Wednesday, March 9, 2011


LUDHIANA, MARCH 9 (Anmol Singh)

"The gains of green revolution (GR) in wiping out food shortages and its further impact on current state of agriculture are too well known. to the scientific community and the policy makers. Some hold GR to be the cause of the current problems of agriculture particularly with respect to the continuously increasing use of fertilizers and pesticides. Though the GR technologies are not to be faulted but it is ostensibly their irrational and unmindfully excessive use that has ultimately lead to gradual deterioration of soil health in terms of nutrient deficiencies, depletion of sub surface water, excessive use of agrochemicals that ultimately turned agricultural production to be an unsustainable and uneconomical enterprise," stated Dr G.S.Chahal, Executive Director, Reviving GR Cell, Sir Ratan Tata Trust (SRTT) on the PAU campus.

However, the continuation of prevalent level of paddy- wheat system under the will not sustain for long in terms of agricultural production and its natural resource base. This can have consequences on the food front in the country , said he. The SRTT started to support a new initiative for revival of GR through adoption of commonly proposed diversification plans, sauid Dr Chahal highlighting that it was in 2002 when for the first time the trust started support to PAU to bring back the days of GR era by developing and demonstrating the benefits of less exhaustive cropping sequences, improvement of soil health, water saving and reduction in cost of production. This initiative was successfully made with the demonstration of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technology in cotton which has been extended to cover 900 villages in collaboration with State Department of Agriculture, added he.

Elaborating, Dr Chahal said that it has, in fact, revived the cultivation of cotton with substantial reduction in spray of pesticides thereby increasing economic returns of farmers. In view of these benefits, the State Government has started providing special funds every year to cover additional villages under this program through MARKFED, PAU and Department of Agriculture. The Trust has further extended this approach of IPM in Basmati rice in Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Gurdaspur districts by covering 150 villages every year. He disclosed that IPM modules for maize and vegetables are under validation and shall be taken up on the pattern of cotton.

Encouraged by the impact of the initiative especially on popularization of IPM technology in reducing cost of production, the Trust established a centralized unit as Reviving the GR Cell housed in main campus of PAU, Ludhiana, to formulate and monitor projects for funding by SRTT, said Dr Chahal. He further added that apart from successful operation of IPM projects, the RGR initiative led to development of a high yielding variety SG 99 of groundnut with a potential to replace at least some area from paddy especially in sandy soils of Mansa, Bathinda and Hoshiarpur districts. But inspite of its economic viability in competition with paddy, the farmers feel discouraged for this switch over mainly due to lack of assured marketing.

Analyzing the existing farming practices, Dr Chahal said that the main reason for poor response to all advocated diversification plans lies in lack of remunerative marketing for alternate crops which have to compete with Government sponsored minimum support price (MSP) and assured system of procurement for wheat and paddy. He informed that RGR Cell has planned to develop and showcase the feasibility of alternate channels of collective marketing through Cluster Development Approach (CDA) where farmers would be organized for combined effort in production, processing and marketing of their farm produce. In this regard, SRTT has granted a three year project worth Rs. 55 lakhs under which RGR Cell shall organize enterprising progressive farmers into five groups, two for each groundnut and vegetable crops and one for moong, divulged Dr Chahal. Giving an overview, he added that each group would consist of about 30 farmers clusters from neighboring villages that already are growing these crops. Apart from guiding them for successful cultivation of these crops, they would be organized for collective operations like procurement of seed, sowing, harvesting, thrashing, grading, packing and value addition and ultimately marketing their produce and products. Each of such Self Help Groups (SHGs) in the cluster would be provided to develop Common Facility Center(CFC) in the village where the required farm equipment, processing and packing units would be provided at a subsidized rate, said he, adding that the main emphasis would be laid on identity prospective marketing outlets so that these groups can be directly linked to market. The groups would be specifically trained in management activity so that these may ultimately be converted into producer companies to attract more farmers to take advantage of this new marketing system.

Outlining the objectives, Dr Chahal told that the entire project aims to empower the farmers to organize as groups with a common platform for knowledge sharing, technology transfer and market information sharing with improved bargaining power and consequently profitable marketing to increase the profitability from existing as well as new options in agriculture. After piloting the benefits of this project on new marketing channels for three years, it would then be taken for up scaling for other farming families with the participation of more number of farmers and private players to establish new marketing channel which would encourage farmers to go in for value addition and collective marketing that would not only increase their share in consumer price but would also help consumers to get food items at reasonable prices. PAU also has an Agricultural Marketing Intelligence Cell in the Department of Economics and Sociology, to analyze the marketing and price trends. It predicts the prices of major crop commodities and disseminates the information in electronic and print media through the Centre for Communication and International Linkages.
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