Around 44% of India's 140.76 crore citizens rely on agriculture for a living. The vast majority of them are small landholders. In addition, many rural residents, even if they are not landowners, make a living from agriculturally related activities. Agriculture is thus critical not only to the country's food and nutritional security, but it's also directly responsible for poverty alleviation and national prosperity.
Agricultural research and development is a key factor in determining agricultural productivity, which in turn affects food costs and poverty. 50% of India's workforce is employed in agriculture and related sectors, which together make up about 18% of the country's GDP. India is currently the world's second-largest producer of rice and wheat, the two main staple foods. Our nation has demonstrated a consistent annual increase in the produce per acre for certain agricultural products over the past few years.
In reality, over the past few decades, Indian agriculture has seen a substantial transformation. Multiple reasons, such as rising household income, more food processing, and rising agricultural exports, have made it possible for this industry to develop by double digits. The "green revolution" was a significant technological advancement that had a long-term effect on Indian agriculture. However, there is still more to be done in terms of infrastructure and technology investments for research and development. The research and development sector is dealing with a number of issues, including low productivity, limited access to technology, and inadequate infrastructure. Additionally, the industry is impacted by unpredictable monsoons and climate change, which lower yields and cause crop failure.
Research and development in Indian agriculture: a revolution
The role of R&D has grown in significance with the ability to provide long-term solutions for Indian agriculture due to the ever-increasing supply-side limitations. Access to the most recent research can assist farmers in resolving difficulties like seed concerns, pest and disease challenges, crop sustainability, climate change, irrigation issues, and soil erosion, to name a few.
According to the National Sample Survey Organization, India's average crop output is much lower than that of other countries. For example, the average rice production in India is almost half that of China. Similarly, the average wheat production in India is only approximately one-third that of the United States. This shows the importance of R&D in improving crop yields and increasing industry profitability.
The Indian government has recognised the agriculture industry's potential and taken initiatives to stimulate research and development in the area. The government has established a number of research organisations and universities devoted to agricultural research and development. In addition, to assist the industry, the government has created policies and initiatives such as the National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology and the National Food Security Mission.
Barriers faced by the agricultural research and development sector:
● Lack of access to modern technology:
Many Indian farmers lack access to contemporary agricultural technologies such as genetically modified seeds, irrigation infrastructure, and precision agriculture tools. With the weather becoming increasingly tumultuous, crop costs rising, and farmer profit margins shrinking, farmers require all available data to maximise profitability. Equipping these farmers should be a key industry priority, as the solutions to their problems are frequently simple to implement. Low agricultural yields and profitability stem from a lack of awareness and access to these beneficial technologies.
Barriers faced by the agricultural research and development sector:
● Inadequate agricultural infrastructure:
Infrastructure is essential in agriculture at every stage, including input supply, crop seeding, and post-harvest management.
Inadequate infrastructure can be a substantial limitation to growth and productivity because infrastructure improves agricultural productivity, which contributes significantly to rural growth, allows for higher agricultural incomes, and generates opportunities for farmers.
Planned investment in agri-infrastructure is critical to increasing productivity and reducing post-harvest losses, which will result in capacity building and increased income generation. Post-harvest losses in India are significantly higher due to a lack of fundamental agricultural infrastructure such as storage houses, packing houses, a good agricultural supply chain, and so on.
● Low Yield output:
Due to the country's vast population, agricultural productivity in India is extremely poor. Other problems such as insufficient infrastructure and institutions, a lack of contemporary technology, unequal distribution of land resources, and the absence of good irrigation facilities also contribute to low output. It is also the outcome of outdated farming practices, a lack of diversification, and inadequate agricultural research and development.
● Volatile Climate:
Climate change, with its impact on food production, pricing, and security, poses a threat to the agricultural sector. Excessive heat or a lack of water can hinder crop development, limit yields, and have an impact on irrigation, soil quality, and the environment that agriculture relies on. Higher temperatures also lower crop output and encourage weed and insect growth. Any changes in the ideal climate could lead to lower agricultural yields.
Ultimately, the issues confronting Indian agriculture are enormous and urgently demand action. Addressing these difficulties through R&D, infrastructure development, and the implementation of farmer-friendly regulations will help transform the agricultural sector and increase the country's economy.
Research and development: the only solution
Research and development are critical to tackling the difficulties confronting Indian agriculture. Scientists and researchers can develop new technologies and procedures to increase productivity, cut costs, and improve farmer lifestyles through R&D. Here are some of the most important features of agricultural R&D and technology, as well as the possible benefits that farmers might enjoy by implementing them.
● Genetic modification of crops
Agricultural research and development methods can be used to create new crop types that are extremely resistant to pests and diseases, minimising the need for pesticides and other chemicals. Genetically modified seeds promise great productivity with minimal use of agricultural resources and agrochemicals, both seasonally and long-term. Transgenic and hybrid seeds already govern India's rural markets, particularly for cereals, vegetables, and oilseeds.
● Development of innovative precision farming technologies
Agricultural methods available in the past could not have satisfied today's ever-increasing population's dietary and agricultural demands. Similarly, it is naive to believe that today's agricultural technologies will suffice to meet future food demands. To satisfy future demands, the country should invest in agricultural R&D to support modern farming techniques such as precision agriculture. Precision agriculture uses technology to increase sustainability by making better use of land, water, fuel, fertiliser, and pesticides. Farmers who employ precision agriculture technologies, in essence, use less to grow more, lowering both costs and environmental effects.
● Adoption of sustainable farming practices
Farmers who apply sustainable practises reduce their dependency on nonrenewable energy, use fewer chemicals, and conserve rare resources. When considering the growing population and demand for food, keeping the land healthy and replenished can go a long way. Furthermore, sustainable farming minimises pollution, lowers costs, enhances profitability, and improves food production without wasting resources.
● Creating opportunities
With the support of agricultural research and development, new marketing tactics and distribution channels for farmers can be developed, resulting in a rise in their income and new prospects. Research and development have the potential to revolutionise Indian agriculture's infrastructure.
Furthermore, research and development can aid in the development of new and creative agricultural goods, hence diversifying farmers' income streams and leading to the development of new agri-business models. This can result in more income, better livelihoods, and rural development. Overall, research and development is critical for the growth and development of Indian agriculture and can play a critical role in addressing the sector's issues.
History of success
Agricultural research and development has yielded enormous success in the circumstances where it has been implemented. Here are a few examples of successful agricultural R&D projects in India.
● The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has played a vital role in enhancing wheat production in India by developing high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat varieties. The "Wheat Sahbhagi Dhan" variety, for example, is resistant to stem rust, a serious wheat disease, and has resulted in increased productivity and farmer revenue.
Precision agricultural techniques have proved successful in improving crop yields and decreasing inputs in a variety of crops in India, including sugarcane, cotton, and rice. The Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research (IISR), for example, has created a precision farming technology known as the "Sugarcane Yield Forecasting System," which analyses meteorological data and other criteria to anticipate sugarcane yields and optimise crop management.
● The adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) approach has proved beneficial in lowering pesticide use and increasing crop yields in a variety of crops, including fruits and vegetables. For example, the Central Institute for Subtropical Horticulture (CISH) has created an IPM package for mango that involves the use of biological control agents and pheromone traps to manage pests and illnesses, resulting in less pesticide use and higher fruit yields.
● In India, conservation agriculture has been successful in increasing soil health, conserving water, and lowering input costs, resulting in increased crop yields and farmer income. The Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), for example, has created a conservation agriculture package for rainfed agriculture that incorporates zero tillage, crop residue management, and intercropping to improve soil health, conserve water, and raise crop yields.
● The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has also been effective in producing new and high-yielding varieties of horticulture crops such as mango, papaya, banana, and others, resulting in increased production and farmer revenue.
These examples show the beneficial influence that research and development can have on Indian agriculture and emphasise the significance of continuing to engage in it to address the sector's issues.
Agriculture is the largest and most vital industry on the planet. Demand for agricultural commodities rises as the world's population grows. Agriculture is one of the most significant areas in need of care because of its profound connections to the global economy, human societies, and biodiversity. The necessity for a research and development revolution is becoming increasingly pressing.
Given the importance of agricultural R&D to the Indian economy, we must continue to invest in this area. The government and private sector should invest in research to create new technologies and innovations that can boost productivity, cut costs, and improve farmers' livelihoods. As citizens and stakeholders in the agricultural sector, we must support and push for increased investment in agricultural R&D, which is critical for the growth and development of Indian agriculture and the Indian economy as a whole.