DUE to deficient rain paddy yield in about 3,000 hectares in upper land areas, accounting for 10 per cent of the total cultivated land in the state, could be adversely affected. However, the agricultural department, that has fixed a target of 110 tonnes of paddy yield for 2017-18, expressed optimism that the shortfall in upper lands could be made up with higher yield in lower lands. Agriculture’s contribution to the state domestic product has been falling over the years. The agriculture department has been trying to raise the area under system of rice intensification (SRI) in the uplands, but deficient rainfall could mar the efforts this year. Its efforts in promoting mechanised farming appear to have taken off well as 800 acres was under mechanised cultivation, compared to 60 acres in 2015-16.
The government has been trying to increase paddy yield through various schemes such as the ‘crop production and input management programme’. The objective of the scheme is to increase output through the use of high yielding variety of seeds, multiple intercropping and by popularising effective plant protection techniques. The agriculture department offers 50 per cent subsidy on cost of high yielding seeds of paddy, assistance for fencing at the rate of 75 per cent and system of rice intensification. The government has embarked on a mission to promote mechanisation in agriculture. The immediate programme is to increase the number of tractors for use by farmers. The government has approached tractor manufacturing companies like Mahindra and Mahindra and VST Tillers. These steps would not only lead to mechanisation of farming but also attract younger generations to the fields.
Mechanised transplantation of rice seedlings has also been picking up in the state, particularly in the Salcete taluka whose agricultural fields are more conducive for mechanised farming. The farmers also benefit as they have to pay less for mechanised transplantation compared to manual transplantation. The government offers subsidy to farmers to buy a transplanting machine. Mechanisation of farming activities coupled with use of modern farming methods, like SRI, would go a long way in increasing paddy production. It has been authentically established that while the conventional farming method yields about four tonnes per hectare, the yield using SRI technique is 1.5 times more than that the conventional method. The use of modern techniques, which are still limited to certain areas, should be taken to all over the state. The government agencies should do more to encourage farmers to use high yielding seeds for paddy production and make available effective fertilizers. The agriculture department officials should be vigilant in noticing prevalence of any diseases affecting the rice fields. It should be their prime concern to warn farmers about incidence of diseases affecting rice fields, like rice blast fungus, which is widely prevalent in the state and is known by the name ‘Charmo’, well in time so as to prevent damage to the crops and yield.
While the government is promoting newer technology and newer high yielding seeds there is resistance among farmers to try new varieties. The efforts of the agricultural authorities should focus not only on creating awareness among the farming community but also on dispelling their fears on the side effects of newer technologies, seeds and fertilizers. While the government has been claiming that the areas under cultivation has been increasing over the years, the data of the agriculture department revealed that paddy cultivation fell by 9.5 per cent for the period from 2005-06 to 2011-12 and production declined by 17.1 per cent. It is time that the agriculture department and the farming community take steps to increase agricultural yield with a commitment to the mission of maximizing it. The government has never conducted a comprehensive survey on cultivable and fallow lands. According to agriculture department officials, so far the government figures have been based on rough estimates. It is time that an authentic survey is carried out to map the exact areas under cultivation and fallow lands. This will help the government to plan strategies for development of agriculture and increase the number of people earning their livelihood through agricultural activities. The state has been over the last several decades witnessing adversities such as 22 per cent deficiency in rainfall this year. This should make the government think of carrying out studies on such adversities and to come out with strategies to deal with them. Though severely deficient rainfall this year may not warrant use of modern technology like artificial inducement of rain the authorities would have to gear up for the future.