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Information Technology for Sustainable Agriculture in Punjab

With the advent of high yielding, input-responsive dwarf varieties of rice and wheat during 60’s, the entire agriculture production system in Punjab got revolutionized. Major shifts were witnessed in the cropping pattern, especially, in irrigated ecosystems where cereal based multiple cropping came into prominence, relegating less productive, risk prone legumes and oilseed crops to marginal lands. The farmers found the rice- wheat cycle most profitable. Consequently, they abandoned other crops such as pulses, mustard, vegetables, etc. The practice resulted in depletion of organic content and plant nutrients in the soil. The farmers are now compelled to use more and more chemical fertilizers and other inputs to achieve the same production level. The law of diminishing returns has set in. There are indications of significant changes in the natural resource base e.g. falling ground water table over large portions of the state, water logging in the south-western part, degradation of soil health (loss of organic carbon and deficiency of micro and secondary nutrients like zinc, manganese, iron and sulphur) and severe soil erosion in the sub-mountainous Kandi belt.

A committee constituted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research under the chairmanship of late Prof. S.K. Sinha, had submitted a report on "Decline in crop productivity in Haryana and Punjab: Myth or Reality" in May 1998. The committee had identified several scientific problems, which needed to be studied to address the different concerns. A more balanced, holistic and integrated approach to agriculture development had been recommended. To evolve this methodology, the committee had recommended setting up benchmark sites in five major agro ecological zones to monitor all natural resources production system and socio-economic impacts.

Utilizing the modern tools of data capture (remote sensing and ground based), data analysis and modelling based on the concepts of Geographic Information System, it is now feasible to model a modern agriculture system and gain insights into the interdependencies/interrelationships between the different components and explore alternative route(s) to development. Recognizing the importance of the above possibilities in the national context, the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India and U.N.D.P have evolved a project on ‘Information Technology for Sustainable Agriculture in Punjab’. The Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) is implementing this project on behalf of the Government of India.

TIFAC has over the years built a well-recognized expertise in coordinating such complex, multi-disciplinary and multi institutional projects. On the basis of Technology Vision 2020, TIFAC has taken up several initiatives in agriculture sector. The project on ‘IT for Sustainable Agriculture in Punjab’ will draw upon these existing strengths and help in building them further.

 Goal

Utilising the state-of-art tools of spatial data management, set up an integrating framework at microlevel for examining the different problems of agricultural production system with the participation of farming community, government officials and academia.

Demonstrate its efficacy/utility in generating a new synergy between productivity and sustainability of agricultural production system.

 Objectives

 Develop multi-level decision support models for synergising the natural resource system with economic and social imperatives
 To develop indicators of sustainability for agricultural production system 
 Based on the above scientific assessment, suggest alternatives to conserve and improve the health of natural resource system

 Partcipating Institutions

ITSAP is being implemented in consortium mode in close collaboration with the State Government. The Agriculture Department has been identified as the focal agency in the State to liase with TIFAC. The Punjab Agricultural University and Punjab Remote Sensing Centre are the principal participating agencies. National Institutions like the ICAR, Survey of India, DRDO, IMD, academic institutions and IITs are supplementing the efforts of State Government agencies.

Completed projects

  • Spatial resource profile for Mukstar district, Punjab
  • Crop Rotation for sustainable Agriculture
  • Regional Groundwater Modelling in Satlujbeas Sub-basin in Central Punjab: Status report on Data availability on Groundwater
  • Decision Support System for Managing Groundwater in Rising Water Table Area: A Status Report on Data Availability on Ground Water Modelling
  • Assessment of groundwater Pollution (Quality) around Ludhiana and its Environs in Punjab: A Status Report on Data Availability on Ground Water Modelling