Technologies for Maize, Wheat, Rice and Pulses in Marginal Districts of Bihar and Odisha

Farmer in the field at Nalanda District, Bihar. Source: (Flickr) Divya Pandey, IFPRI
Farmer in the field at Nalanda District, Bihar. Source: (Flickr) Divya Pandey, IFPRI

Despite rich in natural resources such as water, fertile soil, mineral reserves and sun,  Bihar and Odisha have not been able to capitalize upon their vast resources due lack of infrastructure (like roads, power and markets), concentration of the poor population with high density in most parts, weak institutions (such as credit, insurance, education and extension) and weak governance.

A recent chapter on Technologies for Maize, Wheat, Rice and Pulses in Marginal Districts of Bihar and Odisha summarizes the current state of agricultural productivity and the potential of different technologies in two of the most economically backward states in Bihar and Odisha, India for their principal crops, rice, wheat, maize and pulses. Focusing on marginal districts in the two states, the chapter assesses the suitability of different technologies to uplift the areas (districts) out of their current low level equilibrium (in terms of production performance) and thereby raise the standards of living.

The authors identify the marginal (backward) districts for these crops based on current yield and its performance over time. Subsequently, the choice of technologies for marginal areas for each case is analyzed ex ante. In this approach, the potential is assessed under conditions in which a given technology might not be widely adopted currently but has a comparatively high potential to deliver upon adoption.

The short listing of technologies for these crops has been done based on a clearing house approach in which, in consultation with different stakeholders, the potent technologies for districts have been chosen.

The identified technologies for

Rice: Varietal substitution towards (climatic) stress-tolerant, high-yielding varieties; Mechanized Direct Seeded Rice (DSR) technology; mechanization of agriculture promoted by custom hiring centers - specific promotion of the self-propelled paddy trans-planter machine; and use of integrated nutrient management, involving use of both organic and inorganic fertilizers.

Maize: Hybrid seed (particularly high yielding single cross hybrid seed).

Wheat: Surface seeding technique for rice-wheat systems; Zero tillage wheat with Resource Conserving Technologies (RCTs); and Laser land leveling (LLL).

Pulses: Stress-tolerant high-yielding varieties; inter-cropping of pulses with other crops; and technologies such as line sowing/seed drilling/zero tilling.

Following this, through a structured survey of the households, the reasons behind slow or poor adoption of available technological innovations were examined. The profile of the identified technologies in terms of their uptake over time is looked at, besides assessing the role of complementary inputs that affect the feasibility for the respective areas, as well as the prospects for adopters of technology to multiply. The real opportunities and constraints for technology adoption are gauged directly from the farmers, including their aspirations about crop choices and the technologies that exist to grow them. It was found that maize and pulses are the crops that farmers currently aspire to get into.

It was found that in both states, there is generally a significant lack of awareness of agricultural technology, more so in marginal districts of Odisha. Some modern technologies, like hybrid rice in Bihar, have become quite well known to the farmers, while others, like Systems of Rice Intensification, in spite of having existed for quite some time, have not yet broken the information barriers.

Authors highlight that farmers and farmers belonging to the lowest caste fare badly, both in awareness as well as adoption of technologies. Translation from awareness to adoption has been quite difficult for most technologies.

In general, the technologies related to varietal adoption have been comparatively successful in this regard. In many others, as they get more complex and there is a greater need for complementary inputs, adoption of certain technologies, even in the presence of awareness, has been difficult.

The chapter highlights that policies for technology promotion in the marginal districts have to take into account the current state, as well the aspirations, of the farmers. These aspirations relate both to the crops/activities that farmers want to engage in as well as different technologies that they want to adopt but cannot because of constraints.

Given the evidence of the disconnect between awareness and execution, a holistic approach taking into account the whole process of adoption from information to support in adoption will be needed. The state of the farmers dealing with illiteracy, small land sizes and social barriers mandate a tailored approach in technology choice for the lagging districts in Bihar and Odisha.

Green gains?

Source: Flickr (IFPRI South Asia)  Mother and child in Saturia, Bangladesh
Source: Flickr (IFPRI South Asia)
Mother and child in Saturia, Bangladesh

Nutrition outcomes in post-Green Revolution Bangladesh

Cross-posted from the IFPRI website written by Rebecca Sullivan

While gains in agricultural productivity and poverty reduction achieved during the Green Revolution have been widely recognized, little is known of how these shifts in practice and production impacted the nutritional status of individuals in these countries, particularly women and children.

The mix of policies to promote inputs such as irrigation and fertilizers, in conjunction with high-yield varieties of rice, wheat, and maize—known collectively as the Green Revolution—helped Asia to scale up food production dramatically over the last 40 years.

Although Bangladesh was a late adopter of many Green Revolution technologies, rice yields in the country increased by approximately 150 percent and wheat by approximately 250 percent since the 1960s, according to the FAO. The observed agricultural growth has been astonishing; however, substantial information gaps exist about how this growth has influenced the nutritional status of those in Bangladesh.

In their discussion paper, Agriculture, Nutrition, and the Green Revolution in Bangladesh, IFPRI senior researcher Derek Headey and colleague John Hoddinott take a closer look at the linkages between agriculture and nutrition in Bangladesh.

Read more

Grappling with Climate Change Mitigation in Pakistan

Source: K.von Grebmer/IFPRI (Flickr)
Source: K.von Grebmer/IFPRI (Flickr)

Konark Sikka is an intern with IFPRI- South Asia office

Climate change has become more pronounced over the past few decades, and agriculture has been one of the most affected sectors due to impact of monsoon regime changes, droughts, and floods. A recent IFPRI policy note, Climate Change and Extreme Events: Impacts on Pakistan’s Agriculture, presents the results of two studies examining effects of drought and climate change on the country’s agriculture sector.

The study shows that intensive drought periods occur approximately every 16 years, which last from four to five years and are followed by wet periods. These droughts occur in the central and southern regions of Pakistan, which are the country’s agricultural powerhouses. This cycle of droughts poses an obvious challenge to water management. On the other hand, the fact that a cycle of 16 years could be tracked suggests periodicity, which provides useful insights for planning coping strategies.

Focusing on climate change across all scenarios, the authors project a decline in the yields of the key staples of wheat, maize and rice due to higher temperatures and the contraction of the growing season during the warmer season. Looking at both internal and external factors, such as the rise of international prices due to the impact of climate change, a decline in domestic production would pose a negative impact on Pakistan’s food security.

The authors suggest some policy-centred ways forward:

  1. Drought risk reduction and long-term climate change adaptation strategies should be integrated into agricultural development policies.
  2. Increase agricultural research, with a focus on improved irrigation efficiency through adoption of advanced irrigation technologies and management.
  3. Flexible trade policies in drought years, and changes in reservoir release rules ahead of droughts where reliable forecasting information is available, are needed in order to mitigate drought impact on agriculture.
  4. In order to improve irrigation and agricultural efficiency, the following measures are suggested: cultivar improvement programs, strengthening crop management research, expanding agricultural extension and education, strengthening infrastructure in rural areas, accelerating irrigation management reforms, allocating irrigation water more flexibly across provinces, and accelerating drip expansion.

Bangladesh: Agriculture and Climate Change

Harikhali in Paigachha, Bangladesh; Source:Flickr-CGIAR-CCAFS

Despite dependency on natural resources and vulnerability to climate change, agriculture in Bangladesh contributes about 20 percent of the GDP and provides work to about 52 percent of the population. Over the years the country has experienced erratic rainfall, high temperature, drought, and high humidity -- impacting farmers, especially smallholders who have historically incurred significant losses.

According to the planning commission in 2005 about 60 percent of the crops were damaged due to cyclones which increase poverty at similar percentage and also decline in economic growth by 15 percent for that period.  The effect of climate change especially on cyclone frequency, storm intensity, and excessive rainfall will also impact the aquaculture infrastructure and livestock rearing. Frequent cyclone warning lead fishers to stay at home thus lowering their income and nutritional status of the rural poor.

A recent IFPRI discussion paper on Agriculture and Adaption in Bangladesh- discusses the impact of climate change in agriculture in Bangladesh by looking at crop yields, sowing pattern, fertilizers usage, irrigation usage with changing rainfall patterns etc. Despite knowledge on impact of climate change and undertaking adaption options, the farmers in the household survey gave insight on loss incurred during such shocks. In the year of the survey, farmers lost about 12 percent of the harvest due to issues related to floods and about 3 percent of rice is lost due to pests.

Using crop models for the current and future climates, the authors predict impact of climate on yield, and report the differences from crop to crop. For example, wheat production suffers yield declines due to climate change (mostly heat), whereas maize has only a small decline in yield when the production is already using a high level of fertilizer. An important finding of the research is that boro rice yields will actually rise with climate change if the planting month is moved to November or December from January or February.

The paper suggests investment in research to develop improved cultivars, and that adjusting planting dates can lessen the impact of climate change on yields especially in rice. It has been observed that increase in availability of nitrogen in soil can help in reducing losses in yields in some crops.

Using the IFPRI IMPACT model, the price of maize is expected to increase by 209 percent by 2050 in one of the models, while rice is only expected to increase by 83 percent in the same model. Thus switching from rice to maize in future could potentially bring benefit the farmers, assuming yield changes for the two crops are similar. Improving adoption practices during excessive rains and floods will reduce crops loss to farmers. Efforts towards improving pesticide efficiency are needed as farmers lose about 3 percent of production due to pest-related issue.

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