The state government is promoting crop patterns suitable to drought-hit Marathwada and Vidarbha regions, and is roping in agriculture research council and universities to provide crops with shorter life-cycle to sustain agriculture in the dry belt.
Apart from crops like cotton, sugarcane, jowar and tur dal (pulses), there is emphasis on promoting horticulture and floriculture under controlled water and temperature technology to ensure assured income for farmers. The region-wise crop pattern changes are being modelled, and would be discussed with farmers in the next two months.
While the decision to enforce drip irrigation for sugarcane will be mandatory from next season, the campaign to intensify beyond cane cultivation is being pushed in entire Marathwada and parts of Western Maharashtra such as Solapur which is drought prone.
According to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, “Along with soil health card, we are emphasising on district-wise crop pattern to ensure higher yields and better renumeration for farmers. New experiments had become inevitable in the wake of growing financial investments with no assured returns making agriculture a risky venture.”
Apart from corrective steps, the agriculture department, along with research centres are working with groups of farmers to take up short-cycle crops suitable to the soil, and regulate water usage, he said. Adopting scientific methods would help minimise financial risks in the agro-sector.
The government is making higher investments in horticulture and floriculture which brings better returns for farmers, he observed. In Osmanabad, at least 12 farmers’ groups have launched a campaign to explore alternative crop patterns. District collector Prashant Narnavere said, “The cultivation of betel leaves (paan) has become a success.” The vines grow in three to six months. It requires moderate wet soil but not waterlogging.
Some have taken to cultivation of “jerbera” flowers which do not require intense water. There is a move to promote tur dal in the drought belt as it is not a highly water intensive crop. The centre and the state are giving incentives to promote tur dal cultivation and oilseeds in some parts.
The emphasis on plantation and horticulture has support from NABARD. The centre has set a target of 8 per cent growth over the next five year plan (2012-17) for plantation and horticulture in Maharashtra. The allocations for 2016-17 exceeds Rs 2,800 crore for horticulture. The short, inter- crop cycle is also being re-looked to promote seasonal vegetables and fruits in small land holding. However, the state government would need to provide the logistics of robust market and value chain for fruit processing units to channel the yield.
Horticulture crops account for 17.63 per cent of national production. The eight diverse agro-climate conditions, like make in Maharashtra a suitable destination for horticulture mission. It includes fruits, flowers, tuber crops, aromatic crops, spices, and medicinal plants.
According to a report from the agriculture ministry, “Total area under horticulture approximately works out to 25 lakh hectares with production of 175 lakh metric tonnes. State has highest grape production (60%); guava (13%); sweet orange (49%); strawberry (87%) , banana (14 %) and mangoes 21 % among others. Vegetables can cover 6 lakh hectares with estimated production upto 85 to 90 lakh metric tonnes. Floriculture, making inroads under protected ambience, has covered 260 hectares.