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India-Plant Protection and Pesticides

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The government has introduced integrated pest management at the central and state levels for purposes of plant protection. Twenty-five central, integrated pest-management centers have been established in twenty-two states and one union territory for pest surveillance and monitoring, promotion of biocontrol methods of conservation, promotion of nonchemical methods of pest control, training of extension workers and farmers, and demonstration farms.

The use of synthetic pesticides has increased steadily because of the spreading use of new high-yielding varieties of seeds and their greater vulnerability to plant pests and diseases. The sale of synthetic pesticides jumped from 8,620 tons in crop year 1960-61 to 65,000 tons in 1982-83 and 85,660 tons in 1989-90. In 1960 only about 6 million hectares received chemical pesticides, but by the early 1980s some 100 million hectares were being treated, and the growth in coverage continues in the 1990s. The rapid rise in the use of plant protection led to the enactment of the Insecticides Act of 1968 to regulate the import, sale, transport, distribution, and use of insecticides.

Technology and Mechanization

Despite the pervasive, large-scale use of draft animals throughout India, agricultural machinery and implements, tractors, in particular, have had an important place in increasing agricultural productivity. The stock of tractors increased from 8,600 in FY 1950 to 518,500 in FY 1982 and continued to grow rapidly throughout the 1980s (see table 29, Appendix). The number and sale of power tillers and combine harvesters produced and sold was small, with 4,678 tillers and 110 harvesters sold in FY 1988. There was a significant increase in the number of electric pumps and oil pump sets for irrigation during the 1980s.

The production and use of machinery are hampered by the small size of many operational holdings. However, a number of improved agricultural implements are available for tilling, seeding and fertilizer application, weeding, harvesting, and threshing. The implements include moldboard plows, disc harrows, cultivators, seed drills (more than 110,000 were sold annually in the early 1990s), and mechanical power threshers. These tools have the potential of increasing yields for all crops, but the adoption rate of improved machinery is low. The Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, under the aegis of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research, is responsible for coordinating the manufacture and promotion of technology for small and marginal farmers. The government introduced an incentive scheme in 1990 to subsidize the cost of machinery by up to 50 percent to small and marginal farms. Additionally, farmers' agroservice centers are being established to provide custom service for improved implements and machinery. The eighth plan includes a major thrust for upgrading and adopting proven technology.

In a country with a large and growing labor force, too much mechanization in the short run could create fossil fuel shortages as well as social and economic problems (see Size and Composition of the Work Force, ch. 6). There is, nevertheless, room for improvements in technology. Since FY 1983, there have been attempts to popularize improved animal-drawn agricultural implements and hand tools through demonstrations and subsidies to small and marginal farmers.

Despite these advances in mechanization, most crops are still sown, transplanted, weeded, and harvested through labor-intensive human work. Most grains are harvested by teams of laborers wielding hand-forged iron sickles, binding up sheaves of grain, and carrying loads of sheaves on their heads to bullock carts to be transported to threshing floors. Teams of bullocks are then driven over the sheaves to separate the grains from the stalks, and workers toss basketloads of grain into the air to separate the grain from the chaff. Lentils, a crucial part of the Indian diet, also are harvested through labor-intensive means. Groups of laborers squat down in fields for hours at a time, ripping out lentil plants at the root by hand. Machinery available to lentil farmers has proven difficult to use, and traditional methods are preferred.

Data as of September 1995

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