Ruchika M Khanna
RAMANDEEP Singh, a farmer of Mard Kheda village near Sunam in Sangrur district, was foreseeing a tough time in April when the Covid-induced lockdown was in force. He was doubtful whether he would be able to harvest his crop or plant the next one in his fields. Troubled, he called officials of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) at Kheri village, who helped him and other farmers of the area in not only harvesting and selling their produce, but also in implementing direct seeding of rice (DSR) in the wake of labour shortage and to save depleting groundwater in his village.
“The extension services rendered by the KVK in these times are laudable. Had it not been for its officials’ assistance, I would have spent lakhs of rupees on farm labour for transplanting paddy, but instead I spent just three days on direct seeding, using a happy seeder that the KVK helped me modify," Ramandeep says.
Dr Mandeep Singh, deputy director of the KVK at Kheri, says the biggest achievement for this centre has been the successful promotion and implementation of the DSR in Sangrur. From using the right drills to agronomic practices, nutrient and irrigation management, increasing the cropping intensity and dealing with pest/insect attacks — we are handholding farmers all the way.” Recently, when a whitefly attack on cotton was noticed in the adjoining district of Mansa and in some villages of Sangrur, the KVK promoted PAU-recommended neem extract to combat jassid and whitefly.
Balkar Singh of Booh village in Tarn Taran district says he and other farmers have been approaching the KVKs for every need related to agriculture and dairying, especially during the lockdown. “When veterinary doctors failed to respond during the lockdown, the KVK officials used video-calling to guide me on how to tackle an infection in my herd of buffaloes,” he says, adding that he and many other farmers even borrowed machinery for direct seeding from the KVK, located in his village itself.
When Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar asked KVKs of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh recently to form area-specific models of agriculture development, he was perhaps asking these states to emulate the model of Punjab, where KVKs are doing a good job of on-farm testing of new innovations, technology transfer to fields, developing area-specific agriculture models, giving frontline demonstrations, training farmers, agriculture scientists and officers.
Dr Maninder Singh, deputy director of the KVK at Bahowal in Hoshiarpur, says they have been promoting the cultivation of maize, peas and potato (Doaba is Punjab’s potato belt). “Since many parts of Hoshiarpur have forestland, we also promote commercial cultivation of several herbs. Family members of cane growers are being trained in making jaggery. These days, keeping in view the social distancing norms, we are doing field visits rather than large-scale training sessions,” he adds.
In Tarn Taran, Dr Balwinder Kumar, who heads a KVK, says since many farmers rear animals, the kendra organises regular training camps focusing on the Nili Ravi buffalo.
There are 22 KVKs in Punjab, 18 of which are managed by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), three by Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, and one by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. Dr Jatinder Singh Mahal, Director, Agriculture Extension, PAU, who oversees the functioning of these KVKs, says such centres across Punjab have been conducting area-specific agriculture development programmes successfully.
“KVKs are not just giving agriculture extension services, but are also involved in training, giving demonstrations and technology transfer in areas like fisheries, poultry, mushroom and maize cultivation, horticulture etc. Their role was widely appreciated by farmers, especially when the KVKs moved online through an app called Farm Inputs, to help farmers during the lockdown/ curfew. When the supply of seeds for paddy was posing a serious challenge, PAU used the KVKs for selling 20,000 quintals of seed,” he adds.
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