AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE Monday, January 28, 2002, Chandigarh, India
 

Key elements for precision farming
M.S. Bajwa
T
he key elements required for generation, dissemination and adoption of precision farming techniques, therefore, include information, technology and managements.

New hybrid varieties of desi cotton, narma
Raman Mohan
A
Hisar-based leading Indian seed producer Super Seeds has evolved hybrid varieties of desi cotton and narma with "a built-in genetic insurance over" for limiting losses caused by insect infestation.

Farm operations for January

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Key elements for precision farming
M.S. Bajwa

The key elements required for generation, dissemination and adoption of precision farming techniques, therefore, include information, technology and managements.

* Information is needed about crop characteristics, soil properties (topography, fertility status, texture, moisture content/retention, tillage needs, salinity, waterlogging, etc), incidence of pests (insects, diseases, weeds and others), weather/climatic conditions, other biotic and abiotic stresses, plant growth response, harvest and post-harvest handling, marketing and market intelligence, socio-economic conditions of farmers, etc. Detailed information, so collected, can be used to create different kinds of maps of the farms/villages/regions (e.g. different soil characteristics, groundwater, pest incidence, weed distribution, topography, environmental pollution, etc) which can help the farmers in using the available information at each step while making site-specific decisions for performing different farm operations. Planners can use these maps for regulating the supplies of inputs in different areas.

* Technologies are rapidly evolving and farmers must keep up with the changes that can help in increasing productivity and profitability. Use of remote sensing and geographic information system (GIS), auto-analysers, sensors, computers along with appropriate software, etc can help in precisely identifying areas of nutrient deficiencies and other biotic and abiotic stresses, etc, and quantifying the quantification of the economic significance of the soil-water-fertiliser-pest-crop related constraints and their environmental impacts at the farm/village/region levels. They can provide useful guidance for adopting the systems of integrated management of soil health, nutrients, pests, water, energy and different crop genetic resources. By using sensors post-harvest quality of the produce can be monitored and enhanced.

* Efficient management of the suite-of technologies is of paramount importance. This will combine information obtained and the available technology into a comprehensive management system. Without proper management precision crop production will not be possible. Farmers must know how to interpret available information, how to utilize the technology and make sound production and making decisions.

The complexity of agriculture and diverse expertise needed for the development and dissemination of knowledge-intensive precision farming technologies, require multi-disciplinary efforts of agronomists, plant breeders, soil scientists, agro-meteorologists, entomologists, plant pathologists, weed scientists, biotechnologists, economists, extension workers and farmers. Paradigm shifts are needed in the systems of generation, transfer and adoption. Systems approach needs to be followed to integrate, synthesise, and process information and develop computer-simulated crop production models. User friendly computer software can in turn guide the farmers in making appropriate decisions for performing site-specific farm operations. user-oriented cost-effective technologies generated through such efforts will help in ensuring the adoption of precision farming technologies by the farmers.

For specific systems of technology dissemination and adoption, following are some of the policy and technological innovations, which need to be addressed:

* Appropriate infrastructure for multi-source information generation and processing using modern technologies (remote sensing, GIS etc) need to be developed. The establishment of the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre is a step forward in the right direction and needs to be strengthened. This centre should develop linkages with agronomists, soil scientists, meteorologists, economists, farmers, farmer-associations at village/block/region levels, state development departments and others to prepare detailed work plans for different eco-regions.

* Multidisciplinary research efforts need to be re-oriented towards development of crop production models and generate suites of site-specific user (farmer)-friendly and cost-effective technologies.

* Precision farmers will have to acquire micro-management skills (from seeding/planting to post-harvest handling and marketing). Result-oriented training through field demonstrations; training on use of computers; market intelligence; availability of institutional credit and favourable public policies will help the farmers in readily adopting precision farming.

* Provision of adequate public funding support and involvement of private sector need to be ensured.

* The problems of decreasing size of farm holdings, heterogeneous system of cropping/farming resource, poor farmers, land ownership and land leasing, etc need to be addressed by making some public policy changes.

* To produce professionals and extension workers/consultants capable of using information technologies in sustainable crop production, profit-maximisation and natural resource management, the educational institutions need to modify their curricula, teaching and training methods.

* High-speed data/information connectivity systems (computers/Internet) need to be developed in rural areas. To achieve this close collaborative efforts are needed among farmers, farm associations, community groups, NGOs, machinery manufacturers, research and extension agencies and other public and private agencies.

The adoption of major technological developments in agriculture by the farmers generally takes much time and efforts in our country where a majority of the farmers are small and marginal, illiterate and resource poor. This will be particularly so in the case of adoption of knowledge-intensive precision farming based technologies. However, rapid developments being made in cost-effective information generation (remote sensing, GIS, etc and the analytical techniques e.g. auto-analysers, sensors, etc) and delivery systems (using computers and internet) are going to make precision farming technologies affordable at farm/village/region levels. Individual small farmers are likely to adopt slowly while big farmers, farmers, associations and village/region, as a whole will be able to adopt quickly because of their greater ability to make investments. Development of farmer associations at the village, block and regional levels and giving them the required technical, public policy and credit support can help in effective implementation of these technologies. Since there are diverse cropping/farming systems, variable land quality, decreasing size of land holdings, economic and geographic conditions within a village/region, the adoption pattern will also be diverse. Even for selected crops, while some farmers and farmer associations may use the Internet for finding market opportunities, others may use them for in-farm decision-making. These technologies are likely to be more rapidly adopted in areas/regions where farm consultant/extension agencies and farmers have been imparted the desired training.

There will be many difficulties in developing and adopting the IT-based farming system, under our conditions. But we must get started, step-wise, of course. We are already far behind the developed world. Since the 21st century is going to be a knowledge century, we may not lag behind in triggering the next phase of the precision farming Green Revolution. We must take advantage of the applications of IT revolution as far as possible in developing and adopting new knowledge-intensive technologies, which are applicable under our conditions, so that agricultural sustainability any profitability can be assured while at the same time and natural resources are conserved.

(Concluded)

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New hybrid varieties of desi cotton, narma
Raman Mohan

A Hisar-based leading Indian seed producer Super Seeds has evolved hybrid varieties of desi cotton and narma with "a built-in genetic insurance over" for limiting losses caused by insect infestation.

Mr Ashwani Kumar; director of Super Seeds, says that both the desi cotton hybrid, megha-!, and narma hybrid, Rajat-1, have a genetic mechanism which ensures that about 33 per cent of the yield can be picked by August-end before most known insects attack the cotton crop. This means that the farmers will at least recover their costs even if the crop is totally lost due to insect attacks like that of American bollworm recently.

He says Megha-1 I has been genetically so designed that it matures much earlier than the existing varieties, enabling farmers to pick up a substantial part of the yield before the crops are infested. On the other hand, Rajat-1, if sown in April, gives a heavy first picking which is insect-free. Scientific studies have established that insect infestation usually begins in mid-September by which time growers sowing these varieties will have picked up around 33 per cent of the yield. This he claims provides cotton growers with a "built in genetic insurance cover".

Mr Ashwani Kumar says megha-1 is only the second desi cotton hybrid of North India. Only Haryana Agricultural University has evolved a hybrid for desi cotton which does not incorporate the unique genetic features of Megha-1.

He says this variety also has "built-in genetic cost and labour saving mechanism" which reduces cost of production. The entire yield of this variety can be picked in just three pickings as against several pickings for other existing varieties. It has been genetically designed to ensure that the bolls do not fall to enable harvesting in three pickings. This results in substantial savings to the growers by way of labour costs and no wastage.

Besides, Megha-1 has the longest sowing period spread over from end of March to the first week of June. This unique genetic feature affords more opportunities for sowing the crop depending upon availability of water for irrigation. This genetic mechanism also allows growers to sow the crop even after harvesting wheat. The other existing varieties, he claims can be sown only after harvesting the mustard crop. The crop matures in 120 to 160 days with much less irrigation compared to other varieties. The pre-release trials have shown a yield of 36 to 40 quintals per hectare.

Rajat-1 also incorporates the "built-in genetic insurance cover" as it allows the first picking by the first week of September before the insects appear. The variety has been genetically designed to yield bunches of five to seven bolls instead of individual bolls in other varieties. This means that the crop can be picked with much less effort in a shorter time resulting in considerable savings to the growers.

Rajat-1, if sown in April, also facilitates sowing of early wheat varieties as the Rajat-1 fields can be completely vacated by the second week of November. This variety yields 30 to 35 quintals per hectare.

Mr Ashwani Kumar says these varieties are a major breakthrough in hybrid seed technology which can revolutionise cotton growing in the country. He says these varieties will be available from March onwards.

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Farm operations for January

Dairy Farming:

Provide dry bedding to animals and help save them from cold. Entry of very cold winds inside the shed should be minimised. Keep the animals under roof in night and in the sun during the day time.

Provide high energy concentrate. Increase cereals by 5 to 10 per cent in the concentrate.

Feed well-chaffed berseem mixed with wheat straw to avoid aphara (tympany). Do not feed rice straw (parali) alone to the animals.

Due to winter rains, there is likelihood of spread of haemorrhagic septicaemia or gall ghotu. Get your animals vaccinated.

Deworming should be done in calves, especially against ascariasis/malap with piperazine liquid 4ml/10 kg body weight.

New-born calves need special care in cold weather. They are susceptible to pneumonia and large number of them die due to this disease. Keep them warm by providing clean and dry bedding. Give them Vitamin A concentrate 1 ml daily in milk for three days to be repeated after a month.

Poultry farming:

Provide the curtains at windows in poultry sheds. The temperature should not go below 60F in side the poultry sheds and suitable measures like doubling of curtains should be taken.

Keep the chicks warm by giving them artificial heat according to age. For the first week the internal temperature of the shed should be 90 to 95F and it should decrease 5F per week or according to weather conditions.

Poultry ration should have more energy. Increase by 5 to 8 per cent in the ration by reducing the rice bran.

Add coccidiostats in the ration to prevent its occurrence.

Bee Keeping:

Honey bee colonies should be least opened during winter, Under compelling situations the colonies should be examined during noon on some calm and sunny day. Extra cracks and crevices/holes in the hives should be plugged with mud. If the colonies are still under shade these should be shifted gradually to the sun by moving about 3 feet daily. The surrounding of the colonies should be kept clean of grass and weeds. Under a prolonged cloudy/misty/rainy spell, the colonies may fall short of honey stores. If so, the colonies should be given supplementary feeding of thick sugar syrup (2 parts sugar: 1 part water). Continue winter packing of the colonies during January also.

Fish Farming

Maintain the water level of the pond of 4.5 to 5 m to provide warm deeper layers of water during late night/early morning.

Apply quick lime @50 kg per acre to prevent the incidence of diseases during unfavourable winter temperature.

Reduce feeding to a maintenance level of 500g of feed per day per 1000 fish.

Mushroom growing:

The ready compost for the second crop is spawned in the cross ventilated covered space.

If cultivation is carried out on shelves/trays, the top surface is covered with newspaper sheets and water spray continued on these paper sheets once a day.

Dhingri can be sown during this month.

Treat the compost to be used for casing with 4 to 5 per cent formaline in order to disinfect it two weeks after seeding.

Farm forestry:

Poplar

Transplant bare-rooted plants of poplar in channels. In block plantations, plant the poplars at 5x4 m apart and in single line on boundary at 3 m apart in the North-South direction. Clones PL-1, PL-2, PL-3, PL-4 and PL-5 should be planted in central plain region and clones PL-3, PL-6 and PL-7 in semi-arid region. Dig the pits of 15-20 cm diameter with the help of an auger. The depth of pit should be 75 cm in heavy soil and 100 cm in light soil. Soak the plants for about 48 hours in running fresh water before planting. Treat the lower 1 m of plants with 0.25 per cent emulsion of Durmet for about 10 minutes and then with 0.15 per cent solution of Emissan-6 for about 20 minutes. After planting, the pits should be filled with topsoil and FYM (1:1) mixed with 10-20 g lindane and 50g phosphorus (300 g single superphosphate).

Safeda:

For good marketing, harvest the trees for timber after 12 to 15 years of growth. For paper pulp, fuelwood and poles, fell the trees at 7 to 8 years of age with 40 cm girth. Fell the trees in winter and dry the logs in shade.

Tahli:

For raising a nursery of tahli, its ripe pods should be collected from healthy and straight trees during December-January and dried for extraction of seeds.

Progressive Farming PAU

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