Dr Y S Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni in Himachal Pradesh's Solan district is set to become the first "scientific resource centre of natural farming" for all the mountain states in the country and across the world, the varsity's newly appointed vice chancellor Rajeshwar Singh Chandel has said.
The university will create a focused pilot project on natural farming by establishing demonstration farms in eight panchayats surrounding the campus, following the principles of "learning is doing and seeing is believing", said Chandel who is also the executive director of Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Kisan Yojana (PK3Y) of Himachal Pradesh.
"We will develop a model on four principles of natural farming initiated by Padma Shri awardee Subhash Palekar and build a natural ecosystem model in these panchayats in the vicinity. This will generate scientific data and make it easier for the students and outsiders visiting the university to see and learn from it,” he said.
Chandel said, "The production system in this non-chemical, low-cost and climate-resilient natural farming is already established. We have to establish the scientific data now. Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry will be the first university to justify the success of natural farming in the country on a scientific basis in the next three years."
Hailing from Ghumarwin in Bilaspur district, 54-year-old Chandel is a noted entomologist with over 25 years of experience in education and research. He has played a significant role in the success of natural farming in Himachal Pradesh in the last four years.
He is now actively engaged in policy making with NITI Aayog to start natural farming at the national level.
Chandel said the green revolution in the last century may have been a need of those times for increasing produce. However, bio-diversity has emerged as a big challenge over decades. Pests and diseases have increased with over-use of chemicals in agriculture, the traditional crops are vanishing and it is a matter of concern that area under millets has reduced drastically.
"Over time, the cultivation of vegetables increased to a great extent. But all this led to richness, not prosperity. The figures of anaemia among women and stunted growth among children are a cause of concern, and throw more light on the nutritional deficiencies that have occurred with the kind of agriculture practices we have been following," he said.
Chandel said the overall cost of cultivation has increased because of expenditure on agro-chemicals including fertilisers and pesticides.
"In view of all this, there is a need for re-orientation of research objectives. Natural farming will be my priority. It cuts the dependence of farmers on the market as they can make all the natural farm inputs with the dung and urine of desi cow and locally resourced plants on the farm itself,” said Chandel.
The vice chancellor said the university has 2,800 students and his effort would be to take them out of the four walls of the varsity and have a course curriculum in a way that the students get more field exposure.
"A study by the State Project Implementing Unit (SPIU) of PK3Y has shown that natural farming has reduced cost of cultivation by 56% and increased net income by 27%. It improves soil health and the produce is nutritious," he added.
Chandel said the success rate of Himachal Pradesh model of natural farming went beyond the boundaries of state and the country, and 1.70 lakh farmers are currently practising natural farming in the hill state.