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Scientific farming is need of the hour

Monday, August 14, 2017
By Dominic Rebello

The agricultural sector is the largest employer in India's economy and contributes to around 17% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country. Over 58% of rural India depends on agriculture for its livelihood. In such a scenario, it is important for the country to depend on scientific farming, which is based on science rather than depend on traditional practices.

There is an “Agrarian Revolution” brewing in a 125-acre farm at Vapi on the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, owned by agro-entrepreneur Rajju Shroff and overlooked by his wife, UPL Vice-Chairperson Sandra Shroff since the mid-1990s for training farmers to grow super, bumper crops of fruits, vegetables and grains.

Here farmers are provided free training, stay and meals at the UPL Centre for Agricultural Excellence, which is part of UPL’s CSR activity. A visit to the farm showed witnessed astonishing results. Crops like paddy, sugarcane and others are being produced at such a unique multiplication rate that farmers from different parts of India are making a beeline for learning the techniques behind this green revolution. Four farmers came recently from Tarmaliya and Dumlar villages in Gujarat to employ these techniques on their paddy, mango, sugarcane farms and expressed enthusiasm at what they saw.

Scientist Sanjay Tripathi, who trains the farmers, said farmers grew barely 1.5 tonnes per acre crop on their farms, compared to the Vapi farm’s production of four tonnes per acre of the same crop. “So these farmers come for training for a day or two since they are already familiar with basic farming methods. We change their thinking and attitude to improve their economy through increased crop yield from reduced costs, resource management including selecting seeds and planting. Our technique witnesses less use of fertilizer and other inputs for greater crop output.”

“We urge for doing seed germination in one week as it gets full nutrition, rather than two weeks where even the weeds get the nutrition. Also, instead of farming the whole farmland, we urge for farming just half the area for a super crop, and the other half later. Punjab farmers used to get 10 to 15 tonnes sugarcane per acre, but after this training, their yield rose to 100 tonnes per acre. Uttar Pradesh farmers saw their sugarcane produce rise to 60 tonnes per acre. Today even Ministers come here to see our techniques and production. Sugarcane baron and former Union Minister Sharad Pawar, after seeing the Vapi farm’s training success, asked the accompanying Vasantdada Sugarcane Institute officials why they could not duplicate this success.”

“The Vapi farm’s success witnessed one sugarcane farmer – Pravin Kumar of Rahuri (Maharashtra) -- growing 115 tonnes crop. In Madhya Pradesh, a professor of sociology named Tiwari also took our training and grew 80 tonnes crop on his farm before turning consultant for 20 Maharashtra farmers -- charging Rs 3,000 per acre – and eventually running an MLA’s huge farm. “Thus farmers grow richer and people get better quality food at lower prices,” Tripathi said.

“Horticulture today is witnessing small and marginal farmers having higher market shares due to it being faster cash-generating as the produce can be sold daily in the market – which in case of foodgrains is not possible. Besides, declining farm sizes and smaller farms mean they can leverage horticulture as against foodgrains which need large farms to achieve scale,” said Shroff, while adding that “our success is such that some NGOs try to defame us and, in one case we even dragged Greenpeace to court in Chicago (USA) where they paid us around two lakh dollars in damages,” Shroff added.

Economic Survey favours tackling farm irritants
With 2017 set to be a year of surplus agri production, the mid-year Economic Survey has called for removal of all hurdles that come in the way of realising better prices for farmers, adoption of genetically modified crops and trade policy decisions well before sowing.

It said regional disparity in distribution of farm credit needs to be addressed, besides providing timely and affordable formal and institutional credit to small and marginal farmers for inclusive growth. Increasing irrigated area, better marketing infrastructure and funds for women involved in dairy sector are to be focused, it added.

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