Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on use of on-farm inputs, minimal use of off-farm inputs and management practices that restore maintain and enhance soil health and ecological harmony. Organic is a labeling term which indicates products produced under the requirements of the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) Standards of India which is considered equivalent to Europe’s Council Regulation (EC) No. 834/2007 and Swiss Organic Farming Ordinance for plant products originating from India. That means, the crop produced according to NPOP can be marketed as ‘Organic’ in India and Europe including Switzerland. The crop produced according to National Organic Program (NOP) Standards can be exported to USA. Similarly, there are separate organic standards preferred by importers of different countries. Even though, certification is done according to requirements of various countries, the NPOP India Organic Certification is the basic standards to be followed for export from India. Without this “India Organic” Logo, organic products cannot be exported out of India. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people. The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems. In organic agriculture practices, methods are used to minimize pollution of the air, soil and water and contamination from chemicals, heavy metals and GM crops. Organic food handlers, processors and retailers adhere to standards that maintain the integrity of organic agriculture products.

  • Loss of top soil due to erosion during floods and heavy wind should be avoided by raising cover crops, field bunds and tall trees as wind breakers.
  • Conservation of rainwater should be practiced by proper ploughing practices, contour bunds, construction of percolation ponds and by optimum use of water.
  • Soil should be considered as a living entity and efforts should be made to maintain its fertility
  • Diversity of many varieties and species should be maintained in the farm.
  • Proper habitat management is essential for the sustenance of various life forms.
  • In the farms and villages, efforts should be made to recycle biomass into nutrients for improving soil fertility.
  • Use of leguminous crops should be a regular practice to enrich the soil.
  • Plant protection practices should be based on preventive methods and crop diversity.
  • Varieties and breeds selected for farming and animal Husbandry should be suitable to the local area and climate and should tolerate the biotic and a-biotic stresses of that area.
  • Only approved inputs should be used. Non-renewable energy usage should be minimized.
  • Chemical origin fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, growth promoters and antibiotics etc should not be used.
  • Genetically Modified (GM) crops and products are prohibited.
  • Contamination of air, water and soil should be prevented. Buffer area should be maintained around organic fields, production and storage area to avoid contamination.
  • A record of all organic farm activities practiced in the farm should be maintained for traceability audit.

The nutrients ratio has been given in the bracket. These inputs are also useful in building soil structure and improving microbial activity of the soil.

On-Farm Inputs

  • Vermicompost (NPK 1:1:1)li>
  • Farm Yard Manure (NPK 0.5,0.5,0.5)
  • Composts (NPK 1:0.5:1)
  • De-oiled castor cake (NPK 4:1:1.5)
  • De-oiled neem cake (NPK 2.5:0.5:1.0)
  • Concentrated manures (made of poultry manure +oilcakes +rock phosphate)
  • Jivamrutha (dung-urine based liquid manure)
  • Panchagavya (or Dashagavya)
  • Cow urine
  • Vermi-wash
  • Vegetable derived crude amino acid extracts
  • Biodynamic composts and Cow pat pit
  • Biodynamic preparations (BD 500 to BD 507)
  • Biogas slurry.
  • Raw farm resource
  • Crop residue and straw
  • Weed biomass
  • Cattle shed bedding material
  • Lopping of N-fixing trees and other trees grown on bunds

Off-Farm Inputs

  • Bio-fertilizers
  • EM solution
  • Microbial consortia or Bio-mix
  • Enriched manures (with oil cakes and bone meal etc)
  • Phosphate rich organic manure (PROM)
  • Fish meal, blood meal, feather meal etc
  • Gluconate based chelated macro or micronutrients (for B, Ca + Mg, Zn, P & K)
  • Vegetable derived amino acids and seaweed extract based products
  • Botanical growth promoters and bio-stimulants in the form of granules for soil application and powder or liquid as foliar spray.
  • Homeopathic preparations

Note for farmers who are under organic certification:

Before using off-farm inputs, check whether these items have been included in the farm management plan provided to certification agency. Approved products should be applied.

Basically nutrient management is based on intercropping with legumes, mixed cropping, application of biomass, sowing green manure crops and other natural soil fertility management practices. To meet the additional requirement of nutrients, the approved organic inputs may be applied by calculating the requirement as per the following guidelines:

  • Use- efficiency of the applied organic nutrients is higher than chemical fertilizers. Only 65-70% of nutrients recommended for conventional crops will be sufficient for organic crops.
  • In the first 2 years, when the field is under conversion to organic, the requirement can be 100-120% of conventional nutrient requirements. After two years, when there is adequate build up of soil organic matter, this can be reduced to 80-85% and after 5-7 years, 65-70% for heavy feeder crops, 50-60% for average feeder crops and 30-50% for legume crops.
  • Soil should be considered as a living entity and efforts should be made to maintain its fertility
  • All organic fertilizers contain NPK in the ratio of 4:1:1.5 to 2.5:1:1.5; only N is taken into consideration for all nutrient calculation.
  • In cases where there is proven deficiency through soil test reports, deficient nutrient can be integrated. Micronutrient deficiencies are usually overcome within 3-4 years. Additional P and K can be managed through rock phosphate and mineral grade sulphate of potash.
  • Generally, Boron, Zinc and Iron are deficient in Indian soils. These micronutrients should be added through composting or mixed with compost before application.
  • Against Sulphur deficiency, mineral grade gypsum can be used in the initial 2-3 years.
  • For example, for a particular crop, if the recommended dose of nutrients is 120 kg N, 60 kg P2O5 and 40 kg K2O under conventional approach, then under organic management, we need to provide organic nutrient sources which can ensure availability of about 90-100 kg N in poor soil organic carbon conditions and 65-70 kg N in organic carbon-rich soils.
  • While using organic fertilizers, calculate the ready availability of N from these sources within crop period. (The balance quantity of nutrient will be carried forward to next crop)
  • Depending upon the crop, nutrients need to be provided in single basal dose or in multiple doses at different stages of growth. 2/3rd quantity of total nutrients in terms of manures and organic fertilizers is generally applied as basal dose at the time of sowing/ planting. Balance 1/3rd quantity is to be applied as top dressing.
  • To keep the biological activity of the soil at high level and to ensure quick degradation of applied biomass, liquid manures such as Jivamrutha can be applied.
  • All out efforts must be made to meet the nutrient requirements from on-farm inputs. Only in case of non-availability, off-farm inputs should be used as supplementary source.
  • Developing an organic management plan purely on off-farm inputs is not advisable as it will be neither environment friendly nor sustainable.
  • Combination of multiple inputs should be preferred over single or two inputs.

There is no fixed formula for exact calculation of nutrients in organic farming. On-farm inputs vary in quality and composition in different farms depending upon the source and duration of preparation period. For general guidance, some combinations of different inputs are given below:

Option 1

(Target 100-120 kg Nitrogen equivalent, poor soil/ under conversion to organic)

A. Basal application (quantity per ha)

AFarm Yard Manure 6.0 ton
BVermicompost 5.0 ton
CConcentrated manure 1.0 ton
DDe-oiled neem cake 0.5 ton
EBio-fertilizers, PSB & KMB (Azotobacter, Azospirillum) 5.0 kg
FBiomass as mulching (dry wt) 5.0 ton
GJeevamrit 500 lit (at sowing)

Subsequent soil application

AJeevamrit 500 lit after 15-20 days with irrigation
BConcentrated manure Or Cattle urine 500 kg (only in tuber crops) 200 lit with irrigation (2-4 application)
CFarm made protein hydrolysate 500 lit after 15, 25 and 35 days of sowing
DDe-oiled neem cake 0.5 ton

Foliar spray

APanchgavya / vermiwash / Cow urine 3% solution (3-5 spray at 5-7 days interval)
BProtein hydrolysates / seaweed extracts 3-4 sprays

Option 2

(Target 80-85 kg Nitrogen equivalent, medium soil/ under conversion to organic)

A. Basal application (quantity per ha)

AFarm Yard Manure 5.0 ton
BVermicompost 5.0 ton
CConcentrated manure 0.75 ton
DDe-oiled neem cake 0.4 ton
EBio-fertilizers, PSB & KMB (Azotobacter, Azospirillum) 5.0 kg
FBiomass as mulching (dry wt) 5.0 ton
GJeevamrit 500 lit (at sowing)

Subsequent soil application

AJeevamrit 500 lit after 15-20 days with irrigation
CFarm made protein hydrolysate 500 lit after 15, 25 and 35 days of sowing
DConcentrated manure Or Cattle urine 500 kg (only in tuber crops) 200 lit with irrigation (2-4 application)

Foliar spray

APanchgavya / vermiwash / Cow urine 3% solution (3-5 spray at 5-7 days interval)
BProtein hydrolysates / seaweed extracts 3-4 sprays

Grow healthy plants. Use good quality disease free seeds/planting materials. Select varieties which are resistant to locally prevailing pests and diseases and adaptable to local agro-climate conditions. Crop diversity has to be practiced. Trap crops and decoy crops are to be sown within and in the periphery of the fields to trap and destroy pests in various stages.

Table 1. Nematodes and their decoy crops

CropNematode Decoy crop
BrinjalMeloidogyne incognita M. javanica Tagetes patula (French Marrigold)Sesamum orientale (Gingelly variety)
TomatoM. incognita Tagetes patula
Castor beanPratylenchus alleri Chrysanthemum
Meloidogyne sp.Tagetes patula 0.4 ton

Healthy soil and proper tillage: A biologically active soil with good drainage supports vigorous crop growth. Field experiences have shown that plants fertilized by slow release organic nutrient sources such as compost and organic fertilizers are more resistant to insects and diseases. Tillage practices at appropriate times will disrupt insect pest life-cycle and reduce damage.

Seeding Time:Planting need to be scheduled in such a way that most susceptible time of plant growth does not correspond to the peak of pest cycles

Strengthening Natural and Biological Control: Use of pest predators and pathogens has proved to be an effective method of keeping pest problem below ETL. Abundant release of Trichogramma sp., Chelonus blackburni, Apanteles sp and Chrysoperla sp can effectively control pest problem in organic farming.

Table 1. Nematodes and their decoy crops

Insect population reach pest status if the preventive steps are not taken in time, In such situations farmers can take up spraying of botanical extracts and natural preparations as mentioned below:

  • Bio-fertilizers
  • Water-based or Solvent Extracts - Neem seed kernal extract is prepared by suspending crushed neem seed kernal in water. For extracting “Allenin” from garlic, kerosene is used as a solvent. After extraction this solution is mixed with chilli extract and used against sucking pests
  • Decoctions - For example, plants like Nux Vomica can be boiled in water to get the decoction.
  • Concoctions - Concoctions are mixtures. For example, five leaves mixture which is an aqueous extract of any five latex producing leaves is used to control pests in Tamil Nadu and other parts of south India. Dashparni extract widely being used in Maharashtra is another such example.
  • Fermented Products - Products made by fermenting different botanicals with or without animal dung and urine. These products have rich microbial cultures which help in providing plant nutrients in addition to acting as pest repellents and pest control sprays. For example fermented butter milk and cow dung-urine-asafoetida solution are widely used such solutions.

Use of off-farm crop protection inputs

Organic farming practices generally encourage the use of on-farm inputs. In cases where pest incidence is high, and preventive methods fail to deliver the results and farmer is at the brink of losing the crops then use of off-farm inputs can be used as preventive or curative step. A list of popularly available off-farm plant protection inputs have been given below.

Some of the inputs (especially the permitted chemicals) are allowed as ‘restricted’ in limited quantities; therefore the certifier’s approval should be obtained before using such inputs.

Microbial Biopesticides

  • Trichoderma harzianum
  • Trichoderma viride
  • Pseudomonas fluorescens
  • Bacillus subtilis
  • Bacillus thuringiensis
  • Metarhizium anisopliae
  • Verticillium lecanii
  • eauveria bassiana
  • Nuclear Polyhedrosis Visus (NPV) and Granulosis Visrus (GV)
  • EM-5 (Termin)

Botanical extracts

  • Neem oil and Azadirachtin based formulation
  • Karanj Oil and Karanjin based formulations
  • Pyrethrin based extracts
  • Sea weeds, sea weed meal, sea weed extracts, sea salt and salty water

Biodynamic preparation

  • BD 501
  • BD 504 and
  • BD-508

Permitted chemical alternatives

  • Sea salt and salty water
  • Elemental sulphur, lime sulphur
  • Copper salts/inorganic salts (Bordeaux mixture, copper hydroxide, copper oxychloride (used as a fungicide, maximum 8 kg per ha per year).
  • Chlorides of lime and soda
  • Light mineral oils
  • Permanganate of potash
  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Soft soap
  • Ethyl alcohol,
  • Natural acids (Vinegar)
  • Homeopathic and Ayurvedic preparations