Our traditional farming, though suffering from a number of limitations was a sustainable agricul­ture. Starting about 15,000 years before Jesus the Christ, it has been able to maintain soils in a healthy state while yielding enough eatables to support the society in a modest way.

No doubt productivity was low but so were energy and fertilizer inputs which consisted of human or animal labour and organic manures only. It was often carried on under poor irrigation facilities. However, traditional farming utilized available resources more efficiently than modern agriculture. Important aspects of traditional agriculture can be summed up as follows:

1. Heavy dependence on soil microbes for regeneration of fertility and soil conservation.

2. Reliance on bio-diversity for crop protection and higher productivity.


Soil microbes regenerated soil fertility on their own. To keep them healthy plenty of organic manures were used which improved soil texture, water and nutrient retention capacity and soil-crumb structure. Crop rotation, mixed farming, cultivation of a number of diverse varieties together etc. provided the necessary safe-gaurds against specific pathogens, insects and pests while improving nutrient status of the soil as well.

Traditional agriculture was often carried on under conditions of poor soil fertility and meagre irrigation facilities. Similar conditions still prevail in many parts of the world. Traditional varieties respond well to such conditions for they have evolved under similar circumstances. Modern rapid growing, high-yield varieties need large quantities of nutrients and plenty of water etc.

These condi­tions can be met only by external energy and fertilizer inputs. With water, chemical fertilizer and energy crisis which we are likely to face in years ahead, it could be difficult to meet the demands of intensive agriculture in near future. The detrimental effect of intensive fanning on fertility and soil erosion adds another important reason for us to look for a cheaper and sustainable alternative.

Our agriculture has to change into a sustainable system – a system which can be carried on without any threat to our soils, plant and animal communities and excessive drain on our energy and material resources. It is only by introducing elements of permanence in intensive cultivation that we can hope to survive on this planet. We can add a good deal of sustainability to intensive agriculture by:


1. Maintaining a healthy soil community which can automatically regenerate soil fertility by providing organic manures, increasing fallow periods, avoiding excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

2. Infusing bio-diversity in agriculture by sowing mixed crops, crop rotation etc.

In brief we shall have to fall back upon our old traditional practices of agriculture in which

Productivity was low but there were elements of sustainability. We shall have to develop our future agriculture with traditional agriculture as its basis.