Technology-led approach, effective usage needed to boost agricultural productivity

WOUTER KOLFF | Updated on January 24, 2018 Published on April 27, 2015



Water resource management crucial to sustainable development

The Green Revolution has played a transformational role in the revival of Indian Agriculture, making India not just self-sufficient in food grains but a net exporter too.

However, decades after the Green Revolution, India is faced with the challenge of ensuring food and nutritional security.

To achieve this primary goal, it is critical for our agriculture sector to overcome low productivity levels arising out of depleting land resources, soil degradation, high dependency on rain-fed irrigation and climate change patterns.

The slow-down in agricultural productivity has become the major cause of concern for low agricultural growth.

Comparative yield

Productivity of Indian agriculture is low as compared to the productivity at the global level.

According to FAO estimates, the yield of rice as of April 2011 in India was 3.2 tonnes per hectare as against 7.5 tonnes per hectare in the United States, 6.7 tonnes per hectare in China and global average of 4.3 tonnes per hectare (Chart).

Similar contrast in yields have also been observed in case of wheat and coarse cereals though yield gaps as regard oilseeds were lesser, that is, 1.0 tonne per hectare, 2.7 tonnes per hectare and 2.1 tonnes per hectare for India, United States and China respectively.

Even the most productive States in the country fall short of world standards in terms of yields of major crops.

Significance of technology

Technology has a major role to play to improve crop productivity.

In this regard, introduction of soil health card and integration of economically important genes for crop yield improvement are two primary initiatives that have been taken by the Centre.

The card will carry crop wise recommendations of nutrients/fertilisers required for farms, making it possible for farmers to improve productivity by using appropriate inputs. About 14 crore Soil Health Cards are envisaged to be issued over the next 3 years.

The Centre has initiated long term measures through sequencing of genomes of important plants and microbes, targeted integration of economically important genes for crop yield improvement genomics and bio-fortification for qualitative and quantitative improvement in food crops.

Improving water resources

India’s largest user of water is the agricultural sector. However, increasing competition for water between industry, domestic use and agriculture has highlighted the need of proper water management.

Water usage and management for sustainable development is rapidly becoming a focal point for all growing economies.

Given the fact that India withdraws 85% water for irrigation and only a mere 9% is utilised by the industry while the balance goes to households, it is one of the most important input side commodities that runs the risk of drying up, unless comprehensive management practices are put in place to assess and manage the requirement, usage and regeneration of water sources.

Piped transport, better on-farm management of water, and use of more efficient delivery mechanisms such as drip irrigation are among the actions that could be taken.

Steps needed to be taken to exploit the use of groundwater. Incentives to pump efficient water usage such as levying electricity charges, or community monitoring of use, have not yet succeeded beyond sporadic initiatives. Gujarat’s Jyotigram Yojna is an innovative Electricity Scheme in that separates electricity feeder lines for agricultural and non-agricultural users.

The three-phase reliable electricity supply made it possible for farmers to stick to their irrigation schedules and helped inculcate discipline in the extraction of ground water. Meters were also installed on each feeder to curb theft. This resulted in a 9.6%-growth rate in agricultural as compared to a national average of 2.9%.

Other priorities

Other key priorities include: modernising irrigation and drainage departments to integrate the participatory irrigation management with farmers; improving M&O cost recovery; rationalising public expenditures, with priority to completing schemes with the highest returns; and allocating sufficient resources for operations and maintenance for the sustainability of investments.

The Union Budget 2015 has mentioned the focus on water management through ‘Pradhanmantri Gram Sinchai Yojana’ to provide ‘Per Drop More Crop’ and ₹5,300 crore to support micro-irrigation, watershed development. It is planned to include NREGA with Pradhanmantri Gram Sinchai Yojana.

The Centre has taken major steps to address the two major factors critical to agricultural production, soil and water.

To boost farm productivity, technology intervention should address farm mechanisation of small farms. Integration of ICT in Research and Extension can give a dimension towards innovative solution by linking institutional responsibilities.

The writer is the Strategic Global Advisor of YES Bank

Published on April 27, 2015
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