Friday 7 October 2011

India: GPS Technology in Agriculture

     Google alert has recently enlightened me regarding the use of GPS Technology in the field of Agriculture farming which is precisely known as precision farming.
    Use of this technology will revolutionize the Agriculture around the world and this technology will stop the misuse of natural resources, input cost related to agriculture farming according to news report. I would like to call it as laser guided agriculture farming.
     As far as my knowledge goes until reading of a news column in the Times of India and the Hindu, I was in the opinion that GPS technology (Global positioning system) is meant for tracking the movement of car, law enforcement etc but it can be useful to the Agriculture farming was beyond my imagination.
    In my Under Graduate course, I had a chance to visit an Institute at Bangaluru (then Bangalore) and there I had an opportunity to see the satellite imagery.
    But honestly speaking, I did not get much exposure except, some image which were said to be satellite imagery of forest area and water bodies etc. Since then some knowledge I had been able to gather regarding usage of satellite imagery.
     Now, with the news of application of GPS (Global Positioning System) technology, I could co-relate our visit to the Institute that showed the use of Satellite imagery.
   Using satellite imagery in Agriculture, scientist can get an aerial view of scanned area which can reveal a plethora of crucial information from the total area; scientist can find suitable area for particular crops, standing crops and pest and disease incidence precisely.
    News reports suggest that in United States of America, precision farming has quite takers and succeeded in achieving desired farm out put.
  However, percentage of adoption by the farmers of the United States of America is not available and no such success story is available. However, it is presumed that the people of America being more cosmopolitan and receptive to the new technology might have already tested the precision farming in their country.
    In India, in the news, it was seen that India launching satellite with the objective for different utility purposes like communication, satellite imagery for mapping the natural resources and tracking sea resources etc, but it has just been few days news of GPS technology and its application in Agriculture has been written.
    News reports indicates that the country’s premier research body; Indians Council of Agriculture Research with its umbrella organization has started pilot project in Uttar Pradesh through Project Directorate for Farming System Research, Meerut, an Institute of Indian council of Agriculture Research, Government of India.
    ICAR is working on a scheme to increase agricultural productivity by providing exact information to farmers on the types of crops they should grow, fertilizers and water requirement through the use of GPS Technology.
    It is reported that ICAR has already collected GPS based soil samples across the country on the nutrient status and acidic reaction of soil in different agriculture region to build data base on appropriate farming methods to be employed for maximum productivity.
   Subsequently, information on appropriate farming techniques to be adopted in specific areas as identified through the GPS based soil samples that will be disseminated to the farmers over the internet.
     At present, in India, the scheme has been put under initiative on a pilot basis in two villages of Western Uttar Pradesh – Jainpur in Meerut and Matiala in Ghazibad under the guidance by Project Directorate for Farming System Research.
   Project Director added that “….the data along with the map of the particular agricultural field will be available on the internet which could easily be accessed by the farmers”.
    For achieving the scheme, the ICAR has lots of plan; in addition of GPS, Global Information System (GIS) and Simulation Modeling for Decision Support System (DSS) will be utilized for this project.
     The farmers will be able to know the type crops suitable for their particular fields. Project Director said “In India, agricultural land is shrinking rapidly so we have no other option but to conserve and utilize the natural resources for maximum productivity by using appropriate techniques of farming system”.
    O.K., the new system is more accurate and farmers’ friendly but reaching to the target group is the main problem.
   On the other hand, when an information of new scientific approach  is spread through different extension mechanism  are subjected to different kind of escape and finally when it reaches to the target groups, it is either half truth or malformed. That is the way it functions at present.
   Motivating farmers for going to the internet / cyber café for obtaining the day to day information for precision farming is really challenging task ahead and to be seen.
   Although different kiosk or facilitation centre have come up in Taluka / Block level or Sub-Divisional level but I do not find farmers taking interest in it.
    The case is either farmers are not well informed about the utility of internet in the nearest kiosk or functionaries give no feedback to the farmers.  
    For instance, our agricultural setup has reached to the village level it is not difficult to map the whole revenue Mouja by the departmental official but what we are lacking is devotion.
  Dissemination of GPS technology is concerned, if it is presumed that farmer’s adoption is encouraging in the new technology but that may not be practicable in today’s perspective.
    It is due to illiteracy of the farmers, their awareness that will play important role in using the latest technological gadget for precision farming.
   Instead of common platform of dissemination of technological information, another gadget that has found its deep rooted impact in pan-Indian situation should also be explored.
    It is well known that MOBILE penetration in India is very much tremendous and its affordability and usability had attracted urban elite to rural artisan and our farmers are also not sidelined, they are also very much with the pan-India movement.
     If this mobile phone is customized in the process, that will be very quick and effective. Appropriate information may be supplemented through mass mailing on local specific needs and this will clearly rock the mind of the farmer.
    But, again, our extension official should work exemplarily because unless farmers are trained and exposed thoroughly, it may not bring good feed back from the farming communities.
  Another plus point of usage of GPS technology is; it will widen the avenue in agriculture technology by creating more opportunities in technology sector for further improvement and application of GPS technology to the field level.

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