The rampant use of lab-made fertilizers and pesticides is one of the most serious issues for the agriculture industry. It has led to the impoverished quality of both our farmlands and the produce. While the industry is grappling with such issues, consumers are also becoming increasingly cautious about the type of produce that reaches their plates.
The growing health awareness among buyers and the need to eliminate chemical traces from fruits and vegetables gave birth to residue-free farming. As the name suggests, it is a method of cultivation that replaces hazardous chemicals with organically obtained biocides and biofertilizers to ensure crop protection while augmenting the growth of the plants. It is a multi-dimensional approach to farming as it covers a plethora of aspects such as crop selection, land preparation, seed selection, seed sowing, irrigation, crop growth, and harvesting. It also covers post-harvest activities, like grading, packaging, and transportation to retail outlets or consumers.
Residue-free farming combines traditional practices with cutting-edge solutions to improve legacy methods. As this technique is still in its nascent stage in India, it is essential to understand the benefits it offers to both consumers and farmers. One of its most significant benefits lies in the quality of produce it ensures. In the absence of chemical fertilizers, fruits and vegetables cultivated via residue-free methods offer us the best in terms of natural yield.
For modern consumers who are increasingly conscious of the quality of their diet, this chemical-free produce is the ideal choice. It is rich in nutrients and known for its antioxidant properties. With an emphasis on biofertilizers, this agricultural practice avoids using chemicals to artificially enhance the flavor of the yield. As a result, we have fruits and vegetables rich in nutrients but without harmful traces. For instance, residue-free fruits contain natural sugars that are not enhanced artificially through the use of chemicals. This makes them healthier and short of any side effects.
Residue-free farming also addresses one of the main concerns with alternative (or natural) farming methods like organic farming. A close contender to residue farming, it has the disadvantage of a reduced yield capacity. It is still seen as a niche practice that often results in less than satisfactory yield quantity. In this scenario, residue-free farming has emerged as a game-changer as it combines quality with bumper quantity. By implementing solutions like seed selection, crop rotation, and drip irrigation, farmers can obtain large quantities of produce.
Additionally, the final crops produced have a longer shelf life too. Biofertilizers used in residue-free farming produce hormones such as auxins, cytokinins, biotins, and vitamins. These bio-secretions are crucial for plant growth and can increase productivity.
The high yield capacity is critical in India, where farming is not a subsidiary activity. Farmers cannot afford to engage in or adopt practices that require increased capital investment or complex procedures. Residue-free farming is a blend of tech-based methods that reduce wastage and increase output, which can significantly improve farm earnings. The focus on bio-fertilizers also acts as an incentive towards using farm waste more productively. Farmers can use post-harvest leftovers to produce eco-friendly manure for their next cultivation cycle. By effectively managing crop residue and using it as biofertilizers, cultivators are also eligible for government-run incentives on utilizing farm waste.
A more fundamental and long-term benefit of residue farming is how it can slowly restore the health of our farmlands. Apart from affecting the quality of produce, chemical fertilizers and pesticides are the primary reasons for rapidly deteriorating soil fertility. These substances leave the land prone to erosion and slowly devoid of natural nutrients. Residue-free primarily aims to restore soil health, rebuilding its fertility through natural solutions. Since the bio-fertilizers are free of toxins, they do not harm the soil. Instead, they supplement it with those elements that are missing.
Practices like crop rotation, which entails growing two alternating crops with different nutrient requirements, helps in improving soil health. It gives the farmland enough time to naturally replenish those nutrients required by one crop while the other is being grown on the field.
With the urgent requirement for sustainable practices for long-term survival, it would be an accurate assumption to call residue-free farming the answer to most farm-related concerns. Its all-encompassing benefits that address the farm, the farmer, and the consumer, make it a highly attractive technique. By making agriculture walk hand in hand with technology, residue-free farming leads to top-notch produce and simultaneously safeguards the environment.
Thirukumaran Nagarajan, chief executive officer, and co-founder, Ninjacart
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