Information Technology in Agriculture

Today’s Scenario

Agriculture is the sector which continues to sit on the driver’s seat and will remain so forever as long as we don’t get rid of stomachs; So it becomes fairly important for any reform or revolution to address this sector and in this race information technology has been the front runner.

Information technology has led from the front in the information sharing process among the Agro scientists, Engineers, Farmers and Students. Because of the core dependency of information technology on Internet might have restricted the reach of the information but situation will not remain so for long.

Now scientists from all over the world collaborate over the internet, for sharing the information about the research on land fertility, seed hybridization, reducing the man efforts and making the farming environment less challenging and cost effective.

Future Guidelines

In an edition of “The economist”, I encountered something which could trigger anxiety in anyone when it states “1974 Henry Kissinger, then America’s secretary of state, told the first world food conference in Rome that no child would go to bed hungry within ten years. Just over 35 years later, in the week of another United Nations food summit in Rome, 1 billion people will go to bed hungry. This failure, already dreadful, may soon get worse. None of the underlying agricultural problems which produced a spike in food prices in 2007-08 and increased the number of hungry people has gone away. Between now and 2050 the world’s population will rise by a third, but demand for agricultural goods will rise by 70%.” Usual business is not going to better the estimates, as the panacea lies in the maximum involvement of information technology in agricultural research and knowledge transfer.

Agriculture sector has stood against the time and achieved green, white, yellow, blue and cyber revolutions over the time.

Availability of information and effectively using this information is crucial for successful economic development. Information about expert suggestions, material inputs, financial support, technological innovations and changing market conditions have huge impact on agriculture equally as the case with any other sector.

How well the Agriculture involves information technology in itself, will play a major role in determining the future well being of those who have direct dependency on agriculture for livelihood, especially in developing countries like India.

In this context, it is most prudent to extend the benefits of IT to agriculture and not to underestimate the tremendous growth potential to be unleashed in this sector.

Sovereigns of all the countries must take moves in order to mobilize farmers, scientists, institutions and organizations for promoting involvement of Information Technology in Agriculture.

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The Use of Agricultural Products in Business

With its varied allied sectors, agriculture is undeniably the largest source of revenue for millions across the length and breadth of India. Contributing a momentous figure to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the nation, sustainable agriculture that offers rural occupation and environmentally sustainable expertise, agriculture is essential for a comprehensive development of a nation. Did you know that over the years the Indian agriculture sector has witnessed a green revolution, a white revolution, a yellow revolution and a blue revolution? Here’s how each era is defined:

Green Revolution: The period when agriculture in India increased its yields due to improved agronomic technology.

White Revolution: Operation Flood, the world’s largest agricultural development program by Verghese Kurien

Yellow Revolution: The growth, development and adoption of new varieties of oilseeds and complementary technologies.

Blue Revolution: Management of water resources that steered humanity to achieve drinking water and crop irrigation security.

Agriculture, India’s principal private-sector enterprise engages over 119 million farmers and an additional 144 million landless laborers. In India according to the saying, “Uttam kheti, Madhyam vyapar, Kanishtha naukri” agriculture is even deemed to be the most reputable industry. The above saying implies – supreme is farming, business is medium and servitude is the least desirable.

Agriculture as a business: Is it OR Is it not?

Firstly, cultivation is the only kind of business around the world which has both production and is accompanied by variable cost risks. Here are some examples why we made the above statement. A businessman who makes steel might bump into problems like worker & transporters strikes, instability in prices, variation of raw material, natural calamities etc. Yet these disturbances are incidents that happen once in a blue moon.

Conversely for a farmer, production hazards are almost an everyday occurrence. There may be no rains during the sowing season or for the duration of germination and growth periods. Furthermore pest attacks, hailstorms during crop maturity and enormously fluctuating price crashes can wreak havoc to the lives of farmers. These factors are the ones that make both production and price risks commercially unviable for farmers.

Secondly, agriculture is the lone kind of industry wherein you purchase everything retail and sell everything wholesale. If you are an e-commerce giant, you buy wholesale, but sell retail. Farmers are the only bunch who pay in retail for everything, no matter what the product is… from tractors to small machinery and seeds. But, they are obligated to trade their produce at wholesale prices.

The best way to get around this prejudice is to have farmer-producer cooperatives that will obtain all the requirements for the farmers… seeds, agricultural products, fertilizers etc from producers in bulk and make them obtainable by farmers at indiscriminate rates. However, the sad reality is that in a country like India where the middleman plays a huge role, such organizations are rare.

The time will soon come may be when our farmers will begin demanding ways to get around certain laws that given them and bring about another revolution.

Sustainable Agriculture – Definition, Practices, and Economics – The Importance Of Wild Ecosystems

Sustainable agriculture can be a broad and sometimes vague term without a universally agreed-upon definition. I like to define sustainability in the broadest sense possible, in that sustainability is the ability to carry out practices indefinitely, without having to eventually halt them because of negative impacts on environment, community, or the processes themselves. Sustainable agriculture thus involves more than just environmentally sound farming practices, but also necessarily encompasses both economic considerations (questions of resource utilization) and human considerations as well.

Why is sustainability important in agriculture?

Unfortunately, the current agricultural production systems in place not only in the U.S. but in many parts of the world are highly unsustainable. Some of the problems with agriculture include the destruction of wild ecosystems, such as the clearing of rainforest and other biomes to make room for farming, nutrient pollution and chemical pollution from agricultural runoff, waterway disruption and aquifer depletion from the use of water for irrigation, and climate destabilization resulting from a combination of factors.

What are best practices, with respect to sustainability, in farming and agriculture?

People often focus on certain simple issues, like organic farming, or the use of specific harmful chemicals, without looking at the broader picture. Even if everyone in the world were to completely stop using all harmful chemicals in agriculture, and only farm organically, there could still be catastrophic environmental implications of farming.

The key issue in sustainability, most important than all other issues, is leaving intact ecosystems, and not clearing or developing more than a certain portion of wild areas for agriculture or human use. The rule of thumb or target that I like to shoot for is to leave 70% of land as intact wild ecosystem. This does not mean that the land is not being used in any way, but only that it is not being directly used for agriculture or other uses (i.e. crops are not being grown there, timber is not being harvested, people are not living there), and that whatever uses of the land only have negligible impacts on the ecosystem.

Economic value of wild areas:

One argument for continued development is that the development is necessary for economic growth, and growth is necessary for economic health. I find this argument to be fallacious, for two compelling reasons. One is that the paradigm of indefinite economic growth without bound is a flawed one. Resources are always limited, and there is only a certain capacity of goods that can be produced sustainably. Achieving sustainability requires abandoning this old model of economic growth.

My second reason, however, is that intact wild ecosystems are actually necessary for sustained economic health, especially in the agricultural sector, but also in virtually all other aspects of society as well.

Direct economic benefits of wild areas:

In terms of direct effects, intact wild ecosystems provide a buffer which prevents the spread of insects, diseases, and other pests which can destroy crops. Our current unsustainable agriculture system relies on expensive chemical control systems to control pests, which are continually adapting. A sustainable system would rely on natural buffer zones, which not only prevent the spread of disease, but also house predators which feed on insect pests, thus making it unlikely for pests to get established among crops in the first place. The organic farms and gardens that I have worked with which practice crop diversification and the use of wild buffer areas around the operation remark that they typically have almost no problem with pests.

Indirect economic benefits of wild areas:

Indirect effects, however, are even stronger. Wild ecosystems stabilize climate and weather, which can greatly reduce or even prevent natural disasters like flood, drought, and moderate temperature and humidity, lessening the severity of extreme weather events like cold or hot spells. Wild ecosystems can also produce numerous resources, including foods, which can be sustainably harvested, including wild fish and meat, and plants for food or medicinal use. Wild areas also provide beauty, increasing land value in nearby residential areas, and providing recreation and income to local economies through tourism. Often, an intact wild area can have numerous different uses. And lastly, ecosystems also filter and purify water and air, thus lowering health care costs and lessening the need for burdensome environmental regulations.

In summary:

Sustainable agriculture is more than just organic agriculture; it encompasses environmental, economic, and human factors together. The single most important issue in organic agriculture is the preservation of intact, wild ecosystems. I set the goal of preserving 70% of all land as wild ecosystems. These lands can provide immense economic value, both for agriculture and society at large, and both through direct and indirect effects.