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.

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