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Smallholder rice farming is characterized by low returns and substantial environmental impact. Conversion to organic management and linking farmers to fair trade markets could offer an alternative. Engaging in certified cash-crop value chains could thereby provide an entry path to simultaneously reduce poverty and improve environmental sustainability. Based on comprehensive data from a representative sample of approximately 80 organic and 80 conventional farms in northern India, we compared yield and profitability of the main rotation crops over a period of five years. Contrary to the widespread belief that yields in organic farming are inevitably lower, our study shows that organic farmers achieved the same yields in cereals and pulses as conventional farmers, with considerably lower external inputs. Due to 45% lower production costs and higher sales prices, organic basmati cultivation was 105% more profitable than cultivating ordinary rice under conventional management. However, since holdings are small and the share of agricultural income of total household income is declining, conversion to organic basmati farming alone will not provide households a sufficiently attractive perspective into the future. We propose that future efforts to enhance the long-term viability of rice-based organic farming systems in this region focus on diversification involving higher value crops.
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sustainability
Article
Does Organic Farming Provide a Viable Alternative
for Smallholder Rice Farmers in India?
Frank Eyhorn 1, * , Marrit van den Berg 2, Charlotte Decock 3,4, Harro Maat 2and
Ashish Srivastava 5
1HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, Advisory Services Department, 8032 Zurich, Switzerland
2Wageningen University, Department of Social Sciences, 6706KN Wageningen, The Netherlands;
marrit.vandenberg@wur.nl (M.v.d.B.); harro.maat@wur.nl (H.M.)
3Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Department of Environmental Systems Science,
8092 Zurich, Switzerland; cdecock@calpoly.edu
4
California Polytechnic State University, Department of Natural Resources Management and Environmental
Sciences, San Luis Obispo, 93407 CA, USA
5Intercooperation Social Development India, Rural Economy Department, 500003 Hyderabad, India;
ashish.srivastava@ltgroup.in
*Correspondence: frank.eyhorn@helvetas.org; Tel.: +41-44-368-65-32
Received: 5 November 2018; Accepted: 22 November 2018; Published: 27 November 2018


Abstract:
Smallholder rice farming is characterized by low returns and substantial environmental
impact. Conversion to organic management and linking farmers to fair trade markets could offer
an alternative. Engaging in certified cash-crop value chains could thereby provide an entry path to
simultaneously reduce poverty and improve environmental sustainability. Based on comprehensive
data from a representative sample of approximately 80 organic and 80 conventional farms in northern
India, we compared yield and profitability of the main rotation crops over a period of five years.
Contrary to the widespread belief that yields in organic farming are inevitably lower, our study
shows that organic farmers achieved the same yields in cereals and pulses as conventional farmers,
with considerably lower external inputs. Due to 45% lower production costs and higher sales
prices, organic basmati cultivation was 105% more profitable than cultivating ordinary rice under
conventional management. However, since holdings are small and the share of agricultural income
of total household income is declining, conversion to organic basmati farming alone will not provide
households a sufficiently attractive perspective into the future. We propose that future efforts
to enhance the long-term viability of rice-based organic farming systems in this region focus on
diversification involving higher value crops.
Keywords:
farming systems; sustainable development; rural livelihoods; traditional varieties; system
of rice intensification; contract farming
1. Introduction
Uptake of organic practices is growing worldwide, particularly among smallholders in low-
and middle-income countries. India plays an important role in this development, hosting 835,000 of
a global total of 2.7 million certified organic farms in 2016 [
1
]. The shift towards organic farming
raises questions not only about sustainability but also about profitability and food security. A global
meta-study found that organic farming systems produce lower yields, but they are more profitable and
environmentally friendly in terms of soil quality, minimized energy use, biodiversity and minimized
water pollution, compared with conventional agriculture [
2
]. An important mechanism to enhance
profitability is farm–gate premium prices. Especially in combination with reduced production costs,
Sustainability 2018,10, 4424; doi:10.3390/su10124424 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Sustainability 2018,10, 4424 2 of 15
an average yield drop of 10–18% can be more than compensated, resulting in a net profitability
22–35% higher than conventional agriculture [
3
]. Critics argue that due to lower productivity, a wider
adoption of organic agriculture would exacerbate the challenge of providing sufficient food to feed
the world [
4
6
]. However, transition processes are always long-term and gradual, requiring models
that incorporate multiple factors and scenarios that include advances in technological options, for
example in resource use efficiency, and other changes affecting food security, for example climate
change resilience and reduction of food waste [
7
,
8
]. Moreover, ongoing changes in the agricultural
sector need proper monitoring and assessment to better understand the dynamics of the transition
process in particular places. Here, we present results of such an assessment, based on a study of rice
farming in northern India.
Rice-based farming systems provide a suitable study field to investigate the question whether
conversion to organic farming enables smallholders to earn a higher income and improve their
livelihoods, without jeopardizing food security. Rice is the staple food for the largest number of
people on Earth, and the inundated fields make paddy rice the largest single land-use food crop [
9
].
Paddy rice is grown by 150 million smallholders, mostly in Asia, who are increasingly vulnerable to
the impacts of climate change [
10
]. Paddy rice cultivation is environmentally relevant: it consumes
34–43% of global irrigation water, is the cereal crop with the highest emission of greenhouse gases
(particularly methane) and accounts for 13% of global nitrogen fertilizer use [
9
11
]. Less than 10% of
the rice produced is placed on international markets, mostly high (‘export’)-quality rice, including
aromatic varieties like basmati [
9
]. These aromatic varieties have yields that are typically lower than
hybrid or open-pollinated local rice varieties (hereafter referred to as ‘coarse paddy’) but achieve
substantially higher market prices. Market demand for organic and fair trade-certified basmati rice
has been robust and growing over the past years [12].
Field experiments under optimized conditions have shown that after a conversion period in which
soil fertility is built up organic cultivation methods can achieve approximately the same or even higher
yields in basmati and rotation crops compared to the conventional system, provided that sufficient
quantities of organic manures are applied [
13
,
14
]. Previous on-farm studies on conversion to organic
rice farming systems in Asia indicated that organic farms achieve approximately the same yields but
increased profitability due to lower input costs [
15
,
16
]. However, these studies were mainly based on
interviews, and only covered farm data from one season. In this paper, we analyze how conversion to
organic basmati cultivation and fair trade is a viable option for smallholder rice producers in northern
India. We compare cropping patterns, yields and profitability of main crops in a representative sample
of approximately 80 organic and 80 conventional farms over a period of five years.
2. Materials and Methods
The data analyzed in this paper originate from a project initiated by Coop, the second largest
retailer in Switzerland. Since 2011, Coop has supported smallholder rice farmers in Uttarakhand
State in northern India in converting to organic farming and selling their produce under fair-trade
conditions [
12
]. The project is part of the company’s strategy to convert its own rice brand to fair trade
and organic. In recent years, Coop’s rice processing and trading company Reismuehle Brunnen has
continuously increased the share of sustainable rice, and today, it is the largest supplier of organic and
fair trade specialty rice in the European market [
12
]. The Swiss development organization Helvetas was
mandated to assist the establishment of an organic basmati rice value chain in collaboration with its
sister organization Intercooperation Social Development India, local farmer organizations, processing
companies and research institutes. The key partner in India is the company Nature Bio-Foods Ltd.
(NBF) based in Sonepat, which buys the basmati paddy directly from the farmers, mills it in their own
processing facilities, and exports it to Reismuehle Brunnen and other clients. It also sells some rice and
rotation crops in the emerging domestic organic market under its “Ecolife” brand.
The project is located in Nainital District of Uttarakhand State in the foothills of the Indian
Himalayan range. It spreads over approx. 140 villages and hamlets in three Blocks (Ramnagar,
Sustainability 2018,10, 4424 3 of 15
Kotabagh and Betalghat), located 300–800 m above sea level. The region receives, on average,
1650 mm rainfall, mainly during the monsoon season (June–September). Rainfall and irrigation
from mainly seasonal water sources allow for two cropping cycles: Kharif (June–November) and Rabi
(November–March). During the study period (2012–2016), rainfall in the Kharif season was 970 mm,
on average [14].
In 2011, before the project started, trained surveyors collected agronomic and household baseline
data in the project region. The number of farms participating in the project grew from 145 in 2011 to
2212 in 2016, and the total area under organic farming from 115 ha to 2730 ha over the same period.
For the comparison of organic and conventional farming, field data were collected over five years
(June 2012 to April 2017) from a representative sample of organic and conventional farms in the
project area for main crops both in Kharif and Rabi seasons. To compare organic farming with the
prevailing practice in the same region, we randomly selected 11 of the 81 village clusters where the
organic basmati project was active. In the selected village clusters, we randomly selected a total of
approximately 80 organic and 80 conventional farms that cultivated basmati and/or coarse paddy
(clustered sample). Sample size varied slightly from year to year, due to changes in farmer availability
and resulting from a rigorous quality check of survey data (Table 1). Farmers who, over the years,
dropped out of the sample (conventional farmers who converted to organic farming, farmers who
stopped basmati or paddy farming altogether) were replaced by randomly selected farmers in order to
maintain the sample size. Due to delays in rains or provision of seeds, not all organic farmers were
eventually able to grow basmati in every year. From 2013 onwards, following the example of organic
farmers, some conventional farmers also grew basmati, for which they applied organic inputs only.
Table 1. Sample sizes of organic and conventional farms.
Sample Size 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Conventional 84 76 76 96 80
Organic 72 73 73 73 90
Conventional farms growing basmati 0 23 20 38 24
Organic farms growing basmati 56 54 49 49 61
Total conventional area in sample (ha)
47.8 36.8 39.9 53.7 45.0
Total organic area in sample (ha) 54.2 51.3 53.2 55.6 59.2
During each cropping cycle, trained surveyors visited the selected farms in regular intervals to
monitor and verify land use, input and harvest data kept or recalled by the farmers. To get accurate
per-hectare data, for all major crops, the area of one plot per farm was measured, and all inputs and
harvests were recorded for that specific plot. Gross margins were calculated as yields into prices minus
direct costs for inputs and hired labor. The cost of family own labor was not taken into consideration,
since it would have been very difficult to get reliable data. Processed data were shared with the
participating farmers both in individual and aggregated form at the end of the study period.
In 2013 and 2014, data were also collected for additional Kharif crops in order to better understand
the relative profitability of basmati cultivation. In 2014 and 2016, household income data were
collected from the sample in order to get a better understanding on the relevance of crop revenues
for overall household income. The information obtained from these data is used as reference in
the discussion chapter. Additionally, two masters students at Wageningen University conducted
semi-structured interviews in April and May 2017 with 51 organic farmers, 28 conventional farmers,
representatives of the producer organization, local governments, traders, processors and facilitating
NGOs. The interviews were based on questionnaires that included three different types of questions:
Likert scale [
17
], open-end and closed-end questions [
18
]. Results from these interviews are used as
background information in the discussion chapter.
Sustainability 2018,10, 4424 4 of 15
We compared key indicators between production systems using analysis of variance (ANOVA) in
STATA14. ANOVA uses ordinary least squares regression to assess whether means are statistically
significant between groups. For pooled data we corrected for location effects (village clusters) and
year effects. To compare monetary results over the years, prices, costs and returns were corrected by
consumer price index (CPI of 31 December 2012 = 100, Government of India data).
3. Results
3.1. Characteristics of the Organic and Conventional Farming Systems
Smallholder farmers interested in converting to organic basmati farming joined the organic
farmer organization Fair Farming Foundation – Ramnagar and signed a production contract with the
processing company Nature Bio-Foods Ltd. in which they committed to adhere to organic standards
(Indian National Program for Organic Production, EU Council Regulation (EC) No. 834/2007 and
BIO SUISSE Standards) on their entire farm. The company provided them with organic seeds of
traditional basmati (varieties Dehraduni Type 3 and Taraori HBC 19) and commercial bio-inputs (neem
oil, pseudomonas, trichoderma, micro-nutrients) at cost-prices.
Nature Bio-Foods Ltd. managed an internal control system to ensure organic integrity and
arranged and paid for third-party certification as per the specified organic standards and Fairtrade
International standards. It purchased the certified basmati paddy, as well as some pulses directly
from the farmers, following an agreed pricing mechanism (guaranteed fair-trade minimum price or
market rates, whichever was higher, plus defined organic premiums of approx. 10–15%, and rebates
for sub-standard quality).
Organic farmers participating in the project received initial training on organic farming practices
and were assisted in testing different organic methods in their fields (participatory technology
development). Farmers were also trained in improved paddy cultivation techniques based on the
System of Rice Intensification (SRI), combining earlier and wider transplanting of seedlings, alternate
wetting and drying, and mechanical weeding using hand-pushed “conoweeders” [
19
]. While a majority
of farmers adopted the alternate wetting and drying regime in irrigation, the complete SRI system was
only adopted by 19% of the farms in 2016. Farmers sold their organic basmati to Nature Bio-Foods Ltd.,
but sold most of their rotation crops on the general market, without getting a price premium for the
organic quality. Conventional farmers in the region received some training and advice on best farming
practices from the District’s agricultural department. They sold their paddy and rotation crops to local
traders or to local agricultural markets (‘mandis’).
Average holding of arable land was 33% higher in organic farms (0.72 ha) compared to
conventional farms (0.54 ha). The number of cattle per farm and therefore the access to manure
did not differ between the two groups. In both organic and conventional farms, the main crops grown
in the Kharif season were paddy, soybean and amaranth, while in the Rabi season, wheat was the
dominant crop, with some farmers also growing pulses, vegetables and spices (Figure 1). Organic farms
had higher shares of arable land under basmati and pulses in Kharif season. In the first three years, the
share of basmati in organic farms increased from 9% to 21%, but then declined to 14% and 13% in 2015
and 2016 due to unfavorable rain patterns. The reason that some of the conventional farms also grew
basmati starting from 2013 onwards is that they wanted to try out the proposed innovation. Some of
them converted to organic farming in subsequent years.
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Figure 1. Crop shares in Kharif and Rabi season in organic and conventional farms, average of 2012–
2016.
In Rabi season, cropping patterns did not significantly differ between organic and conventional
farms, with wheat being the predominant crop. Only in the last year (Rabi 2016–2017), when the
buyer started promoting organic lentil and chick pea production, organic farms had a higher share
of pulses (13%) compared to conventional farms (10%). The recommendation to increase the share of
nitrogen fixing leguminous crops in organic rotations [20] has so far only been implemented to a
limited extent.
Crop management practices differed considerably: Conventional farmers used urea, di‐
ammonium phosphate (DAP) and compound NPK‐fertilizers (on an average 98 kg N ha−1 in coarse
paddy and 107 kg N ha−1 in wheat, ranging from 25–350 kg N ha−1), along with farmyard manure, as
nutrient sources. Synthetic fertilizer input in conventional paddy substantially decreased over time,
from 179 kg N ha−1 in 2012 to 62 kg N ha−1 in 2016. Conventional farmers also applied various types
of commercial insecticides, fungicides and herbicides (on an average 5.6 L ha−1 in coarse paddy and
1.0 L ha−1 in wheat). Organic farmers used farmyard manure, compost and green manure (mostly
Sesbania aculeate) grown in situ. They applied bio‐inputs provided by the buyer (Pseudomonas,
Trichoderma, Neem oil, micro‐nutrients derived from biomass) and home‐made preparations based
on cow urine and other natural ingredients for pest and disease control. Average cattle holding was
the same in organic and conventional farms: 3.6 adult animals and 1.4 calves.
3.2. Yields
There was no significant difference in five‐year average yields of main rotation crops in Kharif
(basmati, coarse paddy and soy bean) and Rabi season (wheat, lentils and chick peas) between
organic and conventional farms (Table 2). In single years, the only differences were in lentils in 2012
(organic yields were 14% lower than conventional yields) and in 2016 (organic yields were 2%
higher). However, sample size was relatively small for lentils. Yield effects of the cropping system
were also not significant when controlling for location (village).
Figure 1.
Crop shares in Kharif and Rabi season in organic and conventional farms, average
of 2012–2016.
In Rabi season, cropping patterns did not significantly differ between organic and conventional
farms, with wheat being the predominant crop. Only in the last year (Rabi 2016–2017), when the buyer
started promoting organic lentil and chick pea production, organic farms had a higher share of pulses
(13%) compared to conventional farms (10%). The recommendation to increase the share of nitrogen
fixing leguminous crops in organic rotations [
20
] has so far only been implemented to a limited extent.
Crop management practices differed considerably: Conventional farmers used urea,
di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) and compound NPK-fertilizers (on an average 98 kg N ha
1
in
coarse paddy and 107 kg N ha
1
in wheat, ranging from 25–350 kg N ha
1
), along with farmyard
manure, as nutrient sources. Synthetic fertilizer input in conventional paddy substantially decreased
over time, from 179 kg N ha
1
in 2012 to 62 kg N ha
1
in 2016. Conventional farmers also applied
various types of commercial insecticides, fungicides and herbicides (on an average 5.6 L ha
1
in coarse
paddy and 1.0 L ha
1
in wheat). Organic farmers used farmyard manure, compost and green manure
(mostly Sesbania aculeate) grown in situ. They applied bio-inputs provided by the buyer (Pseudomonas,
Trichoderma, Neem oil, micro-nutrients derived from biomass) and home-made preparations based
on cow urine and other natural ingredients for pest and disease control. Average cattle holding was
the same in organic and conventional farms: 3.6 adult animals and 1.4 calves.
3.2. Yields
There was no significant difference in five-year average yields of main rotation crops in Kharif
(basmati, coarse paddy and soy bean) and Rabi season (wheat, lentils and chick peas) between organic
and conventional farms (Table 2). In single years, the only differences were in lentils in 2012 (organic
yields were 14% lower than conventional yields) and in 2016 (organic yields were 2% higher). However,
sample size was relatively small for lentils. Yield effects of the cropping system were also not significant
when controlling for location (village).
Sustainability 2018,10, 4424 6 of 15
Table 2. Average yields of main rotation crops in organic and conventional farms.
Yield (kg ha1)System 2012 (n) 12013 (n) 2014 (n) 2015 (n) 2016 (n) Average of Five Years
Basmati org. 22137 (56) 2074 (51) 2129 (49) 2035 (49) 1734 (61) 2022
conv. 3n.a. (0) 2431 (23) 1927 (20) 1979 (38) 2035 (24) 2093
F4- 0.63 2.49 0.00 0.41 0.02
Coarse org. 4299 (50) 4821 (42) 3080 (41) 4235 (55) 2779 (63) 3843
paddy conv. 4363 (78) 4324 (52) 2999 (51) 4249 (81) 2861 (57) 3759
F 0.08 0.65 0.40 0.51 0.04 0.03
Soybean org. 1684 (16) 999 (34) 891 (33) 744 (58) 696 (34) 1003
conv. 1708 (6) 1167 (33) 873 (41) 825 (69) 821 (31) 1079
F 0.46 0.17 2.68 0.66 0.61 0.05
Wheat org. 2742 (60) 2455 (72) 2383 (73) 2172 (71) 2309 (89) 2412
conv. 2827 (70) 2659 (78) 2507 (73) 2234 (93) 2842 (79) 2614
F 0.55 0.02 0.61 0.30 0.85 1.16
Lentil org. 1088 (15) 744 (13) 313 (31) 614 (28) 1144 (32) 781
conv. 1272 (8) 571 (8) 295 (24) 647 (35) 1124 (30) 782
F 4.41 * 0.35 0.01 0.03 4.59 ** 0.40
Chickpea org. 1243 (10) n.a. (0) 726 (23) 691 (21) 902 (32) 891
conv. 1381 (11) n.a. (0) 740 (26) 671 (23) 1094 (29) 972
F 0.52 0.76 2.19 0.80 0.05
1
sample size;
2
organic farms;
3
conventional farms;
4
analysis of variance including the effects of years (five year averages only) and location (village cluster). ** and * denote significance
at 5% and 10%, respectively.
Sustainability 2018,10, 4424 7 of 15
3.3. Profitability
Organic farms achieved the same or higher gross margins compared to conventional farms
(Table 3). Five-year averages of gross margins were not only higher in organic basmati, for which
farmers received a premium price, but also in coarse paddy, wheat and lentil. Effects of the cropping
system were also significant when controlling for location (villages). Rotation crops were sold in local
markets without premium price, except for Rabi 2016, when the buyer purchased lentils and chickpeas
with a 7–13% organic premium. Production costs (for seeds, external inputs and hired labor) in organic
farms were lower than in conventional farms only in some crops:
23% for coarse paddy (9434 INR
ha
1
vs. 12,230 INR ha
1
, F = 15.9), and
25% for wheat (7748 INR ha
1
vs. 10,361 INR ha
1
, F = 37.0;
1 EUR = 71.48 EUR in 2016).
3.4. Agronomic Performance of Basmati versus Coarse Paddy
Farmers who joined the project and shifted to organic production switched part of their paddy
cultivation to traditional basmati. Therefore, we are comparing the agronomic and economic
performance of organic basmati with conventional coarse paddy. Organic basmati production achieved
on average 46% lower yields, but 182% higher sales prices (Table 4). These differences are not surprising,
since traditional basmati generally has lower yields but higher market prices than coarse paddy,
irrespective of the production system [
21
]. Input costs (for external fertilizer and pest management
means) and overall production costs (including costs for seed and hired labor) were 50% and 45%
lower in organic basmati, respectively, resulting in 105% higher gross margins than in conventional
coarse paddy cultivation.
Gross margins in organic basmati were consistently higher (by 63% to 221%) than conventional
paddy in all five years (Figure 2). The particularly strong performance in 2013 was due to a temporary
price spike in the overall basmati market (organic farmers received 46.4 INR kg
1
on average, compared
to 29.9 INR kg
1
in the other years), while in 2016, unfavorable rainfalls affected coarse paddy yields
and profitability.
Sustainability 2018,10, 4424 8 of 15
Table 3. Gross margins of main rotation crops in organic and conventional farms.
Gross Margin (in
1000 INR ha1)1System 2012 (n) 22013 (n) 2014 (n) 2015 (n) 2016 (n) Average of Five Years
Basmati org. 355.8 (56) 85.4 (51) 42.7 (49) 36.9 (49) 34.5 (61) 51.0
conv. 4n.a. (0) 90.9 (23) 27.7 (20) 24.9 (38) 38.3 (24) 45.5
F5- 0.03 29.3 *** 43.0 *** 0.60 13.0 ***
Paddy org. 36.0 (50) 40.3 (42) 23.9 (41) 26.7 (55) 16.8 (63) 28.2
conv. 34.3 (78) 35.8 (52) 22.1 (51) 22.3 (81) 10.7 (57) 24.4
F 2.55 1.03 3.76 * 9.61 *** 0.16 6.11 **
Soybean org. 42.1 (16) 23.2 (34) 16.3 (33) 12.1 (58) 6.8 (34) 19.1
conv. 36.1 (6) 27.4 (33) 14.2 (41) 10.1 (69) 7.1 (31) 18.1
F 1.41 0.54 5.38 ** 22.13 *** 0.02 1.68
Wheat org. 30.1 (60) 26.0 (72) 21.1 (73) 20.1 (71) 22.0 (89) 23.6
conv. 30.6 (70) 26.2 (78) 19.4 (73) 17.7 (93) 24.9 (79) 23.5
F 0.68 0.06 4.74 ** 21.09 *** 0.08 7.84 **
Lentil org. 43.5 (15) 24.8 (13) 8.7 (31) 40.1 (28) 38.1 (32) 31.0
conv. 40.3 (8) 19.1 (8) 8.1 (24) 40.1 (35) 33.1 (30) 28.2
F 0.35 0.33 0.05 0.15 8.51 *** 4.69 **
Chickpea org. 49.7 (10) n.a. (0) 25.3 (23) 34.5 (21) 9.8 (32) 29.1
conv. 46.9 (11) n.a. (0) 17.4 (26) 29.5 (23) 11.2 (29) 25.5
F 0.01 0.92 2.13 0.50 2.44
CPI 104.90 115.50 120.30 127.90 132.80 120.28
1
Financial values adjusted by Consumer Price Index (2012 = 100);
2
sample size;
3
organic farms;
4
conventional farms;
5
analysis of variance including the effects of years (five year
averages only) and location (village cluster); ***, ** and * denote significance at 1%, 5% and 10%, respectively. Please note that no premium was paid for organic rotation crops except for
lentils and chick peas in Rabi 2016.
Sustainability 2018,10, 4424 9 of 15
Table 4. Organic basmati compared with conventional and organic coarse paddy cultivation.
Basmati vs. Paddy
Cultivation 1
Basmati
Organic
Paddy
Conventional
Paddy
Organic
Org. vs. Conv.
Paddy (F) 2
Org. Basmati
vs. Conv.
Paddy (F) 2
Yield (kg ha1)2039 3759 3843 0.03 512.45 ***
Price (INR kg1)27.89 9.86 9.88 2.88 4895.87 ***
Revenue (INR ha1)56,858 37,152 37,879 0.01 215.02 ***
Production cost (INR ha1)6759 12,230 9434 20.11 *** 60.95 ***
Input cost (INR ha1)2628 5297 3918 42.81 *** 58.62 ***
Gross margin (INR ha1)51,047 25,063 28,713 6.10 * 16.60 ***
CV Gross margin 30.50 0.40 0.38 0.04 2.28
1
Average performance over 5 years; financial results in Indian Rupees adjusted by Consumer Price Index (2012 =
100, 1 EUR = 54.7 INR).
2
(F) refers to analysis of variance including the effects of years (five-year averages only)
and location (village cluster).
3
CV refers to the coefficient of variation, calculated as mean/standard deviation at
the farm level. *** and * denote significance at 1% and 10%, respectively.
Figure 2.
Gross margins (in Indian Rupees per ha, CPI adjusted) in organic basmati compared to
conventional coarse paddy. Percentages indicate increase over conventional (p< 0.01). Error bars depict
standard deviation, figures in brackets indicate sample size.
The price spike of 2013 resulted in a higher variability of gross-margins—as measured by
the farm-level coefficients of variation—for organic basmati than for conventional paddy (Table 4).
However, this difference is not statistically significant, even at the 10 percent level. Moreover, the
difference is caused by an upward singularity, whereas farmers are mainly concerned about downward
risk. This indicates that organic basmati cultivation is economically not riskier than conventional
coarse paddy cultivation.
4. Discussion
4.1. Productivity of Rice-Based Organic Systems
The result that yields do not differ between organic and conventional farms is surprising. Organic
farmers replaced synthetic fertilizers and pesticides with organic means, which usually results in lower
yields [
22
]. However, farmers in the study area operate under sub-optimal conditions concerning
available soil types, irrigation and inputs. Fertilizer input in conventional farms is therefore relatively
Sustainability 2018,10, 4424 10 of 15
low in cereal and pulses. Since coarse paddy, wheat and pulses are important staple crops partly
produced for household consumption, this finding suggests that conversion to organic farming does
not jeopardize food security of smallholders in marginal production regions. Field experiments
conducted at GB Pant University for Agriculture and Technology from 2012–2014 in the same region
but under optimized conditions have also shown that organic cultivation methods can achieve the same
or even higher yields in basmati and rotation crops compared to the conventional system, provided
that sufficient quantities of organic manures are applied [
14
]. The partial shift to basmati for export
also did not affect food security of the farm families since they continued cultivating coarse paddy and
wheat at least to the extent required for their own consumption.
It is striking to see that fertilizer input in conventional paddy substantially decreased over time.
Several conventional farmers reported that they reduced fertilizer input when observing that organic
farmers in their village got similar yields with organic manures. However, current manure application
rates in organic farms seem insufficient to replace nutrient export through crop harvest, and therefore
may lead to soil degradation and reduced productivity in the long term [
23
]. Improvements in manure
collection, storing and application as well as increased use of in situ grown green manure can remedy
this situation. Since basmati produces more straw than coarse paddy varieties and therefore increases
the availability of fodder, its cultivation may enhance stocking rates and therefore production of
manure to some extent [24].
While yields of coarse paddy showed a positive correlation with external input costs both
in organic and conventional farms, no such correlation was observed in basmati or other crops.
This finding raises doubts regarding the effectiveness of the biocontrol and bio-fertilizer inputs used
on these crops.
4.2. Conversion to Organic Farming as a Livelihood Strategy
The results of the agronomic performance assessment confirm the finding of Crowder and
Reganold [
3
] that organic farming is more profitable than conventional systems, but contradicts
their conclusion that due to 10–18% lower yields, organic crops need a premium of at least 5–7%
to be competitive with conventional production. Even without a premium price, organic rotation
crops achieved the same profitability as conventional crops. This is in line with other studies in
India showing that organic farming reduces the cost of cultivation without affecting net margins,
particularly in less intensively cultivated hill regions [
25
,
26
]. Other studies comparing organic and
conventional paddy systems in Uttarakhand also found that organic farms achieve the same yields
but substantially higher net profits due to lower costs of cultivation and the availability of an organic
premium [
27
,
28
]. Another study comparing (conventional) basmati with coarse paddy in Uttarakhand
found that cultivating basmati is more profitable than non-basmati rice varieties [
21
]. The improved
profitability of organic basmati cultivation in our study is therefore a result of both the conversion to
organic agriculture and the shift from coarse paddy to basmati.
From a farmer’s perspective, the main questions are whether basmati production is sufficiently
lucrative as a cash crop compared to other options, and whether the conversion to organic management
altogether makes their farms more profitable. Of the three main crops grown in the Kharif season
(coarse paddy, basmati and soy bean), organic basmati had the highest gross margin in all years.
Additional data collected in 2013 and 2014 show that only vegetables like tomato and spices like ginger
and turmeric achieve higher gross margins, but also involve considerable investments and risks (crop
failure, market fluctuations). These findings suggest that organic basmati is an interesting cash crop
for farmers, combining good profit margins with relatively low risk. It is, therefore, not surprising that
shares of land allocated to basmati cultivation were positively correlated with basmati gross margins
in the previous year (p< 0.001).
However, organic farms allocated only an average of 15% of their arable land to basmati
cultivation, and no clear upwards trend was observed over the five years. 22–33% of the organic
farmers who registered with the project did not even grow any basmati. Interviews with farmers point
Sustainability 2018,10, 4424 11 of 15
out various reasons why they do not increase the basmati share. Delayed rains often force them to
grow coarse paddy that has 25–30 day shorter crop cycles compared to traditional basmati varieties,
or switch to soybean or millet if rains are further delayed. Farmers also assess what crop-to-field
combination they expect will be best. Such decisions may be based on crop preferences, for example
prioritizing the production of food crops for home consumption over cash crops. Also, labor and risk
aversion play a role. Farmers typically grow cash crops on fields close to the compound, making it
easily accessible for crop management, including protecting the field from being invaded by wild boar,
monkeys and other wildlife [
29
]. Due to land fragmentation, available acreage close to the compound
is limited in size, limiting the expansion of basmati cultivation.
4.3. Available Strategies to Further Improve Household Income
Surveys conducted among organic and conventional farms in the project region in 2011, 2014 and
2016 indicate that total annual household income (including income from agriculture, employment,
labor and small-scale businesses) has been relatively stable over time (on average approximately
USD 1000 per household of 4–5 persons, ranging from USD 200 to 4500). However, the share of
agricultural income has declined from 60% in 2011 (baseline) to 43% in 2016. One reason for this is
that all main crops except lentils have shown declining profitability over the years when adjusted
by consumer price index. Another reason is that off-farm incomes strongly increased. In 2016, the
share of agricultural income was higher in organic farms (49%) compared to conventional farms (35%).
In that year, conventional farms had 3.5 times higher income from employment, leading to 2.5 times
higher total income compared to organic farms. Since this result is mainly due to 10 conventional
farm households who obtained more than USD 3000 annual income from employment, it may not be
representative, though. The higher share of income from agriculture in organic farms along with the
larger average farm size could be an indication that households that primarily rely on agriculture are
more likely to convert to organic farming.
Even if organic farmers achieve considerably higher gross margins in basmati, this alone does not
enable them to substantially increase their household income, since land holdings and the share of
organic cash crops are too small. Only if additional rotation crops can be marketed with an organic
premium, particularly vegetable and spice crops that generate higher margins, organic farmers will be
significantly better off compared to conventional farmers. A crop diversification strategy would also
enable farmers to maintain the cash flow throughout the season [
24
]. The project partners are therefore
taking efforts to establish organic value chains for these crops linking organic farmers in the project
region to the increasing demand for organic products in nearby cities, including the Delhi metropolitan
market. Another viable strategy to make a living from farming may be to manage larger areas of
land (e.g., by buying or renting land from households that give up farming) and increase the use of
agricultural machinery and tools. Increased mechanization of field preparation, sowing and weed
management would enable farmers to reduce labor input. It also enables them to optimize manure
application and increase the utilization of green manure [
23
]. If farmers shifted from transplanting to
direct sowing of paddy, this could reduce work load, but at the expense of somewhat lower yields [
30
].
While diversification and mechanization strategies have obvious advantages, they also have
disadvantages. They both require specific skills, infrastructure and market linkages, and therefore may
not be available to all households. More research is needed into these aspects before providing valid
recommendations in a specific local context.
4.4. Environmental Benefits
The environmental benefits of organic compared to conventional agriculture have been widely
discussed in the scientific literature [
22
,
31
34
]. Notable differences between organic and conventional
agriculture relate to the strategies for pest and nutrient management. Organic farmers rely on
organic pesticides that typically have lower toxicity and often lower persistence in the environment
compared to most pesticide formulations used in conventional agriculture [
31
]. Organic farmers in the
Sustainability 2018,10, 4424 12 of 15
project presented here only used botanical extracts (mainly neem, which is of low toxicity) for pest
management both in basmati and in the rotation crops, eliminating exposure to synthetic pesticides
and consequently the risk of adverse effects on human health and of contamination of water sources.
Nutrient management has an important effect on various sources of nitrogen (N) pollution:
Nitrate leaching can contaminate ground and surface water; volatilization of ammonia leads to air
pollution (PM
2.5
) and eutrophication of natural ecosystems; and emissions of the potent greenhouse
gas and ozone depleting nitrous oxide (N
2
O) adversely affect climate change and human health [
35
].
Averaged across geographic locations and cropping systems, N pollution on a per unit area basis is
lower in organic compared to conventional systems [31,34,36,37].
Because organic certification standards prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers, organic agriculture
solely relies on alternative fertilizer sources such as animal manure, compost and green manures
(plants that fix N from the atmosphere). The variety of nutrient management strategies observed
across organic farms; however, is not always well reflected in field experiments, an issue that was
criticized as a design flaw in the evaluation of comparative organic and conventional systems [
38
].
Indeed, when inspecting individual studies, the type and management of animal manure or green
manures plays an important but incompletely understood role with respect to both the magnitude and
direction of the N pollution response [
39
,
40
]. In this project, various organic nutrient management
strategies were promoted through outreach and extension, including the use of farmyard manure,
vermi-compost, biogas slurry, and the green manure Sesbania. A parallel field trial indicated that the
organic management options reduced N leaching and NH
3
volatilization in many of the treatment by
year combinations compared to the conventional control, whereas the effect of the organic management
on greenhouse gas emissions was mostly insignificant (unpublished data). Beyond effects observed
at the field scale, however, one needs to consider that widespread reduction in the use of synthetic
pesticides and fertilizers would reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of
these compounds at the regional or global scale [8,31].
One commonality between all organic nutrient management strategies is that they imply an input
of carbon into the soil. This explains the overall increase in soil organic matter content and soil fertility
in organic compared to conventional systems across geographic regions and cropping systems [
31
,
32
].
Focusing on Northern India or Uttarakhand in particular, studies have found that organic management
promoted soil aggregation and increased organic carbon content, biological activity and nutrient
availability compared to soils under conventional management [
14
,
27
,
41
]. Within the parallel field
trial associated with this project, it was observed that the organic treatments mitigated nutrient
mining and soil degradation compared to the conventional control treatment, as a consequence
of lower N loss and higher input rates of phosphorus, potassium and sulphur for an equivalent
amount of N (unpublished data). One criticism on the feasibility of organic agriculture, especially
with respect to smallholder farmers, is the availability of sufficient organic fertilizer sources to meet
crop demands [
8
,
42
]. To address this concern, a study was conducted in the project area to evaluate
the farm-level impacts of subsystem nutrient management actions and to identify locally viable
interventions for increased nutrient supply and recycling [
23
]. Viable interventions including the
reduction of nutrient losses through simple and relatively cheap manure management modifications
(i.e., using straw bedding to capture livestock urine, covering farmyard manure stockpiles with plastic
sheeting, enclosed biogas slurry storage, and using biogas slurry for improved compost production),
in situ green manuring, and purchasing farmyard manure identified through this study are now being
promoted by extension services.
Organic soil fertility management contributes to increased water infiltration and retention in
soils due to elevated soil organic matter content [
14
,
43
], thereby contributing to saving irrigation
water. In addition, a majority of organic basmati farmers adopted the alternate wetting and drying
(AWD) method in irrigating their basmati plots. Field trials conducted in the project in 2017 indicate
that this practice leads to 24% lower water input compared to the earlier practice of keeping water
stagnant in the field for longer periods, without affecting yields. This is in line with other studies that
Sustainability 2018,10, 4424 13 of 15
report 10–78% lower water input due to adoption of AWD and SRI [
19
,
32
,
44
]. The results of research
station field trials conducted in the region in 2012–2014 even found 78–84% lower water inputs and
5.3–6.7 times higher water use efficiency in AWD plots [14].
Using available water resources more efficiently in a water-scarce environment can help improve
crop productivity and livelihoods while reducing environmental stress. Equally important to applying
water saving techniques at the field level is to improve water management and stewardship at
the cluster or village level. Facilitated by the project, farmers formed Water User Groups (WUG)
that identified and implemented measures to improve irrigation and drinking water infrastructure.
Beneficiary contributions and combined funding from the fair trade premium, municipality budgets
and project contributions enabled the WUGs to finance these measures [24].
5. Conclusions
The study has shown that conversion to organic basmati farming can provide a viable alternative
for smallholders in India. Participation in certified basmati value chains that ensure organic and
fair-trade prices enables farmers to substantially improve the profitability of paddy cultivation. Due to
45% lower production costs and higher sales prices, organic basmati cultivation was 105% more
profitable than cultivating ordinary rice under conventional management. Contrary to the widespread
belief that yields in organic farming are inevitably lower, our study shows that organic smallholder
farmers can achieve the same yields in cereals and pulses as conventional farmers, with considerably
lower external inputs. Even in the absence of organic and fair-trade premiums, organic management
can therefore achieve the same or higher gross margins in cereals and pulses as prevailing conventional
farming systems. At the same time, good organic management practices contribute to safeguarding
environmental resources. If conversion to organic farming involves switching to a particular crop or
variety, its comparative profitability and suitability to the local agro-climatic conditions need to be
ensured. However, since land holdings are often too small to make a living from cereal and pulse
crops, conversion to organic farming will only result in substantially higher household incomes if
it goes along with producing higher-value cash crops like vegetables, fruits and spices for domestic
markets. We therefore propose that future efforts to enhance the long-term viability of rice-based
organic farming systems in this region focus on diversification involving higher value crops.
Author Contributions:
Conceptualization and investigation: F.E., A.S. and H.M.; methodology, data curation
and formal analysis: F.E., C.D., M.v.d.B.; writing—original draft preparation: F.E.; validation, review, editing and
supervision: C.D., H.M. and M.v.d.B.; project administration: F.E.; funding acquisition: F.E. and H.M.
Funding:
This research was funded by the Coop Sustainability Fund under the project ‘Sustainable production of
organic and fair trade rice in India and Thailand’. The APC was funded by Wageningen University.
Acknowledgments:
We thank the farmers who participated in this study for keeping detailed records on
agronomic data over five years, and Surendra Singh Bhakuni and Jagdeesh Pant for collecting and verifying field
data under difficult conditions. We thank Mustak Khan and colleagues at Intercooperation Social Development
India for the guidance and supervision provided to the project. We further thank the participating companies
Nature Bio-Foods Ltd., Reismuehle Brunnen and Coop Switzerland and the Fair Farming Foundation Ramnagar
for collaborating in the study. The contributions by Anup Shinde and Harpreet Singh Sondh within the field
studies for their master theses at Wageningen University are gratefully acknowledged. We thank Joy de Korte
from Wageningen University for her support in analyzing the data. We are grateful to D.K. Singh from GB Pant
University of Agriculture and Technology for providing technical guidance.
Conflicts of Interest:
The authors declare no conflict of interest. The funders had no role in the design of the
study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to
publish the results.
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Technical Report
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In recent times, agriculture has become the center of all the life-changing arguments related to the environment, water, biodiversity etc., that collectively determine the future of our planet. The use of high amount of chemical inputs (agrochemicals etc.) is often required to enhance the agricultural productivity to feed the increasing population. But slowly this is leading to deterioration of the agricultural ecosystem and increase in the cost of production. Organic and natural farming can solve the issue to a significant extent by minimizing the over-dependence of high input agriculture, harnessing the natural resources to a large extent and maintaining the agricultural ecosystem. The present article deals with components, environmental advantage and socio-economic benefits of organic vis-à-vis natural farming, as compared to conventional and chemical-based farming. The other policy level interventions and India’s current status on natural farming was also discussed.
... Apparently, many of the economic benefits of organic farming come from the price premium. For example, Adamtey et al. (2016) and Bett and Ayieko (2017) in Kenya, and Yadava and Komaraiah (2020), Eyhorn et al. (2018) and Mariappan and Zhou (2019) in India, documented the profitability of organic farming on rice, wheat and maize. In Indonesia, Adiprasetyo et al. (2015), Fachrista et al. (2019) and Widhiningsih (2020) reported similar evidence about organic vegetables. ...
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The future of food value chains has increasingly been reliant on the wider adoption of sustainable farming practices that include organic agriculture. Organic farming in developed countries is standardized and occupies a niche in agro-food systems. However, such a standard model, when transferred to developing countries, faces difficulty in implementation. This study aims to investigate the factors affecting the expansion of organic agriculture in Lebanon, a Middle Eastern context, and analyzes the economic performance of organic tomato among smallholder farmers. Accordingly, the study was able to determine the production costs, map the organic value chain and assess the profitability of organic tomato by comparing it with the conventional tomato in the same value chain. The study finds organic farming being increasingly expensive primarily due to the inherently high cost of production in Lebanon and the inefficient organization of the organic value chain. As a result, we suggest a blended approach of organic farming with other models, in particular agro-tourism, as a local solution to the sustainability of organic farming in developing countries with limited resources (land and labor) and characterized by long marketing channels. In countries such as Lebanon, a country endowed with rich cultural heritage and natural and beautiful landscapes, the agro-tourism model can harness organic farming and tourism activities. We also propose the adoption of local collective guarantee systems for organic production as a way to alleviate the costs of third-party auditing in Lebanon.
... In this context, organic agriculture offers the potential to regenerate agricultural land and counteract biodiversity loss by abstaining from using chemical inputs and promoting practices such as crop rotation and vegetative buffer zones [7,8]. Simultaneously, it may also function as a sustainable pathway to poverty reduction for smallholder farmers [9]. Several studies indicate that organic agriculture can, in some contexts, positively impact smallholders' livelihoods due to the lower input costs and potential price premiums for organic food [7,10]. ...
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While there is a global consensus that agricultural systems need to be transformed to be more sustainable, possible pathways and challenges to this process are still debated. We analyse the challenges and opportunities involved in transforming smallholder farming to organic agriculture in Indonesia, where the intense application of Green Revolution technologies came at enormous environmental costs. We adopt a transdisciplinary approach to identify possible pathways towards organic agriculture, based on an analysis of farmers’ knowledge and barriers to adoption, value and belief systems, and institutional structures, including policies and regulations. We present our empirical findings as ‘system knowledge’, ‘target knowledge’ and ‘transformation knowledge’ and incorporate insights from both academics and practitioners. We draw on evidence from large-scale surveys, field experiments, in-depth interviews, participant observation and document analysis. A key insight of our research is that Indonesia does not lack initiatives towards organic farming, but that these various initiatives have different motivations, goals and strategies. This misalignment detracts from the transformational potential of organic agriculture and is responsible for the hitherto limited success of the organic transition. Our findings suggest that policy action at multiple levels is required, guided by an inclusive strategy that is drawn up in a participatory manner.
... Surveys among farmers have shown that the important financial risk included high costs, considerable labor input [36,84], uncertain sales in the short or long term, market uncertainty or reduced revenues [63], and receiving inadequate prices for products [67,68]. Economic aspects (the possibility of obtaining subsidies and increased farm income) are cited as one of the most important reasons for switching to organic production [85][86][87], and lack of support or insufficient support is identified as an important barrier to the development of the organic sector [88]. Due to insufficient income from production [89], a significant number of Polish farmers are forced to look for other sources, and low yields and high production costs are some of their concerns [17]. ...
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Our study aimed to explore the factors limiting the development of the organic food sector in Poland from the perspective of processing, distributing, and retailing companies. We used a qualitative approach with in-depth semi-structured interviews with the management board representatives of 17 large- and medium-sized enterprises and the owners of 10 small and medium companies. The potential limiting factors, including legal, economic, technological, and environmental factors, were identified by reviewing the corporate and market reports of processing and retailing companies operating in the Polish organic sector. We used a thematic analysis recommended in the literature to analyze qualitative data. The main factors indicated by the managers were the legal concerns, limitations resulting from a lack of constant supply of organic raw materials, and increased competition on domestic and international markets. In addition, business activities in the Polish organic sector were affected by the instability of the financial situation in terms of financial liquidity, adequate cost, capital structure, and credits. The results of the study may be of value for policymakers to ensure sustainable development of the organic food sector in Poland.
... In addition, due to the lack of justifiable support prices, lack of state support and expensive certification procedures for organic products (Sarkar et al., 2011), small landholders are less interested in organic methods and prefer conventional coarse rice cultivation. However, many researchers have demonstrated that the conversion of conventional coarse rice cultivation to organic basmati rice is a viable alternative for small landholders in India (Eyhorn et al., 2018) and that the organic option generated between 1.4 and 2.9 times greater financial return (Shiva and Pandey, 2006). Production of organic fruits, vegetables and spices in India has tremendous scope for small landholder farmers (Mariappan and Zhou, 2019;Nandi et al., 2015;Patil et al., 2014). ...
Chapter
Organic farming is an environmentally, economically and socially accepted way to produce food. This review scrutinizes various facets of the practice including its impact on the environment, international markets, and local as well as global food security. First-hand knowledge throughout India and the world was evaluated the various strategies and policies implemented for organic agriculture in India. Scenarios depicted here represent millions of people from all social and economic backgrounds who have embraced this agrarian method ensuring the integrity of food. Since organic farming depends on animal manures, off-farm organic wastes, crop residues, green manures, and bio-fertilizers, the question arises whether the availability of these organic feed materials is sufficient to support widespread organic farming in India. In total, these sources could supply 7.04 Mt. of primary nutrients in India, while in the long-term, organic farming could contribute to food security by harmonizing population growth, food grain production, fertilizer consumption, and prevent or minimize soil nutrient depletion. Municipal solid waste compost and sewage water are being increasingly employed in organic agriculture and very large amounts of organic residues and pollutants are added to the soil. Given this, the prospects of organic agriculture to help solve environmental problems need to be researched in more detail. Soil C (carbon) sequestration by municipal solid waste compost and sewage water may to some extent stop environmental degradation. Primarily, organic farming could boost the quality of food by enhancing protein, vitamins, minerals, etc. Soil health and ecological functions such as biomass production, biodiversity maintenance, environmental protection, etc., which occur in organic farming could also be maintained or improved. In this way, it is possible for climatic aberrations could be mitigated or alleviated. However, policies should be developed for proper utilization of bio-waste, integrated farming approaches with organics, prioritizing areas and different kinds of organic farming, better pest management involving bio-pesticides, strengthening the domestic market for organic produce, farmer-to-farmer communication, etc. Our assessment found that organic farming has huge potential for contributing to food security, risk mitigation, etc., in India. Organic farming could also address many of the sustainable development goals directly, namely 3, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16. However, future research should address areas like: (a) C sequestration and critical C input for organic farming; (b) dynamics, biology and biochemistry of nutrient cycles; (c) impact of the exposure of organic farming to contaminants; and (d) producing higher quality food crops.
... "Rice is an emerging [fair trade] product" [45], such that the fragrance and flavor characteristics of some rice varieties have facilitated fair trade certification [27,46], earning a premium price. Studies have provided evidence that farmers can receive significantly higher gross margins for specialty rice varieties that are produced using environmentally friendly methods [35,47]. This enables Sustainability 2021, 13, 8354 6 of 27 smallholders to earn a higher income and improve their livelihoods without jeopardizing their family's food security. ...
Article
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Vietnam plays an important role in bearing global food security. However, Vietnamese rice farmers face several challenges, including pressures to develop sustainable livelihoods while reducing the environmental impacts of their production activities. Various Vietnamese agricultural restructuring policies were promulgated to promote the adoption of environmentally friendly practices to generate high value added for rice farmers, but the farmers are reluctant to adopt them because of perceived lack of demand. Decreasing consumption of rice in Asia and increasing demands in Europe shaped Vietnamese rice exporting policies. New trade agreements, such as the UK–Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, offer new target markets for Vietnamese rice farmers. This research provides empirical evidence related to the preferences of UK consumers for ethical attributes for floating rice imported from Vietnam. Floating rice represents a traditional method of rice cultivation that relies on the natural flooding cycle. Its cultivation uses very few agrochemical inputs and provides several other environmental, economic, and social benefits. In an online survey, the study used a choice experiment that asked 306 UK consumers to report their preferences for one kilo of floating rice with three non-market attributes: reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, allocation of profits to the farmers, and restitution of biodiversity. Overall, study participants favored the attributes of floating rice, but reported utility for only the “fair trade” attribute and for a marginal willingness to pay premiums for profit allocations to farmers. Consumers did not find value in either CO2 emission reduction or biodiversity improvement. Results from the study provide recommendations to develop agricultural programs, distribution strategies, and informational methods to encourage floating rice consumption in the UK.
... One of the barriers to establishing and running organic farms, namely high production costs, was not included in the discriminant function model. These results are consistent with those presented by Batyk [40] and Frank et al. [73], with information that there are much lower material and money inputs for agricultural production in the organic way of farming. The production costs were most likely not that important because both Polish and Hungarian agriculture is not yet so developed and innovative. ...
Article
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From year to year, there is an increasing demand for agricultural produce from certified organic farms. However, Poland and Hungary’s demand for this product is almost twenty times smaller than in Western European countries. The greater the demand by consumers for organic farming products, the more agricultural producers decide to switch from conventional farming to organic farming, and this farming is more environmentally friendly because it uses energy and natural resources responsibly, maintains biodiversity, maintains regional ecological balance, improves soil food, and maintains good water quality. This research aimed to compare the motives and barriers to running organic farms in Poland and Hungary, and the challenges farmers must face to undertake the trouble of running an organic farm. The research was carried out among 400 Polish and 400 Hungarian farmers running organic farms. For statistical calculations, discriminant analysis, as well as single-base and chain indices, were used. The main barriers for establishing organic farms: the necessity to adapt one’s farm to the EU requirements, using only natural fertilizers, low yields, the lack of proper advice, and a high degree of bureaucracy. Therefore, for organic farming to develop, further education is needed, both for farmers and consumers. An important aspect is improving the quality of the regulations and simplifying the administrative burden related to organic farming.
... In addition, due to the lack of justifiable support prices, lack of state support and expensive certification procedures for organic products (Sarkar et al., 2011), small landholders are less interested in organic methods and prefer conventional coarse rice cultivation. However, many researchers have demonstrated that the conversion of conventional coarse rice cultivation to organic basmati rice is a viable alternative for small landholders in India (Eyhorn et al., 2018) and that the organic option generated between 1.4 and 2.9 times greater financial return (Shiva and Pandey, 2006). Production of organic fruits, vegetables and spices in India has tremendous scope for small landholder farmers (Mariappan and Zhou, 2019;Nandi et al., 2015;Patil et al., 2014). ...
Article
Organic farming is an environmentally, economically and socially accepted way to produce food. This review scrutinizes various facets of the practice including its impact on the environment, international markets, and local as well as global food security. First-hand knowledge throughout India and the world was evaluated the various strategies and policies implemented for organic agriculture in India. Scenarios depicted here represent millions of people from all social and economic backgrounds who have embraced this agrarian method ensuring the integrity of food. Since organic farming depends on animal manures, off-farm organic wastes, crop residues, green manures, and bio-fertilizers, the question arises whether the availability of these organic feed materials is sufficient to support widespread organic farming in India. In total, these sources could supply 7.04 Mt of primary nutrients in India, while in the long-term, organic farming could contribute to food security by harmonizing population growth, food grain production, fertilizer consumption, and prevent or minimize soil nutrient depletion. Municipal solid waste compost and sewage water are being increasingly employed in organic agriculture and very large amounts of organic residues and pollutants are added to the soil. Given this, the prospects of organic agriculture to help solve environmental problems need to be researched in more detail. Soil C (carbon) sequestration by municipal solid waste compost and sewage water may to some extent stop environmental degradation. Primarily, organic farming could boost the quality of food by enhancing protein, vitamins, minerals, etc. Soil health and ecological functions such as biomass production, biodiversity maintenance, environmental protection, etc., which occur in organic farming could also be maintained or improved. In this way, it is possible for climatic aberrations could be mitigated or alleviated. However, policies should be developed for proper utilization of bio-waste, integrated farming approaches with organics, prioritizing areas and different kinds of organic farming, better pest management involving bio-pesticides, strengthening the domestic market for organic produce, farmer-to-farmer communication, etc. Our assessment found that organic farming has huge potential for contributing to food security, risk mitigation, etc., in India. Organic farming could also address many of the sustainable development goals directly, namely 3, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16. However, future research should address areas like: a) C sequestration and critical C input for organic farming; b) dynamics, biology and biochemistry of nutrient cycles; c) impact of the exposure of organic farming to contaminants; and d) producing higher quality food crops.
Article
Waste generation projections for the 21st century are important for the investigation of long-term global environmental problems, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with waste management. This paper presents future waste generation and open waste burning projections for India, which are consistent with the scenarios in the shared socio-economic pathways (SSPs) database. India's waste generation will increase to 547 Tgy⁻¹ and 828 Tgy⁻¹, by 2030 and 2050, respectively, if India's waste generation rates converge to those of developed economies under the fossil fuel based economic growth projections of SSP5. This will increase open waste burning emissions by 140 % and 110 % over 2015 levels by 2030 and 2050, respectively. Business-as-usual projections predict a waste generation of 268 ± 14 Tgy⁻¹ by 2030 and 356 ± 34 Tgy⁻¹ by 2050 and elimination of waste burning other than landfill fires by the mid-2040s. Aggressive promotion of source segregation and treatment of biodegradable waste under a sustainable development scenario (SSP1) can advance this transition despite higher income growth and reduce waste burning from 68 (45–105) Tgy⁻¹ in 2015 to 21–48 Tgy⁻¹ and 2–22 Tgy⁻¹ of waste burning by 2030 and 2050, respectively. The failure of programs targeted at this waste component would result in 31–60 Tgy⁻¹ and 26–108 Tgy⁻¹ of waste burning by 2030 and 2050, respectively. For the SSP5 income trajectory a failure to successfully source segregate and treat biodegradable waste would almost double open waste burning by 2050.
Article
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Agroecosystem nitrogen (N) loss produces greenhouse gases, induces eutrophication, and is costly for farmers; therefore, conservation agricultural management practices aimed at reducing N loss are increasingly adopted. However, the ecosystem consequences of these practices have not been well-studied. We quantified N loss via leaching, NH3 volatilization, N2O emissions, and N retention in plant and soil pools of corn conservation agroecosystems in Kentucky, USA. Three systems were evaluated: (1) an unfertilized, organic system with cover crops hairy vetch (Vicia villosa), winter wheat (Triticum aestivum), or a mix of the two (bi-culture); (2) an organic system with a hairy vetch cover crop employing three fertilization schemes (0 N, organic N, or a fertilizer N-credit approach); and (3) a conventional system with a winter wheat cover crop and three fertilization schemes (0 N, urea N, or organic N). In the unfertilized organic system, cover crop species affected NO3-N leaching (vetch > bi-culture > wheat) and N2O-N emissions and yield during corn growth (vetch, bi-culture > wheat). Fertilization increased soil inorganic N, gaseous N loss, N leaching, and yield in the organic vetch and conventional wheat systems. Fertilizer scheme affected the magnitude of growing season N2O-N loss in the organic vetch system (organic N > fertilizer N-credit) and the timing of loss (organic N delayed N2O-N loss vs. urea) and NO3-N leaching (urea >> organic N) in the conventional wheat system, but had no effect on yield. Cover crop selection and N fertilization techniques can reduce N leaching and greenhouse gas emissions without sacrificing yield, thereby enhancing N conservation in both organic and conventional conservation agriculture systems.
Article
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Smallholder farmers may gain notable livelihood benefits by participating in organic value chains. However, whether there are enough resources available to maintain organic production sustainably on smallholder farms in resource-poor regions is of concern. If not balanced by sufficient inputs, continual nutrient export via commodity crops will result in nutrient mining, and livelihood improvements gained by participating in profitable value chains could be negated by soil degradation in the long term. The objectives of this study were to test an integrated approach for understanding the farm-level impacts of subsystem nutrient management actions and to identify locally viable interventions for increased nutrient supply and recycling. We employ a systems analysis methodology to address the nutrient gaps on smallholder farms in Uttarakhand, India producing organic Basmati rice for an international value chain. Farmers here rely on few livestock (three to five head of cattle ha − 1) to supply nutrient inputs and are achieving smaller than potential Basmati yields. We surveyed 42 small farms (< 3.5 ha, average annual income around $1000 year − 1) and analyzed available manure stocks for nutrient contents in order to trace the farm-level flow of manure nutrients, identify vectors of avoidable nutrient loss, and systematically identify locally relevant and feasible improvements. The interventions identified as viable were reducing nutrient losses through simple and relatively cheap manure management modifications (i.e. using straw bedding to capture livestock urine, covering farmyard manure stockpiles with plastic sheeting, enclosed biogas slurry storage, and using biogas slurry for improved compost production), in situ green manuring, and purchasing farmyard manure. Cost-benefit analyses predicted that proposed interventions could increase farmers' net profit by up to 40% while also addressing problematic nutrient gaps. While our results pertain specifically to Uttarakhand, we found that our integrated research approach worked well to address the problem of nutrient gaps on resource-poor smallholder organic farms, and believe that the strategy could be used with equal success to address similar problems in other regions.
Article
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Organic agriculture is proposed as a promising approach to achieving sustainable food systems, but its feasibility is also contested. We use a food systems model that addresses agronomic characteristics of organic agriculture to analyze the role that organic agriculture could play in sustainable food systems. Here we show that a 100% conversion to organic agriculture needs more land than conventional agriculture but reduces N-surplus and pesticide use. However, in combination with reductions of food wastage and food-competing feed from arable land, with correspondingly reduced production and consumption of animal products, land use under organic agriculture remains below the reference scenario. Other indicators such as greenhouse gas emissions also improve, but adequate nitrogen supply is challenging. Besides focusing on production, sustainable food systems need to address waste, crop–grass–livestock interdependencies and human consumption. None of the corresponding strategies needs full implementation and their combined partial implementation delivers a more sustainable food future.
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The Swiss retailer Coop and its partners support smallholders in India and Thailand in converting their rice-based production systems to sustainable organic farming. Farmers improve and diversify their incomes while managing natural resources more sustainably. They receive fair prices for their products and invest in their future development. The initiative provides a viable business case for all value chain actors involved.
Article
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Organic agriculture is often proposed as a more sustainable alternative to current conventional agriculture. We assess the current understanding of the costs and benefits of organic agriculture across multiple production, environmental, producer, and consumer dimensions. Organic agriculture shows many potential benefits (including higher biodiversity and improved soil and water quality per unit area, enhanced profitability, and higher nutritional value) as well as many potential costs including lower yields and higher consumer prices. However, numerous important dimensions have high uncertainty, particularly the environmental performance when controlling for lower organic yields, but also yield stability, soil erosion, water use, and labor conditions. We identify conditions that influence the relative performance of organic systems, highlighting areas for increased research and policy support.
Article
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In 2007 two long-term trials were established in Kenya to contribute research-based evidence to the global debate on the productivity, economic viability and sustainability of different agricultural production systems. These trials compare conventional (Conv) and organic (Org) farming systems at high and low input levels at two locations, i.e. Chuka, with Humic Nitisols, high inherent soil fertility and rainfall, and Thika, with Rhodic Nitisols with low soil fertility and rainfall. The high input systems (High) represent commercial-scale, export-oriented production that uses the recommended amounts of fertilisers, pesticides and irrigation water to generate high yields, whilst the low input systems (Low) represent local smallholder practices, using relatively few fertilisers and pesticides and operating under rain-fed conditions. The conventional systems received synthetic fertilisers and organic manure, whilst the organic systems only received organic inputs. The trials so far have consisted of a 6-season, 3-year, crop rotation with maize (Zea mays L.) planted in the long rainy seasons (March-September), and vegetables in the short rainy seasons (October – February). Generally, there were no significant differences in the dry matter yields and nutrient uptake by maize, baby corn or beans between the conventional and organic systems at either site. Similar maize grain and baby corn yields were also obtained at Chuka. However, at Thika, maize grain yields in Org-High in 2007 (at conversion) were lower than the yields in Conv-High, but the yields became similar in 2010 (after conversion). At the same site the yields of maize grain under sole cropping in Org-Low were 3.2 times lower than the yields in Conv-Low in 2007 and 1.7 times lower in 2010. When intercropped with beans the yields of the two systems were similar. In the first two years profits from Conv-High were 0.5–1.8 times and 0.2–2.4 times higher than in Org-High when selling the produce at local (Chuka and Thika) and regional markets (Nairobi), but thereafter the profit from the two was similar, even when organic produce was sold at regular market prices. From the fifth year onwards Org-High attracted a price premium of 20 to 50% and this made it 1.3 to 4.1 times more profitable than Conv-High when selling on local and regional markets (in Chuka, Thika and Nairobi). Compared to Conv-High, partial N and K balances at the two sites were positive and higher in Org-High, except for N at Chuka. Our findings demonstrate that Org-High is productive, economically viable, resource-conserving and can contribute to sustainable agriculture production in Kenya depending on regional conditions and the crops cultivated.
Chapter
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Organic agriculture is a production system that aims at sustaining healthy soils, ecosystems and people by prohibiting the application of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers in crop production and by emphasising animal welfare in livestock breeding. This article shows that organic agriculture is characterised by higher soil quality and reduced nutrient or pesticide leaching compared to nonorganic agriculture, but that positive effects on biological control services or emission of greenhouse gases are less evident. Yield gaps between organic and nonorganic agriculture are on average 20%, but vary between crops and regions. Given the environmental risks that are associated with intensive, nonorganic agriculture, farming practices should be modified to decrease risks. Organic agriculture can be a more environmentally friendly alternative, but individual farming practices need improvement to meet the demands of a growing human population. Further growth of the organic farming sector will contribute to reduce the negative environmental impact of agriculture.
Article
p>Smallholder farmers may gain notable livelihood benefits by participating in organic value chains. However, whether there are enough resources available to maintain organic production sustainably on smallholder farms in resource-poor regions is of concern. If not balanced by sufficient inputs, continual nutrient export via commodity crops will result in nutrient mining, and livelihood improvements gained by participating in profitable value chains could be negated by soil degradation in the long term. The objectives of this study were to test an integrated approach for understanding the farm-level impacts of subsystem nutrient management actions and to identify locally viable interventions for increased nutrient supply and recycling. We employ a systems analysis methodology to address the nutrient gaps on smallholder farms in Uttarakhand, India producing organic Basmati rice for an international value chain. Farmers here rely on few livestock (three to five head of cattle ha<sup>− 1</sup>) to supply nutrient inputs and are achieving smaller than potential Basmati yields. We surveyed 42 small farms (< 3.5 ha, average annual income around $1000 year<sup>− 1</sup>) and analyzed available manure stocks for nutrient contents in order to trace the farm-level flow of manure nutrients, identify vectors of avoidable nutrient loss, and systematically identify locally relevant and feasible improvements. The interventions identified as viable were reducing nutrient losses through simple and relatively cheap manure management modifications (i.e. using straw bedding to capture livestock urine, covering farmyard manure stockpiles with plastic sheeting, enclosed biogas slurry storage, and using biogas slurry for improved compost production), in situ green manuring, and purchasing farmyard manure. Cost–benefit analyses predicted that proposed interventions could increase farmers’ net profit by up to 40% while also addressing problematic nutrient gaps. While our results pertain specifically to Uttarakhand, we found that our integrated research approach worked well to address the problem of nutrient gaps on resource-poor smallholder organic farms, and believe that the strategy could be used with equal success to address similar problems in other regions.</p
Article
Conventional agricultural practices that use excessive chemical fertilizers and pesticides come at a great price with respect to soil health, a key component to achieve agricultural sustainability. Organic farming could serve as an alternative agricultural system and solve the problems associated with the usage of agro-chemicals by sustainable use of soil resources. A study was carried out to evaluate the impact of organic vs. conventional cultivations of basmati rice on soil health during Kharif (rainy) season of 2011 at Kaithal district of Haryana, India, under farmers’ participatory mode. Long-term application of organic residues in certified organic farms was found to improve physical, chemical, and biological indicators of soil health. Greater organic matter buildup as indicated by higher soil organic carbon content in organic fields was critical to increase soil aggregate stability by increasing water holding capacity and reducing bulk density. Proper supplementation of nutrients (both major and micro nutrients) through organic residue addition favored biologically available nutrients in organic systems. Further, the prevalence of organic substrates stimulated soil microorganisms to produce enzymes responsible for the conversion of unavailable nutrients to plant available forms. Most importantly, a closer look at the relationship between physicochemical and biological indicators of soil health evidenced the significance of organic matter to enzyme activities suggesting enhanced nutrient cycling in systems receiving organic amendments. Enzyme activities were very sensitive to short-term (one growing season) effects of organic vs. conventional nutrient management. Soil chemical indicators (organic matter and nutrient contents) were also changed in the short-term, but the response was secondary to the biochemical indicators. Taken together, this study indicates that organic farming practices foster biotic and abiotic interactions in the soil which may facilitate in moving towards a sustainable food future.
Article
Animal manure application as organic fertilizer does not only sustain agricultural productivity and increase soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks, but also affects soil nitrogen cycling and nitrous oxide (N2 O) emissions. However, given that the sign and magnitude of manure effects on soil N2 O emissions is uncertain, the net climatic impact of manure application in arable land is unknown. Here, we performed a global meta-analysis using field experimental data published in peer-reviewed journals prior to December 2015. In this meta-analysis we quantified the responses of N2 O emissions to manure application relative to synthetic N fertilizer application from individual studies and analyzed manure characteristics, experimental duration, climate and soil properties as explanatory factors. Manure application significantly increased N2 O emissions by an average 32.7% (95% confidence interval: 5.1-58.2%) compared to application of synthetic N fertilizer alone. The significant stimulation of N2 O emissions occurred following cattle and poultry manure applications, subsurface manure application and raw manure application. Furthermore, the significant stimulatory effects on N2 O emissions were also observed for warm temperate climate, acid soils (pH < 6.5) and soil texture classes of sandy loam and clay loam. Average direct N2 O emission factors (EFs) of 1.87% and 0.24% were estimated for upland soils and rice paddy soils receiving manure application, respectively. Although manure application increased SOC stocks, our study suggested that the benefit of increasing SOC stocks as GHG sinks could be largely offset by stimulation of soil N2 O emissions and aggravated by CH4 emissions if, particularly for rice paddy soils, the stimulation of CH4 emissions by manure application was taken into account. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.