Building a world-class agricultural ecosystem that caters to the needs of India and a significant portion of the world is not easy. This is the goal the government has set for itself and the farmers. The objective is to transform the $440 billion sector into the world’s biggest food supplier while attaining food security in the country. But this would mean surmounting legacy challenges that hamper the productivity of farmers.

One of the biggest needs of the average Indian farmer is to find ways to protect their crops from insects, pests and diseases which latch onto the leaves, stem, and fruits of crops for food, and parasitically cause severe damage to yield. In recent times, emerging companies and organisations are discovering new and innovative biological and chemical solutions to crop protection and nutrition, in a bid to boost yield and improve the fortunes of farming communities.

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Emerging options for crop protection

For many years, there has been advocacy for farmers across India to adopt the judicious use of insecticides, fungicides and herbicides to control insects, weeds and diseases. While the push has continued for many years, compliance has been difficult to achieve across the country. These chemicals act as a shield for crops to prevent the damaging effects of parasites and pathogens. However, the call for natural and sustainable solutions have also led to the development of biologicals in recent years.

According to a study, biologicals are products manufactured from living organisms used for seed treatment and crop protection. They have become alternative solutions to improving plant health, including genetically modifying seeds with healthy bacteria to boost their resilience. Good examples include using bacillus thuringiensis to produce insect-resistant maize seeds in many parts of the world and the genetically-modified cotton used in India. There is also ongoing research by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to develop GM seeds for other crops.

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Beyond that, other biological alternatives help with crop protection management, including those used throughout the crop’s life cycle. You’d find insecticides, fungicides, nematicides, soil energizers and PGRs. The demand for food continues to increase and the global population continues to explode. However, there is also growing awareness about the quality of food people eat, leading to increased demand for naturally and sustainably produced crops. Overall, Indian farmers require newer and more innovative crop protection & nutrition products that are more environment-friendly, more effective, and safer.

Keeping farming communities safe  

It is also important to make the point that safer crop protection products will have lesser effects on the environment and keep farming communities safe. This includes protecting and preserving the soil and water for other human uses. This behoves a greater responsibility on manufacturers of crop protection and nutrition products to focus on boosting productivity and ensuring the safety of farming communities are not compromised. Indian companies have become far more responsible by working in research rather than only manufacturing & marketing the already known molecules. This has also led to many noticeable “Make in India” products in the last few years by Indian manufacturers.

The world is changing, and sectors must conform to trends and actions tied to climate change, health, and sustainability. For agriculture, India can meet its objectives of building a bigger and stronger sector by increasing productivity without compromising the health of the crops and farming communities by using innovative biological and chemical products. The onus is on companies that produce these protective agents, as well as the government, to build a safer ecosystem for farming communities by protecting crops and people

The author is Managing Director, Insecticides (India) Limited