Source: The Assam Tribune Relevance: GS I (Agricultural resources), GS II (Government policies), GS III (Growth) & GS V (Assam Issues)

Context: Agriculture plays a vital role in the Indian economy, supporting over 70% of rural households. It is a critical economic sector, engaging about 58% of the workforce and contributing to 15% of the nation's GDP. MS Swaminathan, renowned for initiating the Green Revolution, remains an iconic figure in global agriculture. He implemented a comprehensive five-fold strategy aimed at achieving agricultural self-sufficiency, addressing hunger, enhancing agricultural expertise, generating employment, initiating scientific research, and sparking a global movement.

Agriculture in Assam:

  • Agriculture in Assam covers 54.1% of the state's land and is the livelihood for more than 70% of the population.

  • The government prioritizes sustainable, economical, and technologically advanced agricultural methods.

  • Contemporary agricultural methods increasingly incorporate artificial intelligence, eco-friendly technologies, and superior seed varieties, among other innovations. These modern technologies are enhancing the profitability of agriculture.

Research contribution:

  • The need to build strong linkages from “lab to land” has been integral to our State’s agriculture strategy.

Example-  Varieties of rice developed by AAU account for 70 per cent of HYV coverage across our State.  Ranjit Sub-1 and Bahadur Sub -1 are submergence tolerant varieties which have been regional pioneers and have met with successes, and presently there are innumerable such HYV evolved and genetically engineered in the AAU premises.

  • ‘Har khet ko pani’ is a critical component of our country’s agriculture strategy. Assam is beset by floods and water management to ensure optimal utilisation at the right time is strongly warranted.

  • Dredging rivers, strengthening embankments, arresting erosion and the digital flood warning system which Assam already has implemented, would be key to this aspect.

  • Assam has also been focused on assured irrigation deploying low lift pumps and shallow tube-wells thereby enhancing cropping intensity.

  • Precision water management and micro irrigation lie at the heart of the “More crop per drop” initiative.

Impact of geographical factors:

  • Assam's agriculture is closely linked to its varied topography and climate, with fertile plains along the Barak and Brahmaputra rivers promoting rice as the dominant crop, essential for the state's food supply.

  • The state is renowned for its vast tea plantations, making it a key player in the global tea industry. The Tocklai Tea Research Institute, established in 1911 as the oldest and largest of its kind, continuously innovates to enhance tea production, blending, and global market presence.

  • Agriculture in Assam includes a variety of crops like jute, pulses, oilseeds, and native fruits, showcasing the sector's diversity. Traditional methods, such as terrace farming in tribal regions, integrate with modern approaches, highlighting agricultural adaptability.

  • Assam boasts an array of local fruits, including jackfruit and custard apple, contributing to the state's horticultural growth. Market accessibility for these fruits is crucial for the sector's expansion.

  • However, the extensive use of fertilizers and agrochemicals threatens the sustainability of agriculture in Assam, affecting soil, water, and air quality.

Creating awareness about sustainable agriculture practices and organic farming-

1. It is imperative that we focus on regenerative agriculture methods which focus on soil health as well as enhancing soil organic matter.

These include:

  • reduced soil tillage,

  • cover cropping which helps soil protection as well as seeding protection,

  • crop rotation and lesser tillage levels.

2. Precision agriculture using sensors and GPS would grow as greater awareness is created around its benefits.

  • These can even sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse emissions.

  • Integrated pest management is a welcome movement away from harmful chemical pesticides.

  • Deploying biological methods as well as crop rotation is proving increasingly impactful in reducing pests.

3. Assam showcased the potential of drones in agriculture and the present usage involves pesticide spraying.

  • These of course can range to mapping, soil analysis and pest management among others.

Role of AI:

  • AI has tremendous potential in agriculture. Its applications cut across the supply as well as demand side.

  • Demand forecast, precision agriculture, weather patterns analysis, yield forecast are just a few of the potential use cases which would enhance productivity, optimise resource utilisation and bring about robust cost controls.

Despite challenges, Assam’s agricultural sector remains a vital component of its economy and cultural identity navigating it along the path toward sustainable agriculture, balancing tradition with innovation to secure a prosperous future for its farmers and contribute to India’s agricultural diversity.

Advait IAS