Mr Prime Minister, can you take chemistry out of agriculture?

A ballooning fertilizer subsidy bill, due to a rise in global prices, is pushing the government to promote zero budget natural farming, which is both unsustainable and unscientific.

“We have to take our agriculture out of the lab of chemistry and connect it to the lab of nature,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 16 December 2021 at the National Conclave on Natural Farming. He asked everyone to “take a pledge to make Maa Bharati’s land free from chemical fertilizers and pesticides”. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman took the cue and announced a new scheme on chemical-free natural farming in her budget speech for 2022-23.

But here’s the problem: natural farming has zero sanction among agricultural scientists. In 2019, the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS)—the science academy for …


R. Ramakumar

R. Ramakumar is an economist and a professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.