While presenting the union budget in 2016, our Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley announced the exciting and ambitious program of the government- that to go beyond food security and give back a sense of income security to our farmers. Called the initiative to double the farmers’ income by 2022, PM Modi’s government allotted approx Rs. 36,000 crore for agriculture and farmers’ welfare.
Over the next one year, we read many initiatives being taken in this regards- by NGOs, private companies, public undertakings and of course the Government itself. These primarily revolved around addressing issues such as optimal utilization of water resources by strengthening the infrastructure for irrigation, and conserving soil fertility through informed and precise use of inputs. For the last mile, initiatives were taken to provide connectivity from farm to market.
In my opinion, this ambitious dream can be fulfilled easily if we adopt three innovative techniques. Firstly, we need better seeds to enable improved incomes. There is an urgent need to encourage adoption of High Yielding Variety (HYV) and Hybrid Seeds which have proved its mettle in the past. In 1990s, HYV seed innovation increased crop productivity by over 100% and doubled food grain production from 72 – 190 million Metric tons. Between 2002 -2014, Bollgard Cotton tripled cotton production from 13 million bales to 39 million bales increasing farmers’ income by US $2.1 billion in 2013 alone.
Secondly, further to what Arun Jaitley mentioned, there is a need to expand India’s irrigation infrastructure. This is urgent because of the 141 million hectares of net cultivated area in the country only 65 million hectares is actually irrigated. In this regards, the Government also announced ‘Pradhan Mantri Sinchai Yojana’ focusing on bringing 28.5 lakh hectares under irrigation. I suggest the potential of drip and sprinkler irrigation be explored as well which can increase area under irrigation to 100 million hectares in the next 10 years!
Drip irrigation has multiple benefits. Not only does it allow you to save 30-50% water but it also improves growth of a plant as a small amount of water applied for a longer time is ideal for cop growth.This in turn, improves soil health which results in good yield.
Similarly, hybrid maize (single cross) is one of the most sustainable solutions to address climate change. The single cross hybrids are enriched with nutritious properties which is a healthy feed to poultry and also for people who depend upon maize as their staple food.
We should also leverage the potential of animal husbandry by encouraging livestock management practices. As food habits diversify in India and the demand for dairy and poultry products is increasing, livestock management will provide additional income to farmers all-year!
The environmental benefits of advanced technologies are bountiful! Had it not been for technology and innovation, our environment would have faced a much severe blow of degradation. Sophisticated technologies such as robots, temperature, moisture sensors, aerial images, GPS technology, robotic systems enable a smoother, profitable and an environmentally friendly agriculture system.
And finally, we must encourage and enable precision agriculture through Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Sharing data for weather, farming and market information to digitize farm financial transactions and make informed decisions towards farming.
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By Mr Ritesh Mishra, Lead- Regulatory Affairs, Mahyco