Organic agriculture is one of the most widely known alternative production systems advocated for its benefits to soil, environment, health and economic well-being of farming communities. Rapid increase in the market demand for organic products presents a remarkable opportunity for expansion of organic agriculture. A thorough understanding of the context specific motivations of farmers for adoption of organic farming systems is important so that appropriate policy measures are put in place. With an aim of understanding the social and biophysical motivations of organic and conventional cotton farmers for following their respective farming practices, a detailed farm survey was conducted in Nimar valley of Madhya Pradesh state in central India. The study area was chosen for being an important region for cotton production, where established organic and conventional farms operate under comparable circumstances. We found considerable variation among organic and conventional farmers for their social and biophysical motivations. Organic farmers were motivated by the sustainability of cotton production and growing safer food without pesticides, whereas conventional farmers were sensitive about their reputation in community. Organic farmers with larger holdings were more concerned about closed nutrient cycles and reducing their dependence on external inputs, whereas medium and small holding organic farmers were clearly motivated by the premium price of organic cotton. Higher productivity was the only important motivation for conventional farmers with larger land holdings. We also found considerable yield gaps among different farms, both under conventional and organic management, that need to be addressed through extension and training. Our findings suggest that research and policy measures need to be directed toward strengthening of extension services, local capacity building, enhancing availability of suitable inputs and market access for organic farmers.
Keywords: biophysical factors; motivational factors; organic cotton; socio-economic factors.