For agri help, 20 million farmers to dial in

October 28th, 2011 - 4:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Agartala, Oct 28 (IANS) Thanks to the mobile phone revolution in India, 20 million farmers will be covered by 2017 through SMSs and the Integrated Voice Response System (IVRS) to give them farming information, weather and climatic details to help them meet agricultural targets.

“The SMS and IVRS mode were launched in 2009 covering 5,000 farmers. It now covers 2.8 million growers and by 2017 the method would cover 20 million,” India Meteorological Department (IMD) deputy director general N. Chattopadhayay told IANS here.

He said firms like Reliance Industries and Tata Consultancy Services, Reuter Market Light, NOKIA, Handygo, Vritti Solutions and IFFCO Kishan Samachar Limited have been engaged to spread vital information among cultivators and farming administrators.

India has seen a boom in mobile phone usage over the past few years, with over 850 million of its 1.2 billion people using them.

The SMSs are being sent to farmers on their mobile phones. The IVRS was developed keeping in mind illiterate people as they can listen to an automated message and get farming information.

Said Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) scientist S.V. Ngachan: “Without technological enlargement, India cannot touch its projected foodgrain demand of 280 million tonnes by 2021.”

Ngachan said the IMD, ICAR and India’s information technology giants are working together to outreach among farmers and stakeholders across India with latest farming information, weather, climatic and hydrological details in the quickest possible time.

IMD and ICAR said with the traditional method and outdated tools, India cannot raise the knowledge base of millions of farmers about fast-changing technology, changing climatic conditions and hydrological facts.

“Crop ecologists have focussed on the relationship between temperature and crop yields and found that each one-degree Celsius rise in heat during the growing season reduces the yield of foodgrain — wheat, rice and maize — by 10 percent,” Ngachan said.

“Since 1970, the earth’s average temperature has risen nearly 0.7 degree. The five warmest years during 124 years of record keeping that began in 1880 occurred in the last seven years,” he said.

“In 2002, a record-high temperature and drought lowered grain harvests in India, the US and several other countries. High temperature leads to melting of snow in hilly areas resulting in floods in rainy seasons and damage to crops,” the agricultural scientist said.

Agricultural and IMD scientists, top officials of the union earth science ministry and senior officials of agricultural departments of various state governments met here last week to review the functioning of India’s Integrated Agromet Advisory Services (IAAS).

ICAR scientist M. Datta said: “To ensure India’s food security and accessibility, the total demand for foodgrains is projected to grow 280 million tonnes by 2021. Meeting this demand will need an annual growth rate of nearly two percent in food production.”

“During 1997-98 to 2006-07, India’s foodgrain production grew at an average annual rate of only one percent,” he said.

“Though the production has since regained the requisite momentum and the agriculture sector as a whole is set to grow at three percent per annum during the Eleventh Plan (2007-08 to 2011-12), we cannot be complacent,” he added.

IMD director general Ajit Tyagi said: “Satellite remote sensing technology is being increasingly used as an important source of operational agro-meteorological services. Recent advances in satellite technology in terms of high resolution, multi-spectral bands provide useful information for agricultural operations.”

“In view of the growing concern from policymakers, planners and users to expand the IAAS up to block level across the country to address the farmers’ needs to increase climate resilience of farming systems, the advisory services would reach out at the block level by 2017,” he added.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at

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