India Interior

Reaping a knowledge-enabled harvest

Rajesh Aggarwal | Updated on February 07, 2020 Published on February 08, 2020

The training programmed helped farmers correctly identify the stage at which spraying is recommended (file picture)   -  THE HINDU

A joint project educating Uttar Pradesh farmers on sustainable agriculture practices has helped improve output

Agricultural distress continues to bedevil the rural communities, impacting their incomes and livelihoods. It also poses a serious threat to the food security situation for a burgeoning population. Some of the major challenges being faced today include poor irrigation, depleting ground water levels, collapsing farm prices as well as fragmented supply chains.

While most of these issues can largely be addressed through a cohesive macro policy, there is an imminent need to fill the gaps in farmer awareness that prevents them from adopting sustainable and best farming practices. This need prompted IIL Foundation, the corporate social responsibility wing of Insecticides (India) Ltd (IIL), to collaborate with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) to roll out an Integrated Pest Management (IPM)-based farming joint research project in western Uttar Pradesh.

Towards this end, in 2017 IIL Foundation and ICAR-IARI chose three villages — Lalpur, Atrada, and Peernagar Sudna, for an extensive education and training programme for farmers covering every aspect, from sowing to harvest. The idea was to fill the gaps of current farming practices by using traditional knowledge and wisdom, coupled with promoting judicious use of modern inputs such as agrochemical products.

Crop pattern in the area was identified as well as the pests that affect the crop. The project roped in a number of young farmers to encourage the new generation in farming and show them that the vocation could be a profitable one.

Multi-pronged approach

Observing that indiscriminate use of agrochemicals in agriculture can result in several adverse effects, the government has suggested integrated pest management as a cardinal principle and the main plank of plant protection in the Crop Production Programme that is in place since 1985. Integrated pest management is a practice that lays the ground for addressing pest issues while minimising risks to the environment as well as people.

Experts from IARI-ICAR and representatives of IIL Foundation identified three main crops — sugarcane, paddy and chilli — to build the IPM package for and initiate the project in the three villages. Farmer groups were formed to encourage information dissemination and adopt IPM practices on a larger scale.

Additionally, agricultural experts focussed on seed production to provide superior quality seeds to the farmers for vegetables such as brinjal and other crops. The training involved educating farmers about the judicious use of agrochemicals while also adopting sustainable practices such as intelligent crop rotation.

Keeping in mind the need to improve access to genuine agrochemical products, young people were trained and helped to set up shop of different types of agro chemicals and other products for the ease of farmers. In addition, farmers were made to attend ‘krishi melas’ (agri fairs), workshops and seminars to clarify their doubts on agriculture technologies and their usage.

Reducing input cost

The major reason for farmers’ increased input cost is the extra sprays they need to use because of their inability to correctly identify the stage at which the spray is recommended. This problem, which not only increased costs but also amounted to excessive use of agrochemicals, was addressed. Following the training programme, on an average, the number of sprays reduced to 60-70 per cent for crops like cauliflower and brinjal. For the chosen varieties, this significant reduction in cost was topped by implementing efficient farming methods.

Experts helped farmers adopt multiple methods for pest control, such as devices that would trap insects instead of killing them, creating stands for birds, and implanting and increasing the number of good insects such as spiders, which are beneficial for paddy fields. The results have been very encouraging, so plans are afoot to replicate the programme and take up new crops as well.

The writer heads Insecticides (India) Ltd

Published on February 08, 2020

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