Dharamshala CSK Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University, Palampur has taken a lead among all farm universities in the country by initiating research on natural farming. The foundation stone of a model centre of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) was laid one year back by the Himachal Pradesh Governor-cumChancellor of HPAU in the presence of Chief Minister. Purpose was establishment of Gurukul (Kurukshetra) model of “Zero Budget Natural Farming” with the objectives to develop packages and practices, dissemination of ZBNF technology to the stakeholders and human resource development besides capacity building in the field of ZBNF. Vice-Chancellor Prof Ashok Kumar Sarial said that Chancellor, an exponent of natural farming system, guided from time to time and HPAU got full support from the state government in initiating work on this altogether new farming system with the initial grant of Rs.300 lakh. In first year, the university has been able to rear a dozen Desi cows and also procured half a dozen such other Desi local cattle of the state. Since Desi cow is most essential component of natural farming, HPAU is also in the process to procure additional five cows of Sahiwal, Gir or Red Sindhi breeds, the known indigenous cow breeds of the country. Prof Sarial that 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 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 the farmers. Thirteen Ph.D students are pursuing their research work on natural farming while a majority of Master students’ research synopsis have been finalised for investigation fully or partly on natural farming. Accordingly postgraduate research has been directed as per need of the State transforming it into natural and organic farming. The university will be able to develop a replicable model of ZBNF and will be able to demonstrate ecofriendly profitable production technologies under natural farming, he hoped. Main purpose is economic upliftment of the small and marginal farmers through adoption of this eco-friendly model of farming as it is mantra for safe and nutritional food and essential for health security. He told that all out efforts will be made for large scale adoption of natural farming in the State with active collaboration of the State Department of Agriculture which has trained thousands of farmers covering all 3226 panchayats during the last year.
Prof Sarial informed that the university has submitted and was likely to be sanctioned soon another research project worth Rs. 420 lakh for “Evaluation, refinement and dissemination of technologies of Zero Budget Natural Farming (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 the farm households of HP Conservation and multiplication of promising landraces of local germplasm of indicator crops of the State under ZBNF will be done under this project. Comparative study will 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. 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. Vice-Chancellor said that under the new project, standardization of insect pest and disease management practices and development of management schedule for indicator crops will be achieved besides doing comparative economic evaluation and cost of production of different enterprises under existing and ZBNF systems. He told that the University will also evaluate and make available superior indigenous cattle germplasm for demonstration and promoting suitable indigenous cattle breeds as an alternate to exotic dairy breeds and identification of unique biomolecules of commercial and therapeutic interest in products like milk, colostrum, milk constituents and by-products. There will be availability of ZBNF responsive varieties well-tailored to need of farmers. He said that 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 the farmers. As this farming system will be able to make available chemical free quality produce to the consumers, it will also assist in socio-economic upliftment of small and marginal farmers of the State and the University will make serious efforts for the capacity building of farmers in natural farming.
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