INNOVATIONS IN AGRICULTURE
Agriculture is the back bone of Indian economy. It is called as “Gambling with the monsoons” Agriculture is the branch of applied science. The term agriculture has been derived from the Latin words ‘ager’ meaning land or field and ‘cultura’ which means cultivation i.e. the science and art of producing crops and live stock for economic purposes. It is also referred as the science of producing crops and live stock from the natural resources of the earth. The primary aim of agriculture is to produce more abundantly and at the same time, to protect it from deterioration and misuse. The diverse branches of agriculture are as follows; agronomy, horticulture, entomology, plant pathology, plant physiology, soil chemistry, agricultural economics, agricultural extension, agricultural engineering, plant breeding and animal husbandry.
Development of Agriculture
Early man depended on hunting, fishing and food gathering. To this day some groups still pursue this simple way of life. However, as various groups of men undertook deliberate cultivation of wild plants and domestication of wild animals, agriculture came into being. Cultivation of crops, notably grains such as wheat, rice, barley and millets, encouraged settlement of stable farm communities, some of which grew into a town or city in various parts of the world. Early agricultural implements-digging stick, hoe, scythe and plough-developed slowly over the centuries and each innovation caused profound changes in human life. From early times too, men created indigenous systems of irrigation especially in semi-arid areas and regions of periodic rainfall.
Farming was intimately associated with land holding and therefore with political organisation. Growth of estates involved the use of slaves and bound or semi-free labour. As the Middle Ages waned, increasing communications, the commercial revolution and the steady rise of cities in Western Europe tended to turn agriculture away from subsistence farming towards the growing of crops for sale outside the community that is commercial agriculture. In the 16th and 17th centuries, horticulture was greatly developed and contributed to the so-called agricultural revolution. Exploration and intercontinental trade as well as scientific investigations led to the development of horticultural knowledge of various crops and the exchange of mechanical devices such as the sugar mill and Eli Whitney’s cotton gin helped to support the system of large plantations based on a single crop.
The industrial revolution after the late 18th century swelled the population of towns and cities and increasingly forced agriculture in to greater integration with general economic and financial patterns. The era of mechanised agriculture began with the invention of such farm machines as the reaper, cultivator, thresher, combine and tractor which continued to appear over the years leading to a new type of large scale agriculture. Modern science has also revolutionised food processing. Breeding programmes have developed highly specialized animal, plant and poultry varieties thus increasing production efficiency greatly. All over the world, agricultural colleges and government agencies attempt to increase output by disseminating knowledge of improved agricultural practices through the release of new plant and animal types and by continuous intensive research into basic and applied scientific principles relating to agricultural production and economics.
Sustainable agriculture The use of modern farming practices has greatly enhanced the productivity of crops. However the hazards of the use of agricultural chemicals in causing eco-degradation have prompted many to think rationally and evolve alternatives. The negative impact of pesticides on the environment has been well documented. Pesticides are not specific to the target organisms and kill many useful organisms, thus upsetting the food web in nature. Therefore, the need for sustainable and ecological agriculture is increasingly felt in the world.
Sustainable agriculture is also referred by other names such as alternative agriculture, ecological agriculture and natural organic farming. It is that form of farming which maintains or enhances the flow of its products without damaging its own long term potential. The United States National Research Council (1989) defined alternative agriculture as “those alternative systems incorporating natural processes reducing the use of inputs of off-farm sources, ensuring the long term sustainability of current production levels and conserving soil, water, energy and biological resources”. Organic farming is an agricultural production system which avoids or largely excludes the use of systematically compounded fertilizers and pesticides. To the maximum extend feasible, organic farming systems rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, legumes, green manures to maintain soil productivity and tilth to supply plant nutrients. It looks forward to alternative methods of pest control like pest resistant cultivars, bio-control agents and cultural methods of pest-control.
Soil conservation means the prevention of soil erosion as well as the improvement of soil fertility. In other words, soil conservation refers to proper preservation of the soil by returning its vigour, vitality and nutrients. It is concerned with the maintenance of the soil fertility and prevention of soil erosion.
Methods and measures for soil conservation
- Control of over grazing
- Construction of embankments
- Crop rotation
- Construction of drainage
- Control of swift flow of water
- Use of farm manure and fertilizers
- Scientific methods of cultivation
The government of India by realising the need for soil conservation has setup “the central soil conservation board” in 1952. The soil conservation programs like all India soil and land use survey, state soil survey organization, national land use boards, state land use boards and the soil conservation centres were continued during the ninth plan.
Supply of water from rivers, tanks, wells and canals to agricultural lands for cultivation is called irrigation. It is useful both in the areas of scanty rainfall and heavy rainfall. Thus irrigation refers to the artificial supply of water for cultivation. In addition to the supply of water to agriculture, irrigation performs various other functions like flood control, storing of water, prevention of soil erosion, soil conservation, etc.
Sources of irrigation
Well irrigation is a very ancient method of irrigation in India. Wells make use of underground water. Well irrigation is possible even in low rainfall areas if sufficient quantity of underground water is available. It is within the reach of small farmers. Wells are now spread over large areas of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Tube wells are of recent origin. They can be sunk to a depth of even 1200 feet and a large volume of water can be drawn for a longer period. Wells and tube wells together provide 58.7% of irrigation to agriculture.
Tanks are natural or artificial hollows in which rain water is collected in monsoon. Tank irrigation is found in the states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra, Bihar, Orissa and through out deccan region.
Canal irrigation is the most important form of irrigation in India accounting for nearly 31.5% of the net irrigated area. The important benefits of canal irrigation are its cheapness, certainty, easy supply, control over supply, etc. India has one of the world’s largest canal systems stretching over more than one lakh km and serving more than 18 million hectrares.
Canals are of three types:
- Inundation canals
- Perennial canals
- Storage canals
Inundation canals are flood canals which take off excess water of the river during rainy season. Perennial canals obtain water directly from the river and provide water for irrigation through out the year. Canal irrigation is popular in Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
Minor, Medium and Major Irrigation
The irrigation works in India are classified into major, medium and minor irrigation works. Since 1950, these works were classified on the basis of cost of these projects. Accordingly the major irrigation projects as those costing more than 5 crore, medium irrigation projects are those costing between Rs 25 lakh and Rs 5 Crore and minor irrigation works costing less than Rs 25 lakh each. But since 1978-79 the planning commission has introduced a new classifaction of irrigation schemes on the basis of cultural command area (CCA) as follows:
- Minor Irrigation projects: Minor irrigation projects are those with CCA up to 2000 hectares. The main advantage of minor irrigation project like tanks, tube wells, etc is that they require small investment, they can be completed within a short period and their effect on agricultural productivity is felt immediately.
- Medium irrigation projects: Medium irrigation projects are those with CCA between 2,000 and 10,000 hectares. The main advantage of medium irrigation projects like small dams, etc, is that they involve
- Major irrigation projects: Major irrigation project are those with CCA of more than 10,000 hectares. Major irrigation projects involve huge investment and take a long period of completion. But they have large irrigation capacity and can serve lakhs of hectares of land.
Multipurpose irrigation projects
A Multi-purpose river valley project is one which confers many benefits, such as supply of water, electricity generation, flood control, development of water transport, afforestation, etc. In other words, multi-purpose project is a project which uses river water for various purposes so as to reap maximum benefits. Jawaharlal Nehru once rightly said “multi-purpose projects are the pilgrimages of modern India”.
Dry Land Farming
The term dry land farming indicates introduction of agricultural operation in the arid and semi-arid land. Thus, dry land farming in India is defined broadly to cover rained agricultural operation dominated by low water requiring crops in those arid and semi arid tropical regions of the country.
Mechanism of dry-land farming
In order to start dry land farming, it requires alternate farm seasons of cropping and fallows which need careful ploughing and harrowing during both the cropping season and fallow season. In order to catch early showers, first the ploughing and harrowing operations are done. The second ploughing and harrowing are done during the rainy season in order to open the soil to relatively heavier rain. The ploughing operations uproots weeds which absorb moisture from the soil and the harrowing operations usually prepares a dry, dusty soil on top level which will act as a blanket for preventing evaporation. Thus, under dry-land farming, special efforts are made by the farmers for conserving soil moisture and also for using limited rain water to a maximum extent. The modern techniques of dry land farming are:
- Early ploughing and harrowing
- Constructing of bunds and check dams
- Mixed Cropping
- Use of organic manures
- Use of modern seeds
- Emphasis on horticulture, etc.
Drip irrigation is the latest development in water management. In this type of irrigation, P.V.C pipes carry the available water to feed each plant at its root with the required quantity of water drop by drop. As water is applied slowly drop by drop, this method keeps soil continuously moist and the plants get constant supply of water. This method ensured sufficient water percolation, prevents water wastage and minimises loss of water due to evaporation. This system of irrigation reduces water consumption by about 50 to 60 percent. It is very much suited for cultivation of flowers, fruits and vegetables. This kind of irrigation has become quite popular in the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra, Tamil Nadu, etc.
Benefits of drip irrigation:
- Ensures sufficient water percolation
- Prevents water wastage
- Minimises loss of water due to evaporation
- Reduces water consumption by 50 to 60 percent
- Avoids soil erosion
- Improves productivity and yield
- Suitable for flowers, fruits and vegetable cultivation.
- Minimises cost, etc.
Sprinkler irrigation is of recent development. Sprinkler irrigation is a technique which encourages thrifty use of water. In this system of irrigation, water is sprayed over the land through a rotating sprinkler. In other words, under sprinkler irrigation, water is supplied in the form of thin spray. This type of irrigation system was first developed in Israel. In this system, utilisation of water is as high as 92 percent. In India, sprinkler irrigation was first tried on plantation crops in government farms and forest nurseries. This system of irrigation is popular in Karnataka, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Assam. About 1.2 million hectares have been covered under the type of micro irrigation till 2004-05.
Benefits of Sprinkler irrigation:
- Utilisation of water is very high (92 per cent)
- Saves water
- Improves productivity and yield
- Controls pets and crop diseases
- Thrifty use of water
- Control of soil erosion
- Reduces the cost
Rain Water Harvesting (RWH)
Rain water harvesting may be defined as the process of collecting and storing rain water in a scientific and controlled manner for future use. A more apt and accepted definition for rain water harvesting is “catching water where it falls” and eliminate or at least minimise inter-basin or inter-catchment transfers.
Methods and Techniques of Rain Water Harvesting
- Roof top rain water harvesting
- Capturing city storm water
- Collection of run-off water in catchments
- Construction of percolation ponds and tanks
- Use of treated water
- Construction of ponds and lakes
- Construction of check dams
- Re-charging tube wells, etc.
Application of Science and Technology
- Pre Harvest Technology
Pre Harvest Technology refers to new techniques and measures adopted before harvest i.e., for production of agricultural crops.
The pre-harvest technology for the application of science and technology to agriculture includes: green revolution and various other significant components like package of inputs, greater intensity of cropping, agricultural technology, etc.
Green Revolution: The period of mid-1960s was very significant from the point of view of agriculture. Because, it was during this period a new agricultural strategy is popularly known as green revolution and it has bought about a revolution in Indian agriculture.
Green revolution refers to spectacular and well marked improvement in agricultural production some years back and sustenance of the same over fairly long period of time. In other words, it refers to improved methods of cultivation, use of scientific rotation of crops, use of high yielding variety of seeds, better irrigation techniques, etc.
Thus, under green revolution the following measures have been taken to supply pre-harvest technology to agriculture.
1. Supply of improved seeds
2. Modern implements and mechanisation
3. Fertilizers and pesticides
4. Soil conservation
5. Credit and irrigation facilities
8. Mixed farming
Post harvest technology;
Post harvest technology refers to techniques or measures adopted after harvest for storage, distribution and marketing of agricultural crops. Post harvest technology for agriculture includes; marketing, ware housing, cold storage facilities etc.
Thus innovation in agriculture has brought tremendous progress in primary sector. Innovation is badly needed for the country like India.
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