'Farm Tech Can Help Boost Food Output'
By Papiya Bhattacharya | Published: 17th February 2014 08:27 AM |
Agricultural technologies can help increase global crop yields by as much as 67 per cent and cut food prices by in half by 2050, according to a new book, ‘Food Security in a World of Natural Resource Scarcity: The Role of Agricultural Technologies.’
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington, has released this book recently.
The book cites an increased demand for food due to population and income growth and the impact of climate change on agriculture that will ratchet up the pressure for increased and more sustainable agricultural production to feed the planet.
It measures the impact of agricultural innovation on farm productivity, prices, hunger and trade flows as we approach 2050, and identifies practices which could significantly benefit developing nations.
The book examines 11 agricultural practices and technologies and how they can help farmers around the world improve the sustainability of growing three of the world’s main staple crops -- maize, rice, and wheat.
Using a first-of-its-kind data model, the institute pinpoints the agricultural technologies and practices that can most significantly reduce food prices and food insecurity in developing nations.
The study profiles agricultural innovations like crop protection, drip irrigation, drought and heat tolerance, integrated soil fertility management, no-till farming, nutrient use efficiency, organic agriculture, precision agriculture, sprinkler irrigation and water harvesting.
No-till farming alone can increase maize yields by 20 per cent, but irrigating the same fields can increase maize yields by 67 per cent in 2050.
Nitrogen-use efficiency can increase rice crop yields by 22 per cent, and irrigation increases the yields by another 21 per cent.
Heat-tolerant varieties of wheat can increase crop yields by 17 per cent and irrigation can further increase it to 23 per cent, the book says.
UAS V-C’s Views
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Agricultural Sciences, Prof K Narayana Gowda, said the increase in crop productivity is certainly possible, but decrease in food prices cannot be substantiated.
He said, “If our farmers employ all the technologies available in agriculture today, yields can certainly be increased by 80 per cent. As costs of production are becoming higher, food prices may not decrease.
Most farmers are moving away from farming as profit margins are decreasing. In food crops like paddy, wheat, maize and millets, profits are marginal. This will narrow further as labour costs are high and likely to increase. Farmers cannot buy machinery individually as it is uneconomical.”
‘Encourage Low-Cost Inputs’
“If farmers can be organised into groups, then groups of farmers can buy machines for farming. The future depends on profit margins which, if sufficiently high, can let farmers continue with farming. We must encourage low-cost inputs such as biofertilisers, biocontrol and biopesticides to decrease cost of production and enhance income of farmers. Only then can food prices come down,” Prof Gowda added.