Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Concise Edited Summary Notes on Declining Input Use Efficiency

Concise Edited Summary Notes on Declining Input Use Efficiency-(Reference: India’s Agricultural Development under the New Economic Regime: Policy Perspective and Strategy for the 12th Five Year Plan Vijay Paul Sharma, W.P. No. 2011-11-01, IIM(A), November 2011.)

Modern inputs such as improved seeds (HYVs), irrigation, chemical fertilizers, etc. have played an important role in agricultural development in the country. However, there is widespread belief that declining efficiency of agricultural inputs is one of the major reasons for decelerating growth in Indian agriculture and improvement in input use efficiency is essential for accelerating agricultural growth.

Irrigation water Management

Net irrigated area has increased from around 21 million hectares in 1951-52 to over 63 million hectares by 2008-09. Gross irrigated area has increased at faster rate from about 23 million hectares to 88.4 million hectares due to increased intensity of cropping on irrigated lands. Over 85 percent of addition to irrigated area in the last three decades has come from groundwater (mostly from tubewell) and the balance from surface irrigation (almost entirely from large public sector canal system).

Surface irrigation (canals+tanks) which accounted for about 58 percent of NIA in the TE 1953-54 is now estimated to contribute less than 30 percent. The development of tube-well irrigation, supported by investment in electrification and credit provision, has been the main driving force behind irrigation expansion in the country, particularly in the northwest. The area irrigated by government canal system has more than doubled in absolute terms (from 7.5 million hectares in TE 1953-54 to 16.5 million hectares in TE 2008-09) but their share in total irrigated area has shrunk from 35.2 percent to 26.2 percent. The average rate of growth in irrigation potential created during First Plan to Tenth Plan is about 1.47 million hectares per year.

In spite of large investments and increase in area under irrigation, the performance of many irrigation systems is significantly below potential due to inadequate design, use of
inappropriate technology, inappropriate government policies, and poor management practices. It is, therefore, important to ensure active participation of farmers in irrigation management and that would improve the performance and sustainability of irrigation systems.

Another problem associated with irrigation is uneven distribution of irrigated areas among different states. The percentage share of net irrigated area to net sown area varied from 18.2 percent in Maharashtra to 97.8 percent in Punjab.

Irrigation plays an important role in increasing cropping intensity, changes in cropping patterns and enhancing crop yield due to its complemetarity with improved varieties and fertilizer use. It is quite evident that the scope for expansion of net sown area is more or less exhausted, availability of irrigation is fast approaching the physical, ecological and economic limit, and depletion of groundwater resources due to over-exploitation is serious.
Therefore, it is important to focus on rainfed areas, where there is considerable scope for increasing productivity through soil and water conservation measures.

Integrated Nutrient Management

Chemical fertilizers are key element of modern technology and have played an important role in agricultural productivity growth in India. India is the second largest consumer of fertilizers in the world after China, consuming about 26.5 million tonnes. However, average intensity of fertilizer use in India remains much lower than most countries in the world but there are many disparities in consumption patterns both between and within regions of India. Less than 20 per cent of the districts accounted for about half of total fertilizer consumption in the country, indicating a high degree of concentration of fertilizer use (FAI, 2010).

One of the major constraints to fertilizer use efficiency in India is imbalance of applied
nutrients. Nitrogen (N) applications tend to be too high in relation to the amount of potassium(K) and phosphate (P) used. This is partly the result of a difference in price of different nutrients, and partly due to the lack of knowledge among farmers about the need for balanced fertilizer applications. The NPK ratio shows wide inter-regional and inter-state disparity.

Inefficient management of nutrients has led to multi-nutrient deficiency in Indian soils. In
addition to macro-nutrient deficiency, there is growing deficiency of micro and secondary
nutrients in soils.

With the limited arable land resources, and burden of increasing population, development of new technologies and efficient use of available technologies and inputs such as chemical fertilizers will continue to play an important role in sustaining food security in India. However, there is a need to optimize the use and efficiency of fertilizer use through appropriate interventions. In some areas excessive use of fertilizers is a cause of concern as it might lead to environmental degradation particularly land and water resources while in other areas, still about one-fourth of the districts use less than 50 kg/ha of fertilizers. Therefore, there is a need to have two pronged strategy, (i) to monitor districts with high intensity of consumption and take corrective actions to reduce environmental degradation and (ii) to promote fertilizer consumption in low-use districts to improve crop productivity. Of the two price policy instruments, affordable fertilizer prices and higher agricultural commodity prices, the former is more powerful in influencing fertilizer consumption (Sharma and Thaker, 2011). The high product price support policy benefits the large farmers who have net marketed surplus while low input prices benefit all categories of farmers.

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