Short essay on New Trends in Indian Agriculture

Indian agriculture is undergoing rapid trans­formation since the introduction of Green Revolu­tion technology. The recent policy of liberalisation and globalisation has opened up new avenues for agricultural modernisation.

This has not only stressed on improving agricultural inputs, infrastructural fa­cilities in rural areas but liberalising imports, reduc­ing subsidies, loosening ceiling laws and generating agricultural surplus for home and international mar­kets. In view of the increasing prosperity in rural areas demands are being raised for agricultural taxa­tion and according industry status to agriculture. In view of these facts following three trends are emerg­ing in the Indian agriculture:

Commercialisation

With the introduction of Green Revolution in 1960s and consequent generation of agricultural surplus a new trend of commercialisation started emerging in the Indian agriculture which was con­trary to the traditional subsistent nature. Conscious farmers to day grow crops not exclusively for their own use but for selling the same in the market and obtain as much profit as possible.

They are not interested in the cultivation of those crops which are non remunerative or whose yield is very low. The decline in the area of coarse grains may be cited as an example. Pulses which have comparatively longer growing period and lower yield also fail to get favourable treatment. So much so that the glut in the production of a crop one year has adverse effect on its areal coverage and output in the following year. Higher remunerative prices in non-food crops are encouraging farmers to go for horticulture, floricul­ture, sericulture, pisciculture, apiculture and similar activities as a result of which the areal coverage of food crops is declining in some areas.

Diversification

Another emerging trend in the Indian agricul­ture is leading towards diversification which is opening up the prospects for dairying, horticulture, truck farming, floriculture, aquaculture, sericulture, api­culture and agro-forestry etc.

This has been made possible due to the development of irrigational fa­cilities as a result of which multi-cropping has be­come the order of the day. Farmers can no longer afford to go for fallowing. Instead they prefer crop- rotation on scientific lines i.e., nitrogen consuming crops (cereals) followed by nitrogen fixing crops (pulses and beans) or striking a proper combination of tree crops-cereal crops, horticulture-animal hus­bandry-pisciculture etc.

Among horticultural products grapes, man­goes, oranges, bananas and apples etc. have great export potential. Export of grapes from Maharashtra to the Gulf countries is an encouraging feature. Most of the horticultural products face the problem of glut at the time of harvest.

This needs the technology associated with the preservation of these products and their quick delivery to marketing/consumer centers. Infect horticulture requires a better deal from the government in agricultural planning. India is the third largest producer of fruits in the world after Brazil and the U.S.A., but it processes only 0.5 per cent of it as against Brazil's 70 per cent and lets Rs. 3000 crores worth of fruits and vegetables to get spoilt. This can be prevented by using genetic engi­neering to enhance their natural defenses against fungus. Chitinase gene injected into tomatoes, pota­toes, lettuces and other plants ensures their freshness till they reach their markets, saving millions of rupees spent on fumigation.

Raghavan (1992) has suggested to raise the production of fruits by 50 per cent and vegetables by 100 per cent to meet the full nutritional requirements of the population, besides achieving 25% exportable surplus, through the establishment of 2,000 model horticulture production and processing centres cov­ering three million hectares of irrigation land, yield­ing an average of Rs. 18,000 per hectare of profit for three million farmers, generating an equal number of year-round jobs and raising a total of six million families above the poverty line (Raghavan, 1992, p. 15).

Floriculture again has tremendous scope for development in the country. At present it occupies 30,924 hectares of the country's agricultural area. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are states which are important for floriculture. India exported Rs. 149.1 million worth of flowers in 1992- 93 (export commenced in 1988-89) which is only 0.2% of the world export.

There is enough scope for encouraging floriculture and enhance the quantum of export especially to the Gulf Countries where there is great demand for flowers. There are areas in the country where gladioli can be grown round the year. India has 200 varieties of roses and 370 varie­ties of aroids.

The Government of India has lifted import duty from the import of seeds, tubers, sap­lings and cuttings of flowers. A floriculture develop­ment project covering 200 ha of area and an invest­ment of Rs. 420 million has been initiated near Bangalore with technical assistance from Holland which will be the largest floriculture project in Asia.

There is great potentiality for the develop­ment of aquaculture in India which will not only generate employment opportunities, improve the economic conditions of the rural poor but will also improve the quality of the diet and fetch valuable foreign exchange. India has over 18,000 varieties of fishes and its 2.02 million square kilometers of coastal area (India's exclusive economic zone ex­tends up to 200 nautical miles from the coast) can produce about 45 lakh tones of fish annually. Be­sides tanks, and ponds (2.2. million ha of area), big reservoirs (1.97 million ha), lakes (1.3 million ha) and 12 lakh km long canals have immense potential­ity for fishery development. The total catch of fish increased from 7.5 lakh tones in 1950-51 to 33 lakh tones in 1990-91 to 56.56 lakh tones in 1999- 2000. At present fishery contributes 0.8% of the total income of the country and provides employment to 90-95 lakh persons.

The Government has established 422 Fish Farmers Development Agencies (FFDAs) covering all potential districts in the country which have brought 3.87 lakh ha (up to 1995-96) of area for intensive fish culture and have trained 5.04 fish farmers in improved practices. Six major (Kochi, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Roychowk and Paradwip) and 41 minor fishing harbors have been developed to provide landing and berthing facilities to fishing crafts.

The Government is also providing loans and subsidies to fishermen to motorise their traditional boats to increase the fishing area and frequency of operations. About 2,500 ha of the coastal area have been brought under brackish water shrimp culture which has immense export potential. The Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Train­ing, Kochi is providing technical training facilities, for the development of aquaculture.

Apiculture is a subsidiary occupation to sup­plement farmers' income and to generate additional jobs for rural youths. In India about 100 million kg of honey is produced annually whose 10 per cent is derived from the Khadi and Village Industries. Ma­jority of this production comes from Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Pradesh.

In India five varieties of bees are found of which is most important. Now melanoma and trogon varieties are gaining popularity. A number of centers have been established in the country to provide technical as­sistance and training for bee keeping. Two such centers are functioning at Almora and Haldwani in Uttar Pradesh.

India ranks second in silk production in the world after China. It has the unique distinction of producing all the four commercial varieties (mul­berry, tasar, eri and muga) of the silk, of which the first alone accounts for about 90 per cent of the total production. The total raw silk production during 1991-92 was 11,748 tones (10,667 tones as mul­berry silk). The main producing states are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Jammu and Kashmir.

To farmers in several parts of the country, sericulture is now one of the attractive vacations. It is best suited to the areas with temperate climate. The National Sericulture Project (NSP) covers 17 states. The objective of the project is to increase the raw silk output, improve its quality and introduce sericulture to new areas considered suit­able for this industry. Under the project a new set of laboratories are under construction in Karnataka for bi voltage sericulture.

The NSP lays utmost emphasis on training of farmers and functionaries at all levels. The Central Silk Board (CSB) has planned to train all farmers in the new areas through a system of peripatetic training schools. Seventy non-govern­ment organisations have been sanctioned assistance for taking up agricultural programmes as part of their activities, for the benefit of weaker sections and other target groups to popularise chawki-rearing.

Agro-forestry is a co-activity with agriculture which can not only supplement farmers' income but also utilise barren and wastelands into productive uses, ensure fuel and wood supply to rural folks, provide employment to rural youths and improve the quality of the environment. The programme in­volves integration of silviculture with horticulture, agriculture and animal husbandry etc.

It will not only check further degradation of forests but will build the ecological infrastructure necessary for sustained development. Under the agro-forestry pro­grammes such trees are planted on vacant, degraded agricultural lands which are commercially re­munerative and may yield profitable returns. Sometimes trees are planted with proper spacing (5m x 4m) and the intervening space is utilised for grow­ing crops.

The trees when mature yield commer­cially valuable and readily marketable wood which fetch remunerative prices. Thus planting of eucalyp­tus, teak and poplar etc. in which WIMCO, NABARD and various private companies are helping the farm­ers with investment and technical know-how. The scheme has been very profitable and farmers in many areas have got a substantial return after paying back the loans and interest to the commercial banks. The teak plantation project is becoming very popu­lar in Tamil Nadu.

Raghavan (1992, p. 15) has proposed follow­ing outlines for giving a new thrust to the agriculture :

Horticulture-Raise production of fruits by 50 per cent and vegetables by 100 per cent to meet the full nutritional requirements of the population, besides achieving 25 per cent exportable surplus, through the establishment of 2000 model horticul­ture production and processing centers covering three million hectares of irrigated land, yielding an average of Rs. 18,000 per hectare of profit for three million farmers, generating an equal number of year-round jobs and raising a total of six million families above the poverty line.

Aquaculture-Raise inland fish production by 4.5 million tons (66% of projected domestic demand) through the development of 50,000 hec­tares of intensive fish farms, yielding a profit ex­ceeding Rs. 10 lakhs per hectare for 2.5 lakh families and providing full-time employment to one million persons.

Sericulture-Double mulberry silk produc­tion by establishing 500 integrated model silk vil­lage clusters, each cultivating 175 hectares of mul­berry, yielding an average net income of Rs. 30,000 per family for 2.5 lakh families (80 per cent of whom are landless) along with 7.5 lakh additional full-time jobs.

Oilseeds-Add three million hectares to the area under irrigated oil seeds and produce an addi­tional 7.5 million tones to fully meet the domestic demand.

Dairy, poultry, plantation crops and marine fisheries-double the production.

Food grains-Raise production to 220 million tons (sufficient to meet projected domestic de­mand) by increasing per hectare yield of wheat from 2.3 tons to 3.1 tones and rice from 1.76 tons to 2.15 tones and bringing another two million hec­tares of irrigated land under high yielding varieties, resulting in a rise in employment per hectare by 50 per cent.

Sugar-Add 1.6 million hectares to the area under sugarcane, raise yield per hectare from 60 to 80 tones and take sugar production from 11 to 26 million tones, lifting exports to a level of 3-4 million tonnes annually.

Cotton-Triple the area under irrigated cot­ton with an addition of 4.5 million hectares to double production from the present 13 million bales. In­crease spinning and weaving capacities in powerloom, mill and handloom sectors to meet 50 per cent increase in per capital cloth consumption, resulting in employment to 11 .million persons and export sur­plus worth Rs. 25,000 crores in cotton textiles.

Forestry, fodder and wasteland reclamation- Reclaim eight million (out of 160 million) hectares of wastelands to meet the entire projected demand for industrial wood and animal feed (Raghavan, 1992, p. 15).

Eco farming also called organic farming or sustainable agriculture is being popularised as an alternative to both (a) high cost and high productiv­ity based Green Revolution, and (b) low cost and low productivity oriented traditional cultivation. Accord­ing to USDA "organic farming is a production sys­tem which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators and livestock feed additives.

To the maximum ex­tent feasible, organic farming systems rely on crop rotations, crop residues, animal manure, off-farm organic wastes, mechanical cultivation, mineral bear­ing rocks and aspects of biological pest controls to maintain soil productivity and tilth, to supply plant nutrients and to control insects, weeds and other pests (Kahlon, 1992). It is based on bio-technology like tissue culture for increasing agricultural pro­ductivity. Sustainable agriculture is eco-friendly and is free from the ills of population and environmental degradation.

It is labour intensive rather than capital intensive farming by increasing the diversification of crops in such a way that year round agricultural operations are carried on in place of mono-culture promoted by Green Revolution which only gener­ates seasonal employment. Eco-farming stresses on adopting ecologically suited crops and cropping practices,i.e., dry farming in arid and semi-arid areas rather than putting emphasis on intensive irri­gation.

The main thrust of eco-farming so far has been on replacing chemical fertilizers and pesticides by biofertilizers and bio-pesticides. A whole range of biofertilizers, vermicompost, neem cake, pow­dered minerals and rock phosphate can be produced on the farm, thus reducing the cost of cultivation, biofertilizers such as azospirillum, azotobacter, rhizobium (for legumes), phosphohacterium, VAM and beneficial soil microbes improve the soil fertil­ity. Simple vermicomposting technology can help in effectively recycling organic farm residues and pro­vide rich manure. Vermicompost contains other growth regulating substances in addition to major nutrients, all of which are readily absorbed by the crops.

Green manures are beneficial for soil fertility. Similarly crop rotation with legumes is a natural method of enriching the soil. Wood ash and rice- husk ash are good sources of potash. Tank and river silt also improve the soil fertility. In rice fields, the association of blue-green algae (bga) and azolla can benefit the crops. Neem cake can be used as top dressing for most vegetable crops and rice. Crops grown with organic manures and biofertilizers are healthy, resistant to pests and diseases and are free from the maladies of the chemical fertilisers.

Similarly biopesticides and bio controlled micro-organisms and killer bacteria may be used to control pests and diseases. Biotechnology and the tissue culture help in developing such new seeds which are resistant to droughts, pests and diseases. Neem seeds and neem leaves are time tested pesti­cides used since ancient days.

The holistic sustainable agriculture, thus, in­volves exploiting fully the integration of tree-crop - animal breeding-birds keeping aquaculture and their complementarily in terms of productivity and main­taining soil fertility.

It puts minimum stress on environment and checks the reckless use of re­sources. Although eco-farming is the need of the hour and is gradually gaining importance in Indian agriculture it needs total change in the outlook of the people in general and farmers in particular. This requires peoples' education and mass awareness. To cite examples, the rural folk should be explained about the utility of cow dung whose use as domestic fuel should be avoided.

There should be control on the reckless use of ground water resources. Here sprinkle irrigation and drip irrigation techniques are beneficial. In fact many of our problems pertaining to agriculture may be solved by simply changing the attitude of the people and by involving peoples' participation in agricultural development programmes. Development planning should be started at the mi­cro level and linked with the macro level.