Bangalore: Dry land farming is likely to become a core area of research, investment and cultivation in the coming days.
According to an estimate, out of the total 143 million hectares of dry land in India, nearly 12 million hectares are in Karnataka because of which all impetus is now being given to utilise this area to increase the food production.
Technocrats and bureaucrats are seeking more investment in agriculture and allied sectors to increase food production by investing in dryland farming.
“Bhoo Chetana” a project envisage by Karnataka government in 2009 is focusing on improving productivity in dryland agriculture across Karnataka with the help of scientific technologies and the sustainable use of natural resources. This programme is implemented in collaboration with the International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
The state government has made budget provision of Rs 110 crore for watershed and soil enrichment ‘Bhoo Chetana’ project, for the year 2012-13, as against Rs. 40 crore allocated in 2011-12.
At the national level, a committee of Governors, constituted by President Pratibha Patil, will finalise a report on revamping the agriculture sector before the forthcoming Budget.
What experts say?
Meanwhile, the declining profit margin for farmers producing food grains, increased land holdings and division and fragmentation of land worries the scientists and agriculturists across.
“It is necessary to encourage development of new technologies for dryland agriculture through R&D. Stopping further deterioration of the natural resource and associated loss of soil productivity is the key to improve the sustainability of dry land farming,” said Dr K Narayana Gowda, Vice-chancellor of University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), GKVK, Bangalore. .
Sixty per cent of India’s cultivated area are covered under rain fed and dryland farming contributing to 44 per cent of food production in the country. Karnataka has the second largest area under rain-fed agriculture after Rajasthan in the country with over 120 lakh hectares of cultivable under rain-fed farming.
Gowda said that increased importance should be placed on animal husbandry, sericulture and fisheries in dryland farming programme.
“Though no systematic study has been done, it is seen as a phenomenon that the third generation of farming communities are losing interest in farming due to exposure of rapid urbanisation and changing lifestyle. They need to be tackled urgently,” Gowda explained.
Placing importance of policy support for dryland farming, William D. Dar, director of ICRISAT said dryland (rain-fed) agriculture is practiced on 80% of the world’s farm area, and generates almost 40% of the world’s staple foods.
“Despite the risks and poor policy support, drylands contribute a major part of food production. Hence dryland agriculture is crucial in attaining global food security under a climate change regime.”
Concerns of farmers
In Karnataka, Kolar, Chitradurga, Tumkur, Dharwad, Bidar, Bijapur and part of Haveri, Gadad , Mandya and Ramanagaram districts fall under dry land area.
Reducing water level and changing climatic conditions in many places have forced many farmers to shift from traditional crop cultivation to horticulture.
Srinivas Gowda, a farmer from Seekal Village in Chintamani taluk participated in a workshop on ‘Policy Initiatives for Promoting Partnership between Stakeholders in Agriculture with particular reference to Rainfed/Dryland Farming’ hosted by the President of India, last week.
“Water table is our region has reached beyond 1200 feet with less than 5 per cent success rate. Therefore we have slowly shifted from Intensive agriculture to Dry land horticulture like Mango, Tamarind, Jack fruit and Cashew,” said Srinivas Gowda.
Srinivas Gowda who also is the president of the Chintamani Taluk Raitha Kutas, echoes the need for mechanized support for Canopy management in pruning, spraying, harvesting, grading, packing, storage and transportation to reduce cost of labour and inputs.
“Farming community is in very much need of technical consultation, market promotions, market intelligence and market information for domestic and export market,” he added.
(A different version of this article was published in TNIE city edition dated Feb 21, 2012)