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Path To Intelligent And Precise Agriculture

Context

  • The Green Revolution in India, which began in the 1960s, enabled the country to make significant strides in domestic food production and contributed significantly to progress in agriculture and allied sectors. It transformed India from a food-deficit country to an export-oriented country with a food surplus.
  • In India, 70% of rural households still rely primarily on agriculture for a living, with 82% of farmers classified as small and marginal.
  • However, India is now dealing with second-generation issues, particularly those related to sustainability, nutrition, the adoption of new agricultural technologies, and the income levels of the farming-dependent population.

Relevance

GS Paper 1– :  Agricultural Resources, GS Paper – 2: Government Policies & Interventions, GS Paper – 3: E-Technology in the Aid of Farmers

Mains Question

Follow India’s journey from a food-deficit to a food-surplus nation. Highlight the obstacles to agricultural growth. (250 Words)


Agriculture’s Importance in the Indian Economy

  • Flourishing Food Security and Induced Industrial Growth Agricultural production in India is the primary source of food security for the country’s large population.
  • Agriculture provides raw materials to a variety of agro-based industries such as sugar, jute, cotton textile, and vanaspati. Agriculture is also important to the food processing industry.
  • Increased rural purchasing power is critical for industrial development because villages house two-thirds of the Indian population.
  • Because of their increased income, large farmers’ purchasing power increased after the green revolution.
  • Agriculture is a major source of revenue for both the federal and state governments in the country. Rising land revenue generates significant revenue for the government.
  • Other industries, such as railways and highways, derive a significant portion of their revenue from the transportation of agricultural goods.
  • Contribution to International Trade: Agriculture is vital to international trade. The country’s well-known traditional exports are jute, tea, coffee, and spices.

Agriculture in India Faces Difficulties

  • Degrading Soil Health: Wind and water erosion, deforestation, and urbanisation, as well as the removal of natural vegetation and conversion of forests to farms, are all degrading soil health to varying degrees.
  • The Soil Health Card Scheme analysis reveals alarmingly low levels of soil organic carbon (SOC) across India (an important indicator of soil health).
  • Farm Size Reduction: Labor productivity is limited by land size. The average farm size in India has been steadily decreasing, limiting labour productivity and limiting economies of scale.
  • The majority of rural household farm size has declined to unviable levels, causing farmers to leave land and seek better job opportunities in cities.
  • Per Drop More Crop: At the national level, irrigation covers only 52% of India’s gross cropped area (GCA).
  • Despite significant progress since independence, many farms in India still rely on monsoon irrigation, limiting their ability to increase cropping intensity.
  • Lack of Convenient Access to Credit: Small and marginal farms do not have easy access to credit. According to the NABARD 2018 survey, farmers with smaller plot sizes received a higher proportion of loans from non-institutional lenders than farmers with larger plot sizes (> 2 hectares).
  • This suggests that small and marginal farmers rely on (expensive) informal sources of credit more than large farmers.
  • Crop Insecurity: Despite the rapid commercialization of Indian agriculture, most farmers, particularly small and marginal farmers, tend to place cereals at the centre of their cropping system (due to the Minimum Support Price) and ignore crop diversification.
  • The country has a large number of unofficial tenancies. Benefits intended for tenant farmers, such as disaster relief and direct benefit transfers, are at risk of being distributed to the land owner who appears to be the cultivator on official records due to a lack of tenant identification.

Recent Initiatives by the Government -E-NAM Portal

  1. Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)
  2. Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)
  3. Micro Irrigation Fund (MIF)
  4. AgriStack

The Way Forward

  • Blending Traditional and Frontier Technologies: Traditional technologies such as rainwater harvesting and organic waste recycling for plant nutrient and pest management have been found to be very useful and relevant.
  • To achieve higher productivity, traditional technologies should be combined with modern frontier technologies such as tissue culture and genetic engineering.
  • Input-Intensive to Knowledge-Intensive Agriculture: India is well-known for its diverse agricultural practises. To find suitable solutions for the future, it is critical to engage diverse points of view in a national-level dialogue.
  • Furthermore, the advanced world is moving toward precision farming, which uses sensors and other scientific tools for precise practises and input application.
  • A smart and precise shift toward high-tech farming in India will lower average costs, increase farmer income, and address many other scale challenges.
  • Investing in Research and Innovation: In order to mitigate the effects of climate change on agriculture and work toward sustainable agriculture, an increase in agricultural research and innovation is required.
  • For example, the livestock sector in India contributes the most carbon emissions within the agriculture sector; therefore, assessing their impacts is critical to finding sustainable solutions.
  • Innovative agricultural technologies such as GIS (Geographical Information System) and AIML (Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning) are bursting to provide the foundation for a revolutionary epoch.
  • Towards Biosecurity: Because India is vulnerable to pest and weed attacks, a strategic and integrated approach to dealing with the risks posed to animal and plant life and their health, as well as consumer food safety, is required.
  • M S Swaminathan, chairman of the National Farmers Commission, also advocated for the creation of a National Agricultural Biosecurity Program.
  • Improving Agricultural Surplus Management: Post-harvest handling, seed, fertiliser, and agrochemical quality regulation require an infrastructure upgrade and development programme.
  • Furthermore, it is necessary to promote the grading and standardisation of procurement centres.
  • Harvesting Rich Returns Through Market Integration: Domestic markets must be streamlined, and infrastructure and institutions must be put in place to connect local markets with national and global markets.
  • To facilitate smooth integration of domestic and global markets and to better manage trade liberalisation, India requires a nodal institution that can closely monitor global and domestic price movements and take timely and appropriate measures to avoid major shocks.

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October 2022
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