While the first green revolution managed to make the nation self sufficient the next round of reforms certainly needs to address the problems faced by today’s farmers. According to statistics available on Indian Council of Agricultural Research, India reaped a record foodgrain production of 259.32 million tonnes (mt) in 2011-12. However, the output fell to 257.13 mt in 2012-13 on account of deficient rainfall in several States. Questions are still linger on the quality of produce and impoverished conditions of farmers.

On the face of it, the Government has initiated actions to bridge these gaps in the agricultural system. For instance, the Budget has sought to increase its focus on yield, food quality and self sufficiency to protect the interest of farmers. The salient features are: Bhoomi Heen Kisan, Soil Health Card, New Urea Policy, Irrigation, National Adaptation Fund, Promoting Organic Farming, Farm Price Stabilisation Fund and promoting agri-entrepreneurs.However, if the inclusive participation of all stakeholders is not taken into account, efforts will fail. The other problem is that the farmers community regularly suffers from developments relating to weather. One way to safeguard against these is through ‘Protected Cultivation’ which will collaborate the efforts of farmers as well the Government on a common ground.

In India, only one per cent of total floriculture is equipped with protected cultivation techniques, whereas agriculturally advanced countries such as Netherlands, Italy, Spain, France and others have 55-70 per cent area covered under protected cultivation.

Protected cultivation solutions involve custom-made poly houses, shade nets, insect nets, bird protection nets, anti-hail nets, mulch mats and similar products which will certainly augment the quality and productivity of the crops, resulting in higher profits to the farmers at subsidised rates.

Protected Cultivation increases yield by up to 8 to 10 times, saves water up to 50 per cent, compared to open field flood irrigation, reduction in cost of fertilisers, labour etc.

Undulating terrains, saline, water logged, sandy and hilly lands can also be brought under productive cultivation.

A poly house in an acre would approximately costs anywhere between ₹25 and 30 lakh. This would last for at least 15 years. The yield per acre in the first year would be in the range of ₹75-80 lakhs. There is a component of 30 per cent subsidy available from the Government.

Small farmers may not be able to pool in such huge investment. Hence, banks and other financial institutions should chip in to support farmers.

In India, where nearly every year north regions such as Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir faces hailstorms resulting in almost 12-15 per cent high-value crops being severely damaged and putting farmers in a helpless situation. Though the Government takes adequate step to compensate for adversity, the right approach would be to plan and protect farms well in advance using anti-hail nets. To make it affordable, banks should give loans to poor farmers.

Similarly, usage of anti-bird nets must be encouraged, especially for isolation crops.

Also, one-third of the geographical area is drought–prone since it is dependent on the monsoon, which can be erratic. In comparison to the past, where monsoon was spread across 3-4 months, now almost 60 per cent rainfall happens in a week or two and even after a good monsoon, adequate water is not available due to of lack of proper management and storage. Therefore, it becomes important to make provision for storing rain water by building pond in the agricultural fields. One of the most effective ways of water management is through pond/canal lining. These ponds would be built in a variety of soil types which exhibit a wide range of seepage characteristics. Because of seepage, the water level of the reservoir depletes rapidly. Seepage losses not only mean loss of useful water but also lead to other problems such as breach in the embankment, water-logging and increased salinity in the adjacent areas.

To conclude, all the proposed reforms along with protected cultivation solutions when implemented will result in convenience to the farmers, better output and subsequently reduce the migration of the rural population to the cities. This will answer the perpetual question of whether agriculture can bring the Indian economy out of the trough.

The author is COO, Garware Wall Ropes Ltd. Views are personal.