Kerala in southern India is predominantly an agrarian society. But over a period of time, farming has become unviable, for a variety of reasons, like high input costs, dwindling farmland and climate change. In a bid to overcome all these impediments, farmers in the state?s northern Waynad district have taken to organic farming, with the use of cow urine and cow dung.
India, which witnessed one of the world?s worst food disasters in 1943, embarked on massive investment in agriculture resulting in ?Green Revolution? during the period 1967/68 to 1977/78. It changed the status of the country from a food-deficient country to one of world?s leading farming economies. But indiscriminate use of chemical to increase farm production proved to be counter- productive in the long-term and caused irreparable damage to soil health and environment.
?Zero Budget Farming? propounded by a chemical engineer in Maharashtra ? Subhash Palekar ? aimed at reverting chemical farming to natural farming, to maintain the stability of eco-system and enhance farm production. ?Zero Budget Farming? uses cow urine and cow dung as manure, which was practiced by Indian farmers not so long ago. It entails low or negligible investment for seeds, fertilizer and plant protection chemicals. The farmer can produce his own seed, or use seeds that are available with them. The philosophy behind this system is to make farmers self-reliant and free from the clutches of market forces, especially local Shylocks and multinational fertilizer manufactures. All that the farmer requires is a native breed of cattle, sufficient to take up this method of farming on thirty acres of land.
Palekar?s system of farming was adopted by farm scientists of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Waynad district in a bid to promote the principles of ?Zero Budget Farming? to suit local farming community and developed two products? named ?Cow Urine? and ?Panchagavyam?, an organic manure made of five ingredients.
?This is an economical option, without any external farm inputs. I use urine and dung of just one cow, which has all the necessary micro-organism to enrich the farm, ?said Baby Thomas, a farmer.
Cow Urine is collected and mixed with water at a proportion of 1:10 and sprayed as insecticide. Bottled Cow Urine is also being marketed by the University in an effort to popularize its use in farming.
?Mainly we are focusing these two products (cow urine and cow dung), as an input for organic sustainable agriculture and also it acts as an additional income for the dairy farmers because their main marketable output is milk,? said Joseph Mathew, a Scientist at the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University.
Over 1,500 farmers in Waynad district have adopted this ingenious practice of integrated farming ? animal rearing with farming.
?I don?t use any of the pesticides. I use only organic pest control. Cow urine is an excellent repellent. One liter of cow urine you can mix with 10 litres of water. It can be used as repellent for insects. You can keep pests with the smell of cow urine,? said C.C. Thomas, another farmer.
?Panchagavyam? is a mixture of Cow Dung, Curd, Clarified butter, Ghee and Banana. It is mixed with water and used as organic manure. Palekar?s farming method employs ?Beejamruta? for seed treatment. It is made out of cow dung and cow urine. Five kgs. Of cow dung, 5 liters of cow urine, one handful of virgin soil and 50 grams of lime are mixed in 20 litres of water to make ?Beejamruta? to treat seeds, seedlings or any planting material. It protects the crop from harmful soil borne and seed borne pathogens during the initial stages of germination and establishment.
Another ingenious product is ?Jeevamrutha? -- a mixture of 10 kgs. Of cow dung, 5-10 litres of cow urine, 2 kgs of jiggery, 2 kgs. Of flour of any pulse, handful of virgin soil mixed in 200 litres of water. This mixture is sufficient for one-time application on one acre of crop. It helps to enrich nutrients in the soil; it is not a nutrient by itself, but a catalytic agent to promote biological activity in the soil.
Palekar also suggests home-made pesticides for crops in the event of outbreak of insects and diseases. Fermented (for five days) butter milk mixed with water in the ratio of 1:10 is a good fungicide, while five liters of milk, 200 gms of black pepper powder mixed in 200 litres of water is another fungicide. Twenty kgs of neem seed or neem leaves in 200 litres of water or 5 kgs of cow dung, 10 litres of cow urine, 10 kgs of neem leaves mixed in 200 litres of water is effective against aphids, jassids, mealy bugs and white flies. These fungicides and insecticides are cost effective and can be prepared by farmers and used either as prophylactic or as curative measures to control crop pests.