There are several reasons for poor performance of agriculture. Our farming system, by and large, remains old and orthodoxy. The agriculture implements are old and manually- operated. There is no regular and assured supply of irrigation.
As such, the crops, in large part of the country remain at the mercy of monsoons. When the rainfall is timely and adequate, the crops are good; when there is less or excessive rain, the production decreases. With year after year cropping, the capacity of land in some parts has declined. Poor peasants cannot leave the land fallow for a year or two to let the land recoup its fertility. The average use of fertilisers in our country is four to five times less than that in other countries like China, Australia, America, etc. As a result, the per acre yield in our country is about 40 per cent of these countries. The other reason is the use of ordinary seeds which are not only prone to various types of diseases but are also low in yield.
Inaugurating an Agricultural Summit held at New Delhi, organised by Agriculture Ministry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), Dr. Manmohan Singh said that the government is committed to reversing the deceleration in agriculture production. In order to sustain eight to nine per cent growth rate of the economy, at least four per cent growth of agriculture is necessary.
For this, a Second Green Revolution based on new technologies is required. It needs, among other things, the use of biotech seeds, the creation of a single market for agriculture products in the country, catering to the credit needs of the farmers through commercial banks at minimum possible rate of interest, developing post-harvest marketing facilities including grading, packaging, transportation and storage, processing and value addition for increasing farm incomes, and making agriculture and allied sectors internationally competitive.
Initiated by American Agriculture Scientist, Dr. Norman Burling in 1978, the first Green Revolution depended on an increased use of irrigation, pesticides and fertilizers to boost agriculture growth. The insect-resistant high-yielding varieties of wheat and other cereals helped India embark on the road to achieving self-sustenance.
However, the experts argue that the practices and strategies adopted by the first Green Revolution are no longer sustainable. The increased irrigation has pushed the underground water to an alarmingly low level. The unrestrained usage of fertilizers and pesticides has proved detrimental to our environment. While the old technologies have run their course, the impetus provided by the first Green Revolution has slowed down which is being reflected in the poor performance of our agriculture. There is an urgent need for giving thrust on research to increase farm productivity. Indigenous knowledge needs to be blended with advanced science and proper application of biotechnology for the improvement of seeds.
Seeds are most crucial and basic for agriculture production in different agro-climatic conditions. Agriculture scientists have developed biotech seeds which are genetically modified to repel pests, thus reducing the use of pesticides and serving the cause of environment. Graham Brookes, the Director of PG Economics in UK, and a biotech expert claims that during the last decade there has been about 15 per cent reduction in environmental hazards with the use of biotech seeds. Some varieties of seeds so developed do not require tillage of land.
This has also reduced the release of smoke in the environment because of lesser use of tractors. The use of genetically modified seeds has shown much higher yields and added to the income of the farmers. The UN Millennium Development Goal targets the reduction of world hunger by half by the year 2015 with an increased use of biotech seeds. The world population is set to reach nine billion by the year 2050. There is thus an impending need to double food production from its present level applications of genetic engineering is necessary to meet this objective.
Since the introduction of biotech crops 10 years ago, it has been found that the cultivation with biotech seeds such as cotton seeds delivers consistent and long-term agronomic, environmental and health benefits to farmers and to society at large in terms of regular supply of farm products. Certain varieties of biotech seeds do not require much water. India is a vast country with variable climate. In large dry-land areas which have remained non-arable, such seeds can grow crops.
Plant biotechnology provides nutrient-enhanced foods.
The introduction of vitamin-A enhanced Golden Rice promises to provide this essential vitamin in poorer communities in regions where rice is the staple diet. The researchers have found that genetically modified maize can help tackle the problem of iron deficiency among people who cannot afford iron rich fruits and vegetables.
The Second Green Revolution will be based on biotech engineering which allows farmers to produce higher yields on less land. This perhaps is the only solution in the wake of the fact that growing urbanisation is encroaching on agriculture land. The new models of industrial development-the Special Economic Zones are also likely to take away large amount of agriculture land-reducing the area under cultivation.
On the threshold of the Second Green Revolution, India needs to bring a qualitative change in agriculture technology which has the potential to double its present annual output of about 200 million tons to 400 million tons over the next four years. This is necessary to lift millions of marginalized people from poverty and hunger. It is the Second Green Revolution that will take the Indian agriculture from subsistence farming to sustainable and commercial farming.
The new technologies will enable farmers to make informed choices and undertake product planning in a demand-driven rather than supply-driven mode. An awareness of niche markets and export opportunities suited to the new international trade practices opening through globalisation is necessary to bring prosperity to the farmers.
Eminent agricultural expert Dr. M.S. Swaminathan has emphasised the need to bring an Ever Green Revolution. To make it happen we need adequate budgetary allocations and other measures. Manmohan Singh government in its second term is fully committed to give necessary boost to agriculture in India. The Ministry of Agriculture is taking necessary steps to usher in the Second Green Revolution in India and strengthen food security in the country.