By Sujay Ojha, Advisor to Weather Risk Management Services Pvt. Ltd
India loses 15-25 percent potential crop output due to pests, weeds, and diseases. Harvest and post-harvest loss of India’s major agricultural produce are estimated at Rs 92,651 crore ($13 billion), according to data published by the ministry of food processing industries on August 9, 2016. The numbers have gotten far worse this year. In February 2017, an ICAR scientist stated that pests eat away 35% of total crop yield. Such large-scale crop loss has an adverse effect on biosafety with the increasing demand due to population growth. The European Union has banned the import of Indian mangoes as they failed to pass its stringent biosecurity regulations.
P.K. Chakrabarty, Assistant Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research stated that among all the pests, nematodes, the microscopic parasite had recently emerged as a major threat to crops in India and has caused an estimated loss of 60 million tonnes of crops every year.
Crop protection and crop enhancement solutions are readily available and it is a matter of creating awareness to farmers and village authorities and implementing these solutions in a systematic manner.
Chairman Standing Committee of Parliament on Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Hukmdev Narayan Yadav stated that ‘’The situation should be tackled collectively by farmer associations, industry players, government, and pesticide regulatory bodies in a time-bound manner.’’ With the advancement of the Internet of Things (IoT) in agriculture, there are tools that can help farmers identify and prevent pests in their crops. My Farm info is one such tool.
In the Farm Management section of this tool, farmers can save their farm details by drawing their farm on top of GIS interface. Once the information is fed into the system by the farmer, Once we have this information, the tool will provide the farmer with optimum NPK application, nutrition information and optimal mandi for the crop. In the Crop Feasibility section of this tool, farmers can find the feasibility of growing any crop on their farm. When this is done at the early stage, farmers can decide which crop is the best to grow that will produce maximum yield. He will also be able to avoid growing crops that are not feasible for his area.
The tool also has a Crop Management section. Farmers can find the probability of disease infestation in their crop. This scientific tool uses sophisticated algorithms in concurrence with the last 10-year historical data to find disease probability for the farmer’s crop. Forecast Advisory can be used by the farmer to get early warning of disease infestation so they can take proper measures to minimize loss. The tool also tells the farmer the right pesticide to use and in what quantity. Farmers can now protect their fields and seek the fruits of their yields without worrying about precision. Some of the farmers are not aware of the right quantity of pesticide their crop would require. In such cases, too much of pesticides are applied that leads to the produce being poisonous for human consumption.
My Farm Info provides pest and disease vulnerability across 34 crops. By knowing this in advance, farmers are able to take preventive measure to protect their crops. It is also possible for farmers to get in touch with My Farm Info for contact spraying by sharing their contact details. Once this information is shared, My Farm Info gets in touch with the local dealers and provides the necessary pesticide.
Nutrient Management is one of the key factors in the quality and yield potential of a crop. The application of nutrients, timing, soil management, and water management are important factors in crop quality. Farmers can also use the ‘crop scheduler’ section in the My Farm Info tool to keep track of all stages of crop life cycle. They will receive messages (SMS) according to the schedule regarding upcoming crop stages. Forecast and disease alerts will also be sent through SMS. Other information that will be available is the best season, best crop suitable for the season and soil factor, irrigation timings and schedules and more. With all these information, farmers are able to make informed decisions on managing their crop.
The tool also helps in weed management. While there are some weeds that do not affect crop growth, there are others which are distinctly destructive. It is difficult to know the destructive weed every time. The tool provides different weed information along with pictures for farmers to know what is growing on their farm. List of names and pictures of weeds for up to 18 crops can be found on My Farm Info. For farmers who are growing vegetables, this tool also provides nematode management and advisory.
Water is one of the key factors in crop health and with effective water management solution such as timely irrigation information from experts via SMS and WhatsApp, getting expert advice has been made easy. These experts from My Farm Info are also called as Health Doctors whose primary concern is the health of the farm.
By setting up soil sensors, it is possible to understand the potential of soil, its water retention capacity and how much irrigation is needed for the crops. This helps in decreasing water losses The ultimate objective is to help farmers increase their yield and income and that can be achieved by using a tool like My Farm Info.