Horticulture - Hoisting Farm Incomes Aug 2015

India is endowed with a remarkably heterogeneous area characterized by a great diversity of agro climatic zones, allowing for production of a variety of horticultural crops such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices, plantation crops, root and tuber crops, and medicinal and aromatic crops. India is the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world. Horticulture accounts for 30% of India’s agricultural GDP from 8.5% of the cropped area.Fruit and vegetable farmers reaped a bumper harvest in 2014 and are set to surpass foodgrain production for the third straight year. Vast supply of production base, increase in population and potential export market will remain the key drivers of the growth in this sector.

With the development of this sector, many new technologies have been espoused by the farmers in furthering the benefits acquired from practicing horticulture. A ‘Hi tech Horticulture’ has thus emerged which has increasingly started to replace the low input home based vegetable/fruit farming.

Micro irrigation which stresses on more crop per drop has become the most widely accepted technology in the horti sector, given the high value nature of its produce. It has been very successful for irrigating horticultural crops like mango, banana, grapes, pomegranate, guava, citrus, brinjal, cucumber, okra capsicum etc. Some of the advantages of micro irrigation are saving of fertilizer upto 30%; increase in yield upto 100%; saving of water upto 70%; prevention of weed growth; saving of energy; improving in quality of produce. Despite the many advantages, micro irrigation hasn’t extended its utility to most parts of India. Inadequate awareness about the advantages of micro irrigation; sufficient availability of surface and ground water in some of the states, particularly in northern and eastern India; lack of trained manpower; inadequate credit facilities for the farmer; non uniform availability of the system and its spares throughout the country are some of the factors limiting the expansion of this system if irrigation. The distribution networks at rural areas have inadequate facilities in terms of material availability and technical knowhow. Compared to the available potential and in view of the growing concern over the decreased availability of water, much more needs to be done to promote micro irrigation in the country. Besides micro irrigation, biotechnology, tissue culture techniques, bio fertilizers and green house technology are other improved technologies that have steadily been aligning with horticulture.

India in the years to come will be confronted with the increased domestic demand for horticultural products. Diversification of cropped area with high-value horticultural crops in the hills, arid and coastal agriecosystems can benefit India greatly. Enhancement of small-holder competitiveness and increase of labour intensity both through on-farm and non-farm activities are possible by promoting horticulture. The marketing disadvantages are severe in perishable horticultural crops and strong infrastructure support and investment are, therefore, needed. Institutional reforms such as strengthening of market, credit and pricing, accelerated goal-oriented research and technology transfer for horticultural development need greater focus.

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