Zero Budget Natural Farming With Reference to Punjab Conditions A Review

Zero Budget Natural Farming With Reference to Punjab Conditions A Review

Sushma Sharma , Asma Fayaz , Bilal Ahmad Lone* , Zahoor Ahmad Dar , Aijaz Nazir , Ishfaq Aabidi , Nighat Mushtaq , Sandeep Kumar

University Institute of Agricultural Sciences Chandigarh University Gharuan Mohali Punjab, India

Corresponding Author Email:

DOI : CHE.2021.v02i03.002


Sixty percent of the Indian population will experience severe food deficiencies by 2050. Increased food production is urgently needed, but the high cost of production; fluctuating prices in the market are driving farmers into debt. Zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) is the best solution to reduce the input cost of farmers. The word zero budget means “no credit,” and natural farming means “growing of crops without chemicals.” Soil and Health are degraded continuously by Using conventional techniques in agriculture. It makes soil barren, as well as farmer, goes under debt. Hence, the only approach to deal with this ever-rising problem is zero-budget natural farming (ZBNF). The word budget refers to credit and expenses; thus the phrase zero budget means without using any credit and without spending any money on purchased inputs. Natural farming means farming without using chemicals. Subhash Palekar, the explorer of ZBNF, introduces many principles and methods of ZBNF. Zero Budget Farmers use natural pesticides and fertilizers. The principal techniques of ZBNF include crop rotation, green manures, and compost, biological pest control. There are 4 pillars of ZBNF, i.e., Jivamrita, Bijamrita, Acchhadana, and Whappasa.


And Cropping, Farming, Pest Control, Yield

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What is zero budget natural farming

Zero Budget Natural Farming is a farming method and also a grassroots peasant movement has spread to various states in India. It is widely successful in southern India, especially the state of south India of Karnataka, where it first evolved. ZBNF is a unique method of farming which requires absolutely no monetary investment for the purchase of critical inputs like seeds, fertilizers, and plant protection chemicals from the market. The farmer can grow hardy local varieties of crops without the application of fertilizers and pesticides. Since it is zero budget farming, no institutional credit would be required, and dependence on hired labor is also reduced to the bare minimum. All that the system needs is a native breed of cattle which is any care forms an integral part of farming families in rural areas.

The word “Budget” means credit and expenses; thus, the phrase “Zero Budget” means without using any credit and without spending any money on purchased input. “Natural Farming” means farming with Natural and without chemicals. [17], who coined the word ZBNF, has been asked by 6 state government to train their farmers on his techniques. Like agroecology, ZBNF is a scientific discipline, set of practice, and social movement [1]; ZBNF too signifies both a set of technique and social movement.

Palekar put together the basic “toolkit” of ZBNF methods. He is from a small village Amravati, Maharashtra, India. He is very much dedicated to the betterment of his village farm; he experimented and revealed that the continuous use of chemicals affects the soil fertility and makes the field barren [2]. Pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers have become the Priority of farming in some regions of Punjab, even though they know well that these very additions are threatening lives.

ZBNF is a method of farming where the cost of growing and harvesting the plants is zero. Zero Budgets‟ farming promises to end a reliance on loans and cut production costs, ending the debt cycle for desperate farmers. The word „Budget‟ refers to credit and expenses; thus the phrase Zero Budget’’means without using any credit, and without spending any money on purchased inputs, and chemicals. This method of farming was introduced by Shri Subhash Palekar, for which he was honored with Padma Shri in 2016 (Anonymous, 2016) [3].

Debt is a problem faced by farmers of India. Privatized seeds, inputs, and markets are inaccessible and expensive for peasants due to the neo-liberalization of the Indian economy. Indian farmers increasingly find themselves in a vicious cycle of debt because of the high production costs, high interest rates for credit, the volatile market price of crops, the rising cost of fossil fuel-based inputs, and private seeds. More than a quarter of a million farmers have committed suicide in India in the last two decades. Various studies have linked farmer’s suicide to debt under such conditions. “Zero Budget” farming promises to end a reliance on loans and drastically cut production costs, ending the debt cycle for desperate farmers. 

[4] surveyed 97 farmers who are practicing ZBNF, and the reasons for the adoption of ZBNF is family health (54%), environmental reasons (42%), reduction of cost of production (38%), reduced debt (30%) and many other reasons. The pest attack reduced up to 84%, production costs decreased up to 91%, and the need for credit decreased up to 93%. [5] reported that ZBNF could help AP and India make significant progress towards almost a quarter of the 169SDG targets. ZBNF farmers may be able to improve food and nutritional security for their families. ZBNF groundnut farmers had on average, a 23% higher yield than their non-ZBNF counterparts ZBNF paddy farmers have had on average a 6% higher yield; such increase is the result of sustainable farming practices, which also improve farmers capacity to adapt to climate change. Under this program, half a million farmer groups and 25,000 village level federations. Village and farmer’s level capacity building and knowledge sharing institutions will be formed by 2027. This will help in disseminating traditional agricultural knowledge and skills as well. ZBNF could reduce the material footprint per capita and material footprint per unit value added in agriculture. Farmers are encouraged to make use of agricultural waste instead of discarding or burning it. Crop residue, which can be reused for mulching is helpful for improving the nutritional content of the soil.

The experience of practicing farmers and field observations over a period of time lends to the following conclusions. [15] suggests that ZBNF works not just in agronomic terms but also brings about a variety of social and economic benefits. A majority of respondents reported that by adopting ZBNF, over time, they saw improvements in yield, soil conservation, seed diversity, quality produce. [16] is also entitled as “Krishi ka Rishi” by many farmers of Mysore. The preliminary success in Andhra Pradesh is encouraging.

The system of ZBNF is eminently suited to farmers tiny and marginal farmers, because of its simplicity, adaptability and drastically reduction of cost of production. Treatment of Beejamrutha and Jeevamrutha provides adequate protection from pests and diseases during the initial stages of germination. In conclusion, Savings on the cost of seeds, fertilizers, and plant protection chemicals has been considerable.

Table.1 Basic Pillar of ZBNF

Sr. No.MethodsPreparationBenefits
1.JivamritaIt is made from cow-dung (20 kg), urine (5-10 l), jaggery (20kg) and flour (2kg) and is applied to crops with each irrigation cycle.It provides nutrients, but it also acts a catalytic agent which promotes activity of microorganisms in soil, as well as increases earthworm activity. It also helps to prevent from fungal and bacterial diseases.
2.BijamritaIt is basically made up of water (20l), cow dung (5kg), urine (5l), lime (50g) and a handful soil.It is a seed treatment, equipped in protecting young roots from fungus as well as from soil-borne and seed-borne diseases.
3.Acchadana- MulchingIt can be done by soil mulch, straw mulch.It conserves soil moisture, by reducing evaporation.
4.Whapsa mositureThe irrigation should be reduced and irrigation should be practiced at noon in alternate furrows.It is condition where air molecules and water molecules present in soil.

  Table.2 Pest Management in ZBNF

Sr. No.Name of Pest Mgt. FormulaeCompositionBenefits
1.AgniastraIt composed of 10l local cow urine, 1 kg Tobacco, 500gm of Green Chilli, 500gm of Local Garlic, 5kg Neem leaves pulp (crushed in urine). For spraying, 2l Brahmastra is taken in 100l water.It is effective against the pests like leaf roller, stem borer, fruit borer, pod borer.
2.BrahmastraIt is prepared by neem leaves, custard apple leaves, guava leaves, lantern camellia leaves, pomegranate leaves, papaya leaves and white dhatura leaves crushed and boiled in urine.It is used to control all of sucking pests, fruit borer, pod borer.
3.NeemastraIt is made up of local cow urine (5l), cow dung (5kg) and neem leaves and neem pulp (5kg) fermented for 24 hrs.It is used for sucking pests and mealy bug.

ZBNF Practices

[6;18]reported that ZBNFis an agroecological farming approach that promotes growing crops in harmony with nature. The toolkit of ZBNF was developed by its guru Subhash Palekar in the 1990`s. ZBNF has two major axes, one agronomic and the other structural. On the other hand, it is about improving soil fertility through a number of agroecological principals, including diversification, nutrient recycling, increasing beneficial biological interactions, among others (Palekar 2006). On the other hand, ZBNF is about de-linking farmers from external inputs and credit markets to create autonomy by not purchasing anything from external actors and especially from corporations (sensu Rosset and Martinez Torres 2012.

The Government of Andhra Pradesh (GOAP) has invited Palekar to organize training camps of ZBNF in January 2016 and September 2016. In 2016-17, 48565 farmers have been covered as a target for practice of ZBNF. GOAP, 2017 reported that Yield of Paddy is increased as 6416 kg/ha in ZBNF as compared to 5816 kg/ha in Non-ZBNF and Cost Reduction is reduced up to 5000-15000, so Net Additional Income by ZBNF in paddy is up to 14000-25000 kg/ha.

[7;19] reported that A majority (67%) of the farmers cultivated paddy, followed by groundnut (9%). However, cotton, pigeon pea, chickpea, and horticultural crops like mango and banana were also observed to be cultivated using ZBNF methods. Since a majority of the respondents were paddy growers, the study focused on paddy to study the economics of ZBNF. The crops cultivated by farmers under ZBNF are shown in Table 3.

Table-3 Crop grown by Farmers under ZBNF

CropsNumber of respondentsCropsNumber of respondents
Red gram/Pigeon pea9Cotton1
Banana3Palm Oil1
Jasmine2Finger millet1

Source: Primary survey.

Benefits of ZBNF

Table-4 Net incomes in food crops, ZBNF versus Non-ZBNF, Figures from the government of Andhra from the Kharif crop in 2017. Source: (APZBNF 2018)

In Karnataka, out of 97 farmers surveyed (see Table 3), 85% reported improved income, 90% reported reduced production costs, 92% reported reduced need for credit, 91% reported improved quality of produce, 78% reported improved yields. There is ample anecdotal evidence of ZBNFs ecological benefits reported by farmers – but no comprehensive study has been carried out yet, aside from some ongoing studies by the government of AP. However, there is ample scientific evidence on the ecological benefits of the particular practices promoted by ZBNF-such as cow based microbial mixtures, mulching, improving functional on farm bio-diversity, enhancing soil microbial activity, agro-forestry systems, on-farm water conservation, cover cropping among others [8-9]

Table 4. Comparison between net incomes in various food crops grown in ZBNF versus chemical farming district in AP.                                                                                          

Fig 1. Representation of farmers  growing more fruits and vegetables as their kharif crop compared to non- ZBNF farmers in AP. [9]

Four Wheels Of ZBNF: Four main pillars run the ZBNF cycle that is listed in fig.1 [10]

Fig. 1: four pillars of ZBNF system

[11] also reported the four wheels of ZBNF to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

1.Jivamrita/jeevamrutha is a fermented microbial culture [12]. It provides nutrients, but most importantly, acts as catalytic agent that promotes the activity of microorganisms in the soil, as well as increases earthworm activity; During the 48-hour fermentation process, the aerobic and anaerobic bacteria present in cow dung and urine multiply as they eat up organic ingredients (like pulse flour).  Jeevamrutha also helps to prevent fungal and bacterial plant diseases. [13;20] suggests that jeevamrutha is only needed for the first 3 years of the transition, after which the system becomes self-sustaining.


Water, desi cow dung, desi cow urine, jaggery, flour of pulse, handful of soil from farm or forest


Apply the jeevamrutha to the crops twice a month in the irrigation water or as a 10% foliar spray.

2. Bijamrita/beejamruthais a treatment used for seeds, seedling and any plant material. Bijamritha is effective in protecting young roots from fungus as well as from soil-borne and seed-borne diseases that commonly affect plants after the monsoon period.


Water, desi cow dung, desi cow urine, lime, one handful of soil from the surface of field


Add beejamrutha to the seed of any crops: coat them, mixing by hand; dry them well and use them for showing. For leguminous seeds, just dip them quickly and let them dry

3. Acchadana – Mulching

Mulching with organic residues or live mulching residues tillage and consequently labour requirements, suppresses weeds, promotes humus formation, enhances soil aeration and water holding capacity of soil. Mulching enhances the biological activity and replenishes the nutrient base of the soil. Adequate mulching keeps the top and sub soil moist and enhances the water holding capacity of the soil and also reduces water loss due to evaporation so that the crop will be better equipped to tide over drought conditions.

4. Whapasa – moisture

Palekar challenges the idea that plant root needs a lot of water, thus countering the over reliance on irrigation in green revolution farming. According to him, what roots needs is water vapour. Whapasa is the condition where there are both air molecules and water molecules present in soil, and he encourages reducing irrigation, irrigating only at noon, in alternate furrows ZBNF farmers report a significant decline in need for irrigation in ZBNF.

Other important principles of ZBNF and points to note

Mixed cropping and crop rotation

La Via  Campesina reported that the mixed cropping provides buffer against total failure of single crop and also widens the income source of farmers. There is stress on inclusion of leguminous crops to ensure replenishment of soil fertility. Crop to ensures replenishment of soil fertility. Crop rotation is also emphasized to discourage the buildup of endemic pests. In the scheme of mixed cropping, cereals, millets, leguminous crops, horticulture crops, particularly vegetables and even medicinal plants can be included to make farming more lucrative.

Contours and bunds

To preserve rain water, Palekar explains in detail how to make the contours and bunds, which promote maximum efficacy for different crops.

Local species of earthworms

Palekar opposes the use of vermicompost. He claims that the revival of local deep soil earthworms through increased organic matter is most recommended

Cow dung

According to Palekar, dung from the Bos indicus (humped cow) is most beneficial and has the highest concentration of microorganisms as compared to European cow breed such as Holstein. The entire ZBNF method is centered on the Indian cow, which historically has been part of Indian rural life.


ZBNF is attaining wide scale in India among more and more farm families- initially as a farmer-led social movement, and more recently with the adoption of a significant public policy in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Other state governments like Himachal Pradesh and Kerala are also initiating pilot programs in line with Andhra’s experience. In both cases, its wide reach has been triggered by a number of factors identified by [14;22-25] as important for the scaling up of any agroecology process. Zero Budget Natural Farming is a method of grassroots peasant movement followed by many of the Indian states. The local self-government and state government take initiatives to introduce the ZBNF as a method to reduce the cost of agricultural operation and to arrange the awareness programmed to promote and cultivate the maximum benefit to farmers as the farmers were reluctant to change their method of operation because they are not in a healthy position to take the risk in the new method and lack of proper knowledge. The majority of the farmers are poor financial backgrounds and do have not adequate land and other equipment for agricultural operations. Therefore, motivating farmers to follow the ZBNF is a big task in front of the government. But it is a solution to solve the debt problems faced by the farmers, avoid the increasing suicide rate, and for facing the current issues relating to environmental problems. Protect the soil, water, and other natural resources from chemical backgrounds thereby protecting human lives and also protecting our earth.


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