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Indian Agriculture

Redefining Strategies and Priorities

Raj Gupta (rajbisa2013@gmail.com) is a senior scientist (Indian National Science Academy) with the Centre for Advancement of Sustainable Agriculture, New Delhi. Mamta Mehra (mamtamehra84@gmail.com) is a research scientist with the Centre for Advancement of Sustainable Agriculture, New Delhi. Rabi Narayan Sahoo (rnsahoo.iari@gmail.com) is principal scientist in agricultural physics at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. Inder Abrol (abrolip@gmail.com) is director, Centre for Advancement of Sustainable Agriculture, New Delhi.

Sustainability of agriculture depends on soil management systems that ensure food security, healthy soils and ecosystem services, and prevent resource degradation. Globally, conservation agriculture has provided a common thread for the application of five sustainability principles—efficient use of water, reduced use of agrochemicals , improved soil health, adapt to climate change, and doubling farmer income—in order to tie the mix of interventions with local needs and priorities of the farmers. For food and ecological sustainability of Indian agriculture, the state’s interventions must be on the basis of the conservation agriculture approach.

The world’s population has grown from 2.5 billion to 7.3 billion people between 1950 and 2015. By 2025, the global and Indian populations are projected to cross the 8.1 billion and 1.35 billion marks, respectively. Increasing human population affects agricultural land use and land-cover patterns. This puts pressure on natural resources to produce more from less lands, through use of additional inputs. Externally addedfertiliser nutrients have not been able to improve soil health and many reports point to the fatigue of natural resources (Ladha et al 2003). For meeting food requirements, since 1950, nearly 22 million hectares (mha) have been added to the net sown area, which now stands at around 140 mha, with little possibility for further expansion. Most of this is contributed through conversion of forest, pasture and fallow lands. Expansion of agriculture and the trend to use more external inputs will need far greater attention in the coming years for their effect on soil eco-functions. So far, food production has largely kept pace with the population due to extensive use of fertilisers, herbicides, improved crop cultivars, development of livestock and horticulture sectors, and expansion of irrigation. Agricultural activities alter natural ecosystems and, often, adversely affect soil health and ecosystem services. Since 1950, nearly 37% of the total geographical area of India has beenreported to be at various stages of degradation (GoI 2016). Enhancing foodproduction with little consideration to soil health has remained a fundamental flaw of the Indian strategy for sustained augmentation of food production under threats from climate change.

Management of Natural Resources

Agriculture uses natural resources and environmental services (landscapes, plants, animals, soils, minerals, water, biodiversity and atmospheric nitrogen, carbon and energy) for the production of agricultural goods (food, feed, fibre, fuel), andass;ociated economic and social services: food security, economic growth and poverty reduction, health and cultural values, etc (IAASTD 2009; FAO 2015). As agriculture depends largely on the services provided by ecosystems, sustainable agriculture must use them efficiently and optimise production to protect, conserve and enhance natural resources. It must offer decent and resilient livelihoods for rural people who depend on agriculture. The United Nations has included two in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—namely, achieving land degradation neutrality and sustaining food security—as enabling factors for sustainable agricultural developments. Within this, sustainable agriculture is envisioned as a continuous process of identification and prioritisation of production constraints to resolve resource management issues. It will require continuous improvement in strategies, institutional innovations, and robust technologies to handle complex natural resource management (NRM) issues.

The five broad principles of agricultural research and development, contributing to sustainable agriculture, have been put together from the speeches delivered on different occasions by Prime Ministers of India between 2007 and 2017. These include (i) more crops per drop, (ii) reducing the use of fertilisers and pesticides, (iii) improving soil health, (iv) adapting to climate change, and (v) doubling farmers’ income (which touches upon marketing innovations, value chains, equity,effective governance, social well-being and livelihoods of farmers). Conservation agriculture serves as the common thread which ties together the above five “interconnected” principles for achieving the goal of sustainable crop production on the farms.

The five principles are in some ways similar to the sustainability principles proposed recently by the Food and Agriculture Organization (2015). These principles underpin the importance of the need for (i) improving efficiency in use of resour;ces, (ii) conserving, protecting, and enhancing natural resources, (iii) enhancing resilience of people, communities and ecosystems, (iv) protecting and improving the livelihoods and social well-being of rural people, and (v) effective governance. In the ensuing sections, the strategies and approaches required toaccomplish these tasks have been discussed.

Enhancing Water Productivity

According to the 2030 Water Resources Group Report (Addams et al 2011), India would need 1,498 billion cubicmetres (m3) of water annually. The demand break-up has been projected at 80% for agriculture, 13% for industry and 7% for domestic needs. Against this demand, India’s current water supply is app;roximately 740 billion m3. As a result, most ofIndia’s river basins could face a severe deficit of 758 billion m3 by 2030,unless concerted action is taken in the Ganga, Krishna, and Indus basins in India. In the Indo–Gangetic plains of Punjab and Haryana alone, rice–wheat cropping systems have led to a net depletion of 109 billion m3 water annually between 2002 and 2008 (Rodell et al 2009). Agricultural water-;productivity measures contribute towards closing the water gap—like “more crops per drop”1—through a mix of improved waterapplication, soil moisture, and tillage management practices, and towards improvement in yields of different crops through their linkage with soil health (Hobbs et al 2017; Humphreys et al 2010). Given the fact that surface flooding is the most used water application method in India and elsewhere, there is an urgent need to immediately improve surface ridge-furrowirri;gation system using lay-flat gated pipes (Rawitz 2008; Hassan and Elwan 2016). Pressurised sprinkler systems must bepromoted in rolling toposequences. A drip system is best under marginal conditions of soil, water quality and climate (salt-;affected soils, use of low-quality brackish waters and dryclimatic conditions). Although drip systems save slightly more water than gated-pipes and sprinklers, in ourexperience, the latter are easily movable and more farmer-friendly inoperations.

Direct dry seeding of the kharif crops before the start of the rainy season can significantly improve rainwater productivity, reduce soil erosion hazards and make the planting seasonindependent of rainfall predictions. Dry seeding of rice eliminates puddling, to save at least 25 centimetres of irrigationwater per hectare, besides improving the productivity of the succeding wheat crop (Humphery et al 2010; Hobbs et al 2017). Practices such as laser-assisted precision land levelling, zero tillage, dry seeding, surface seeding, mulching cultivars with early vigour, etc, save irrigation water, reduce evaporation, improve infiltration, water storage and crop productivity (IAASTD 2009; Humphreys et al 2010; Jat et al 2013). Molden
et al (2007) have suggested that in areas with low water productivity, such as in South Asia, reducing evaporation andimproving soil health are still important options for increasing water productivity. Addams et al (2011) have pointed out that India’s “base case”2 2030 water supply–demand gap could be solved with agricultural measures, provided there is a strong shift in favour of conservation agriculture (this has been discussed later) and a will to invest in
water management.

Soil Health

The Royal Commission on Agriculture in India (1928)observed that

Most of the area under cultivation in India has been under cultivation for hundreds of years and had reached its state of maximum impove;rishment many years ago […] and no further deterioration (of soils) is likely to take place under existing conditions of cultivation.

In pre-independent India, farmers had no access to chemical fertilisers and relied on nutrient replenishments, mainly on organic manures, green manures and system of land fall;ows. In the green revolution era, the focus shifted to chemical fertilisers and burning of crop residues for easy intensification of cropping systems. Norman Borlaug’s green revolution legacy boosted food production, but with a significant deterioration in soil health. This was in spite of the government’s policy for conjunctive and balanced use of chemical fertilisers, organics and biofertilisers. The State of Indian Agriculture Report, 2015–16 (GoI 2016), points out that about 3 billion tonnes of soil gets eroded annually in India, with nutrientreplacement costs—at the cost of $3 per tonne of soilsediment (as estimated by Craswell (2000)—totalling more than
$9 billion.

Between 1928 and 1969, two significant changes had taken place: population growth in independent India, and production and use of chemical fertilisers. Increasing human population affects agricultural land-use patterns, forest and pasture land covers, and waterbodies. This puts pressure on naturalresources to produce more from less agricultural land. Externally added fertiliser nutrients have not been able to improve soil health and many reports point to a fatigue of naturalresources(Ladha et al 2003).

Soil health is fundamental to maintaining the eco-functions of soils, vital to agriculture. Eco-services of soils include (i) soil structure for water infiltration, water retention, and supply of essential nutrients, (ii) regulating water and dissolved solute flows over the land and or through the soil, (iii) filtering and decontamination potential for pollutants, (iv) recycling carbon, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and other nutrients, (iv) providing a medium for plant roots to grow, and sustaining plant and animal life, and (v) sequestering carbon and adapting toclimate change. In development of soil structure, regulating the release and uptake of nutrients, and soil organisms are critical for soil health (IAASTD 2009).

In our experience, conservation agriculture as part ofsustainable land management systems offers huge potential for nursing depleted arable soils back to health. Conservation agri;culture can improve agriculture through reduced erosion, improvement in soil moisture storage, soil structure, reduced surface crusting (red soils) and surface cracking in black soils, and by increasing soil organic matter and suppressing weeds. Conservation agriculture also helps reduce costs of production. Concer;ning conservation of moisture for crop use, two thrusts have to be pursued: increasing in situ moisture storage within soilprofile; and run-off collection and subsequent recycle for “life-saving irrigation.” Climatic determinants, such as annual rainfall and its variability, force the farmers to practice “khariffallows” in about 1.9 mha of land (Dwivedi et al 2002; Yadav andSubba Rao 2001) and “rabi fallows” in 5.8 mha in central India (Gumma et al 2016). Agronomic techniques that focus on “manageable part of climatic variability” can significantlyreduce the acreages of fallow lands and improve the adaptive capacity of rain-fed agriculture to climate. Direct dry seeding and ensuring the quality of irrigation services(demand-driven supplies) at sowing time and to tackle any midseason drought can significantly improve crop production. In dry seeding, the seed is placed under the residues in surface soil and allowed to experience several cycles of natural seed priming (hydration/dehydration) in the pre-monsoon rains. Seeds germinate when there is sufficient rain, or when sprinkler irrigationauguments light rains. Dry seeding on conservation agriculture platforms makes kharif planting slighlty independent ofmonsoon forecasts in moist semi-arid/subhumid regions. Seed priming with dilute fertiliser solutions has average benefit/cost ratios, 20–40 times greater than those achi;eved withfertiliser addition to the soil (Harris 2006).Improved adoption of soil-conserving practices, such as surface retention of crop residues, green manures, agroforestry, and fast-growing tree species in fallow lands, can also mitigate the damaging effects of climate variability.

Climate change will require a new look at “farm tank” water storage strategy. These tanks can be used to store water from the overflowing canals during the rainy season to handle
climate variability later in the crop season. Small investments in storage of 1,000 m3 farm tanks in Tungabhadra and upper Krishna irrigation commands are unlocking the agriculture potential in situations of small seasonal rainfall variability, which is expected to increase with climate change. Diversification of agriculture systems with low water-consumptive crops, use of drought and heat tolerant cultivars, agroforestry measures and nutrient management, etc, enhance the adaptive capacity of agriculture to climate change (Hawken 2017). The ability of the meteorology department in predicting disruptive impacts of climate change in advance can be very helpful. In production and diffusion of technologies/knowledge, innovative farmers play a very significant role in decision-making and forming
an opinion.

Reducing Usage of Chemical Fertilisers

Generally, farmers apply phosphorus, potassium (K) and zincfertiliser nutrients as basal application along with a starter dose of nitrogen at the time of crop seeding. The balance of nitrogen is subsequently top-dressed in two–three splits, or variablyapplied “on-the-go” in response to crop-;sensor readings. Applied nitrogen, vis-à-vis balanced use of mineral fertilisers, generallyenhances biomass, increases soil organic matter (SOM) and betters biological life (Geisseler and Scow 2014; Körschens et al 2013; Ladha et al 2011). If there are no additions of nutrients to replace those lost through crop off-take and other processes, the capacity of the soil eco-functions decline. For healthy soils, soil organisms and soil organic carbon (OC) are critical (Kibblewhite et al 2008). This soil carbon sponge is of great significance for its influence on the soil eco-functions. It must be our endeavour to continuously replenish for any loss oforganic matter. For arresting and reversing the soil degradation processes, soil OC, soil microbes and soil moisture retention are critical for biomass production. These attributes enhance soil productivity, improve nutrient andwater-use efficiency, reduce production costs, and significantly benefit the environment.

Reducing our dependence on chemical fertilisers is a laudable objective, but there is a need to ignite a debate on shifts that will be required from our singular focus on fertilisers. To save on fertilisers, we need to emphasise the potential agronomic practices that reduce the use of synthetic nutrients, and identify and adopt production management systems such as conservation agriculture that have a targeted effect, which is discussed in the ensuing section.

Enhancing Productivity and Resource Conservation

Crop production and conservation of natural resources are parallel objectives, but often implemented in isolation through fragmented schemes of the Government of India (GoI). Production managementsystem strategy requires promoting adoption of soil, water, and crop management strategies that build soil OC and improve resource-use efficiency together with enhanced produ;ction. Conservation agriculture is one such innovative app;roach to management of production systems, which is close to or;ga;n;ic farming. Conservation agricultureallows use of agrochemicals and its yield potential is hardly debatable, unlike organic farming. The concept of conser;vation agriculture rests on four broad intertwined management practices: (i) drasticred;uction in soil disturbance and adoption of direct sowing, (ii) maintenance of a continuous vegetative soil cover, (iii) sound crop rotations, and (iv) avoidance of freewheeling to reduce soil compaction. Conservation agriculture-based productionsystems mimic natural agroecosystems and, hence, wouldresult in numerous environmental benefits such asdecreased soil erosion and water loss through run-off, decre;ased carbon dioxide emissions and higher carbon sequestration, organic matter build-up, efficient nutrient cycling,reduced fuelconsumption, increased water productivity, less flooding, and better recharging of underground aquifers (IAASTD 2009),reduced compaction in the subsoil, and cracking in black soil. Conservation agriculture has the targeted effect in reducing the use of synthetic fertilisers through slowed SOM decomposition, reduced soil erosion during rainy season through residue retention and brown manuring (green manure crop knocked down through herbicide to provide surface mulch) and avoidance of summer deep plowing. Conservation agriculture is more carbon efficient and sequesters more OC which is central to continued delivery of soil eco-functions (Hawken 2017).

Globally, it is a strong belief that conservation agriculture principles can and must form an important component of the national strategy to produce more food at lower costs, improve environmental quality and preserve natural resources (IAASTD 2009; FAO 2015; Paroda 2018). No-till conservation agriculture promotes crop intensification, employment opportunities and inc;lu;sive economic growth, and small farmers benefit the most from it.

Doubling Farmers’ Incomes

Recently, Niti Aayog (Chand 2018) has indicated that the real income of the farmers have come down by 1.36% a year, over the last five years. Therefore, the government will need to pursue price and production routes to lift the lots of the farmers. It will be futile to adopt a common strategy in high and low productivity domains as the issues are different in two locations. For example, farmers in Haryana and Punjab need to diversify rice–wheat production systems to address rapidly declining water tables, with high-value crops and add value chains toattain additional benefits. But, farmers in eastern Uttar Pradesh can significantly improve their crop productivity by avoiding late planting and cutting back on production costs through appropriate choice of zero-till and/or surface-seeding technologies. Timely planting as a stand-alone practice can impove wheat productivity in the range of 45–60 kg/day/ha in the eastern Gangetic plains. The troubling report from Ray et al (2012) has indicated that India is plagued with yield stagnation with more than a third of its maize, rice, wheat and soybean areas (total area under four crops ~ 85 mha), not witnessing yield improvements for a decade or so. In order to unlock theproduction potential in all such districts, we need to identify strategies based on actual farm needs and prioritisation of production constraints. According to Manmohan Singh (2007), former Prime Minister of India, crop yield gaps are a consequence of institutional and technology fatigues, affectingresearch and agricultural development, and that land-;resource problems are painted with a wide brush lacking requiredlocation specificity.

Eco-regional Concepts in Development of Agriculture

Agricultural research based on eco-regional concepts have been debated intensely over the past several decades. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) (Sehgal et al 1990) carved out 20 agro-ecoregions (AERs) and 60 subregions (AESRs) in the country. In 1985, the Planning Commission of India divided the country into 15 resource development regions. As part of the World Bank-funded National Agricultural Research Project (NARP), 120 zonal research stations (ZRS) in state agricultural universities were established and strengthened by the ICAR during 1979–91. The research stations were set up for theoptimal utilisation of resource base, balanced growth, and strengthening zonal planning processes in order to stre;ngthen democracy (Ghosh 1991). Setting up of the ZRS was an excellent idea for solving locally identified natural resource management problems, but the programme could not be sustained. Rese;arch programmes in ZRS promoted the usual yield improvement and narrowing of yield gaps approaches, by promoting high-yielding cultivars and balanced fertiliser use. Degradation of soil and water resources or stagnating productivity are often driven by farmers’ practices and their interactions with the resource base. Unfortunately, social scientists had little collaboration with their counterparts in diagnostic field surveys, priority-setting and assessment of the consequences. Harrington (1996) observed that well-focused diagnostic surveys can unravel the cause and effect chains, institutional arr;angement needs, and farming system interactions for expan;ding the range of management options. Farmer participatory adaptive experimentation and farmer monitoring were missing, which would have enabled researchers to track trends of system productivity and co-evolution of farmer’s practices. Most funds were utilised in creating new infrastructure for ZRS—which were inadequate—to provide accommodation for staff and arrange for schooling of children in remotely located ZRS. In many cases, staff had to be transferred, which made it increasingly difficult to complete research studies. All these weaknesses contributed to operational inefficiencies at other levels too. Agricultural research for development largely conti;nued to be commodity-centric, production-oriented, top-down, and researcher-managed. System perspectives were generally missing in the approaches adopted by ZRS.

In 1998, the ICAR introduced the concept of production system research (PSR), through a National Agriculture Technology Project (NATP), which was not only analogous to AER and the geographical approach, but went beyond both of them. The ICAR bundled the 126 NARP agroclimatic zones into 15 prioritised, selected production systems (with the possibility for further additions) under the five agroecosystems: irrigated, rain-fed, hill and mountains, coastal, and arid ecosystems. The PSR framework integrates all the system components (biophysical, socio-economic and infra factors), determining productivity and profitability of the system. In this project, the ICAR introduced a large number of organisation & management (O&M) reforms, improved internet connectivity and web-based common statistical software tools, and also introduced decentralised decision-making in the allocation and operation of project funds. Prioritised location-specific production system problems were assig;ned to research teams constituted from different institutions, which were led by acknowledged experts in specificareas. The NATP helped create active science leadership inrese;arch institutions, and harnessed institutional synergies. Almost at the same time, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) initiated a system-wide eco-regional programme “Rice–Wheat Consortium” (RWC) in theIndo–Gangetic plains, across four South Asian countries,including India.

In the PSR, tillage and crop establishment (TCE) practices emerged as playing a very pivotal role in improvement ofwater and nutrient-use efficiency, cropping-system producti;vity, germplasm requirements, and also served as a powerful weapon in tackling the problem of weed resistance to herbicide molecules. It emerged from the diagnostic surveys that many of the PSR problems can be solved through management options such as direct-dry seeding, surface seeding and redu;ced or zero-tillage. In the management of natural resources, it emerged that the way crops are established determines the nut;rient, water and crop management practices and, hence, TCE practices should be kept at the centre stage of all farming ope;ra;tions. The TCE approach allowed farmers’ participation in large-scale farm validation of techniques and feedback thereon, not otherwise possible through small plot trials (GoI 2008).

Renkow and Byerlee (2010) conducted a CGIAR system-wide eco-regional programme review, including the RWC. Theyobs;erved that in terms of benefits from agricultural productivity, NRM research results in highly positive returns on investments. They reported that zero tillage-based NRM research in theIndo–Gangetic plains reduced farmers’ production costs by 10%, raised crop productivity by the same amount, and generated significant economic benefits for the country. Research in rice–wheat systems were conducted in farmer-managed participatory mode, with involvement of the researchers, extension agencies, service providers, input dealers and machinery manufactures, each contributing to the cause of healthy soils and enhancing productivity of resources. Seth et al (2003) obs;erved that the RWC was an institutional innovation towards a system’s approach, based on participatory methods and location-specific research priorities, in line with constraints. It may be mentioned here that the independent external review of the RWC was highly positive, but theNational Agricultural Rese;arch & Extension System (NARES) failed to internalise the learnings in its institutional policy and O&M frameworks.3 The leadership could not make use of the adaptive capacity of O&M systems in ICAR to firmlyentrench the farmer-participatoryresearch approach and ins;titutionalise associated innovations. In the rice–wheatsystem, conservation agriculture practices co-evolved with agents for change (farmers). Traditional bure;aucratic operational guidelines were not replaced with newer ones framed for research management and dissemination of findings. Sets of old and new guidelines continued during the project period and finally newer ones faded away with project completion. The NARES returned to its old familiar strategy of attaining 2%–4% agricultural growth, translated into yield enh;ancements rather than income of the farmers andefficientresource use. Conservation agriculture is fast spreadingglobally, and there is a strong advocacy for this approachwithin the country (Paroda 2018). Even without any formal decision on the part of leadershipregarding the adoption and pro;motion of conservation agriculture as part of sustainable land management practice, it is being adopted by farmers, though slowly.

Resource Management Domains and Priority Setting

A production system is defined as a series of activities carried out to produce a defined set of commodities. Farmers generally change agricultural production systems in response to shifts in consumer demands, production costs and pricing, procurement policies and infrastructure interventions. However, the objective is invariably to optimise crop and soil-use options for enhanced production under the prevailing climatic conditions (Dumanski and Craswell 1996). Thus, agriculture production and land-use systems have co-evolved and are continuously changing. Sustaining agriculture production systems and natural resource bases require land-based solutions. Since production systems depend on the quality of resource attributes and available management options at specific locations, integration of biophysical, social and economic parameters is req;uired to characterise land management units, also referred to as resource management domains (RMDs). The RMD approach defines an area by resource issues and common underlying socio-economic characteristics to handle the productionconstraints (Dumanski and Craswell 1996). An RMD is a relatively homogeneous tract of land with inherent suitability for specific uses. The RMD approach can be used at different levels: tounderstand system ecology issues at regional level, identify production constraints and priority setting at district/block level, and assess options for tackling NRM problems at thevillage/field level.

The RMD approach has the potential to solve the serious teething problems of the Soil Health Card (SHC) scheme, which is suffering on account of sampling protocols, sample over-crowding in soil-testing laboratories and problems associated with focused farm advisories.4 As an example, we have used the RMD approach for identification of resource issues andoptions for their management in Mewat district in Haryana, bound by the Aravalli hills in the north, east and west. The Mewat district is thus located in a closed basin, sloping from the north and south towards the central belly. This results in waterlogging and secondary salinisation of large areas (Figure 1) in the Nuh, Nagina and Punhana blocks, served by surface drains currently being used for irrigation. Save for rain and small canal water supplies, groundwater is the main source for irrigation which is fast depleting and becomingsaline (Kaur et al 2009). Seasonal fluctuations in the watertable, root zone salinity, and freshwater availability determine crop selection by the farmers. In saline soils underlain with shallow water tables and saline aquifers, farmers practice pearl millet or fallowmustard/wheat cultivation (Figure 2). Relatively freshwater aquifer zones are supplemented by canal/drain water supplies enabling farmers to grow rice–wheat and vegetables. In near terms, crop productivity in the district can be improved through efficient water management, reduction in salinisation rates, in situ soil moisture conservation, efficient salt leaching, adoption of fertiliser schedules that redu;ces the adverse effect of saline irrigation, and use of salt-t;olerant crops. But, given the prevailing hydrologic conditions of the Mewat district, there is an urgent need to change the land use to agroforestry in the central saline blocks (Figure 1) to prevent ingress ofsalinewater into freshwater aquifer zones along the Aravalli hills, and use the wood in several charcoal-making unitsalready inoperation in the district.

Figure 3 (p 89) provides an illustration with respect to the Karnal district in Haryana where the RMD framework delineates eight homogeneous soil fertility zones. In the area of study, farmers primarily practise rice–wheat or Indian mustard cropping systems (Figure 4, p 89). Using average soil fertility (N/OC, P and K) values shown for each of the eight domains (Figure 3), domain and crop-specific fertiliser recommendations were earlier computed using a QUEFTS (Quantitative Evaluation of the Fertility on Tropical Soils) which was based on a crop-modelling app;roach by Barman et al (2013). The RMD framework allows cost-effective procedures for soil sample acquisition, and drastically reduces analytical work, besides enabling researchers to incorporate significant factors that regulate the supply of nut;rients and hence fertiliser recommendations. The RMD framework thus allows sustainable land management practices and implementation of the five interconnected stated previously. The RMD approach can also promote the adoption and use of the customised fertiliser grades in the specific fertility domains and reduce production costs.

Conclusions

Agricultural development needs an integrated mix of interventions, consistent with local requirements and the nationalobjectives. There is a need to move away from the mechanical ways of implementing fragmented schemes. Research and exte;nsion agencies need to join hands in preparing location-specific integrated plans and meet the felt needs of the local farmers to alleviate poverty. Agriculture has a multifunctional role in the national economy. However, the value of eco-;services provided by it to the public have remained unrecognised due to our singular focus on enhanced production, which is often at the expense of widespread degradation of natural res;ources. The five “interconnected principles” describe the nati;onal priorities for sustained resource use, and serve as common thread for tying production–protection interventions, for resolution of location-specific issues within the RMD framework. Since the breathing time provided by greenrevolution technologies is already at end, it is time to make investments in agriculture for sustainability of theresource base.

Notes

1 “More crop per drop” implies that India has a record of having very low water-use efficiency with enormous scope for improvement. Farmers have to look for better yield methods through a combination of agronomic water-saving practices, and substitute commonly used surface flooding methods with lay-flat gated pipes and micro-irrigation.

2 According to the 2030 Water Resources Group (WRG) report, by 2030, India will be able to meet only 50% of its projected demand of 1,498 billion cubic metres (m3) of water. The report suggests that without the necessity of dramatic and costly interventions, India can bridge its water demand–supply gap if it is willing to invest in improvement in water-use efficiency and conservation agriculture practices (such as dry seeding, land levelling, mulching, etc).

3 According to Vision 2020, the ICAR, together with research institutes and their research stations, directorates and All India Coordinated Research Projects, state agricultural universities and their zonal research stations and krishi vigyan kendras, central universities, and more than 105 scientific societies are involved in the agricultural research and extention which form a part of the national agriculture research system (NARES) ofIndia. This extensive agriculture research infrastructure not only conducts agriculture research, but is also responsible for educating and providing extension services to the farmers, along with departments of agriculture.

4 The SHC scheme was launched by the Government of India in 2015 with the aim to provide soil health card to all farmers. The SHC provides crop-wise recommendations of fertiliser nutrients required to enable farmers toproduce more and save on fertilisers.

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Updated On : 15th Oct, 2018

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