What is Zero Budget Natural Farming? Principles, Components and Government Support

Updated on 30th April, 2024, By Neesha Rathod
What is Zero Budget Natural Farming? Principles, Components and Government Support
Traditional farming practices have long relied on chemical and high external inputs. They result in environmental degradation, reduced soil fertility and increased financial burdens for farmers. Zero Budget Natural Farming is a sustainable farming approach that is gaining significant attention among Indian farmers. It promotes chemical-free farming to ensure the well-being of both farmers and the environment.

Table of Contents

What is Zero Budget Natural Farming?

Zero Budget Natural Farming, or ZBNF, is a farming method that involves raising crops without the application of external inputs like pesticides and fertilisers. Farmers prefer natural materials like green manure and cow dung that can easily sourced locally. In simple terms, ZBNF means cultivating crops while considering their impact on nature. It ensures chemical-free produce that not only allows low production costs but also promotes sustainable agriculture in India.

Subhash Palekar is referred to as the father of Zero Budget Natural Farming. He encouraged ZBNF practices in the 1990s in Karnataka. The goal was to overcome the ill effects of intensive irrigation and the practices of using chemicals under the intensive farming practices.

Need for Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)

A majority of the families of Indian farmers see higher expenses and lesser income as a significant issue. Also, inputs like pesticides and fertilisers are not cheap and thus farmers end up spending more money. The Indian government promotes the ZBNF method to increase the income of farmers. Also, farmers need to rely less on chemical inputs to improve farm returns.

The ZBNF model plays a significant role in reducing farm expenses. Farmers do not have to arrange more money to buy external inputs and grow healthy crops. They can easily use natural fertilisers that they can prepare on their own.

Principles of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)

The main principles of Zero Budget Natural Farming are mentioned below:

  • Eliminate the use of external inputs.
  • Mixed cropping.
  • Water & moisture conservation.
  • Get key inputs like cow urine and dung from livestock.
  • Planting trees on farms.
  • Using cover crops for the purposes of biomass incorporation and biomass mulching.
  • Improving soil health with microbial inoculants.
  • Using local varieties of seeds.
  • Microbial or biological seed treatment.

Four Pillars of Zero Budget Natural Farming

1. Bijamrita

Native cow breeds provide their valuable dung and urine. Bijamrita uses these resources to prepare a formulation for treating seeds. It aims to ensure the seeds do not have any disease. Native breeds are chosen as they can quickly adapt to local climatic conditions. Small-scale farmers can also maintain them easily.

In addition to seed treatment, Bijamrita is helpful in driving away insects and pests using green chillies, neem leaves and pulp. The main benefit of Bijamrita is that it prevents diseases in seeds to ensure proper germination and healthy crop growth.

2. Jiwamrita/Jeevamrutha

Jiwamrita is a mix of cow urine and cow dung. The key ingredients of this fermented microbial culture are cow urine, dung, pulse flour, jaggery and clean soil. Cow dung is rich in nutrients that can not only enhance but also revive soil fertility.

Even a single gram of dung can have crores of useful micro-organisms. They help decompose the soil biomass to quickly make valuable nutrients available for crops. The soil experiences microbial activity that ensures the plants receive nutrients appropriately. In addition, crops get protection against pathogens present in the soil.

3. Acchadana – Mulching

The goal of Acchadana is to conserve soil moisture. Different types of mulches, like cover crops or organic waste, cover the topsoil. The decomposition of mulches produces humus that ensures topsoil conservation. The main benefits of Acchadana include reduced evaporation loss and improved water retention in soil. Also, it prevents the growth of weeds and improves the nutrient level of the soil.

4. Waaphasa (Soil Aeration)

As per Palekar, water vapour is enough for roots and thus overdependence on irrigation needs to be reduced. Waaphasa means soil must have suitable amount of air and water. Healthy crop growth is only possible when the soil has good aeration as it allows roots to easily access nutrients and water. ZBNF encourages farmers to reduce irrigation. Irrigation is recommended in alternate furrows during noon.

Government Initiatives for Zero Budget Natural Farming

Several central government schemes promote organic farming, including Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY). In 2020-21, PKVY introduced a sub-scheme by the name of Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Padhati (BPKP) to encourage traditional indigenous practices. This scheme aims to reduce input costs with practices like natural farming. BPKP offers financial assistance to farmers for 3 years in the form of ₹12,200 per hectare.

The Andhra Pradesh government started promoting the ZBNF method for farmers in 2018. By 2024, the goal is to make Andhra Pradesh the first state that practices 100% natural farming. Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance Minister of India, in her 2019 budget speech, put the zero budget farming method into the limelight by ensuring its promotion nationwide. The aim is "going back to basics" to double the income of farmers.

In 2020-21, the Rajasthan government came up with the ‘Zero Budget Natual Farming’ scheme for the promotion of natural farming. Farmers with 1 acre of land (minimum) are eligible for this scheme. They get subsidies for the purchase of farming equipment and training. Similarly, the Himachal Pradesh government also encourages the adoption of ZBNF practices through the Prakritik Kheti Khushal Kisan Yojana.

Zero Budget farming offers a range of benefits that contribute to ecological balance, farmer profitability and food security. Also, it is the correct approach to ensure chemical-free farming. There is a need for the large-scale adoption of this farming method through more initiatives by state governments.

Frequently Asked Questions on What is Zero Budget Natural Farming? Principles, Components and Government Support

1. What is Zero Budget Natural Farming?

Zero Budget natural farming means growing crops without the application of external inputs like pesticides and fertilisers.

Subash Palekar, an Indian agriculturist, introduced Zero Budget Natural Farming.

Organic farming involves using organic manures and fertilisers like vermicompost and compost. However, ZBNF does not use vermicompost or any other organic or chemical fertiliser. Also, organic farming can be more expensive than ZBNF as it demands organic manures in bulk.

Zero Budget Natural Farming can be done by adopting its four pillars, which are Bijamrita, Jiwamrita, Acchadana and Waaphasa.

Jiwamrita is used to treat the land. It is a mix of ingredients like cow urine, dung, pulse flour, jaggery and clean soil. Jiwamrita enhances and revives soil fertility.

Neesha Rathod
Published By
Neesha Rathod
Neesha holds a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and a postgraduate degree in Rural Management. With over 10 years of experience in agriculture and the rural sector, she is a quick problem solver. She is inquisitive and has a deep analytics insight into any issues related to agriculture. She loves to travel and explore new places.
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