Agriculture department’s portal wins gold award
The Tamil Nadu Agriculture Department’s portal, AGRISNET, has won a national gold award for e – governance in the Focus Sector category. The focus for the Specific Sector Award for 2010 – 2011 was on Agriculture.
Silver and bronze awards had gone to ‘e – Krishi’, a Kerala government portal, and the Tea Board’s e – auction portal respectively.
According to an official release, offices of the Agriculture Department in 30 districts in the State and also 385 block extension centres have been computerised and provided with web connection.
Farm – related information is provided through the Agriculture Information Service Network (AGRISNET) at a cost of 4.37 crore to all these offices and centres.
Using this facility, the farming community could plan cultivation without being affected by natural calamities like flood and drought and augment production. It also makes available relevant market intelligence.
The award was handed over at a national e – governance meet at Aurangabad on February 10 by the Governor of Maharashtra to :
P. Rama Mohana Rao,
Agricultural Production Commissioner,
P. Murugesa Bhoopathi,
Vice – Chancellor,
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.
More Students take up Agricultural Sciences
There is a renewed interest among young people to courses in agriculture in the last three years, as indicated by the rise in the cut – off percentage for admissions to agricultural universities, said S. Ayyappan, Secretary and Director – General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
Delivering the convocation address at the 44th convocation of the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, here on Saturday, he said that there had been a rise in the cut-off percentage from 65 per cent to 80 per cent.
There was a sharp increase in the number of women taking interest in agricultural sciences, especially in Karnataka. As opposed to the national average of 36 per cent of students in universities being women, as many as 47 per cent of students in the State were women, he said.
‘A – schools Needed’
“We need A – schools in India on the lines of the B – schools built on the foundation of knowledge, attitude and skill,” said Dr. Ayyappan.
The universities were attracting a number of foreign students, said Dr. Ayyappan, pointing out that their programs under Indi – African Fund were a particular hit, with all the 75 slots for African students filled up. The universities were introducing innovations like e – courses in various subjects, he added.
With agricultural sciences opening new avenues for employment, students of agricultural science can work in a variety of areas, including IT – enabled agriculture and agri – business, he said.
“Profit is no longer a bad word in agriculture,” he said. Dr. Ayyappan also told the graduating students not to forget the realities of Indian agriculture, where 600 million people still depend directly on agriculture.
There is a need to make agriculture more “resilient and sustainable”, he said, with a particular emphasis on dry land farming. There should be a greater stress on rejuvenating millets like ragi and jowar, which he described as “future crops”.
Quoting a National Sample Survey Office report on consumer expenditure, he said that the total demand for cereals in the country may reach 262 million tonnes by 2020 – 21, and the demand for pulses between 16 and 19 million tonnes.
KAU marks shift in Academic Patterns
The recent launch of e-governance tools and a course in Climate Change Adaptation indicates fresh thinking in the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU).
Till recently, the KAU had mostly offered traditional courses. A five-year integrated M.Sc. course in Global Warming and Climate Change, claimed to be the first of its kind in the world, is being offered by the KAU in association with the Indian Space Research Organisation, International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and the University of Western Australia.
Students who have passed Higher Secondary (Science group) with 60 per cent marks (50 per cent for Backward Classes) are eligible to join the course.
KAU Vice-Chancellor K. R. Viswambharan points out that the new course marks a major shift in academic patterns in the KAU. He stresses the importance of studies in global warning.
“Going by recent climate predictions, India will be much affected by global warming. Changes in patterns of rainfall are already evident.
The country should gear up to face unexpected droughts and floods, decline in groundwater level, rise in the sea level and a gross decline in foodgrain production,” he says.
The KAU calls for formulation of new agricultural practices to tackle the effects of global warming.
“Scientific agricultural practices, crop simulation models, and genetics and agronomic packages are needed,” Mr. Viswambharan notes.
Allen Robson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Australia, explains the contemporary relevance of the course. “The effects of climate change are already felt in India.
But there are very few scientists here who have specialised in climate change studies. Global warming may lead to monsoon uncertainties.
India should expect a decline in rainfall, a rise in temperature, frequent floods and landslides, and spread of mosquito-borne diseases,” he says.
He points out that Pakistan, Russia and Canada are already feeling the effects of global warming.
“The recent floods in Pakistan, the worst in its history, have affected millions. Russia is battling wild fires. Unusual wet conditions have affected harvests in Canada,” he says.
The KAU has initiated a drive to prioritise research areas on the basis of problems reported by farmers.
“The next five years will see activities to develop disease-resistant crop varieties, to evolve precision farming models suited to different localities, to formulate an organic farming package and to promote collaborative research,” Mr. Viswambharan says.
He explains the importance of precision farming. “It will help farmers get high yields of crops without spoiling the health of the soil.
Farmers should avoid excessive use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Organic farming should be promoted. The most important task before us is to attract the youth to farming.”
The KAU plans to start a village adoption program.
“The KAU’s work at Mannanchery panchayat in Alappuzha district has helped scientists devise this program. Scientists and technocrats stayed in the houses of farmers and got to know the difficulties they faced.
The scientists worked out on-the-spot solutions to some of the problems much to the relief of farmers. Such programs reduce the gap between researchers and farmers,” he observes.
The KAU propses to adopt one or two panchayats in each district.
“For practical reasons, panchayats near KAU stations will be preferred initially,” he says.