Agri varsity takes the lead

Ravinder Sood 

Chaudhary Sarwan Kumar Himachal Pradesh Agriculture University (CSKHPAU) has taken the lead among all agricultural universities of the country by initiating research on natural farming. 

The foundation stone of a model centre of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) was laid a year ago by the Governor-cum-Chancellor in the presence of the CM. The purpose was establishment of Gurukul (Kurukshetra) model of zero budget natural farming to develop packages and practices, dissemination of ZBNF technology to stakeholders and human resource development besides capacity building in ZBNF. 

Prof Ashok Kumar Sarial, the Vice-Chancellor, said: “The university was guided by the Chancellor, who is an exponent of natural farming system and got full support from the government in initiating work on this altogether new farming system with the initial grant of Rs 300 lakh. In the very first year, the university has been able to rear a dozen desi cows and has procure half-a-dozen other desi local cattle of the state. Since desi cow is an essential component of natural farming, the university is also in the process of procuring additional five cows of Sahiwal, Gir or Redsindhi breeds —known indigenous breeds.” 

He said research work has also been initiated at all eight Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) of the university and KVKs Una and Kullu have especially been assigned the work on it. Around 20 per cent of experiment farm under KVKs have been brought under natural farming and regular exposure visits were conducted for farmers. Thirteen Ph.D students are pursuing research on natural farming, while a majority of post-graduate students’ research synopsis have been finalised for investigation fully or partly on natural farming. Accordingly, postgraduate research has been directed as per the need of the state transforming it into natural and organic farming.” He expressed hope that the university would be able to develop a replicable model of ZBNF and demonstrate eco-friendly profitable production technologies under natural farming. The main purpose is economic uplift of small and marginal farmers through adoption of this eco-friendly model of farming as it is the mantra for safe and nutritional food and essential for health security. He said efforts would be made for large-scale adoption of natural farming in the state with active collaboration of the Department of Agriculture, which has trained thousands of farmers covering all 3,226 panchayats last year. 

Prof Sarial said the university has submitted and was likely to be sanctioned another research project worth Rs 420 lakh soon for evaluation, refinement and dissemination of technologies of ZBNF in HP. The objectives were development of package of practices of ZBNF for wheat, maize, rice, gram, lentil, sugarcane, finger millet and foxtail millet and dissemination of technologies for livelihood security of farm household of HP. 

The conservation and multiplication of promising landraces of local germplasm of indicator crops of the state under ZBNF would be done under this project. Comparative study would be conducted on qualitative and quantitative population of total and beneficial micro flora in dung and urine of cow and yak and their comparative difference in pahari, high-yielding indigenous and cross-bred cows. A study will also be carried out on the effect of ZBNF practices on soil health indicators and soil water dynamics, crop water use and water productivity over a period of time. 

What’s in store 

The ZBNF responsive varieties will be available, well-tailored for the need of farmers. Natural farming will help in the improvement in water availability and soil health status leading to the sustained crop productivity and the university will be able to develop effective ZBNF plant disease and insect-pest management technologies for farmers. As this farming system will be able to make available chemical-free quality produce to consumers, it will assist in socio-economic uplift of small and marginal farmers and the university will make serious efforts for the capacity building of farmers in natural farming, said VC Prof Ashok Kumar Sarial.