Posts Tagged ‘India’

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June 21, 2015

In a bid to lessen the effects of harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides on crops, the Agricultural College and Research Institute, Madurai is promoting ‘Integrated Pest Management’ (IPM) which provides farmers with alternative natural options to chemicals.

Addressing farmers in the district during a recent meeting at the Collectorate, M. Kalyanasundaram, Head, Department of Agricultural Entomology stressed the importance of bio-pesticides and insecticides as viable natural options.

“Bio-insecticides which comprise of naturally available parasites, predators and beneficial pathogens can be identified and let into the fields where they will keep pests away. Chemical insecticides should be used only as a last resort,” he said.

Mr. Kalyanasundaram further said that while the district did not use excess chemical pesticides, the farmers should be made aware of giving specific waiting time after they used pesticides on their crops.

“There should be a specific time given before they bring their produce to the market since bringing the crops early would mean that the residual content of chemicals is still very high on the produce. We have carried out research on the same and given farmers lists pertaining to the ‘waiting time’ for different crops which should be followed,” he said.

In the district, there are six Self Help Groups (SHGs) which are involved in the mass culturing of bio-insecticides comprising beneficial pathogens and predators. As alternatives, the faculty from the department of Agricultural Entomology have also recommended the use of neem oil, neem cake, pungam oil and other plant-based extracts on produce which are harvested and to be sold off.

Farmers in the district however said that despite extensive research being carried out, such practices had to be implemented properly.

M. Pandi, president of the Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association further appealed to District Collector L. Subramanian to examine the feasibility of providing infrastructure for compost pits in the houses being built under the Chief Minister’s Green house scheme.

“Chemical insecticides should be used only as a last resort”


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Indian Council of Agricultural Research
Invasive species, alien species, exotic pests, or invasive alien species, are common names that categorize non-native animals, insects, microbes, diseases, or plants that are pests. These pests are not native in areas in which they cause problems and they are considered “invasive” because they invade and establish populations in new areas and the resulting uncontrolled population growth and spread causes economic or environmental problems. South American tomato pinworm, Tuta absoluta (Meyrick, 1917) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) also known as the tomato leaf miner is one of the destructive invasive pest observed for the first time infesting tomato crop in Maharashtra, India. This pest has been classified as the most serious threat for tomato production worldwide. The pest has spread from South America to several parts of Europe, entire Africa and has now spread to India. Plants are damaged by direct feeding on leaves, stems, buds, calyces, young fruit, or ripe fruit and by the invasion of secondary pathogens which enter through the wounds made by the pest. It can cause up to 90% loss of yield and fruit quality under greenhouses and field conditions.

The pest was initially observed in Pune on tomato plants grown in polyhouse and fields during October 2014. The specimens were collected, identified and deposited at National Pusa Collection (NPC), Division of Entomology, ICAR-IARI, New Delhi by P.R. Shashank and K. Chandrashekar, ICAR-IARI scientists. Subsequently the pest was observed in the farmer’s fields in major tomato growing districts of Maharashtra viz., Pune, Ahmadnagar, Dhule, Jalgaon, Nashik, and Satara. Severe infestation (>50% plants affected) was observed in several tomato fields.

Following the reports of Maharashtra, recent surveys conducted by researchers of Network Project on Insect Biosystematics (NPIB), University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru and ICAR-NBAIR, Bengaluru in January, 2015 observed the presence of this pest in Kolar and Bengaluru districts of Karnataka. The current report of T. absoluta from India is alarming because this pest is oligophagous and can attack several suitable solanaceous host plants. Present information is useful for adaptation of rapid response strategies against its invasion by educating farmers, extension entomologists and other stakeholders.


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Published in: Bloomberg Businessweek, Dec. 1-Dec. 7, 2014, p.36.

A nonprofit with Microsoft roots helps farmers share lessons

GPPN video article216

Technology is transforming the way women farm. In rural India, impoverished women do most of the labor using methods passed down for millenia. About 100,000 (mostly male) government and private agricultural experts roam the country to teach farmers modern techniques. But fewer than  6% of farmers have ever seen one according to the World Bank, and women are often excluded from those training sessions because they lack legal rights to their husbands’ land.

Digital Green,  a nonprofit founded by Microsoft researchers, is trying to change that. The group distributes pocket cameras and tripods to local women and trains them to storyboard, act  in, shoot, edit and screen videos demonstrating farming innovation. Because the villages where the women work often lack electricity, it’s all done via battery-powered projectors. Women who show the videos keep track of attendee questions and monitor adoption of practices to help the video directors  improve later versions.Using the audience’s peers as actors is particularly important, says Rikin Gandhi, Digital Green’s co-founder and chief executive officer.  “Viewers identify with those women featured in the videos based on dialect and appearance, etc., to determine whether it is someone they can trust,” according to Gandhi. Villagers tune out if they see items that aren’t common in their communities. Community members are much more effective in training than roving experts according to a World Bank study published earlier this year.

Digital Green has helped make almost 4,000 videos in 28 languages to help about 464,000 people in India become better farmers. Digital Green’s method cost Pradan, an Indian antipoverty nonprofit, $288 a year per village and led to 49% local adoption of farming innovations, compared to $605 and 16% adoption under the old method.   Digital Green is expanding to other countries including Ethiopia, Ghana, Niger and Afghanistan.

Kavita Devi from the village of Gosaibagha in northeastern India has spent 50 years farming the way her elders taught her. But since July she has been joining about 30 women neighbors in saris who file up to a makeshift movie theater in a buffalo shed, where they watch videos from a battery powered handheld projector shown on a fuzzy blanket hung on a wall. In the video, which runs 8-10 minutes, women from nearby villages demonstrate ways to boost rice yield by spacing seedlings farther apart and using compost instead of fertilizer. Devi says, ” they look very successful. I would like to be one of them.”

In India, the government’s goal is to more than double the incomes of farming women, who typically earn less than $2 a day. Devi says next year she will start planting cash crops such as spinach alongside potatoes and wheat for her family. “I want to educate my children,” she says, “I’ll be in a video someday.”

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By Ganesh Mavanji Published: 13th October 2014 06:01 AM


MANGALORE: The banana plantations in the coastal region has been hit by banana aphids, a pest, and this has reduced the yield and raised the price.

The banana aphids are the vectors of Banana Bunchy Top Virus. They are rampant in Beltangady, Puttur and Sullia taluks.

These aphids acquire and transmit the virus when they feed on the infected banana cells. Owing to the disease, the price of banana has hit the roof. Kadali variety of banana is priced at an ever high of `65 per kg.

Generally, the price of Mysore banana is below `20 per kg. Now, it has now touched `32 per kg. Nendra is priced at `44 kg.

The price of Cavendish has reached `20. It is generally below `12 per kg in the city.

The flow of banana from Tiptur, Chikmagalur and Shimoga has declined due to aphids.

As there is a huge demand for Tiptur banana in Mumbai, a huge portion of the yield is sent to Mumbai. Merchants in Central Market suspect this to be the reason for the reduced flow of banana to Mangalore.

P V Muralidhar of P V Raman Banana Stall told Express that the price of Kadali reached `65 per kg due to shortage of supply.

As aphids destroy the plantain leaves, there is a shortage of leaves too. The leaves are generally priced at `120 per 100.

Ganesh Kumar, a banana merchant in Central Market, said the current price is `300 for 100 plantain leaves. “As the supply of plantain leaves from Puttur, Udupi and Sullia taluk has stopped, the prices during Deepavali may go up to `400 per 100 leaves,” he said.

Janardhana Gowda of Parla in Puttur taluk said banana cultivation had been severely hit in the recent years. “Due to monkey menace that was rampant in the region, we did not get the expected yield. But this year, banana cultivation has been hit by aphids. We are forced to buy bananas from the market at a higher price,” he said.

The owner of IMK, a wholesale dealer of banana in Central Market, said due to the banana aphids, there is a mismatch between supply and demand. The same situation will prevail for the next few months as the crops have already been damaged, he said.

The price of Kadali may touch `85 to `90, during Deepavali.

Horticulture Department officials have directed the farmers to consult the Agriculture Science Centre and taluk office of the department to get tips on preventing the disease.

The department also asked farmers to mix Cloropyrifos pesticide or 2.0 ml Prophenophas into a litre of water and spray on the plantain leaves.

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Dr Hari Sharma, IAPPS Regional Coordinator for South Asia has been conferred with the ‘Bharat Jyoti Award’ by the Indian International Friendship Society (IIFS), New Delhi.

Dr Sharma is being honored for his leadership role in entomology as President, International Congress of Entomology, and Member, Governing Board of International Association of Plant Protection Sciences, and his contributions to crop protection. This is one of the several distinguished awards that have been conferred on Dr Sharma for his contributions at ICRISAT internationally. On the occasion of awards presentation ceremony, the IIFS also organized the national conference on Economic Growth and National Integration at the India International Center, New Delhi. The conference was and was attended by more than 200 participants. The conference was chaired by Mr Rajender Singh – Chairman of IIFS (ex-Director, Central Bureau of Investigation( CBI), India International Friendship Society, while Dr Bhisam Narain Singh, ex-Cabinet Minister, and Governor, Tamil Nadu and Assam was the chief guest.
Dr Sharma also delivered the first speech on this occasion on “Biosafety of transgenic crop to the environment”, which was highly appreciated by the audience, which included politicians NGOs, and the general public; while another talk on this occasion was given by Dr Kurup, Vice-Chancellor of the National Marine Fisheries University, Kerala. Dr Bhism Narain Singh gave a very interesting and lively speech on Gandhi’sm, and he is a highly respected Gandhian in the country today. He also enumerated his experiences as a minister in Ms Indira Gandhi Cabinet, and as a Governor of Tamil Nadu and Assam. Mr Rajender Singh spoke on probity in public life, while Justice Verma ex-Chief Justice and Governor of Punjab, gave a very scintillating lecture on human rights, civic sense, and human dignity.
The IIFS aim is to enhance India’s relationship, and forge greater friendship and cooperation internationally through exchange of views among the people, especially of Indian origin, and create a sense of national and International friendship and understanding through social and cultural cooperation, exchange information, education and sports, and arrange conferences, seminars and exhibitions. The Director General, Dr WD Dar congratulated Dr Sharma for having added another feather to his cap, pursuing excellence in science, and his leadership role in entomology for the service the poor farmers in the SAT.


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Sumant Kumar photographed in Darveshpura, Bihar, India. Photograph: Chiara Goia for Observer Food Monthly

The Observer


In a village in India’s poorest state, Bihar, farmers are growing world record amounts of rice – with no GM, and no herbicide. Is this one solution to world food shortages?
• India’s rice revolution – audio slideshow

See video:  http://cdn.theguardian.tv/mainwebsite/2013/3/4/130301SRIIndia-16×9.mp4

Sumant Kumar was overjoyed when he harvested his rice last year. There had been good rains in his village of Darveshpura in north-east India and he knew he could improve on the four or five tonnes per hectare that he usually managed. But every stalk he cut on his paddy field near the bank of the Sakri river seemed to weigh heavier than usual, every grain of rice was bigger and when his crop was weighed on the old village scales, even Kumar was shocked.

This was not six or even 10 or 20 tonnes. Kumar, a shy young farmer in Nalanda district of India’s poorest state Bihar, had – using only farmyard manure and without any herbicides – grown an astonishing 22.4 tonnes of rice on one hectare of land. This was a world record and with rice the staple food of more than half the world’s population of seven billion, big news.

It beat not just the 19.4 tonnes achieved by the “father of rice”, the Chinese agricultural scientist Yuan Lon Ping, but the World Bank-funded scientists at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, and anything achieved by the biggest European and American seed and GM companies. And it was not just Sumant Kumar. Krishna, Nitish, Sanjay and Bijay, his friends and rivals in Darveshpura, all recorded over 17 tonnes, and many others in the villages around claimed to have more than doubled their usual yields.

The villagers, at the mercy of erratic weather and used to going without food in bad years, celebrated. But the Bihar state agricultural universities didn’t believe them at first, while India’s leading rice scientists muttered about freak results. The Nalanda farmers were accused of cheating. Only when the state’s head of agriculture, a rice farmer himself, came to the village with his own men and personally verified Sumant’s crop, was the record confirmed.

The rhythm of Nalanda village life was shattered. Here bullocks still pull ploughs as they have always done, their dung is still dried on the walls of houses and used to cook food. Electricity has still not reached most people. Sumant became a local hero, mentioned in the Indian parliament and asked to attend conferences. The state’s chief minister came to Darveshpura to congratulate him, and the village was rewarded with electric power, a bank and a new concrete bridge.

That might have been the end of the story had Sumant’s friend Nitish not smashed the world record for growing potatoes six months later. Shortly after Ravindra Kumar, a small farmer from a nearby Bihari village, broke the Indian record for growing wheat. Darveshpura became known as India’s “miracle village”, Nalanda became famous and teams of scientists, development groups, farmers, civil servants and politicians all descended to discover its secret.

When I meet the young farmers, all in their early 30s, they still seem slightly dazed by their fame. They’ve become unlikely heroes in a state where nearly half the families live below the Indian poverty line and 93% of the 100 million population depend on growing rice and potatoes. Nitish Kumar speaks quietly of his success and says he is determined to improve on the record. “In previous years, farming has not been very profitable,” he says. “Now I realise that it can be. My whole life has changed. I can send my children to school and spend more on health. My income has increased a lot.”

What happened in Darveshpura has divided scientists and is exciting governments and development experts. Tests on the soil show it is particularly rich in silicon but the reason for the “super yields” is entirely down to a method of growing crops called System of Rice (or root) Intensification (SRI). It has dramatically increased yields with wheat, potatoes, sugar cane, yams, tomatoes, garlic, aubergine and many other crops and is being hailed as one of the most significant developments of the past 50 years for the world’s 500 million small-scale farmers and the two billion people who depend on them.

Instead of planting three-week-old rice seedlings in clumps of three or four in waterlogged fields, as rice farmers around the world traditionally do, the Darveshpura farmers carefully nurture only half as many seeds, and then transplant the young plants into fields, one by one, when much younger. Additionally, they space them at 25cm intervals in a grid pattern, keep the soil much drier and carefully weed around the plants to allow air to their roots. The premise that “less is more” was taught by Rajiv Kumar, a young Bihar state government extension worker who had been trained in turn by Anil Verma of a small Indian NGO called Pran (Preservation and
Proliferation of Rural Resources and Nature), which has introduced the SRI method to hundreds of villages in the past three years.

While the “green revolution” that averted Indian famine in the 1970s relied on improved crop varieties, expensive pesticides and chemical fertilisers, SRI appears to offer a long-term, sustainable future for no extra cost. With more than one in seven of the global population going hungry and demand for rice expected to outstrip supply within 20 years, it appears to offer real hope. Even a 30% increase in the yields of the world’s small farmers would go a long way to alleviating poverty.

“Farmers use less seeds, less water and less chemicals but they get more without having to invest more. This is revolutionary,” said Dr Surendra Chaurassa from Bihar’s agriculture ministry. “I did not believe it to start with, but now I think it can potentially change the way everyone farms. I would want every state to promote it. If we get 30-40% increase in yields, that is more than enough to recommend it.”

The results in Bihar have exceeded Chaurassa’s hopes. Sudama Mahto, an agriculture officer in Nalanda, says a small investment in training a few hundred people to teach SRI methods has resulted in a 45% increase in the region’s yields. Veerapandi Arumugam, the former agriculture minister of Tamil Nadu state, hailed the system as “revolutionising” farming.

SRI’s origins go back to the 1980s in Madagascar where Henri de Laulanie, a French Jesuit priest and agronomist, observed how villagers grew rice in the uplands. He developed the method but it was an American, professor Norman Uphoff, director of the International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development at Cornell University, who was largely responsible for spreading the word about De Laulanie’s work.

Given $15m by an anonymous billionaire to research sustainable development, Uphoff went to Madagascar in 1983 and saw the success of SRI for himself: farmers whose previous yields averaged two tonnes per hectare were harvesting eight tonnes. In 1997 he started to actively promote SRI in Asia, where more than 600 million people are malnourished.

“It is a set of ideas, the absolute opposite to the first green revolution [of the 60s] which said that you had to change the genes and the soil nutrients to improve yields. That came at a tremendous ecological cost,” says Uphoff. “Agriculture in the 21st century must be practised differently. Land and water resources are becoming scarcer, of poorer quality, or less reliable. Climatic conditions are in many places more adverse. SRI offers millions of disadvantaged households far better opportunities. Nobody is benefiting from this except the farmers; there are no patents, royalties or licensing fees.”

For 40 years now, says Uphoff, science has been obsessed with improving seeds and using artificial fertilisers: “It’s been genes, genes, genes. There has never been talk of managing crops. Corporations say ‘we will breed you a better plant’ and breeders work hard to get 5-10% increase in yields. We have tried to make agriculture an industrial enterprise and have forgotten its biological roots.”

Not everyone agrees. Some scientists complain there is not enough peer-reviewed evidence around SRI and that it is impossible to get such returns. “SRI is a set of management practices and nothing else, many of which have been known for a long time and are best recommended practice,” says Achim Dobermann, deputy director for research at the International Rice Research Institute. “Scientifically speaking I don’t believe there is any miracle. When people independently have evaluated SRI principles then the result has usually been quite different from what has been reported on farm evaluations conducted by NGOs and others who are promoting it. Most scientists have had difficulty replicating the observations.”

Dominic Glover, a British researcher working with Wageningen University in the Netherlands, has spent years analysing the introduction of GM crops in developing countries. He is now following how SRI is being adopted in India and believes there has been a “turf war”.

“There are experts in their fields defending their knowledge,” he says. “But in many areas, growers have tried SRI methods and abandoned them. People are unwilling to investigate this. SRI is good for small farmers who rely on their own families for labour, but not necessarily for larger operations. Rather than any magical theory, it is good husbandry, skill and attention which results in the super yields. Clearly in certain circumstances, it is an efficient resource for farmers. But it is labour intensive and nobody has come up with the technology to transplant single seedlings yet.”

But some larger farmers in Bihar say it is not labour intensive and can actually reduce time spent in fields. “When a farmer does SRI the first time, yes it is more labour intensive,” says Santosh Kumar, who grows 15 hectares of rice and vegetables in Nalanda. “Then it gets easier and new innovations are taking place now.”

In its early days, SRI was dismissed or vilified by donors and scientists but in the past few years it has gained credibility. Uphoff estimates there are now 4-5 million farmers using SRI worldwide, with governments in China, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam promoting it.

Sumant, Nitish and as many as 100,000 other SRI farmers in Bihar are now preparing their next rice crop. It’s back-breaking work transplanting the young rice shoots from the nursery beds to the paddy fields but buoyed by recognition and results, their confidence and optimism in the future is sky high.

Last month Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz visited Nalanda district and recognised the potential of this kind of organic farming, telling the villagers they were “better than scientists”. “It was amazing to see their success in organic farming,” said Stiglitz, who called for more research. “Agriculture scientists from across the world should visit and learn and be inspired by them.”

Bihar, from being India’s poorest state, is now at the centre of what is being called a “new green grassroots revolution” with farming villages, research groups and NGOs all beginning to experiment with different crops using SRI. The state will invest $50m in SRI next year but western governments and foundations are holding back, preferring to invest in hi-tech research. The agronomist Anil Verma does not understand why: “The farmers know SRI works, but help is needed to train them. We know it works differently in different soils but the principles are solid,” he says. “The biggest problem we have is that people want to do it but we do not have enough trainers.

“If any scientist or a company came up with a technology that almost guaranteed a 50% increase in yields at no extra cost they would get a Nobel prize. But when young Biharian farmers do that they get nothing. I only want to see the poor farmers have enough to eat.”


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