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Saturday, August 15, 2020
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National web conference on vegetable farming during Covid 19 pandemic

In order to deliberate on the best practices in vegetable farming and challenges faced by the farmers in the country, ICAR-IARI, Pune station had organized two days national web conference last week (25-26 June 2020).

Vegetable Farmers Forum (VFF) which was created by Dr G K Mahapatro, Principal Scientist, IARI Pune station during the lockdown period is unique of its kind.  It has provided an opportunity to connect all stakeholders thought digital medium, share their concerns related to vegetable farming and find a solution to the problems faced by farmers.

Web Conference Recommendations

The concluded conference centered on the theme Vegetable Farmers Forum: Post Lockdown with Particular Emphasis on Plant Protection. The forum through this Web Conference recommends few points to be pondered by all stakeholders, especially the makers and the public as well.

  • Presently, research efforts by scientists and the knowledge of subject matter specialists including the extension agencies across the country are focused on sustainable and profitable vegetable farming. The issues are more intense, as the environmental safety and human health are at stake in addition to marketing and post-harvest processes. Crop husbandry including cultivating healthy vegetable crops needs coherent handholding of the knowledge banks with growers.
  • The recently amended Essential Commodity Act (ECA-1955) removed vegetable commodities like onion and potato from the list of essential commodities; but these are essential items in our daily food basket and dishes. The bumper harvests of these agri-commodities often bring in unreasonably low market price.

 

The poor farm infrastructure and cold storage facilities reduce the holding capacity of farmers and trigger the lowering price for perishable vegetable commodities due to distress sale. In this context, the post-harvest management of such commodities with primary and secondary processing at or near farm gates is to be established. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) should be encouraged with appropriate incentives to involve with vegetable farming groups (VFGs) in every district to see that there is regular unhindered market for them. In fact if MSMEs can enter into contract vegetable production, there shall be symbiotic benefits that would alter the scale of operation. End-to-end vegetable production from ‘seed to market’ is to be aimed through MSME platforms.

  • The web-conference strongly recommend encouraging better public-perception and effective public-private-partnership in increased hand holding of vegetable farmer groups and MSMEs for processing and marketing of farm gate commodities. We tried our best to inculcate the culture of Public-Private Partnershipin true sense and spirit.
  • Cloud-service centric approach will cater our NEED

In Digital dictionary, the term cloud computing is quite popular, same style we need to concentrate our resources, intellectual and financial; tangible and intangible ingredients – all in an integrated approach. Piece-meal approach won’t work; and clouding thus, will release our pressure on our limited resources.

-The web-conference apprehend a paradigm shift in the pest scenario due to country-wide cultivation of pest susceptible hybrid seeds from Private seed companies (>90%) in major vegetable crops like tomato. Introduction of new virus and other pathogens, and also insect-pests are the potential dangers to be anticipated.

-It is proposed that vegetable cultivation should be taken up in farms with 0.8 and above percentage level of soil organic carbon including in polyhouses/ green houses. The pest load management can be well-regulated due to this agro-ecology. Methods to improve soil organic carbon of soils in farms need to be propagated and adopted.

-There is dire need for planned survey and careful surveillance of such situations, follow-up monitoring through national and state research funding. One major way of doing this is maintaining a strict surveillance of direct insect as well non-insect pests including nematodes, indirectly for plant disease vectors, viz. sap-sucking insects (aphids, whiteflies, thrips etc). The 3R’s (resistance, resurgence and residue aspects) – are to be monitored carefully.

-Pesticide-residue problems being more important in veggies (particularly in salad crops), proper care and caution must be followed by farmers. Regular intervention, monitoring by means of residue detection, in vegetables samples from common marketplace, must be given priority.

-The cultivation practice is continually changing in India, particularly in vegetable belts like Maharashtra, where more and more areas are now under protected or greenhouse condition, with frequent and indiscriminate pesticides use. International trade and travel have compounded the vector problem, with new species and strains emerging in the area.

-In the face of price crash at mandis and export limitations due to the nationwide lockdown, it dealt a double blow to the farmers. Supply-chain, the bank loan system is to be reviewed in the context of Cloud-centric Approach. Mere prevalent 7,000 mandis, against the requisite 42,000 mandis in country, draws our attention to request all stakeholders, for paying due attention in strengthening the infrastructure, storage facilities, transportation and marketing strategies, in large scale reaching the grass-root level. Amended ECA-1955, should go in favour of farmers, not middle-men; essentially suitable mechanism must be made earnestly.

-Right now, there is little collaborative endeavors in governmental agencies like ICAR, and SAUs with the major private players like Mother Diary, F&V supply chain system in India. A cloud centric approach will even release pressure on government establishment, for market-driven research needs and funding, following the corporate social funding research (CSF) modus operandi.

-Progressive approaches like Cooperative organic farming groups, Vegetable Producer Groups, Self Help Groups, Nutri-gardens in rural villages for self-reliance, Subscription farming – are suitable interventions that shall receive due attention of  government and public sector agencies through existing schemes and programmes.

-Digitalization and development of comprehensive data base repository of the village-wise vegetable cultivators and their access to seeds / seedlings, crop husbandry practices as well as marketing methods is needed. Every farmer, in turn, should get information at their fingertips, in this era of digital India, when farming community is becoming more aware of possibilities of internet, it will be well benefiting if all the information regarding pesticides like district level data on pesticide poisoning, pest attacks and outbreaks, district level data on usage of pesticides, studies related to toxicity and efficacy of pesticides, pesticide residues, environmental impact of pesticides, alerts on spurious pesticides etc. are furnished properly and made available to farmers and non-farmers, sources in the country including reliable on-line suppliers to access pheromones and traps, light traps and other pest suppression gadgets.

-Rampant misguided use of antibiotics and fungicides must be stopped in tomato virus management. Consumers of such vegetable are liable to face antibiotic resistance while treating for various diseases. Farmers should keep in mind, that no anti-viral chemicals are available. For insect-vector management label claimed pesticides are only to be used. Alternate options must be made available to the farmers, in the face of current proposed ban of few pesticides.

-Farmers must be self-sufficient, self-reliant in all their endeavors, for which all stakeholders should work, making a true Aatma-nirbhara Bharat.

In this International Year of Plant Health (2020), let’s strive for adopting Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), integrating more and more clean and green technologies in all crops, including vegetables.

The conference appeals to all farmers of every state to take up environment-secure healthy vegetable crops. Farmers should be aware of scientific practices, and the scientific cultivation technologies must be based on appropriate research and needs of local condition, in sustainable manner.