Agri Business

Striking a balance between sustainable farming and feeding a billion people

Our Bureau Bengaluru | Updated on February 24, 2020 Published on February 24, 2020

Farm inputs such as chemical fertilisers, hybrid seeds and insecticides have played a key role in increasing the country’s food production over the past few decades. However, the input-intensive cropping systems have raised concerns on their economic, social and environmental impact, triggering demand to make farming more sustainable.

The availability of cheaper urea has led to its excess application by farmers, resulting in a nutrient imbalance, which has impacted soil health and leading, in turn, to degradation in soil quality. Such a trend has begun impacting farm productivity.

Soil health card

The soil health card (SHC) scheme introduced by the Modi government in 2015 has entered into the fifth year. So far, the government has issued about 22.43 crore SHCs. The card provides information to farmers on the nutrient status of their soil, and creates awareness on the appropriate dosage of nutrients to be applied for improving soil health and its fertility.

The SHC scheme appears to have begun making an impact as the consumption of nitrogenous fertilisers has dropped marginally since 2015-16. At the same time, the offtake of phosphorous and potassic nutrients has increased marginally. Recent studies show that fertiliser consumption has come down by about a tenth, while boosting productivity, resulting in higher farm incomes.

The over-use of pesticides and insecticides remains a concern. The toxic residue on food products due to the use of pesticides has led to health issues, triggering various lifestyle diseases. This has only increased the clamour for sustainable farming.

The session on ‘Balancing farm productivity and sustainable agriculture’, at the BusinessLine Agriculture Summit to be held in New Delhi on February 28, will have experts from the input sector deliberating on the measures required to maintain growth in food production while making it sustainable.

While the government has been urging farmers to go back to the basics and adopt practices such as natural farming, the challenge ahead is to sustain and grow food to feed the burgeoning population. This assumes significance as the shrinking trend in resources such as land and water will pose major challenges going ahead.

In such a scenario, inputs are going to have a crucial role in feeding the growing population. Biotechnology-led solutions, through improved seeds, provide an option for the policy makers to explore. As climate change manifests itself, there is a need to strike a balance in the usage of inputs to make farming sustainable and address concerns on the environment and health.

Published on February 24, 2020
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