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Agriculture can be made viable with Precision farming technologies

Dr.T.P.Sethumadhavan

 Agriculture sector in India is facing lot of challenges including increasing cost of production, decreasing production and productivity, constraints in value addition and marketing and climatic variation. Govt of India during the 2015-16 budget announced that farmers income will be doubled and organic farming will be promoted by 2022. But per capita income during the period according to NSSO was Rs 89500.If this has to reach 183000 by 2022**,, the sector has to exhibit a minimum growth of 10 4 percent per annum. But during the last 4 years annual growth was only 1.85 percent.  To achieve the target, growth should be above 13 percent. So it is clear that the budget announcement cannot be fulfilled.

Agriculture is the largest private sector in India. Recent findings by CII reveals that 70 percent of farming operations are running under loss. 15 percent with marginal income just above the breakeven price.14-15 percent are really profitable.
Inorder to increase the income from agriculture, substantial changes in the farming practices  through precision farming with the use of innovations and technologies are needed. Recently held workshop on precision agriculture technologies held at Chennai as part of Agricon 2018 highlighted the need for using this technology to augment production from agriculture in India. In India precision farming is limited mostly to precision irrigation and selected crops. precision farming use local specific data of soil, water, weather and vegetation.It will take in to account spatial and temperature variability, environmental impact, use of information and communication technology including Agri analytics. Agencies like ICRISAT, Hyderabad, MS Swaminathan Foundation, Microsoft, Tech Maheendra and Cab international are effectively using these technologies. Village knowledge centres of MD Swaminathan Foundation use social media, SMS, mobile apps and internet to provide real time data on temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, rain gauge, soil, water condition, etc. Soil world software will provide use of fertilisors appropriate to soil based on crop and management practiced. Basic objective of countries dswhich are intensively practicing precision farming is to double production and reduce cost of production by half. The Nethetlands is using precision faming to increase production and productivity. For example average productivity of tomato  per square metre over 9 months is 20 kg where as on The Netherlands it is 70 kg.
There is tendency among policy makers to promote agriculture is barren lands. But most of them argue for paddy cultivation. But paddy cultivation requires 7 times water than other crops. So selection of appropriate crops requires more emphasis.
Precision farming use  sensors, satellite images, drones, internet of things for soil analysis, monitoring, irrigation, etc with innovative farm management with appropriate extension network.
Inoder to make agriculture as one of the viable ventures it requires precisin farming with end to end crop specific  solutions . Value addition, market led extension and production need to be promoted to increase farmers income.
Use of precision farming required three sets of imperatives. It must address the immediate challenges like price realisation, transparency and storage. It must enable and adapt technology solutions which includes comprehensive data base, infrastructure facilities and use of precion farming tools. Moreover it requires integrated solutions for using customised, crop specific end to end solutions.
Promotion of Agri entrepreneurship model will enhaunce production. Lot of startups are emerging in agriculure. But income through agriculture can be increased through market led value addition programmes. Food processing will facilitate to get more income through agriculture. It has been predicted that by 2022, of the total retail market 70 percent will be food market. Access to credit, water and market will facilitate to increase production. Moreover it required better storage and post harvest technologies. 
Precision farming will provide early warning signals and develop prediction models based on weather, pest, drones, diseases and yield.  Basicaly it is a type of smart agriculture using innovations and smart technologies. organic farming can be promoted with strict regulatory measures including residue monitoring. Govt of India envisages to promote organic farming on a large scale. But it must take in to account appropriate certification including residue monitoring. The need of the hour is to promote the concept of safe to eat products with pesticide, chemical  or heavy metal residues with less than permissible limits which won't affect the production. Moreover agriculture research must focus on developing more of farmer friendly technologies and appropriate technology transfer among the potential stake holders. Fragmentation Agri based universities need to be minimised inorder to promote interdisciplinary research. The term agriculture must include all crops including animal agriculture and fisheries. Then only envisaged growth can be achieved.
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