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.

Seed Security for Better Food Security

Seeds are selected at Bejo-Sheetal in Aurangabad. Source: Ruchi Narang, IFPRI
Seeds are selected at Bejo-Sheetal in Aurangabad. Source: Ruchi Narang, IFPRI

How to fast track the development and release of improved varieties of seeds in Nepal? What are quality assurances? How to attract private sector investment in commercial seed production there?

At the beginning of this month, IFPRI South Asia organized a 10-day seed sector study tour in India for a delegation of seed experts from Nepal who wanted answers to those questions.  The tour began in Delhi and  the delegation was to visit the National Seed Corporation of India (NSC) Vegetable Seed Processing Unit in Agra, then move on to seed testing and seed processing equipment units in Ambala, followed by a visit to MAHYCO, a leading seed national seed company  facility , Bejo Sheetal Seeds in Aurangabad and Namdhari Seeds and Indo-American Seeds Labs in Bangalore.

India has emerged as a major player in the global seed trade. The systems and infrastructure for seed production, processing and distribution are well developed and geared toward addressing the needs of farmers.

“The visit by the seed sector stakeholders from Nepal will provide a good opportunity for them to develop their own systems,” said Dr. Anjani Kumar, an IFPRI Research Fellow. He added that the tour would help to develop better seed policies and strategies for high seed replacement in Nepal.

The tour kicked off with an overview by the team from the NSC of the seed sector in India and its progress. It was apparent that quality seed alone can increase the productivity of different crops by 15-20 per cent. The NSC team said that, despite significant progress in this sector, policies to restructure quality assurance and enhancement, increase seed testing labs, ensure seed certification, provide financial incentives to small and medium seed companies to reach out to difficult areas, and moderate public sector seed units are necessary steps toward greater seed security in India.

The study tour is part of the ongoing USAID-funded Policy Reform Initiative in Nepal. As part of the capacity strengthening, another study tour on Plant Quarantine for Nepal delegates began on September 3. The aim of this tour is to help the Government of Nepal to enhance the capacity of its National Plant Quarantine Program (NPQP) in standards/guidelines preparation and implementation of the quarantine-related inspection and certification programs, in line with international practices.

 

Agriculture Performance and its Prospects

Wheat Field in Nawad, Bihar. Source: (flickr) Vartika Singh
Wheat Field in Nawad, Bihar. Source: (flickr) Vartika Singh

The recent article in the June issue of Yojana Magazine, by P K Joshi and Anjani Kumar, IFPRI looks into the performance of agriculture and factors responsible for its growth and way forward. Agriculture has shown a promising growth over years with average 3.5 per cent growth as against the targeted 4 per cent per annum and have helped in reducing poverty. Impressive growth of livestock, fisheries and diversification towards high value also helped in increase in income of small farmers. Wide spread adoption of high yielding varieties, irrigation, fertilizers, rural credit and rise in literacy contributed to the growth but still a lot needs to be achieved for ensuring food and nutritional security. The author’s lists the need to bridge the yield gap to enhance agricultural output, such as investment in location specific research for technology development and adoption. Investment in less developed regions needs to be pushed, with policy measures such as land reforms, rural credit, and public investment. Effective coordination in research, education and extension will also help to enhance growth and reduce poverty.

Article in Yojana

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