Natural farming a win-win scenario for farmers, environment: Study

A new study by The/Nudge Institute has found that growers have benefitted from natural farming with over 58 per cent of them reporting higher net income, while experiencing a significant decline in the cost of cultivation. It benefits the environment too.

The field research report titled ‘Impact of natural farming on farmer income and environment’ surveyed 215 natural farming practitioners and 189 conventional farming practitioners across five partners in seven districts of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. The field research was conducted in crops such as groundnut, wheat, gram and chilli to assess the impact of natural farming on yield, net income, and total cost of cultivation.

Natural farming emphasises minimal human intervention, using natural inputs and processes to maintain soil fertility and control pests, while avoiding synthetic chemicals, tilling, and excessive weeding. This approach aims to create a self-sustaining farming ecosystem.

Inputs are the primary differentiator between natural farming and other cultivation practices. All the inputs for natural farming can be prepared on the farmland by the farmer using raw materials freely available on his farmland and from livestock. Major raw materials used in natural farming are cow dung, cow urine, jaggery, lime, etc.

Soil health

The field research found that nearly half (48 per cent) of natural farming practitioners saw a decrease in irrigation requirements. Around 95 per cent of farmers reported a significant increase in earthworms within their fields. Earthworms play a vital role in soil health.

Around 64 per cent natural farming practitioners witnessed increased softness and looseness of soil, 16 per cent cited an increase in water retention in their soil and 12 per cent saw increase in microbial activities in the soil.

While 93 per cent farmers who took up natural farming cited a decrease in weeds and pest attacks, 73 per cent of farmers reported reduced usage of pesticide for the crops.

More than half (58 per cent) of the natural farming practitioners reported higher net income when compared to conventional farming practitioners, using similar seed varieties.

Cost of cultivation

There was a substantial decrease in the cost of cultivation in natural farming. The research found that 83 per cent of farmers had a lower total cost of cultivation with natural farming compared to the average total cost with traditional conventional farming, using similar seed varieties.

Around 49 per cent of farmers saw a higher yield with natural farming compared to the average yield of conventional farming, using similar seed varieties.

According to the report, 50 per cent of the farmers reported a decrease in yield in the first year of transition to natural farming, and about 80 per cent of the farmers eventually achieved yields received during conventional farming years within three years of transition.

Why natural farming?

The report said that cost reduction is the primary driver for farmers to adopt natural farming practices. Around 56 per cent of practitioners adopted natural farming to reduce their cost of cultivation and over 60 per cent of practitioners grow produce from natural farming primarily for self-consumption.

Around 80 per cent of natural farming and conventional farming practitioners cited issues such as lack of knowledge about the package of practices of natural farming; effort and time required for preparing inputs for it; and need for training and handholding as the major issues before them.

The research found that more than 65 per cent of conventional farming practitioners will adopt natural farming practices if inputs are readily available and if market offers premium pricing.


To facilitate broader adoption, the report recommended educating farmers on practices such as intercropping and orchards to offset initial yield losses. It also advocated the establishment of bio-input resource centres to simplify the adoption process and ensure availability of natural farming inputs.

Lack of curative pesticides in natural farming is a major concern for fruits and vegetable farmers. In this matter, bio-input resource centers can supply the appropriate preventative natural farming pesticide sprays and farmers need to apply them diligently at the recommended frequency to protect their crops against pest attacks, it said.

The report noted that the current prevalence of premium pricing for organic produce has led farmers to expect the same as a rule. Promotion of safe food consumption requires such produce to follow standard pricing in order to be favoured by the end customers, it said, adding promotion of farmer producer organisations and intercropping practices can help farmers to compensate for yield loss and reap best prices for their produce.