Deshpal Rana, a farmer in Shamli district of western Uttar Pradesh, has been growing crops without using chemical inputs for last seven years and has been selling his produce at a premium of up to ₹20/kg from market rate, except in case of sugarcane. Though he is supplying to sugar mills getting the same price what other farmers receive, he is hopeful that one day chemical-free sugarcane will also fetch higher rates.

“I was guided by Dr Chandra (an agriculture scientist) to prepare the bio pesticides in 2016 and have been continuing the same process to prepare it myself. The first year our cultivation was a bit weak, but the next year there was some growth. I have made a permanent tank of 5,000 litres and now we put the waste de-composer along with the other inputs like gur and neem leaves,” Rana said.

He also said that people in nearby areas all know that he has been growing ‘organic’, so they place the order in advance to buy the produce. “My basmati (Pusa 1509) fetched ₹5,000/quintal whereas its (with chemical pesticides) market rate was ₹3,000/quintal,” Rana said adding he takes three crops in a year.

On sugarcane, he said he had tried to make organic gur (jaggery) through a local kolhu (gur maker) and even sold at ₹50/kg, still it is not a regular one. “I have no option but to sell to sugar mills at same rate without any premium,” he said. Actually, either one has to bring the organic cane at the beginning or has to wait till end as kolhus will not clean the entire system once they start crushing cane and organic produce will be mixed with others, another farmer said, who was there to know about organic farming from Rana.

It is not actually biopesticides, which are used after pest attack, as applying his organic formulation helps him to prevent fungus and pest attack, Rana said. He also claimed that his field ‘normally’ doe not have pest incidence whereas the adjacent sugarcane field does have instances regularly. Cultivating a land of 50 bighas (approximately 31 acres), he has devoted most of it to sugarcane as it is a common feature in the district.

Though he has heard about organic certification, he does not have much knowledge on it and comfortable selling his produce as “pure organic”. “Everyone in the vicinity knows about the organic cultivation I do and due to health consciousness growing among people, there is also an increased demand for my produce every year,” Rana said.

Regarding crop nutrient, in place of conventional urea, DAP, which is normally used in cane, paddy and wheat crop, Rana has been using biofertiliser made of cow dung. “I need to apply bio fertiliser once in every three years, unlike every year in case of chemical fertilisers. I normally get enough cow dung for my field,” he said adding he has six animals- cows and buffaloes. The requirement is one trolley (80-100 quintal) per bigha, he said.