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Regenerative Agriculture
2023 JAN   4
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Sustainable Agriculture

2023 SEP 11

Mains   > Agriculture   >   Allied areas   >   Organic farming


  • Recently, scientists at the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) have prepared a Composite Index of Agricultural Sustainability (CIAS), which shows that Indian agriculture practices are moderately sustainable.


  • The CIAS has 51 indicators to measure various patterns of agricultural sustainability. They are categorized under sections of soil health, water resources, biodiversity, ecology, and socio-economic.
  • As per the index at present, the most sustainable agriculture is practised in Mizoram, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal while agriculture in arid Rajasthan is the least sustainable.
  • According to the index, the better-performing states have experienced sizable crop diversification, improvement in agriculture infrastructure, farm credit and sustainable input use. 
  • Agriculture in developing countries like India is confronted with a range of issues, such as climate change, resource constraints, and food insecurity. Sustainable agriculture could be a solution to these interconnected challenges, including food security and climate change, as well as create better socioeconomic development in the country.


  • The process of cultivating and maintaining food, fiber, and other agricultural products in a way that preserves and enhances ecosystem health and productivity while fostering social and economic wellbeing is known as sustainable agriculture.
  • In simple terms, sustainable agriculture focuses on practices that maintain or improve agricultural productivity while reducing environmental degradation.
  • Common principles of sustainable agriculture include crop rotation, organic farming, reduced pesticide and fertilizer use, resource conservation, climate change resilience etc.
  • The basic goals of sustainable agriculture are environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.



  • Ecological benefits:
    • Improvement in soil quality:
      • In many parts of India, one of the biggest problems is that the soil is becoming less and less fertile. Sustainable agriculture improves fertility and the structure of the soil through various approaches, including organic farming, crop rotation, crop diversification, etc.
    • Improve nutrient cycling and resilience:
      • By increasing crop diversity and diversifying mixed farming systems that include livestock and aquaculture, sustainable agriculture practices improve nutrient cycling and resilience.
    • Mitigating climate change:
      • Sustainable agricultural practices such as agroforestry, reforestation, etc., as well as land conservation, can sequester carbon and improve soil health, thus contributing to both agricultural and climate change mitigation.
    • Reduced pollution:
      • Due to healthier soil and absence of harmful pesticide and fertilizer, sustainable farming reduces water and air pollutants.
    • Biodiversity:
      • Mixed cropping is an important component of sustainable agriculture techniques. By expanding the variety of crops that are grown, these approaches increase the variety of insects, animals, and plants that live in and around agricultural areas.
    • Low incidence of pests:
      • It has been observed that if the soil is healthy and the agriculture is resilient, the pest problem is negligible as compared to soil where agrochemicals are used or where the ecosystem is not resilient.
  • Efficient use of resources:
    • Water Conservation:
      • Sustainable agriculture encourages efficient water usage through practices such as drip irrigation, rainwater collection, and crop selection, which are water efficient. It also encourages farmers to grow crops like millets over water-guzzling crops like paddy, especially in arid regions, which will lead to groundwater conservation.
    • Lower input costs:
      • Biofertilizers and pesticides used in sustainable agriculture can be produced locally, so the yearly inputs invested by the farmers are also low.
      • Also, sustainable farming achieves fertile soil by using practices like crop diversification and rotation, which reduce the need for fertilizers and input costs.
  • Economic benefits:
    • Increased agricultural productivity:
      • Sustainable agriculture has the potential of increased productivity in the long term due to better soil conditions and ecosystems.
    • Employment opportunities:
      • According to many studies, organic farming requires more labour input than the conventional farming system.
      • Thus, it will provide employment opportunities especially for countries like India.
    • Increasing market:
      • Consumers world over are largely preferring organic foods in the concept that organic foods have more nutritional values, have lesser or no additive contaminants, and sustainably grown
      • For instances, the consumption of organic crops has doubled in the USA since 1997.
    • Reduced food wastage:
      • Organic foods produced through sustainable farming have a longer shelf life than conventional foods due to fewer nitrates and greater antioxidants.
      • Nitrates hasten food spoilage, whereas antioxidants help to enhance the shelf life of foods
  • Health benefits:
    • Reduce public health risks
      • Organic products produced through sustainable agriculture reduce public health risks to farm workers, their families, and consumers by minimizing their exposure to toxic and persistent chemicals on the farm and in food.
    • Food grown organically are rich in nutrients
      • Organically grown fruits, vegetables, and grains are rich in nutrients such as Vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus, with less exposure to nitrates and pesticide residues.


  • High input costs:
    • The costs of the organic inputs that are used in sustainable agriculture are higher than those of industrially produced chemical fertilizers and pesticides, including other inputs used in conventional farming systems.
    • An organic product typically costs 10%–40% more than the similar conventionally crops
  • Time-consuming:
    • Though sustainable agriculture can be beneficial, as it increases farm productivity, its results can’t be seen overnight. Establishing the principles and methods of regenerative farming can take years, so reaping the benefits will take a long time.
    • For example, at small scales, such as the ZBNF (Zero-budget natural farming) farmers in Andhra Pradesh, the transition from conventional to sustainable practices can be quite short with little investment required. However, at a large scale, the change can take much longer.
  • Lack of awareness:
    • The most important constraint in the progress of sustainable agriculture is the lack of awareness among farmers about sustainable agriculture practices and their potential benefits.
  • High price of organic produce:
    • The final prices of organic produce produced through sustainable agricultural practices are mostly higher than conventional products, which impact the organic produce market in India.
  • Low coverage:
    • About 2.78 million hectares of farmland was under organic cultivation as of March 2020, which is only two per cent of the 140.1 million ha net sown area in the country.
  • Lack of subsidies
    • Lack of subsidies on organics in India, unlike chemical inputs
  • Inadequate certification framework:
    • There is a lack of unique, well known and third party certified policy or framework for selling organic food products in India, which creates trust issues among the customers
  • Inappropriate marketing of organic input:
    • Supplies do not match the demand for organic products in the country and the absence of proper links between the two has been pointed out for the tardy growth of organic farming in the country.


  • National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA):
    •  NMSA has been made operational from the year 2014-15 which aims at making agriculture more productive, sustainable, remunerative and climate resilient by promoting location specific  integrated /composite farming systems; soil and moisture conservation measures; comprehensive soil health management; e?cient water management practices and mainstreaming rainfed technologies.
  • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY):
    • PKVY is a sub-component of Soil Health Management(SHM) scheme under National Mission of Sustainable Agriculture(NMSA)
    • It aims at development of sustainable models of farming through a mix of traditional wisdom and modern science
  • Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region:
    • It is a Central Sector Scheme, a sub-mission under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA)
    • The scheme aims to development of certified organic production in a value chain mode to link growers with consumers and to support the development of entire value chain starting from inputs, seeds, certification, to the creation of facilities for collection, aggregation, processing, marketing and brand building initiative.
  • Certification Systems
    • National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP)
      • NPOP grants organic farming certification through a process of third party certification.
    • Participatory Guarantee System for India (PGS):
      • PGS is also a process of certifying organic products, which ensures that their production takes place in accordance with laid-down quality standards.
  • Agri-export Policy 2018:
    • It focuses on marketing and promotion of organic agriculture products foods to aid organic farming in India.
  • Zero Budget Natural Farming:
    • Government is actively promoting Zero budget natural farming. It is a method of chemical-free agriculture drawing from traditional Indian practices.
  • Soil Health Card Scheme:
    • The scheme aims at promoting soil test based and balanced use of fertilisers to enable farmers to realise higher yields
    • It has led to a decline of 8-10% in the use of chemical fertilizers and raised productivity by 5-6%


  • Participation
    • Participation of all stakeholders (producers, consumers, retailers, traders and others such as NGOs) are promoting sustainable agriculture practices.
  • Market development:
    • Market development for the organic products is a crucial factor to promote domestic sales.
  • Financial support:
    • Governments or the financial sector could play a role by offering subsidies, incentives, or some other kind of insurance to alleviate the risks associated with the transition from conventional to sustainable agriculture, which involves huge initial investment
  • Need for awareness campaigns:
    • There is a need of holistic and community-driven approach, similar to the “Swachh Bharat” for “Swachh Food” needs to be undertaken.


Q. "Sustainable agriculture in India can build a nutritionally, ecologically, and economically healthy nation". Discuss.