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Reinventing Indian Agriculture is the need of the hour

Reinventing Agriculture


#1 Quotation based
  • “If agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right.”- M S Swaminathan
  • “There are two major challenges before Indian agriculture today: ecological and economical. The conservation of our basic agricultural assets such as land, water, and biodiversity is a major challenge. How to make agriculture sustainable is the challenge.”-M S Swaminathan
  • “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” -Thomas Jefferson
  • “The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.” — John F. Kennedy
  • “If everything of value and substance is produced in villages, then why rural areas are mired in poverty and urban areas awashed in wealth.”- Leo Tolstoy in his “what then we must do’
  • Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty and they have made life better for billions of people- Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.
  • “Women have an important role in agriculture. We need to introduce technology, which will help us harness the potential of women in agriculture. We need to divide the agriculture sector into three parts – regular farming, farming of trees and animal husbandry. If we are able to do this, the contribution of our women will increase even more.”- PM Narendra Modi
  • “Without access to modern farming techniques or machinery, let alone science-based climate and weather data, farmer’s livelihoods hinge precariously on a changing environment that they’re struggling to understand.”- US agency for International Development.
#2 Through anecdote/ story

Shri Rajpal Singh of Saharanpur district, Uttar Pradesh has introduced Peach (fruit) based cropping system for the first time in the district. It is an alternative to sugarcane dominated cropping system in the district. Horti -vegetable system provides cash flow throughout the year as compared to sugarcane based system where farmers get returns after one year.

The system is sustainable and there is no problem of marketing. The system adopted by farmer is profitable and is being used as a model for other farmers and extension personnel. Along with the other benefits, it is environment-friendly and provides higher returns. He has proven that reinventing agriculture can prove beneficial for the farmer as well as the environment.

Tirupati based Sandeep Kannan after graduation in 2020, just like his batchmates was thinking to move out of his hometown to Tier-I city to build a career. But later he decided to pursue his family occupation of farming and started reading about Hydroponics. The ability to grow nutritious foods in a controlled environment without soil attracted him to this innovative farming method.

He started small with the initial cultivation on his terrace and waited three months to get his first harvest. Later he invested to make it a big venture. Though initially he faced issues of investment and marketing but now his hard work has paid off. The business is proving itself to be lucrative with sales and returns increasing exponentially. Such young Agri-entrepreneurs prove that reinventing Indian agriculture through innovative farming methods can be a lucrative venture.

Body Content

Agriculture sector in India is considered to be the backbone of Indian economy. It is the largest employment generating sector of the economy, employing almost 50% of the India’s workforce and major source of livelihood for India’s rural population. The success of Green Revolution helped country in becoming food surplus from import dependency of 1960s.

There is a rise in yield due to the increased use of high variety seeds, fertilizers, pesticides etc. Total food grain production in the country is estimated to be a record 291.95 million tonnes, according to the second advance estimates for 2019-20. This is news to be happy about, but it is only one side of the story. As per the estimates of Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), demand for food grain would increase to 345 million tonnes by 2030.

Over the years, Agriculture’s contribution to India’s GDP has fallen from near about 50% at Independence to 17-18 (though it increased to around 20% in recent year). There is continuous fluctuation in agricultural growth rate. After the economic reforms of 1991, public investment on agriculture sector has dropped considerably. There have been numerous cases of farmer suicides due to huge debts and poor agriculture production. The dependence on monsoon along with occasional disasters like floods, flash floods and pest attacks affect the yield considerably.

Indian Agriculture has become non- remunerative, farmer’s debt are rising, increasing incidences of farmer suicides are being reported and farmers protests have become a regular feature. According to the Census 2011, every day 2,000 farmers give up farming. The 2013 report shown that average monthly income of agricultural household is just about Rs.6400. According to NABARD survey, more than 50% of the farmers are indebted and many of them are still dependent on informal sources like money lenders, traders, family etc. for their loan requirements. They are being charged exorbitant rate of interest and lacks capacity to repay if their crops fail.

According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, people in the farm sector accounted for 7.4% of the total suicides in India. The challenge of erratic monsoon and lack of irrigation facilities (around 68% of net sown area in the country is rain fed) put Indian farmers in vulnerable condition. This all shows how the farmers of the country are suffering and if want to protect our agriculture, we have to improve the condition of people, those who are deriving their livelihood from it. With the emerging threats of climate change, the vulnerability of farmers and agriculture is going to increase.

As the Indian population is increasing, the available land for agriculture is decreasing due to demands of urbanisation. The distribution of agricultural land in India is not fair. There are nearly 140 million landholdings in India with an average size of just above 1 ha (1.15 ha). Two-thirds of these holdings are marginal (<1 ha) with an average size of 0.39 ha only (Agricultural Census, 2014).

In order to get more yield from less land, more manures are being added to the fields, due to which its productivity is decreasing with time. On top of it, unsustainable irrigation methods have led to salinisation and alkalinisation problems. Increasing population, increasing average income and globalisation effects in India will increase demand for quantity, quality and nutritious food, and variety of food. Therefore, pressure on decreasing available cultivable land to produce more quantity, variety and quality of food will keep on increasing.

The land tenure system practiced in India is also suffering from a lot of defects. The post-independence land reforms did not yield the desired result. Insecurity of tenancy is a big problem which prohibits farmers to invest in farming and increasing soil fertility. Indian agriculture is continuously subjected to instability arising out of fluctuations in weather and gamble of monsoon. The rain- fed areas suffer from inadequate or failed crop production due to droughts. As a result, the production of food-grains and other crops fluctuates widely leading to continuous fluctuation of prices of agricultural crops.

To solve all the above mentioned and not mentioned issues associated with Indian agriculture, adoption of innovative methods in the agriculture sector is the need of the hour. Mahatma Gandhi once said that “To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves” which clearly tells about the importance of agriculture, so we need to focus on the solution.

To improve productivity and profitability in a sustainable manner our policy needs to be changed from input intensive to technology intensive; rather skill intensive agriculture. Ex PM Manmohan Singh had said that Indian agriculture is going through a phase of technology fatigue. In recent years the benefits of new technologies have been experienced but still there are major apprehensions about them in the farming community and the government.

Hybrid technologies in maize, vegetables, conservative agriculture, system of rice intensification (SRI), precision farming, farm mechanization, hi-tech cultivation of fruits, vegetables & flowers, primary and secondary processing introduced in farm produce and many other technologies have already shown that they can deliver the goals of meeting the objectives of higher productivity and profitability. The traditional breeding of crops is now supplemented by new biotechnological innovations like gene editing, genome rewriting, speed breeding. The scientists need to be encouraged to do research in modern technology areas.

Indian agriculture requires such reinventions. One such invention is ‘Smart agriculture’ which is an initiative to carry out sustainable agriculture through judicious use of improved and updated technology. Precision farming is one such initiative in agriculture using Internet of Things (IoT) and IT. The global market for precision agriculture is expected to grow at an annual growth rate of 13.09% to reach a market size of over US$ 6.34 billion by 2022, and India is expected to see an annual growth rate of 18.29% during the same period.

A recent example of precision agriculture was witnessed in India when farmers from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka waited to get a text message before they sowed the seeds. The SMS, which was delivered to them in their native language, informed them when to sow their groundnut crops. Farmers from Telangana, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh are also receiving automated voice calls to alert them if their cotton crops are at risk of a pest attack, based on the weather conditions and crop stage

One of the other innovative systems is Farm Management Information System (FMIS) which provides various information at a given period instantly which includes data on soil sample, weather conditions, sensor data, maps, etc. It helps in taking right farming decisions at an appropriate time. Geographical Information System can be used to examines and analyses the wider range of agricultural-related resources which are important parameters of crop productivity. On the same lines Nanotechnology has prospects for integrated pest and nutrient management involving processes for pest disease control, efficient fertiliser applications with minimised nutrient loss

Application of Artificial Intelligence in agriculture helps in capturing images and identifying pests and plant diseases for better agricultural administration at field level. Machine Learning algorithms provide for digital mapping of crop health and ground level moisture. IoT for Agriculture has built in mechanism for monitoring crop fields with the help of sensors (light, humidity, temperature, soil moisture, etc.) and automating the agriculture practices. While LED Lighting ensures a precise control of photoperiod, soil, and environmental sensors, drones can perform several significant tasks like application of fertiliser, pesticides, crop monitoring, crop estimation and damage assessments, etc.

Soil scientist Rattan Lal’s Law of Marginality states, “Marginal soils cultivated with marginal inputs produce marginal yields and support marginal living”. What this means is that poor soil needs some inputs, especially as we lose old practices of annual soil flooding and replenishing. India should explore semi-organic farming, i.e., immediately losing pesticides, but gradually phasing out chemical fertilisers. In 1996, the Department of Agriculture introduced Organic Farming Project and ran a trial at Lungmuat village in Mizoram. Here, Organic Farming coupled with contour trench farming was trialled with a very promising results.

Vermi-culture was also started by importing good species of earthworm. A good number of villages were covered giving training on Bio-Composing methods. Since the Organic Farming system solely depends on the use of crop residue, animal manures, green manures, off-farm organic wastes to supply organic manures like Neem cake, etc. to the needy farmers to supplement their plant nutrient requirement, crop rotation incorporating legumes and Use of Bio-Fertilizers, Organic manures, biological pest control to maintain soil productivity, the Agriculture Department gradually reduce the import of chemical Agri. inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, etc. Several awareness Campaign and Training on organic farming were conducted. Organic farming has been successfully adopted with the state of Sikkim being the front runner. Zero Budget Natural Farming is also an innovative farming practice which focuses on breaking input cost burdens.

With a strong percentage of the working population employed in Agri and allied sectors, policy thrust to establish institutions and strengthen market linkages will go a long way in improving farmer welfare in the country. As setting up of FPO infrastructure  across the country has gained pace in the recent times and are located closer to the farming communities across the nation thereby, minimizing the problem of access to farming services and products. Agriculture credit, Crop insurance, technology inputs and marketing support can be driven in a collective way from these FPO centres.

FPOs in association with tech start-ups can pilot necessary farming interventions and deliver exceptional results and thereby, benefitting the farming community at large. It would be highly imperative if these measures are followed by a robust monitoring framework that can mitigate risks at different levels of the farming ecosystem in India. With recent efforts in expanding agricultural credit, deepened scope of crop insurance and creation of a social security mechanism dedicated to farmers alone, the farming community will be strengthened with policy level measures that may improve their financial wellbeing.


The stakes are high, but as any private enterprise, agriculture too requires government support, private investment, and technological upgradation. We have to identify the deficit, intervene and make India an agricultural powerhouse. We were successful in the 1960s, so today with globalisation, strong economic and political power we can easily re-invent Indian agriculture.

If the problems related to agriculture are more, then we need to do reinventing in agriculture as soon as possible. Agriculture has had its own importance, whether it is in the beginning of civilization or in the present or in the future. The importance of agriculture is very high in every cycle of time, but if we want to take advantage of it for a long time, then we have to pay attention to sustainable agriculture, as well as try to overcome all the problems related to it, so that every person to get enough food and we can move forward on the path of development as M. S. Swaminathan once said that “If agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right in the country.”

Read more: India’s Problem: Poverty or inequality?

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