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Identifying causes of low farm yield




  • THE per hectare yield of major crops like wheat, rice, cotton, sugarcane and maize is lower than the potential. A number of factors could be attributed to low crop yield in the country.Soil preparation: Fine seed bed is required for uniform and maximum seed germination that contributes to good crop harvest. Uneven seed bed creates problem of water logging and salinity and loss of nutrients and moisture. For fine and uniform seed bed, it is imperative to use standard number of ploughings and cultivation. On the other, the farmers ignore recommended number of ploughings and cultivations and adopt traditional approach.

    By Bilal Hassan

    THE per hectare yield of major crops like wheat, rice, cotton, sugarcane and maize is lower than the potential. A number of factors could be attributed to low crop yield in the country.Soil preparation: Fine seed bed is required for uniform and maximum seed germination that contributes to good crop harvest. Uneven seed bed creates problem of water logging and salinity and loss of nutrients and moisture. For fine and uniform seed bed, it is imperative to use standard number of ploughings and cultivation. On the other, the farmers ignore recommended number of ploughings and cultivations and adopt traditional approach.

    Seed cultivar: Sowing of recommended seed cultivar in a particular zone is crucial because only that cultivar could produce optimum yield as it is recommended by the crop scientists keeping in view the elements of climate such as light, temperature, rainfall, wind and humidity etc. By and large, non-recommended seed cultivars are sown in the fields. The supply of certified seed is extremely less than the actual requirements of the major crops. Resultantly, about 55 — 92 per cent seed sown in the country is uncertified.Seed rate: The use of recommended seed rate is essential for optimum crop density that is number of plants per unit area. But farmers use low seed rate owing to which plant population remains low in the field, a major cause of low yield . Moreover, the seed sown by the growers contain impurities like sand, silt, clay, seed of other crops, weed seed and dust etc, that result in less number of plants per unit area on one hand and generates problem of insect, pests and diseases on the other.Sowing time: Delayed wheat sowing because of rice-wheat and cotton-wheat cropping pattern is one of the major causes of low crop yield. Non-availability of seed, fertilizer and irrigation are other reasons for delayed sowing of crops.

    Plant density: One of the major causes of low crop yield is low plant population because number of productive plants per unit area determines crop yields. Numbers of grains per spike and grain weight are other yield determinants. Poor quality seed, lack of moisture from seed bed and rough seed bed are responsible factors for low plant density.Irrigation: The farmers in barani areas are heavily dependent on the seasonal June-September monsoon rains for irrigating crops. There is a wide difference between yield of irrigated crops and barani crops. Deficient rains and continuous drought cause tremendous losses to farmers. A regular supply of irrigation water is essential to sustain crop productivity. In case, one or two critical growth stages go without irrigation during the lifecycle of a crop, it results in significant reduction in crop production. The adverse effects on per hectare yield of crops in 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2003-04 was due to unprecedented water shortage. To cope with water shortage, complete reorganisation of water sector institutions through mergers, economic utilisation of water resources, procurement of additional storage for crops round the year, building storage to overcome droughts and to develop comprehensive water and hydro resource policy are necessary.

    Water logging and salinity: Water logged and saline soils not only reduce cropped area but also reduce soil fertility and productivity that causes low crop yield compared to normal soils. Floods, overflows, seepage and percolation of water from canals and watercourses breeds soil problems of water logging and salinity. It has been estimated that about 35 per cent water is lost through canals, 24 per cent though larger and smaller distributaries and 25 per cent during field application.Nutrients application: Agricultural soils contain very low organic matter. Also, nutrient deficiency is widely reported because of harvesting of exhaustive crops year after year, high temperature, low-rainfall, high-cost and imbalanced use of fertilizers.. Application of fertilizess in a balanced amount with standard methods and at appropriate time keeping in mind the soil nutrient status, soil moisture, crop type and crop growth stage can increase yield by 25-75 per cent.

    Plant protection: Insects, pests, disease and weeds cause yield reduction up to 20 per cent or more during pre- and post-harvest periods. The farmers are bound to use pesticides in order to keep the population of insects and pests under control. The application of pesticides increased from 665 tons in 1990 to 78,133 tons in 2003-04 with an increase in value from Rs39 million to Rs8138 million. Lack of quality control, high cost, adulteration, timely unavailability, and lack of education and the use of faulty equipments by untrained labour are the major constraints responsible for the ineffectiveness of pesticides.Modern technology: Non-application of modern technology is contributing to low yield than the world average. Infusion of modern management practices in farm sector to boost productivity is important to enable farmers to move farm subsistence to market-driven farming that requires changes in crop selection, cultivation, harvesting, marketing, transportation and adoption of new technologies.Adoption of new technology is also important to convert farmers’ work into capital. Subsistence farmers produce food to sustain them only and new technology will enable them to produce surplus. New technology would give farmers more choice and help them plan cultivation in a demand rather than supply-driven environment. Modern techniques for plant protection measures are required for effective control of diseases, insects and pests to avoid crop.

    Investment: Compared to other sectors of economy like small and large-scale manufacturing, there is less public and private investment in this sector. On the other, the private investment could be helpful in arresting the problems of irrigation system, improving seed distribution, and bringing new technology. Farmers are unaware of the new technologies for efficient irrigation methods like drip-irrigation and micro-irrigation. Availability of implements and new technology will have profound impact in improving crop productivity.Marketing system: The marketing system for agricultural produce is inflicted with a myriad of problems. It is outdated. The farmers are not making real profits on their produce due to lopsided marketing system. Lack of direct market access for farmers due to heavy involvement of state-run buying agencies has also stymied growth of agriculture sector. There is a need of market-oriented reforms for broad based sustained growth in farm productivity. Market infrastructure is inadequate for easy transport of inputs from market to farms and farm produce back to market.

    Miscellaneous: Dwindling land and water resources, stagnation in the yield of major crops, ill-trained farm labour, poor infrastructure, wasteful irrigation methods, traditional farming techniques, lopsided marketing system and above all implications of WTO regime are main issues and challenges facing an outdated agriculture sector.

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