Jun 27, 2010

Now, get ready to drench your crop fields with herbicides

After having destroyed soil fertility from excessive and continuous application of chemical fertilisers, agricultural scientists are now telling you to kill the remaining 'life' in your soils by drenching the crop fields with chemical herbicides. Funds from the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna are being used to promote 'zero tillage' across the country, a flawed technology that is being pushed at the behest of the pesticide companies.

This suggestion comes at a time when remote sensing data collected by NASA satellites have confirmed that the growth rate of foodgrain production in India has been stagnant in the last decade.

The other day, a news report " 'Zero tillage' method to save labour and water" (Hindustan Times, June 26, 2010) caught my eyes. This is how it began: "Now, Indian farmers can grow paddy within days of harvesting their wheat crops -- and that too without ploughing the field." The Lucknow dated news report quoted scientists at the CSA University of Agriculture and Technology in Kanpur. Following successful field trials in three blocks of Kanpur Dehat in Uttar Pradesh, the new technique has gone 'live' in three districts of central Uttar Pradesh -- Kanpur, Kanpur Dehat and Kannauj.

'Zero tillage' is now being followed in over 100,000 hectares across the country. Although scientists are trying to create an hype by saying that 'zero tillage' increase yield, in reality it provides no significant improvement in yields. In several cases, the yields have come down. Also, it provides no reduction in the cost of cultivation. With new equipments and more herbicides, the cost remains in the same bracket.

Now, before I move ahead, it is important to examine the first para of the news report. It effectively means that 'zero tillage' enables farmers to undertake sowing of paddy within days of harvesting wheat. But I wonder, why do farmers need to sow paddy within days of harvesting wheat? There is a gap of about one and a half month to two months in the harvest of wheat and the transplanting of paddy in the northern belt of the country. Wheat is harvested in the last week of March or in the first week of April, and the transplanting of paddy takes place after the onset of monsoon rains in the month of July.

Aren't scientists therefore deceiving farmers (and of course the policy makers so that they can allocate funds) in order to justify the need for this new technology?

Now read this: "Zero tillage means there is no activity on field, the moisture level present in soil is maintained. seeds of new crops germinate with the help of the ambient moisture in the soil," says Dr V P N Singh, research director of the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna at CSA University. The catch lies here: "We have selected a new weedicide known as sulpho-sulphura. It will be sprinkled on the land along with other weedicides to remove weeds completely." Which are the other weedicides? Roundup Ready of Monsanto, Isoproturon etc.

Zero tillage is also being promoted in the name of conservation agriculture [I draw your attention to my article: New language, Old crisis http://www.indiatogether.org/2009/mar/dsh-sustag.htm]

I had written that conservation agriculture is about no tillage. It is based on minimal soil disturbance, organic residue retention and crop rotations. It is believed that the shift to zero tillage or minimal tillage will not disturb the soil, and therefore help in conserving natural resources. I've always thought earthworms were nature's tillers, so it's not clear to me exactly what zero tillage would amount to, since the earthworms would go on tilling anyway, unmindful of new agricultural terminology. Bhaskar Save tells us that earthworms turn around 6 tonnes of soil in its short lifespan. Zero tillage sounds unfamiliar in the Indian context!

Zero tillage has brought about its own industry. And that is what primarily interests agricultural scientists. Among the new conservation technologies required are: Laser land levellers, which have thus far been imported, but some of whose parts are now being fabricated locally; Zero till planters, including the second generation 'Happy Seeders' and 'Turbo Seeders;' Rotatory Disc Drills used for intensive soil working; and of course a range of herbicides.

All this equipment has been suitably modified and redesigned. Among the planter prototypes, you now have the multifunctional-multicrop-ferti-seed-zero till/raised bed planters. Don't bother trying to understand its multifunctional operations; there are already 150 fabricators and entrepreneurs breathing down our necks pitching the device. Which makes me wonder why agriculture scientists never think beyond costly equipment and endless chemicals. Why do they have to rely on imported concepts of sustainability, and the technology options linked to those ideas? Why can't they look inwards, search for the wonderful low-external-input technologies that local farmers have perfected over the years?

The answer is that they are actually not working for farmers anymore. Farmers just happen to be incidental, coming in handy to promote the machines, chemicals and the hybrid/GM seeds. If only they had listened to farmers, spent more time understanding and then improving sustainable farming systems, the face of Indian agriculture would have been ever-smiling. Farmers have all the answers, and they in fact it is they who need to show us the way towards sustainable agriculture, wherein the natural resource base remains protected and preserved.

To those who think 'Zero tillage' helps in carbon sequestration, here is my response http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.com/2010/03/does-zero-tillage-help-in-carbon.html


Anonymous said...

Yes, "No till farming" are code words for industrial agriculture and Monsanto.

In the US, look at what the government plans to do to traditional farmers not using it.


Vandana said...

@ "Linn" "(USA)",
Its funny that you think no-till farming is code word for industrial agri because you should check out what Rodale institute says about it. BTW I hope you know that in the USA, Rodale Institute is considered one of the pioneers when it comes to sustainable, organic farming.

"No-till farming is great—it protects soils from erosion, builds organic matter and saves the lives of millions of earthworms every year."


"Research has shown that both organic and no-till cropping systems have the capacity to store significant amounts of carbon"


Anonymous said...

Yes, "no till" was once a term that had meaning. It was developed by Masanobu Fukuoka and organic people favor it, but these days, it is sneak attack on farmers while "sounding" green, just as the article I sent showed. I am sure the EPA is not going to teach farmers to grow crops without tilling ... and with no pesticides. "No till" means pesticides now.

The corporations are trying to take over language, now calling themselves "sustainable" and "green" and "global warming ready." The truth is the exact opposite.

In the US, the USDA has earthworms listed as an invasive species, and will surely at some point order farmers to eradicate them.
Here is "No till" and Monsanto.

The FDA has manure listed as a source of seed contamination but doesn't list chemical fertilizers or pesticides. They are taking over language, turning "food safety" into farmer destruction.


Vandana said...

So 'Linn from USA' you think its the EPA that teaches farmers how to grow and not USDA, considering its the Dept of Agriculture and all. How interesting and rather unique belief coming from an 'American'. Anyways moving along, I generally avoid using blogs as credible links during discussions. Coz you know how blogs can be used and misused. I could easily pull up ones that claim the moonlanding was faked or ones full of 9/11 conspiracy theories. Or that Obama was not born in the US. Of course you dont believe any of those right?
So you wanna discredit the Rodale institute now since it recommends no till? Maybe its in cahoots with the Big Agra? Or are you discrediting the organic industry farming practices as well since many recommend no till? Hmm... what do you think Linn from USA?
Also I enjoyed reading your take on USDAs 'war on earthworms', Lynn from USA. That was quite a stretch but fun nevertheless. Anyways I’ll leave you with what Wiki says on invasive earthworms and why they are a cause for concern. I apologize its not a blog source.
I could pull up peer reviewed papers too but I have a feeling you don’t care much for those since they are all from agri scientists who are in bed with big Agra. Right ‘Lynn from USA’?

PS- You fit right in with the beliefs expressed in this blog. Enjoy your stay.