Organic Farming – Salubrious for Pakistan?

By; Haroon Hemani

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!

By; Haroon Hemani
Student of B.Sc (Hons) Agriculture and Agri. Business Management
University of Karachi

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