At the age of 66, he is popularly known as “Krishi Ka Rishi” among farmers in various parts of India. He has been awared with the Padmashree Award by the government – a feat he does not feel elated about, but which makes him happy because he has been able to contribute to the farming community. His innovation can be considered nothing short of groundbreaking. With the introduction of “Zero Budget Natural Farming”, Subhash Palekar has tried to change the way farming is carried out and his innovation can prove to be extremely useful in the long run.
The Quest for the Best Form of Farming
Palekar quit his Bachelor’s in Agriculture in 1972 midway and returned to his village Belora in Amaravati, Maharashtra where he had intended to help his father with farming by suggesting new fertilizers and agricultural techniques. Although the use of chemical fertilizers yielded good crops for about a decade, he soon found out that the yield of crops gradually started to decline.
Palekar was not fond of a lot of farming techniques apart from chemical farming. He was not the biggest fan of the much hyped ‘organic faming’ either. In his opinion, since organic farming involves vermicompost techniques, it pollutes the environment to a large extent and the residual matter emits large quantities of greenhouse gases like methane.
By 1985, he had already began his quest for a much sober and safer approach to farming. He carried out extensive research for several days and then it struck him. He started wondering how plants grow and prosper in forests. He went on to adopt this natural system of farming and agriculture for the fields as well. After several experiments, he came up with a new form of farming – Zero Budget Natural Farming, and as the name suggests, it does not involve huge expenses for fertilizers and pesticides and instead focuses on utilizing natural fertilizers and farming techniques to grow crops in a much healthier way.
Ushering in a New Age of Farming
His innovation dates back to the time when he was involved in a project in the Melghat forest area where it dawned on him how nature was the solution to all the problems arising out of chemical fertilizers and other artificial agricultural methods.
His concept of Zero Budget Natural Farming is based on a tried and tested formulation called “Jiwamrita” – a fermented solution containing 200 litres of water, 5 to 10 litres of cow urine, 10 Kg of cow dung, 1 Kg each of jaggery (popularly known in India as gur) and ground flour (or besan) and a handful of soil from the farm bund, for every acre of farm to be covered. Palekar suggests taking the urine and dung from indigenius cows. One more thing he suggests doing is laying a carpet of harvested crop residue evenly between crop rows as this helps absorb moisture from the atmosphere and also prevents overgrowing of weeds.
How Does Zero Budget Natural Farming Help Farmers?
With this method of farming, farmers can get up to 5 to 6 quintals of cotton and 3 to 6 quintals of soyabean per acre of land in non-irrigated sections whereas in irrigated sections the quantity can shoot up to 10 quintals. This provides a healthy cultivation method where the farmers are also happy and the environment is not hampered. Also, as the name suggests, cost is minimal, with the primary expenditure being for buying seeds and for laying the harvested residue carpet.
After being recognized by the Government of India, Palekar’s innovation has benefitted more than 40 lakh farmers from across the country. His popularity even attracts visitors to his 31-acre farm in Belora and he also receives invitations to lecture in different places inside and outside the country. Palekar also spends 25 days every month going around the country to give free training sessions to people willing to implement his technique.