Organic Farming – Salubrious for Pakistan?

Agriculture is not limited to art, and if you are a preacher of such thoughts let me tell you this that you are simply belong to wrong school of thoughts. It is a versatile field where you have both, art as well as science and come up with innovative experiments at every instant. These experiments may not necessary be successful every time, you may achieve the target or your  mays end up with empty hands. Agriculture researchers has experienced many ups and downs in past. Thus it has become a need of time to make plans to wrestle these problems. In nineteen century when agriculturist observed rapid increase of population rate and agricultural land was surely not enough to feed such a huge population then they took help from scientific research and development, thus scientific era of agriculture started.

Scientific era brought in pesticides, chemical fertilizers and modern machinery with itself. This led to higher profits with less input cost of raw materials. For a farmer this was the ideal system of farming and it helped them to take up a better standard of living but then eventually environmentalist revealed hazardous reactions of these chemicals to environment and how it actually effects soil and water adversely. Business minded farmers did not take this argument seriously as the main problem was Profit as they think if we go back to organic practices it will surely affect the yield and they won’t get the desired profit. With this the question of feeding billions of people arises as hunger is still present even when we are doing chemical farming. And from here the debate started that Can organic farming feed the gigantic Population?

This is the interesting debate and I want to talk about these arguments in the agricultural scenario of Pakistan. Pakistani farmers finally broke the ice and started organic farming but on small scale and they mostly employing on olericulture but what about staple foods? According to latest research organic farming can yield 20 to 25% less as compared to conventional farming. Researchers stated that the yields were dramatically lower for these commodities in America, as per follow:

  • 40 percent lower for winter wheat
  • 29 percent lower for corn
  • 34 percent lower for soy
  • 53 percent lower for spring wheat
  • 41 percent lower for rice
  • 58 percent lower for sorghum
  • and 64 percent lower for millet.

Canola was the only row-crop with greater yields through organic farming. Moreover, the organic options yielded:

  • 28 percent lower for potatoes
  • 21 percent lower for sweet corn
  • 38 percent lower for onions
  • 19 percent lower for snap beans
  • and 52 percent lower for bell peppers.

Perhaps most distressingly, some of the healthiest foods on the planet yielded comparatively poorly under organic production: 42 percent lower for blueberries, 23 percent lower for broccoli, and almost 40 percent lower for tomatoes.

Apparently the demographics proved that switching to organic farming is not a wise choice for staple food on large scales. And obviously this research was done with perfect organic practices and standard was maintained to grow food in organic conditions but what about Pakistan? In conventional farming we are not following the right practices and thus getting lower yield as compared to different countries of the world so we can imagine the outcome we will get with organic farming. In Pakistan poverty and depletion has broken all the previous records and if we assume only 10% less yield through organic farming, you may imagine the disastrous outcome in Pakistan due to the shortage of already inadequate food production and high food prices (we cannot exclude the hoarder factor as well). We also have come across the negative remarks about chemical farming and how it leads to death, then we should remember that shortage of food not only leads to death but it creates many social problems and crime rate increases automatically. So it is not only the problem of Hunger but the problem of the entire system of the society.

And one more interesting argument in favor of organic farming is that it can feed the world as the world currently produces the equivalent of 2786 calories per person per day. The researchers found that under an organic-only regime, farms could produce between 2641 and 4381 calories per person per day. This is right that organic farming gives you more nutritious food with better taste but does it really matters for the people of Pakistan certainly NO!

Personally I am not against Organic Farming but as facts and figures show it will create yield issues then I think the repercussion will be bad but we should appreciate organic farming for small scale farms as marginal farmers can manage the organic field better and they can get good returns from organic way of farming.

According to me we should go for Integrated Farming System where we can practice both organic and conventional farming. As Prof. Foley said “By combining organic and conventional practices in a way that maximizes food production and social good while minimizing adverse environmental impact, we can create a truly sustainable food system.”

As experiments are the part of any new development we should continue experimenting on the system of Organic Farming from where we can get better yield so then it can compete and become the perfect alternate for conventional farming!