Transition in Agricultural Research and Technology to Address New Challenges and Opportunities

By Shreya Singh for Neem Tree Agro Solutions

So far India has been successful in building an ecosystem of Science and Technology and with the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic, digitization in India is increasing rapidly. However, there are certain niches that need the Government’s undivided attention. In this blog, we have mentioned some of the key areas that require a transition.

Small-scale farmers in the spotlight

Smallholder farmers account for 86.25 percent of Indian farmers, 47.38 percent of cultivated area, and more than half of total agricultural production, according to the 10th Agriculture Census of 2015-16. Despite this, land holdings that are fragmented and dispersed are economically unviable, leading to an increase in the number of hungry and poor people. In India, bio-diverse, primarily crop-livestock mixed-farming is the key to ensuring climate change resilience and the long-term viability of smallholder agricultural agro-ecologies. Recognizing that smallholders have limited access to technology, land, other production resources, finance, and capital, a comprehensive pro-smallholder approach and powerful policy measures are required.

Focus on Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA)

The Indian agriculture-food system economy is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Because India is expected to be one of the countries most negatively impacted by climate change, Association for Science, Technology and Innovation (ASTI) efforts are needed to mitigate the effects of climate volatility, as well as to create CSA endowed with sustainably enhanced productivity, climate change resilience (adaptation), and climate change mitigation. A paradigm shift toward transdisciplinary, interactive, and international collaborative approaches is needed to solve the numerous issues posed by climate change while maintaining desirable economic growth.

Shift towards gene revolution

Molecular breeding including transgenics and marker-assisted selection (MAS)-based gene pyramiding, brought incremental as well as transformational genetic gains in the last 20 years. Genomics and gene editing must be adopted as preferred technologies for precision breeding (Vats et al., 2019). However, to do so, a science-based policy and well defined guidelines need to be placed on priority. In livestock, genome editing has a high prospect of enhanced prolificacy and reproductive performance, improved health, increased feed utilization and growth rate, carcass composition, improved milk production and or composition, and increased disease resistance (Bharati et al., 2020). For instance, in pigs, resilience to African swine fever virus, a deadly disease, was achieved through gene editing.

Digital Solutions & AI at the center stage

We may construct decision support systems at many levels using Big Data Analytics, such as weather forecasts and effective water, pest, and nutrient management. When combined with satellite photography, this can aid in future produce and price forecasting. As evidenced by the response to e-NAM, the importance of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for marketing, sales, and pricing is likely to attract and retain young people in agriculture. Comprehensive and dependable data resources are conducive to augmenting AI that can bring a paradigm shift by developing smart farming practices using IoT (internet of things) to address the uncertain issues with utmost accuracy, allowing farmers to do more with less while also providing new business opportunities for youth.

Towards Precision Agriculture

Precision agriculture, which makes use of current tools, technologies, and inventions such as genetically enhanced seeds, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence (AI), drones, sensors, robotics, and other advancements, is the way to go for an environmentally sustainable Evergreen Revolution. Using the principle of “doing the right thing in the right place at the right time,” the technique recognizes site-specific variances within fields and modifies management activities accordingly.

Source: Report by FAO & NITI Aayog “Indian Agriculture towards 2030.”

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