Primitive but ecologically symbiotic farming practised by mankind since ages before the arrival of conventional agriculture is now largely influencing the environmentalists with its quotient of coexistence. That is what progressed the concept of modern organic farming. Organic farming is the cultivation of land and producing crops while maintaining the health of the soil by using available organic animal and plant waste and other biological materials in synergy with beneficial microorganisms for releasing nutrients to the crops. Organic farming is eco-friendly, sustainable and helps in maintain pollution free environment. Organic farming contributes considerably to the promotion of biodiversity. Practically, the organic farming system in our region (the whole subcontinent) was followed till the middle of last century until population explosion and the advent of modern agricultural technology got it replaced with conventional (read commercialized) farming in the early sixties with the arrival of the green revolution. However, with present exhaustive agricultural practice, the soils have lost the microbial culture that would create an amicable situation in the soils for optimum availability and utilization of nutrients in the soil. Now almost all stakeholders are unanimous on the fact that conventional farming has played havoc with our soils. The soil pH has gone haywire and the soil structure and texture is heading towards disastrous compaction and loss of water retention capacity.
Denying the importance of green revolution at a crucial juncture when food security was an important issue will be unfair. It not only made the India self-sufficient but increased its standing economically. But over-exploitation of agrarian sector and with excessive use of chemicals the earlier conception of green revolution— nature-friendly sustenance with dignity has become irrelevant.
The valley of Kashmir with its distinctive topography, exceptional ecological and climatic conditions in the region provide unique aroma and taste to its crops and have been in compulsive unorganized organic farming even after the green revolution for a pretty long time. Certainly, the late Maharaja Hari Singh on the advice of the European visitors and officers made good efforts to explore the distinctiveness climatic zone of the valley and get it on modern lines but his efforts remained confined to horticulture, vegetable seed production and few medicinal and aromatic crops only. Maharaja got expert advice and appointed experts to run a full-fledged agriculture department in the early forties. His good efforts were carried further by the popular governments but with overexploitation, unplanned land conversion and excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides most of the fruit and other crops gradually lost their uniqueness, though the yield increased many folds.
Kashmir being landlocked valley on a higher altitude with a fragile ecosystem, uniqueness in environment and climate can be explored as the ultimate destination for high-end organic farming. With just a fewpractical approaches and outlets to the rest of the world, organic certification and distinctiveness can be easily achieved and managed. At present organic farming in India is exclusively export-oriented so any product with individual taste, aroma and unique eco-friendly cultivation tag will have a huge international market. And Kashmir is the right destination for it. Export of Indian organic products grew many folds from 4161 metric tons in 2002-03 to 194088 metric tons (135 products) in 2013-14 with an export value of Rs.619.6 and 2566 crores respectively. This indicative growth in organic produce export within a decade in recent past has now adopted a phenomenal dimension. The prime market for Indian organic products is Europe and U.S with a monopoly in organic herbs, organic spices and organic basmati rice export. And if Kashmir ventures into organic cultivation in a big way it can not only grab the major chunk of export market of horticulture and herbs but will also make inroads into growing domestic market.
Indeed the organic certification and other parameters for producing international standard organic food products are stringent and time-bound with many checks and balances for quarantine and distinctiveness. However, in a place like Kashmir, it is easier to manage isolation and purity of organic crops as compared to plains. With restricted or well-ordered approach Kashmir can prove the true gene bank and repository of desired germ-plasm for organic cultivation. The highly remunerative cultivation after crossing the certification phases can turn the whole agriculture sector in the valley into a cultivation brand that can easily compete with others in the region on merits of matchless taste, aroma and exclusivity.
With the passage of time hopefully, the organic farming will inculcate a sense of better land-use, well-managed ecosystem and an urge to conserve resources for posterity. And the best of it—the people particularly the farmers with progress and profitability on their side will definitely shun over-exploitation of Mother Earth. Thus every Kashmiri will not only plead but will acknowledge—"In the best interest of mankind and the ecosystem simply sustainable good yielding organic farming is the only option".