The world’s population would be around 9.1 billion people by 2050, the majority being from developing economies. To feed this population, global food production should increase by 70%. In case of developing economies, it would have to double. 90% of this global food increase has to be met through higher yields and increased crop intensity, while the rest must be from increase in cultivated area. This would translate to an increase in water requirements by 11%. This huge task would involve global participation and partnerships, especially in developing economies where small and marginal farmers are the majority and who need to be in the forefront of this task. However, many of the tools for increasing farm production and productivity have so far benefited only the small group of large and medium farm holdings.
In the last four decades, the average size of landholdings in India has declined from 2.28 ha to 1.16 ha. As a consequence, the number of small and marginal landholdings (<2 ha) have increased by 67 million totalling to 147 million landholdings - close to 90 % of the total. Frequent droughts, limited water for crops, high cost of farm inputs and shortage of labour has forced many to give up farming. Farmlands have given way to urban expansion and industries.
To double our food production, increased production and productivity from small and marginal holdings are critical. The rapidly increasing population poses challenges to food security. Some key questions that India faces are: How can Indian agriculture become more productive? How can farming become sustainable and profitable?
The need for inclusive and sustainable agricultural growth is therefore especially critical to developing economies in general and India in particular. At TAFE’s JFarm, we have developed a model of integrated farm practices that enhance production and productivity using a balanced approach to nutrient management with emphasis on low cost in-farm input creation, supported by mechanization, tested soil and water management practices, appropriate crop and seed selection, advanced crop production and protection technologies to make farming viable and stem this marginalization. As a result of adopting improved practices, there is a commensurate increase in farm profitability and improved livelihood. These efforts complement those made by the Government.
TAFE’s former chairman, Dr. A. Sivasailam’s vision extended beyond design, production and sale of tractors and farm equipment. Right from inception, he was deeply committed to improving the well being of farmers by empowering them with advanced farm technologies to increase farm productivity and meet India’s growing food needs. This led to his establishing JFarm in 1964 in a barren,marginally rain fed scrub land near Chennai,to effectively demonstrate how transition from traditional labor intensive, low productivity farming to situation relevant, cost effective, viable and sustainable farming could be a reality.
The now verdant JFarm was the result of dedicated efforts by a team of agri-scientists and workers. With just 19 days of rain at the most in a year,JFarm depended on limited ground water. Farmers of surrounding areas traditionally cultivated paddy and farming was not remunerative.
Over the years, TAFE’s JFarm has worked in this challenging situation to develop a viable and sustainable model using a mix of proper seed selection, appropriate mix of food and cash crops, scientific and eco-friendly farming, relevant mechanization and rigorous assessment of farm economy. Today its model of multi crop, effective irrigation, balanced nutrient, integrated farming is being emulated by others nearby and the cash crops of fruits and vegetables have transformed the economy of the surrounding area.
TAFE’s JFarm is an adaptive research centre, spread over 200 acres of land incorporating the well-equipped Product Training Centre of TAFE, which is one of the earliest such institutions in India offering multi-lingual training in operation and maintenance of farm machinery and tractors through class room, workshop and field training.
The Green revolution ushered several high yielding varieties of wheat and rice along with improved agricultural technologies involving use of proven seeds, fertilizers and pesticides into the country. JFarm is credited with popularizing several varieties of rice, pulses and oilseeds as well as releasing several varieties of rice for large-scale multiplication.
JFarm promoted IR50 rice in Tamil Nadu and developed new varieties like super fine table varieties of White Ponni and J13 (100 days crop), J18 (organic rice) and the superfastJ66 (85 days crop),catering to requirements of different growing regions and categories of farmers.
TAFE’s JFarm developed the popular drought tolerant red kernel groundnut variety J20 that comes to maturity in 80 days and contains 52% oil.
JFarm took upon itself the task of popularizing several varieties of black gram like T9, ADT3 and ADT5 to demonstrate that cultivation of pulses can be remunerative even in dry areas.
Organic cultivation of a wide range of tropical vegetables is undertaken using enriched vermin-compost. The dairy maintained at JFarm is the source of raw material for vermicomposting. The vegetables cultivated include okra, brinjal, pumpkin, watermelon and an array of tropical gourds. Seeds of promising varieties are also distributed to farmers.
This centre identified a drought tolerant mutant strain “YahutiRumani” from the traditional Rumani mango variety. The model “YahutiRumani” orchard spread over 20 acres with about 2500 trees firmly establishes the fact that mango is a highly profitable option for drought prone areas.
A biodiversity park consisting of 132 trees belonging to 31 species has been created in an area of one acre. Also, a pure forestry area consisting of 350 high value timber trees like teak, white teak, Melia, is maintained in an area of 1.5 acres.
Launched in the year 2000, this unique portal supported with over 200,000 photographs provides in depth and customized information on crop production, protection and processing technologies for major and minor crops of India in English, Hindi and Tamil.Adopting technologies presented in the portal, farmers can increase yield from 15-20% over the present yield.
The portal provides visually rich and extensive information on pests and diseases, their symptoms and their reliable season-long management using proper pesticides and bio-agents, where feasible.Additionally information on cultivation of 30 medicinal and 20 aromatic crops and description of laboratory processes leading to isolation of their active principles is also presented. A photo gallery of 58 lesser known medicinal plants and claims of their therapeutic use and information on 31 forest trees is also made available.
Trends in the use of farm implements, equipment and machinery (manual/animal drawn/tractor operated) available for various farm operations are presented in this site with addresses of their manufacturers. In addition, exhaustive information with photographs is provided on prototypes/models of implements/equipment/machinery developed for various operations in 24 major crops. The portal also provides addresses of agri input dealers and rainfall data.
44 allied topics, relevant to farming and cropping systems are hosted on the portal in English, Tamil and Hindi.
Other extension services carried out at JFarm include answering of queries from farmers, publication of articles in regional newspapers, agricultural journals, presenting and participation in seminars and symposia organized by several government institutions.
Different soil conservation methods viz., erosion control with conservation tillage, crop rotation, growing of cover crops and wind-break vegetation and perimeter run off control are practiced. Visitors to JFarm are given demonstrations of these conservation methods along with information on reclamation of problem soils such as acidic, acid sulphate, saline, sodic and saline-sodic soils.
JFarm has successfully demonstrated the benefits accrued from rainwater harvesting by harnessing water stored in huge tanks for agricultural operations. The northeast monsoon sets in Tamil Nadu during October for over a period of two months. The rainwater is collected in a huge tank spread over an area of 5 acres and recharges open wells and sustains crops over the next 10 months.
Prior to the onset of monsoon, a sub-soiler is used to break the hard pan infields and promote per colation of water into the deeper layers of soil.
Formation of compartmental bunds, scoops, crescent bunding and shelter belts to conserve soil and water forms an integral part of the farm.
Indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers has resulted in soils becoming acidic, saline or saline sodic. Reclamation of these problem soils poses a challenge to Indian agriculture. JFarm has successfully demonstrated the reclamation of saline soils for mango cultivation. Besides, reduced application of NPK fertilizers blended with organic inputs like farmyard manure, vermi- compost and bio-fertilizers in an integrated way is also advocated for producing crops.
JFarm, over the past decade,has taken a lead in organic farming and shown farmers the way to reap richer harvests. Some of the techniques demonstrated in JFarm include use of vermi-compost enriched with bio fertilizers and bio pesticides to increase soil fertility and the use of neem kernel extract to combat pests. This is in addition to the traditional technologies like green manuring, use of oil cakes and farmyard manure.
The objective of seed distribution at JFarm is not commercial but akin to the mini kit trials in agricultural research stations. Only a small quantity of seeds of high yielding varieties is handled. The farmer who obtains the seeds from JFarm helps his neighbours and friends grow this variety thus enabling its rapid spread.
Farmers concentrate mostly on crop production, which is subject to uncertainty in income and employment. JFarm has evolved suitable strategies to augment farm income by integrating various agricultural enterprises viz. cropping, animal husbandry, agro forestry, orchard farming etc. Integrated farming takes care of optimal utilization of resources and recycling of waste for productive purposes.
Appropriate use of farm implements and machinery in various crops, including their imaginative use to suit local farming conditions by changing planting geometry of crops is regularly practiced and demonstrated. Several farmers have benefited using them, saving cost, time and labour.
The technologies imparted at JFarm are not only easily accessible but also cost effective. It demonstrates how to get the maximum profit at the lowest costing, making farming a viable business enterprise.
Ponni rice is today a very popular variety of table rice in South India, cultivated extensively in the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. This variety was developed and promoted by JFarm and has resulted in improved farm yields and greater farm revenues.
The erratic nature of monsoons has had a major effect on farm yields. Hot summers following deficient rains negatively impact the main crop yield jeopardizing the cultivation season and harvest. To mitigate this, JFarm introduced watermelon cultivation to the farmers. Being a short duration crop, watermelon requires very less water and can even be grown on dry riverbeds. The return on investment for it is high, touching almost 200%. This can be attributed to the high demand during the season, with buyers willing to travel long distances to buy watermelons. This crop has literally turned around the farm economics of the small and marginal holdings and making it viable.
As there is a great need for vegetables in the nearby cities, JFarm worked out a package of practices for organic cultivation of vegetables, starting with brinjal. The new techniques effectively increased the life of this normally five-month crop by another two more months, thereby increasing yield and revenues substantially. This has also been extended to the organic cultivation of a number of vegetables in the gourd family like ridge gourd, bitter gourd, snake gourd, etc. and also for cultivation of cluster beans, okra, tomato, amaranthus, pumpkin and onions.