On 9 July 2018, a national-level consultation-cum-conference was held under the chairmanship of NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Dr Rajiv Kumar to discuss the concept of ZBNF. Padma Shri–awardee Shri Subhash Palekar, the pioneer of this practice, was one of the key speakers in this conference.
Elaborating on the concept of ZBNF, Mr Palekar said the practice ensures that profit from supplementary crops is enough to cover the cost of production of the main crop. He also mentioned that Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala and Karnataka have already implemented ZBNF—the farmers in these states are treating seeds with Agniastra, Brahmastra and Neemastra.
The following points emerged in the meeting:
i) Schemes such as Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and RKVY- RAFTAAR can be utilized by the states to promote ZBNF. A new scheme is not required for promoting ZBNF.
ii) ICAR can validate ZBNF, which will be studied and produced before NITI Aayog. ZBNF projects can be initiated in every state, and one scientist from ICAR may be deployed in each such state to compare ZBNF with organic farming, conventional farming, and inorganic farming. Scientific validation is important in view of further recommendations to the states.
iii) It was highlighted that authentic data is required for control experimentation. It was suggested that a well-published authenticated document benchmarking scientific protocols is a must to recommend ZBNF to stakeholders. It was suggested that a team of scientists from ICAR can prepare a protocol for kharif and rabi crops, in association with Shri T. Vijay Kumar, co-vice chairman, AP Rythu Sadhikara Samstha.
iv) The extension system for ZBNF needs to be strengthened, for which the existing infrastructure of the government may be utilized. There is a need for more cold storages near farms.
v) All support from NITI Aayog was assured to the scientific research community for setting standards and protocols for the implementation of ZBNF.
It was decided that the ICAR will take the lead in developing a standard protocol on Natural Farming and state governments will be hand-held for establishing and following technology and farming protocols.