Yields and organic farming

Ever since we’ve considered making agriculture our occupation, we’ve been advised by practical people that organic farming (the use of only natural manures and pest repellents) are not sufficient for “good yields”. Alarmingly, even many of the farmers’ that tell us they are growing organically, also mention that they use a “little” urea or “powder” for specific crops. That the powder is a poison (usually DDT) and that using even a little means they are not organic is something that they don’t realise.

Our own experiences however, leave us a little perplexed about why a need for even a little amount of chemical pesticide or urea is felt so strongly by farmers.

This winter, we’ve grown in two new fields that lay uncultivated for at least 5 (Taleigao) and 15 (Santacruz) years. The soil hasn’t been ideal, especially in Taleigao where sandy soils are the norm. However, while the crop has taken longer to develop than our neighbours’ fields, its been far from unproductive. The nutrition added in these fields has been largely vermicompost treated with Panchagavya, a little rock phosphate and more recently cow dung (instead of the vermicompost). The results have been great and will get better as we continue to add organic matter. With their vastly greater experience in growing here, there is no reason that our neighbours can’t achieve the same results.

The outcomes at the Pinto farm in Santacruz have been even better, and nothing short of astounding to us. This land, which has been uncultivated for ages and has benefited from many seasons of weeds growing and going back into the soil, has produced crops that are monstrous! The palak (spinach) has grown as big as an adult’s palm, lettuce plants have grown as big as footballs and carrot plants are more than knee high. We’ve used only vermicompost there and on average the plants look about 200% bigger than what grows at the Taleigao farm.

If this is achievable with vermicompost and almost no use of fertiliser, then by what logic do conventional farmers have an issue with organic yields? And if this is achievable with organic methods, by what logic is the cost (both immediate and long term) of petroleum based fertilisers considered practical?

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