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World Population day: Why increasing agricultural yield should be a top priority

By Vikas Sv
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    One of the main reasons India is able to sustain despite such a massive population is because we are able to grow our own food. Even after making significant strides in the fields of IT and manufacturing, the fact remains that majority of India's population makes its living from agriculture related activities.

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    Agriculture is backbone of Indian economy and it is because of our farmers that India today is self reliant. Yes there are poverty, malnutrition and hunger problems in the society, but by and large India is able grow the food required to feed massive population of over 1.3 billion.

    According to UN estimates, India will overtake China and become most populous nation in the world by 2024. India's population will continue to grow until 2061 or so and only start to decline when the population has gone well past 1678.7 million (Around 1.7 billion) people, when it will be the most populous country the world has ever seen.

    To feed this growing population, the agricultural output must also grow at rapid pace. But, the farming area in India is not increasing, in fact with growing rate of urbanisation and cities expanding,the farming area might even reduce. To be able to feed more and more people with limited land, it is important that the yield of existing agricultural increases.

    Indian soils have been used for growing crops over thousands of years without caring much for replenishing. This has led to depletion and exhaustion of soils resulting in their low productivity. The average yields of almost all the crops are among the lowest in the world.

    Yield also depends on quality of seeds. Seed is a critical and basic input for attaining higher crop yields and sustained growth in agricultural production. Unfortunately, good quality seeds are out of reach of the majority of farmers.

    Another reason for low yield in India is lack of mechanised farming. Use of machines is limited in Indian agriculture as it requires big investment. For a farmer to make massive investments in mechanisation, the income must be high. The incomes are low because land holdings are small and farmers lack awareness about modern agriculture techniques.

    Irrigation is also a key factor that contributes to agricultural output. Although India is the second largest irrigated country of the world after China, only one-third of the cropped area is under irrigation.

    To solve these problems, the government should not only take initiative to make farmers aware of modern agricultural techniques, but also should give financial help to change the way farming is being done over the years. This is muti-dimensional problem which needs a long drawn strategy to solve.

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