As part of its efforts to encourage “climate-proof” agriculture that will be environment-friendly, the Odisha government has begun adopting underground pipeline-based irrigation (UPBI) system in a big way, shelving open canal irrigation, a top government official has said.

The State has now gone a step further by launching a pressurised irrigation system that can help farmers to adopt drip irrigation without secondary pumping, said Pradeep Kumar Jena, State Agriculture Production Commissioner, told businessline in a phone interview.

“We have created huge irrigation potential but the flow irrigation (through canals introduced earlier) is not good for the climate, productivity and product. So, we have shifted to underground pipeline-based irrigation with an outlet every hectare,” Jena told businessline in a phone interview.

Emphasising crop diversification

Launched in 2017, the pipeline-based irrigation system helps in the efficient use of water and crop diversification.  The State has completed over 3.5 lakh hectares (lh) of such a system with the total area under it likely to increase to 4 lh with the State government emphasising crop diversification.  

“In another six months, we will complete underground pipeline-based irrigation for 30,000-35,000 hectares. We have made substantial coverage through the Lower Sukhtel Irrigation project, which was launched in 2003,” Jena said. 

This has helped a district such as Bolangir, which is drought-prone and had only 3 per cent under irrigation in 2003. A major part of the district will be covered under the UPBI system that is pressurised by the next kharif season. “Now we are going for pressurised UPBI system, which will have a 16-20 meter head, so that farmers can attach a drip system without any pumping. They can get going immediately,” the Odisha Agriculture Production Commissioner said. 

Weather vagaries

Odisha, which has faced seven cyclones in the past three years, has provided irrigation to 44.38 lh of the 66 lh under various crops. “Over the last five years, we have brought 6 lh under irrigation,” said Jena, who was previously in charge of irrigation. 

Stating that climate change agriculture is important in view of the weather vagaries the State is facing, the Agriculture Production Commissioner said as part of the State’s strategy, it was looking at climate-friend crops that require less water. “Simultaneously, we have to ensure that water is available to farmers but that does not mean that they should use water recklessly. So, the efficient use of water has to improve,” Jena said. 

The State Agriculture Department is working with horticulture, irrigation and cooperation departments to ensure that farmers go for cultivation of a mix of crops that are non-cereals such as horticulture, vegetables and fruits. 

More ground to cover

Pointing to the fact that the State was the first to come up with an exclusive budget for agriculture in 2013-14, he said there is 15-20 per cent annual growth in the budget outlay. 

Though the State’s paddy productivity is near the national average, its pulses yield is far lower. “There is a lot of ground to cover,” he said, adding that out of the 7.5 million tonnes (mt) of paddy Odisha produces, it consumes 3 mt. The rest is given to the Food Corporation of India, raising the need for farmers to go for non-paddy crops such as ragi and other coarse cereals. 

Such diversification will help cut input and labour costs, while the State is trying to improve market access and information, cutting post-harvest losses and providing access to technology.

Climate-proof farming

Stating that the Odisha Millet Mission was a huge success with the Niti Aayog recognising it, Jena said it was a good example of “climate proofing and crop diversification”. 

The State has got its tribal people into the mission with 85 blocks in 15 districts being covered by it. Odisha is getting tribal farmers to take more interest by helping them through procurement. “We are procuring 6 lt of millets, in addition to providing them 1-2 kg every month through the public distribution system,” he said, adding that it is distributed in tribal areas too.    

Odisha has introduced ragi in anganwadis and plans to introduce the millet as part of free food provided in schools. “We are now looking at adding value to ragi and fox millets and marketing them,” Jena said.