Haryana has been an integral part of the green revolution that transformed India from a food importing to a self-sustaining nation. A large part of the success that was achieved came from using high yielding and disease-resistant seeds and coupled with irrigation schemes, dramatically increased the yield per hectare.
But with the population growing at a rapid rate and the average per capita land holding reducing to 0.2 hectare from 2 hectares in 1976-77, the agriculture sector needs yet another green revolution. This can be achieved through a combination of innovative technologies and agriculture aids that are needed as per the sizes of land holdings.
The state government is still basking under the green revolution glory and following more or less the same strategy to boost agriculture. The times have changed and so have food habits and demands. The crop pattern is changing as per demand and returns are affected, likewise. In Punjab and Haryana, the wheat has been a staple crop but now there is a trend of growing durum wheat instead, which is used in bakeries. Thereby, stressing the need for increasing the per capita output of the regular variety just meet the shortfall.
In several other states, cash crops like tomatoes are replacing wheat and even traditional coastal areas are shifting their usual fish catch to corporate factories for processing, rather than for self-consumption and selling the surplus in the open market, as has been the usual practice. All these emerging trends are posing a challenge to the traditional model for essential crops like wheat, rice, oilseeds and pulses.
The state government of Haryana needs to revamp its standard model of agriculture and look at the future needs and realign the crop growing pattern and cycle. The state has left the decision to the farmer as to what he wants to grow but that is also leading to imbalances, therefore it's for the state government to proactively engage itself with the farmers to plan and fully support future agriculture options.
There are a lot of new age farming techniques and aids that the farmers are not even aware of, let alone implement them. Some of the aspects worth looking at are:
Use of Greenhouses
Today many farmers are still ignorant about the cost benefits of adopting greenhouse agriculture. Some may be vaguely familiar but most are not familiar with the technology, the crop choices, the latest high yielding genetic varieties which are resistant to disease under greenhouse conditions.
Under proven test conditions, tomatoes have seen a yield of 3-4 times what is grown conventionally, using precision techniques of micro irrigation and nutrient balance. Similarly, high quality capsicum grown in greenhouse has given a yield that is 4-5 times the conventional way.
While some farmers may be familiar, while some may even have tried this out in Haryana and Punjab, but many are still unfamiliar with the optimal size of the greenhouse, what thickness of UV stabilised LDPE sheet to use, what class of GI pipes to be used, how to plan an optimal drip irrigation using lateral drippers and accessories, and how to integrate it with rainwater harvesting option.
Along with this, a detailed soil analysis study is required to determine the most suitable plant variety that can be grown. This needs to be backed with a strictly monitored and controlled drip irrigation in combination with micro nutrients.
There are several parts of Haryana where the soil is rocky and not conducive to agriculture. These areas can be developed to explore hydroponic farming techniques. Unfortunately, the state government has not done much by way of experimenting with this emerging farming technique. Under this method, there is no soil used at all.
The plants are suspended over large trays where the roots hang on the underside of the physical layer that holds them. Mist containing micro nutrients are sprayed on the underside to cover the roots. The roots absorb the micronutrients and the moisture to sustain themselves. High intensity LED lighting is used to compensate the sunlight.
This method has already proven very suitable for leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce leaves, broccoli and cabbage. Lots of experiments are going on for growing other vegetables. The good part of this system is that the plants are safe from most diseases since they do not require any soil.
The other advantage is that this can be developed in those areas where land is scarce and the soil not suitable for conventional agriculture. One can go in for vertical farming i.e. several trays can be stacked in layers without any limitation on height.
The state government must encourage trial projects with this method, so that farmers are fully exposed to the latest in farming techniques. At present, there is a clear lack of initiative to try options that might increase turnover and give better returns to farmers.
Sprinkler irrigation systems
While farmers may be familiar in principle with sprinkler irrigation, most are unaware of the government subsidies that are available. Farmers get Rs 7,000 or 5% subsidy, whichever is less. If the farmer is a woman, or SC & ST category, then they can avail a subsidy of 75% or Rs 10,000, whichever is less. Unfortunately, the government has not done enough to ensure that these are known at all levels within the farmer community.
Supplementary income options
Farmers need to supplement their incomes, while the unemployed youth need to look at alternate options to earn. One of the options that has good potential is Bee Keeping.
The government through Haryana Agro Industries Corporation (HAIC), is offering free training along with free boarding and lodging to unemployed youth and those of SC&ST category.
Post training, they are offered bee colonies and bee hives that have been raised by their registered network of breeders, at a 50% subsidy and absorbing 100% of the cost of migration of bee colonies. This can be an excellent option that the unemployed youth can explore. However, very little has been done to create an awareness for this.
Exotic flower cultivation
India has a lot of potential for exporting flowers and Haryana with its proximity to Delhi airport has a logistic advantage to grow and export flowers. After an initial burst of excitement in flower cultivation in the early 90s, the industry has not really picked up the way it should have.
The fault lies with the state government that has not done enough to offer awareness, demonstration and subsequently end-to-end hand holding to those farmers that are keen to explore this. This is again greenhouse dependent and the level of awareness and knowledge required is certainly higher than conventional farming.
The state government has failed to take these options to the youth at school/college level and to get them interested to look at these as career options. Unfortunately, the government has restricted its involvement to putting up fairs and waiting for farmers to walk-in. The fact that the youth of today does not view farming as a suitable career option, must make the government review its actions so far and come up with a more pro-active strategy to involve the youth. That's the future of Haryana.
Then there are several new techniques and varieties of growing mushrooms, exotic fruits etc., that have been developed but there is very little awareness of these amongst most farmers.
It is time that the state administration re-looks at how they intend to develop the agriculture in Haryana that is in keeping with future demand projections for variety and output.
It's time for a Nayi Soch.