http://www.iifsr.res.in/npof/data/uploads/files/OF_Policy%20workshop_Proceedings.pdf accessed on 15 November 2019,
- Kumar, Richa (2019): “India’s Green Revolution and Beyond,” Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 54, No 34, 24 August.
- PIB (Press Information Bureau, GOI) 2001: “National Board for Organic Farming Mooted”, available at http://pib.nic.in/archieve/lreleng/lyr2001/rnov2001/29112001/r2911200120.html accessed on April 5, 2007
- — 1955. “Seventeen “Krishi Pandits” Since 1949” available at https://archive.pib.gov.in/archive/ArchiveFirstPhase/FOOD%20AGRICULTURE/1955/FOO-1955-12-09_4146.pdf accessed on June 29, 2019
- Scialabba, Nadia El-Hage 2007: “Organic Agriculture and Food Security” (presented in International Conference on Organic Agriculture and Food Security”, held at Rome, 3 — 5 May 2007), available at http://www.fao.org/organicag accessed December 1, 2007
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 May be the reason was that this involved individual effort while other planned interventions like MNERGA or activation of Gram Sabha involved collective effort.
 While comparing conventional farming with organic farming, this differentiation should be kept in mind. It is not justified to combine results of various forms of organic farming and compare them with the conventional farming. Each form of organic farming needs to be compared with conventional farming separately.
 Another element of strategy adopted by KKA was to not promote any specific crops or seeds; it asked farmers to shift to organic farming on part of their holding in the first instance and grow crops that they were already growing, or were being grown in their area, and use seeds that they were using anyway. Shift to desi or heirloom seeds could come later. This strategy helped separate out the effect of shift to organic from the impact of change of seed.
 KKA started in 2009, organized its first training programme in 2010 and first set of comparable yield data in significant numbers came out in 2018-19. This may give the impression that transition to high yielding organic can take so long. This would be a faulty conclusion. Learning and adoption of all organic practices took a long time. Once farmers had achieved high yield levels on part of their field, extending it to rest of the farm did not take so long and even in the first year of transition farmers have reported comparable yield. So, transition to high yielding organic is determined by institutional/social constraints and not by biological or natural constraints.
 From the table it is evident that while number of farmers getting more than average yield has increased overtime, percentage share of such farmers has come down between these two years. This can be explained due to fast expansion in number of farmers shifting to organic farming in recent year. As these farmers gain experience, proportion of farmers getting better than average yield is expected to increase.
 Comparing yield is straight forward in case of mono-cropping, and this is what is often done in comparative trials conducted by mainstream agriculture scientists. However, broader view of organic farming that KKA is promoting requires mixed cropping as far as possible. With mono-cropping under chemical farming and mixed cropping under organic farming, how does one define comparable yield? In such a case, secondary crops grown along with the main crop under organic farming are valued at prevailing market prices/MSP for produce of chemical farming without considering any premium for being organic and after arriving at this money value of secondary crops grown, it is converted to equivalent yield of main crop at prevailing market prices/MSP and added to the yield of main crop. This is the standard method of arriving at ‘equivalent yield’ which has been used by KKA too.
 Ideally, organic farming and certainly high yielding self-reliant organic farming should not involve mono-cropping. With possible exception of paddy, KKA recommends diversified and mixed cropping. Diversified and mixed cropping by its very nature, vis-à-vis mono-cropping requires continuous yearlong involvement in farming as sowing and harvesting takes place round the year. Moreover, if organic farming is to be self-reliant, then animal rearing has to be an essential component of it, which calls for daily farm involvement. Further, as it is knowledge intensive, for best results farmer himself/herself has to work on the farm and it cannot be left to hired labour alone. In fact, once, when a large group of Panjab farmers was visiting Haryana organic farms, one of the first observations that they made was that Haryana farmers work with their own hands.
 Once number of organic farmers increases and group marketing becomes possible, many more farmers will be able to devote full time to farming and so will be able to adopt all organic practices. This in turn will lead to increase their yield too.
 One exception could be development of hybrid or improved seeds which came to be developed under green revolution paradigm. But if seeds of HYVs have delivered even without the use of chemical fertilizers, as above ICAR data and KKA results show, then that clearly demonstrates that the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides etc. was unwarranted. As pointed out earlier, KKA has not experimented with high yielding traditional seeds, but there are reports of many straight varieties giving yield that is comparable to hybrid seeds. This is also evident from yield levels of ‘Krishi Pandits’ reported below.