Human race started harnessing the natural resources like sunlight, water, soil to fulfil their needs of food and fibre. Starting from the stone age, man has been in a constant rapport with mother nature by growing plants and raising live stock for fulfilling his needs. Agriculture stands as livelihood in many developing countries.

Subsistence farming to feeding nations- a quick shift

Subsistence farming has been man’s approach in satisfying his own personal and family needs. Labour based ploughing, fallowing, irrigation for simple fruit and vegetable cultivation serving the basic needs of farmer grew up to current day country’s economy serves.
Serving economic feed depend on some other aspects. Weather conditions, soil fertility, water supply, pests, weeds, crop diseases-all together account for the crop productivity impacting the financial gains. Using primitive ploughing tools with help of bullocks has grown to using machines and tractors and farming witnessed a quick shift in reducing the manual labour.
This introduction of mechanizing in agriculture worked well in reducing the manual labour, however it could not balance the grownup food need.

Green revolution

Growing population demanded greater food grains and reducing labour has only simplified human task but in no way has contributed in reaching the global hunger. Countries witnessed crop failures due to natural calamities followed by famines.
Advancement in science have increased the crop productivity especially with the food grains. Employing biotechnology and genetics into crop science has led to developing high yielding varieties in food crops (rice, wheat). These varieties when supplied with adequate water and required amount of fertilizers showed greater results in terms of crop yield. Norman E. Borlaug was the man behind Green revolution.

Dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties of wheat and rice having greater tensile stems could bear more grain weight and withstand floods. Dependence on chemical fertilizers and weedicides has increased the grain yields. Crop yield attracted pests and farmers adopted the implementation of chemical pesticides in order to protect the crop produce. An extensive research on crop disease resistance and protection against pest made farmers more secure financially. This attracted more investments in farming.
On other edge than feeding the present generation, over dependence on chemical fertilizers has bashed the natural ecosystems. Excessive synthetic fertilizers utilization spoiled the soil quality. Chemicals breach through soil polluting the ground water resources and are never lost. The pesticides reach higher organisms by entering into food chains having “long term unerasable effects”. Nitrogen fertilizers breach down into nearby water systems and too much of them in water bodies (ponds, lakes) causes eutrophication. Thereby a disturbance in natural ecosystem is created.
Though the present-day food needs are satisfied, a great deviation that future generations have to go through is already been on its way.

Organic farming

Organic farming uses the natural measures in enhancing agricultural productivity. Rather than depending on synthetic standards, organic farming depends on crop rotation kind of natural strategies.
Growing the nitrogen fixing legumes in alternative cropping seasons restores the nitrogen deposits of soil. This reduces the dependence of farmer on synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and avoids the leaching of potassium and phosphorous (added as supplements to nitrogen) into water bodies.
Using green manures, vermicompost and animal manure restores the natural ecosystems.Ploughing the crop residues can serve as mulches for the next sow season.
Organic farming employs pest management strategies rather than depending on chemical pesticides. Following crop rotation interrupts the growth and reproductive cycles of pests. Using insect traps and beneficial predator pests are measures of integrated pest control system. Biological pesticides like pyrethrin (Chrysanthemum as source), neem oil (seeds of Azadirachta as source) are natural killers for caterpillar stage of crop enemies.
Though organic farming does not demand extra expenditure, the costs are high for organic certifications for organic products that consumers or the end user expects. Farming needs more of expertise and setting up the organic farm is a cost driving process. Because a simple understanding that conventional farming needs the land “as it is” and farmer make the produce by adding fertilizers to it. While organic farming “makes the land fertile” and then start farming on it. Which demands proper infrastructure, implementing rain water harvests for irrigation needs and efficient knowledge about pest management strategies etc.
More interaction of farmer with the crop is needed in organic farming. Keen observation on pest and weeds is needed which is quite time and labour consuming. Finding the rotation crops for main crop and finding market for rotation crops is also important for financial gains of growers. After all this strain obviously a purely organic grown product deserves extra rate in market than the conventional product.
This is where the organic farmed products are “confined largely to cream section” of society and cannot feed the masses of globe. So still the global hunger continues.

Agriculture in economic terms

In developing economies, agriculture largely stands as livelihood for countries population. Yield per hectare of farm are dependant on the prevailing climatic conditions during that particular crop season. Starting from day of sowing till the day of picking up harvest, climatic conditions are of main concern for growers.
Depending on monsoon for irrigation has been a frightening expectation for farmers. Right amount of rainfall during the right stage of crop can only stand as mirage in the present environmental scenario.
With the burning problem of global warming, monsoons have started to never or at least shower to meet the existing requirement.
Either too much of rains causing floods may make the crop wash away or too less rainfall imposes situation of drought both of which pose loses for small and margin scale farmers.
Rather than depending on monsoon, farmers have started relying on ground water resources for water needs. And again changing life styles, excessive usage of chemical pesticides, dumping of industrial effluents in water bodies- all collectively have led to
  • Depletion of ground water resources
  • Polluted ground water resources
  • Additively the dependence on ground water for agriculture without disturbing the urban and industrial needs is another twinkling point in water allocation.
If climatic conditions during cropping season needs such balance, the post-harvest climatic conditions are another big terror for farmer.
Pulses and staple food items like rice, wheat sit in godowns before they reach market. Maintenance of the warehouses, proper storage conditions in godowns are all important to allow the crop produce reach the hungry masses.
Commercial crops like sugarcane, oil seeds, fibre crops contribute to the country’s economic gains so they occupy some space in agricultural lands.

Finding other options in farming

Globalization has brought up farmers less dependent on local markets. The term globalization refers to increase in movement of information, input, output, finance and goods across vast geographical areas. Globalization resulted in considerable change in patterns of agriculture in developing countries. Feeding the local masses growing to supplying the necessities of far off continents has been witnessed because of globalization. From farming as livelihood has changed to farming as agribusiness. Developing countries have started depending on farming for counting the GDP (gross domestic product) which eventually lead to encouragement of cash crop cultivation and horticulture. Both are quite profitable by ensuring the farmers with financial security and have a large guaranteed market far across on globe.
Constraining land for biofuel crops, biomaterial and agri-based commodities deviates land usage from food crops to commercial and industrial needs. Land dedication for the crops feeding industrial needs reduces the crop land expected for food crop production. With the ever-growing population to hunger ratio sole dependence on agricultural land and fertility restoration measures cannot satisfy the growing up needs.
With the day by day doubling population and even increasing modernization,food crisis is one big thing that the world has to face. Though the drift from conventional farming methods has satisfied the grownup present-day food needs. These drifts cannot satisfy the hunger of future generation if the population is increasing at this alarming rate.
Research in science and biotechnology has brought in new approaches of farming that can still work well with polluting soils and changing lifestyles. New approaches for farming based on urban living has grown up.
Big farmers started depending on artificial intelligence (AI) for obtaining greater gains.

Using drones in monitoring the crop area for preventing pest and disease infestation,
Employing predictive analysis of environmental conditions at each critical phase of crop.
Soil analysis and crop monitoring
Using robotics for harvesting procedures
are some of the approaches that big farmers of modern day started to take up in order to improve their gains.
Apart from artificial intelligence modern farming stands on other toes too. Tissue culture, vertical farming, relying on greenhouses rather than natural farm environment stand as modern farming approaches. Farmers adopt modern methods to withstand the current climatic trends.

Tissue culture is a descendant of biotechnological studies on vegetative propagation and has proved good results with modern day farmers.
Vertical farming is classic choice of urban growers hailing from metros.
Hydroponics is entirely separate science for cultivating small herbs with vegetable and fruits crops. Hydroponics need a separate green-house set up with artificial lighting and can be even small and suitable for urban concrete life styles too. Aeroponics and aquaponics stand as subsets of hydroponics.
Relying on green houses and using hybrid seeds for high produce, have already been in practice in medium and bigger investment farms.

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