Krishnappa Dasappa Gowda, a rice farmer from Pannur village in Mysuru, had no idea about zero budget natural agriculture (ZBNF) fifteen years ago. Continuing the business of his ancestors, the farmer planted rice after season, employing chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Although the 25-acre farm required substantial investment to support crops and yielded less, it provided a decent livelihood.
However, a 2005 encounter with Subhash Palekar, affectionately known as “Krishi ka Rishi” in farming communities across India, changed everything. Overnight, Gowda gave up chemicals and pesticides and switched to ZBNF.
On five acres, Gowda successfully plants more than 170 varieties of trees using natural methods (out of a total of 25 acres). What is really remarkable is that the forest style farming approach improved the annual income of the 10th pass farmer annual income to 25 lakh!
“ZBNF has dramatically improved my production and soil fertility. “My profits no longer depend on the outcome of a particular crop due to the diversification of my farm. In addition, the cultivation strategies reduce water consumption to 10% of conventional agriculture. The transition was also good for my health – I had severe skin problems, but not anymore. “said Gowda.
This is a stand-alone model designed by Palekar after the farmer discovered how chemical fertilizers and pesticides degrade soil fertility, causing health problems for people who consume grains and vegetables.
Crops are grown naturally using this method by replacing harmful fertilizers with organic fertilizers such as cow dung, cow urine, jaggery and legume flour. It requires minimal monetary investment, thus increasing the income of the farmer.
Cows are an integral part of the harvest cycle as they help with grazing and their waste (urine and feces) is used to coat the seeds, a process known as beejamrutham. Meanwhile, the jeevamrutham process (in which cow dung and urine are mixed with jaggery and flour) stimulates soil microbes and keeps pests away.
“Each month, an acre of soil requires 10 pounds of cow dung. Since an ordinary cow produces 11 pounds of dung each day, a cow’s dung can help fertilize 30 acres of land,” Gowda adds.
Pass the first year
Gowda started ZBNF as an experiment on an acre of land. However, getting rid of any addiction is difficult, and so it is with soil and plants.
Her crops did not respond well to homemade fertilizer, and nearly 50% of them were damaged during the initial gestation period.
But he didn’t give up and spent months learning about the soil and plant requirements. During this period, he assessed the health of his farm and chose seeds suitable for the weather and soil conditions of the field.
âI was in constant contact with Palekar sir. I implemented each of his suggestions and patiently waited for the results. fruits and vegetables and grain after a year of hard work and ridicule from other farmers. I was amazed to see several plants growing together, like bananas, lentils, marigolds, onions and pumpkins, âhe says.
Massive profits validated the success of the company in the first three months of production.
“I planted several plants using a multiple cultivation method with an investment of only 5,000 rupees and made a profit of 16,000 rupees.”
He also used cow dung to improve the fertility and nutritional value of the soil.
âCow dung contains billions of beneficial microorganisms that break down dried biomass on the soil and turn it into ready-to-use nutrients for plants. This process is prevalent in forests where healthy plants thrive naturally without need chemicals. Since most farmers use chemicals, it kills microorganisms, “says Gowda, explaining the science behind this step.
Having achieved success, he has implemented this method on five acres over the years.
On an acre, a five-layered farm model
This method involves growing five different varieties of crops at the same time, each with a different height and rooting pattern. Multilayer cultivation makes the best use of the available space, both horizontally and vertically.
Gowda has grown everything from long to medium trees to bushes, vines, grass and here is his multi-crop model:
He planted 30 coconut palms for the uppermost layer, and since each tree produces around 300 coconuts per year, this equates to a total income of Rs 1.80 lakh.
Gowda plants 30 rotating orange or mosambi trees (Sweet Lime). âA single tree brings in a minimum of 15 kilos and a maximum of 100 kilos. I earn around Rs.1.5 lakh from the middle layer,â Gowda adds.
200 banana trees and 400 areca trees are planted in the third layer. Each year, he earns around Rs 3 lakh (Rs. 60,000 from bananas and Rs. 2.4 lakh from areca nut) from this layer.
The fourth layer, like the second, works in rotation. He either plants 200 cocoa or coffee trees, each producing 2 kilos. He also planted 200 gliricidia, 200 vanilla lianas and 400 black pepper lianas.
Gowda planted ginger and turmeric in the last layer. “Every year I get up to 10 quintals of turmeric.” “Depending on the variety, I sell a quintal for Rs.200 to 2000.”
Other plants grown by Gowda include drumsticks, spinach, bottle covers, brinjals, lemons, legumes, and more.
He earns around Rs.5 lakh per acre, for a total of Rs.25 lakh on five acres.
The four pillars of the ZBNF
Gowda follows four cultivation concepts that serve as the pillars of the five-layer model. These are jeevamrutham, beejamrutham, mulching and maintaining the water ratio.
As previously stated, jeevamrutham provides nutrients for plant growth, while beejamrutham (a mixture of cow dung, urine, lime, and water) protects seeds and roots from fungi.
Mulching is essential for soil health because it “retains moisture in the soil, reduces weed development and encourages biodiversity,” he explains.
Before sowing, Gowda digs a three-foot-deep trench and fills it with tree branches, fruit residue, coconut leaves, and sand. “It aids in the absorption of nitrogen from the air and its distribution to plants.”
In terms of water, Gowda says his land is both wet and rainy. “The nutrient-rich soil creates carbon and nitrogen which inhibits evaporation and I save thousands of liters of water,” he says, adding six liters of water to one kilo of humus (matter decomposed organic) which is sufficient for one acre.
Gowda is confident that adopting the ZBNF model will reduce agriculture-related problems such as heavy loans, pesticides, monetary losses and, most importantly, farmer suicides.
If you have any questions regarding ZBNF, please contact Krishnappa Gowda at 9880587545.