India is embarking on a major shift towards holistic agriculture.
With the help of an innovative programme, the country is now in a position to deliver more benefits to its citizens, said Agnes Chatterjee, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Food and Consumer Affairs.
Agriculture, one of the fastest growing sectors in India, is a crucial source of jobs and income for the country’s rural population, according to the ministry.
In 2014, India recorded the biggest number of croplands planted in the country, growing at an average rate of around 10 lakh acres per year.
According to the World Bank, the sector contributes $1.2 trillion in gross domestic product and employs 2.8 million people.
But while the sector is facing its biggest challenges to date, the government is now working to harness the technology of agro-ecology.
According to the Indian Agricultural Research Organisation (IARI), India’s land area, which comprises over 90 per cent of the country in terms of cultivated land, has increased by 8 per cent between 2011 and 2016.
This growth is driven by increased cultivation and a shift in the farming practice.
IARI estimates that India’s total land area is about 5,800 crore hectares (18,800 sq km).
This would make the country the third largest agricultural land exporter after China and China is the second largest agricultural exporter.
India has also become one of a few countries that have managed to grow more than 100 million hectares (1.5 million sq km) of cropping area in a single year.
This is a massive jump from the previous record of around 100 million hectare (5.4 million sq km) achieved in 2016.
In terms of the total area of cultivated cropland, India has grown at a rate of about 2.2 per cent annually, a dramatic increase over the previous year.
In the past three years, the number of cultivable croplains has grown from 7.4 lakh hectares (23,500 sq km), which is more than double the previous average, to more than 17.6 lakh hectares in the current year, up from 7,700 hectares (22,400 sq km in 2016).
Agro-Ecology is a major innovation in agriculture.
It combines the best of different technologies and approaches in order to increase yields and improve the quality of life of farmers, said Dr. Jai Shankar Nandkishore, Director, Centre for Agriculture Research and Development, University of Maryland.
It has been proven that this approach has the potential to improve yields, reduce wastage, and enhance the quality and resilience of soil.
The success of Agro-Eco-India’s pilot programme, which has already yielded positive results, is an example of the way the government can use technology to bring about positive results.
In its first year, the programme brought an increase in productivity of more than 10 per cent and the amount of land that could be cultivated at any given time was reduced by more than 70 per cent.
With the help and support of the IARI, the ministry has started work on a more detailed study to assess the impact of the Agroecosystems Programme (AEP) and its impacts on the agriculture sector in India.
The study, due to be completed by December 2021, will be a critical one to understand the impact on the farmers.
Dr. Sankar Narayanan, former Chief Agricultural Officer of India, also believes that the pilot programme is an important step towards the sustainable development of the agro system.
According a report by the Department of Science and Technology, India is currently in the process of setting up a biotechnology and agro science centre at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.
To make agro ecology work better, India needs to ensure that it is not seen as a niche technology and the government should ensure that all technologies are used to improve the health of its citizens.
Dr. Nandishkumar said, in order for Agro Ecology to succeed in India’s agriculture sector, the Government of India needs a strong regulatory framework, effective and transparent policy making, a coherent system for scientific collaboration, and a well-trained and professional workforce.
Read more on AgroEcology:India’s success story, which is now spreading to other countries:India is now taking a holistic view of agriculture.
The country is investing heavily in its agriculture sector and is now the second-largest agro producer in the world after China, and the largest agro consumer in the whole of the world.
In this context, it is important to ensure a healthy ecosystem for the development of agri-ecological innovations, said Sankhar Narayanana, Chairman, AgroBiotech.
A holistic approach will benefit