Renowned agricultural scientist and Rajya Sabha member Dr MS Swaminathan feels that the time has come for laying stress on hi-tech farming and improving the marketing system so as to make agriculture economically viable and encourage the youth to adopt the profession of their forefathers.
Talking to mediapersons after paying obeisance at the Golden Temple here on Tuesday, Swaminathan said the "sons of the soil" were moving away from the fields. "This scenario will have to be reversed, as in the years to come young hands are going to outnumber the old ones. For this, there is a dire need to improve the marketing system so that the youth can discard the notion that agriculture is a non-profitable venture that only soils the hands," he said.
Swaminathan said the latest farm technologies must be fed into young minds. He pointed to greenhouses, polyhouses, net cultivation and other modern agricultural practices.
"If a young mind knows what a polyhouse is and how capsicums, strawberries and other vegetables and fruits can be grown, he will show an interest in agriculture. We cannot just go on hammering the wheat and paddy technologies on the youth as these will not change their mindset if they have already decided to move away from the fields and go abroad or take up some other business," he added.
Visits farm of young farmer
To elaborate his point, Swaminathan visited the farm of 31-year old Vikram Sarkaria on the airport road and there he gave a practical demonstration of a youngster who had returned home after spending two years in Canada. He spoke to Sarkaria, who categorically told him that he acquired details of polyhouses and net house cultivation from agriculture department officials as well as by surfing the net and came to know what these methods were and the subsidies that the government offered to those who were keen to adopt them.
"I started growing flowers and vegetables in net houses as a hobby. However, as I acquired more knowledge by logging on to websites of various agriculture-related organisations, I took to polyhouse cultivation and am happy with the results," Sarkaria said as he watched the "Father of the Green Revolution" stooping to pick up healthy, large-sized yellow and red bell peppers from a polyhouse.
Turning to the state agriculture officers accompanying him, Swaminathan said, "You see this is what I mean. The young mind will be more interested in bell peppers and capsicums than paddy and wheat."
Patting Sarkaria on the back, he told him never to get disheartened even if losses come his way in one season. He even invited the young farmer to New Delhi, where he would arrange for his training to further brush up his farm skills.
Swaminathan agreed with Sarkaria that marketing was a problem. He said this was precisely what the government was working towards because a non-profitable venture will not attract the youth. He said surfing the net for agriculture-related information must be encouraged by teachers.
"Economically viable and ecologically friendly agriculture will attract youth as the youngsters these days pay a great deal of attention towards a clean environment. Paddy will not attract them as they are aware that it lowers the water table and they are also averse to sprays and chemical fertilisers," said Swaminathan, pointing out that the National Farmers Commission, which he heads, was laying stress on attracting the youth towards agriculture.
He said basmati was a good alternative to paddy, particularly in Punjab, as it consumes less water and yields profits, and the youth must be told this. "Encouraging the cultivation of maize, bajra, pulses and other such nitrogen-fixing plants will certainly help in encouraging the youth to take up agriculture. But for this, the government must have a marketing policy in place to reassure the youth that they will reap profits from these crops," he added.