The question is incorrect

Shankar Venkataraman
6 min readApr 9, 2020
Nutrition rich sweet cucumber grown using an organic no-plow system

In the last 13 years of Farming work I did, I was asked this question, why is organic food more expensive than regular food? I believe the question itself is incorrect. I try to explain it below with concepts like soil bank account, human health, and also facts you can understand.

Farmers who use chemicals are mass-producing vegetables, fruits, grains, milk, and meat and these products are treated as commodities. The market puts a price on these products daily based on supply and demand that day This market price has no connection with the production cost of the food. So farmers are going out of business regularly because farming is now the same as gambling.

There is both art and science involved in organic production as opposed to chemical farming where chemicals are used as shortcuts to solve farming problems faced by the farmer. It's foolish to compare the chemically grown product with guaranteed organic products in terms of prices because a chemically grown product is different in the method it's produced and is nutritionally poor as it comes from depleted soil. Repeated use of chemicals and excessive plowing have destroyed the soil structure and made the soil depleted of nutrients due to constant wind and rain-based erosion. The biological life of the soil is gone.

The soil bank account that cannot be measured in paper dollars. If you understood soil chemistry, you may know that phosphorous is a limiting nutrient for the uptake of many other nutrients by plants. This is because phosphorous is highly reactive and combines with various elements and is unavailable for plants. Phosphorous binds with calcium, iron, aluminum, and so on. But when soil is saturated with all the nutrients including phosphorous, Increases in P also lead to increases in the utilization of other nutrients that are necessary for plant growth.

However, when you saturate your agriculture system with these nutrients, carbon becomes the limiting factor, not to plants, but to the microbes in the soil that can serve as storage devices for nutrients, keeping them from leaching out of the system.

This is what we mean by the soil bank account. The soil is full of microbial life. These microbes increase in numbers because we increase the carbon content of the soil. The microbes store minerals as part of their body as they grow and multiply.

In a chemical production system, the soil is treated as media for growth. There are systems to grow crops in cocopeat and water where there is not even soil media. These systems are a failure in terms of the costs involved and providing nutrition for the human body. It is impossible to know the exact uptake of all nutrients needed by plants at various stages of plant growth. So a system based on theories of nutrient uptake calculations is hiding the fact that enough nutrients are not there in the plant and that leads to disease of plants and also the humans who consume it.

In the organic production system, the very design of nature is to build soil life and preserve soil intact with the glues secreted by soil life. If the organic production system is combined with no-plowing and mulching, it creates the ideal conditions for water retention and exponential microbial growth in the soil, which in turn improves the soil bank account of nutrients and soil life. No-till systems also preserve soil carbon by the non-removal of roots of dead and dying plants. Also, the bodies of micro-organisms are made of carbon and when they die, the carbon content of soil increases. All the soil carbon banks came from the CO2 in the atmosphere which is a greenhouse gas. So, organic no-plowing production systems also fix global warming problems.

Human health issues are also fixed because plants growing in organic no-plow systems supply much-needed nutrition in the correct balance designed by nature.

So if you eat plants growing from a carbon-rich, microbial rich soil, you can fight disease the same way, these healthy plants can fight disease with their well developed immune systems due to peak plant health.

It's a golden rule that “You cannot sustain a depleted resource”. Soils are depleted because of incorrect agricultural practices of using chemical fertilizers and plowing the soil and using deadly pesticides and herbicides and not taking care of ecosystems above and below the soil. There is no point talking about sustaining the food production system based on a depleted resource like soil. We need to address how to fix the depleted resource before talking about the sustainability of production and the cost of production per kg of food and the price of products.

It's a myth that chemical farming is cheaper than organic farming. In Industrial chemical-based farming, the farmers grow large volumes of products in monocultures using chemicals and fertilizers to kill anything other than the cash crop plant grown in a dead ecosystem above and below the soil. In this system, the soil is not rich with microbes and naturally produced minerals but pumped with artificial chemicals frequently. There is no flavor, taste or longevity for the fruit or vegetable grown as they pump the soil with potassium chloride and other deadly chemicals to improve fruit or vegetable size without maintaining the mineral balance in the fruit or vegetable. When you consume this food, it does not serve the purpose of improving your vitality. Instead, it makes you sick because you no longer have the minerals and vitamins and antioxidants to fight disease. Your immune system becomes weak through incorrect food choices while you try to save your bank account and destroy the soil bank account by sponsoring chemical farming with your hard-earned money.

Fundamentally chemical farming is wrong. It is a steady way to destroy soil which is the basis of all life on this planet. Chemical farming depletes the soil because it assumes that soil and plants need constant inputs to grow and treats soil as media of growth. This mindset further leads to thinking that you can even grow without soil through hydroponics or cocopeat media etc...

Soil is the miracle of nature. Its a marriage of biology and geology. The human genius cannot even compete with the genius of nature with millions of years of evolutionary intelligence behind it that has built the soil.

Since humans disobeyed the rules of nature and did not preserve the soil with correct farming methods, they now have to depend on medicines in the form of chemical pills and their immune systems are completely compromised and exposed to viruses and bacteria. Now they are talking about prevention using vaccines and masks and social distancing for coronavirus instead of fixing the malaise by fixing the soil.

Is it not sad that we desertified good agricultural soils by continuous use of chemicals and now try to find solutions via vaccines instead of fixing our most important resource ===>>> THE SOIL ??

In the organic no-plow systems, the plants are much healthy. Farmers save in spraying costs and the yields are higher. After two years, farmers need half the inputs needed in the first two years and can still produce higher yields. The organic matter levels increase and maintain because the soil is undisturbed and carbon does not evaporate into CO2 by soil disturbance. Soil life is fed by plant exudates and soil life increases which leads to increase in humification and mineralization.
Drip Irrigation is only needed for one hour only every week. If it rains then we need not water for fifteen days by which time another rain comes. So, no watering at all for the rainy season.
So many frogs and rats live in soil under the cool mulch and earthworm populations explode. So many birds to eat the grain in the hay mulch and snakes to eat the rats.. a lot of big birds circling the skies to eat the animals living on the soil.
It gives a lot of energy when you grow healthy plants from healthy soil. When plants are sick and the soil is depleted, we feel depleted ourselves. Coronavirus is no threat if we ate from rich soils and have great immunity from mineral-rich food. How can you put a price on that?

Scientists say 380 trillion viruses and 40 trillion bacteria live inside and on the skin of human beings. So we can never really prevent bacteria and viruses from attacking us but we can only increase the immunity to fight the bad ones. And the only way to increase our immunity is to eat mineral-rich, vitamin-rich foods grown in nutrient-dense soils. The only way possible to develop nutrient-dense soils is organic no-plow systems. Chemical farming is the way to gamble the future of our food systems and leave nothing for our children. Organic no-plow farming is the way to a sustainable future and food security for many generations to come.

-Shankar Venkataraman, Founder and Lead Farmer at Mapletree Farms.



Shankar Venkataraman

Farmer, author, farming teacher, public speaker. Areas of Agriculture and technology in Agriculture.