Citizen Science

Role of Penning in Organic Farming

Role of Penning in Organic Farming
-K.Amina Bibi

Organic farming system is a method of farming system which is primarily aimed at cultivating the land and raising crops in such a way, as to keep the soil alive and in good health by use of organic wastes (crop, animal and farm wastes, aquatic wastes) and other biological materials along with beneficial microbes (biofertilizers) to release nutrients to crops for increased sustainable production in an eco friendly pollution free environment. It is a method of crop and livestock production that involves much more than choosing not to use pesticides, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and growth hormones.

Organic production is a holistic system designed to optimize the productivity and fitness of diverse communities within the agro-ecosystem, including soil organisms, plants, livestock and people. The principal goal of organic production is to develop enterprises that are sustainable and harmonious with the environment.

One of the practices for Organic farming is Penning. Penning is done with herds of either Sheep or Goat. Sheep / Goat penning is one of the traditional methods of enhancing soil fertility. Penning is an important part of Organic Farming. In this process the sheep are made to stay in the field overnight which enables its fecal matter and urine are left in the field later incorporated to a shallow depth by working blade harrow or cultivator or cultivator.

The sheep get their feed from field and field is enriched with nutrients and loads of micro organisms act on them to turn the soil more fertile than before. As the activities of various organisms increase in the soil makes it more porous. The physical properties of the soil are found to be greatly improved after every penning.
The number of sheep / goat in one flock varies from 100s to 1000s. The penning starts in the evening where the sheep / goats are made to assemble in a selected field. They are brought in such a way the kids are with mothers. Penning is found to turn soil into more fertile than before and any crop can be grown after sheep penning. Also the root grub dies due to the power of sheep urine. The urine reduces salinity in the soil. Grazing of the sheep / goat in the field helps the field with fewer weeds which would have turned into menace.

The farm produces are found to be of good quality and tastier compared to produces from non-penned fields. The weight of the grains from the penned fields is more.

((Text and photographs by Amina Bibi.  K. Amina Bibi is a Post Graduate in Agriculture with specialization in Plant Breeding and Genetics. She is currently working as Agriculture Officer in Karaikal, Department of Agriculture, Government of Puducherry) 

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