Vice Chancellor, Punjab Agricultural University,
Ludhiana-141 004, India
India’s green revolution of the 1960s and 1970s made it self-sufficient in food production. In 1947, the country produced about six million tones of wheat. In 1999, India harvested more than 72 million tones of wheat, taking the country to the second position in wheat production in the world.
The production of food grains has increased more than three fold in the past five decades. All this has been possible because of the availability and use of inputs and machinery: high-yielding varieties, fertilizers, irrigation, pesticides and mechanization. India’s population increases by about 15 million every year. This will necessitate the production of 276 million tones by 2021 and around 450 million tones by 2050. India witnessed the highest-ever total grain production 234 million tons in 2007. However, we have not achieved that level since then. in fact, in 2009, because of drought, our total food grain production was only 214 million tons.
Some believe that India is on the verge of becoming a food-importing country again an immense change in the status from being a food-exporting country just a few years before.
On the bright side though, India has 142 million hectares of arable land and tremendous growth potential for grain production, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2008 report ‘state of food and agriculture’. To harness this potential an "evergreen revolution’ is needed, which can be triggered by a farming systems approach. The concept means producing more from the available land, water and labour resources, without any ecological or social harm.
Precision agriculture is the art and science of using advanced, innovative, cutting-edge, site-specific techniques and technologies to manage spatial and temporal variability in fields to enhance productivity, efficiency and profitability of production systems. Because precision farming prescribes tailor-made practices, it can help trigger the evergreen revolution.
While the US has been involved in precision agriculture for more than 20 years, it is still in its infancy in countries like India. Precision agricultural practices have been documented to enhance grain yield, nutrient-use efficiency, net-dollar return to farmers, and reduce nutrient losses to the environment.
India needs innovative tools, techniques, and technologies to meet her projected requirement for food. Precision agricultural techniques and technologies can go a long way in helping achieve this.
We recently organized an India-US workshop on precision technologies at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in partnership with Colorado State University and under the sponsorship of the Indo-US science and technology forum. The overall goal of the workshop was for American and Indian scientists to share how precision agriculture technologies can address food and environment issues. A goal of the workshop was also to explore areas of mutual interest for collaboration in research and teaching.
The PAU continues to be a leader in agricultural research and teaching in India by bringing novel technologies, such as precision agriculture, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information technology into its arsenal to fight hunger. We can bring about an evergreen revolution and ensure food security for the country by embracing new technologies.