Food and agriculture are the largest consumers of water today (70% of water used in the world). Going forward, availability of water for agriculture is going to be one of the major concerns across rural India. In this background, farmers can proactively work across the country to protect the watersheds through implementing best practices & technologies. The main focus should be to produce more crop per drop of water.
Here are the 10 ways in which farmers can save the precious water resource –
- Breaking the hard/compacted layers in soil which are preventing root penetration through implement called subsoilers. The initiative helps in increasing water-holding capacity of the farm and reduces soil erosion.
- Adopting biological interventions such as vermicom posting and organic fertilizers which increases the soil organic carbon. This intervention is found to improve the soil structure, increasing its water-holding capability.
- Conservation Tillage (Zero Till Farming) – Under this method, the previous crop residues are distributed evenly and left on the soil surface and no implements are used to turn the soil over. This practice helps in increasing water absorption and reduces evaporation, erosion, and compaction.
- Planting drought tolerant varieties that are appropriate to the region’s climate which require low water needs for getting more crop per drop.
- Deployment of protected climate smart seedling production techniques which reduces water usage by 40% to 50% during nursery.
- Using covering material called Mulch on the top soil to conserve moisture. This intervention suppress weed growth and reduces evaporation.
- Deployment of Drip Irrigation to deliver water directly to the plant’s root. This initiative saves more than 50% water than conventional irrigation, and even contributes to increased crop yields by 20%.
- Deployment of green manuring crops to cover the soil during off-season. The cover crops increase soil fertility and organic matter and allows water to more easily penetrate the soil and improves its water-holding volume.
- To avoid under or overwatering, farmers carefully monitor the soil moisture requirements, and adapt irrigation schedule based on local needs.
- Deployment of farm ponds, trenches & furrows to capture and store rainfall for use throughout the year.
An Indian farmer today battles with a web of variability’s during farming. Unlike traditional business, farming is done in open environment where farmers have to fight with many known and unknown challenges in getting a healthier crop. A farmer might have done everything right, they might have used the best seeds, good inputs and might have followed all the good package of practices. But a factor called weather can completely collapse their crop and push their family to crooks of the financial crisis.
Even today with so much advancement in technology. An Indian farmer as to depend on a good monsoon for better cultivation. But, with the current scenario of climate change and global warming. The year 2018, is not going to be different, may be the year is heading to be the year of worst droughts after 1982, 1987, 2002 and 2009 during which India suffered the poorest scarcities with a shortage of water and less productivity.
With Interlinking of Indian Rivers a dream project which has the potential to bring water to 100% of the fields unmoving. The question here is, are there any other ways in which this worst situation of drought or weather vagaries can be tackled in agriculture? The answer is right away yes.
Technology to solve weather vagaries in farming is already available and countries like Israel and USA are perfect examples. Israel as only 2% water cover (India 9.5%), soil is classified as dessert silt and temperature rises up to >55 degree Celsius, but still, the country is one of the world’s highest in productivity in Fruits and Vegetables. All this is happening due to the technological introduction in farming.
India by following the footsteps of countries like Israel and US can completely change the way farming is done. The simple resolution here is to adopt technologies from these countries and start-ups have huge potential to garner large gold in this space. That is converting adversities in Indian Farming to Opportunities for Business to grow.
Here are few areas which can be engrossed by aspiring startups in agri field to enhance the resilience of Indian farming to cope with climate variability and climate change.
Protected farming technology using the green house and shade nets – The “Climate Smart technology” aims at protected cultivation techniques wherein the micro climate is controlled partially or fully as per the requirement of crop. This technique of growing vegetables reduces reliance on rainfall and makes the optimum use of land and water resources. Green house technology of producing vegetables like Capsicum, Cucumber, Tomato’s and Chilli have proven to produce double the productivity when compared to open field cultivation. The National Horticulture Mission (Government of India) is promoting this technology with subsidy varying from 20% to 50% for farmers. A Public Private Partnership Model with farmers & Government is a huge opportunity for start-ups to put their money and resources.
Soil Moisture sensors giving real-time data on soil status – Anything and everything that is grown in India is through soil. The hard fact is that Indian farmers are not aware of their soil status in terms of nutrients and moisture content and still there is no device introduced which a farmer can use by himself. A technological intervention which can provide soil status to farmers can largely reduce fertilizer consumption and help in improving farm productivity.
Smart farming technologies that persist any natural threat – Hydroponics a sophisticated technology that grows plants without soil is still nascent in India. A technological collaboration with the western world on introducing Hydroponics farming can be a real game changer.
Start-ups in the field of agriculture have started creating disruption in using mobile technology, tablets and even connecting farm products to consumers directly. A big push and investment in the field of adversities in farming by technological collaboration can make entire Indian farming resilient to weather vagaries and can be the best business growth area for new comers.
Zero Till Farming is a method to grow crops each year without disturbing the soil through tillage or plowing. Under this method the previous crop residues are distributed evenly and left on the soil surface and No implements are used to turn the soil over or incorporate crop residues.
In North and Eastern India, traditionally farmers cultivate wheat in rabi season after paddy is completed in kharif. Post paddy harvesting farmers undertake 2 – 3 tillage operations and burn paddy stubbles to clear the field, thus leading to 15 – 20 days delay in wheat sowing. The burning of crop stubble adds to atmospheric carbon resulting in air pollution and also leads to loss of organic matter, a valuable component for maintaining soil health.
In a push to make farming sustainable and facilitate timely sowing. ‘Zero Till Farming’ in the major wheat growing states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal is essential. Under ‘Zero till Farming’, a zero till machine is used to sow wheat seed directly in paddy harvested fields, thus resulting countless benefits to environment, soil and farmer:
- Reduction in Carbon emission by eliminating paddy stubble burning and reduction in tractor fuel consumption.
- Soil moisture conservation and reduction in soil erosion and fertilizer usage.
- 20% reduction in water usage.
- 10% to 15% improvement in productivity.
- Cost saving of Rs.2600/ Acre due to elimination of land preparation, pre-sowing irrigation and fertilizers.
In the recent times, the burning of crop stubbles was majorly attributed to the rise in air pollution in Delhi – NCR and Zero Till Farming is one of the conversation agriculture technique which can solve this problem.
The concept of ecological agriculture, its features, principles and farm design is a complete package of Sustainable agriculture in itself. It binds the whole ecosystem in an inter-related and interdependent system to form a harmonious cycle between different organisms and environment for the mutual benefit of each other.
This type of ecological agriculture and farming practice is seen in West Bengal, taken up by the women folks in some of the villages. They are growing food in the natural and organic way by combining different elements in nature in a complementary and collaborative manner.
One such example is of Kalpana Sutradhar who has built an excellent ecosystem in her small farm itself. She grows varieties of crops to complement each other and to fulfill the needs of food year-round. Several pots of water are buried under the ground to constantly supply regulated moisture to the soil. Rainwater is harvested and collected in a pond where many kinds of fish are reared. Vermicomposting is followed by her to fulfill the requirement of organic manure instead of synthetic ones. Following these kinds of self –sustainable agricultural practices have made her almost self-dependent overruling the need for much external dependency for food.
There are various principles by which ecologically sustainable agriculture can be followed. Some of them are as follows:
- Use of varieties of crops in sequence or in combination which may be interdependent or supporting each other for various needs such as soil fertility, manure, minerals, water requirement and also shade. Crop-rotation, use of mix crop and also relay crop are some of the examples.
- Seasonal or perennial crops may be integrated with other animals and insects to derive various benefits encouraging birds in the farm will help in reducing the no. of pests and insects as well as the bird droppings can be used as good manure for the improving soil quality.
- Various plants can be grown in layers depending upon their growth, height, requirement of sunlight or shade, nutrients, water requirements, support system for creepers and climbers etc.
- Plant and animal waste may be used as bio-gas and the slurry can be used to grow earthworms for vermicompost.
- Vermicompost or compost using will reduce the requirement of synthetic inputs.
- This will help in use of renewable resources and to optimize energy efficiency.
- Pot irrigation with miniscule holes at the bottom, buried under the soil will not only keep the soil moist, but also reduce the water requirement for irrigation up to a considerable extent.
- Practice of integrated pest management system following various biological, physical and cultural methods will also eliminate the requirement of chemicals to a great extent.
- Plantation of multipurpose, local plants such as bamboo will fulfill the need for food, fodder for animals, firewood requirements, enrichment of soil nutrients etc.
- Local/ native plants can grow effortlessly in the naturally suited habitats and thereby a save a lot of money.
- Voluntary plants like water hyacinth can be used to grow oyster mushrooms or vegetables.
- Rain water can be allowed to be stored in a small reservoir to be used later during water scarcity.
- Encouraging presence of a few ducks in the paddy field helps in reducing the growth of weeds and also enriches the soil from their droppings.
Precisely saying, these kinds of mutually benefiting sustainable ecological agricultural practices contribute to the overall economic, cultural and environmental well-being of the animals and their ecosystem.
Agriculture from the time immemorial has been playing a vital role. Apart from its contribution in Indian economy, it provides food for the people. Intensification of agriculture over the years has led to overall degradation of the agro-ecosystem. Green revolution along with increasing yield came with host of problems including degradation of soil and water, health related diseases in human and animal, pollution and global warming. Indian Agriculture is in urgent need of improvement. There is need to shift from unworthy conventional farming to ecofriendly farming system.
Organic farming is a more sustainable method of farming and involves cultivation of crops and rearing of animals in a natural way. It majorly excludes the use of synthetic chemicals and pesticides, growth regulators and genetically modified organisms. Organic farming method includes crop rotation, mixed cropping, companion planting, and biological/ mechanical/cultural control of disease-pest. It relies on organic fertilizers like compost manure, green manure, bone meal etc. Advantages of organic farming system are:
- Maintains soil health and prevents soil erosion.
- Conserves water and prevents water pollution.
- Checks global warming.
- Reduces exposure to pesticides and chemicals.
- Prevents environment degradation.
- Promotes biodiversity
- Promotes human and animal health.
The Government is supporting organic farming through various measures. Organic farming is being promoted through technical capacity building of all the stakeholders including human resource development, transfer of technology, promotion and production of quality organic and biological inputs. Likewise, technology development through support to research and market development is being done. Further more it is accelerated through low cost certification system known as “Participatory Guarantee System”.
Government is also providing financial assistance under various schemes like Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) , Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture , National Project on Management of Soil Health and Fertility (NPMSHF) and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) to name a few.
The Government has announced in the Union Budget for 2022-23 that Chemical free and natural farming will be promoted throughout the country, beginning with 5-km-wide corridors along the river Ganga.
States will also be encouraged to revise syllabi of agricultural universities to meet the needs of organic and modern-day agriculture and value addition.