Green Revolution and Agricultural Sustainability in India

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Posted By : ScienceIndia Administrator

The quantum jump achieved in agricultural production during sixties to make India self reliant in food grain is popularly termed as ‘Green Revolution’. Post country’s independence, it was a proud moment for India to break the shackles of ‘ship-to-mouth” situation of dependence on imported food to self-sufficiency in domestic food availability leading to food security. Further, the situation was reversed to export food grains and earn sizeable foreign exchange.

The main drivers for achieving green revolution are the research that led to the development of modern technologies including high yielding varieties of crops, extending irrigation, use of fertilizers and agro-chemicals, mechanization and policy support with credit and marketing support. This also led to a spurt in agro-based industries and extended labour utilization due to increased cropping intensity and cropping systems. The initial phase of implementation of modern agricultural technology was confined to rice and wheat, the major staple food crop of the country in states of Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, parts of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. The gains of increased farm output and income through green revolution technologies had caused adoption of the technology across the crops and regions to contribute significantly for the continued higher agricultural production and swelling buffer stocks. Associated land consolidation especially in Punjab and Haryana, paved way for tractorization and farm mechanization. Encouraging policy support through procurement for public distribution provided assured prices. Together with higher production and assured marketing and prices, farmers achieved higher income and embraced the technology. The rate of yield increase and returns for each of the components of technology was very high up to optimal input use due to the positive interaction effects of genotype x irrigation x fertilizers. Social equity to support the have-nots through public distribution system had improved the livelihood of the disadvantaged population.

The Green Revolution resulted in a record grain output of 131 million tons in 1978-79. Yield per unit of farmland improved by more than 30 per cent between 1947 and 1979. During the GR period, the crop area under HYV (High yielding varieties) grew from seven per cent to 22 per cent of the total cultivated area and more than 70 per cent of the wheat crop area, 35 per cent of the rice crop area and 20 per cent of the millet and corn crop area, used the HYV seeds. However, the huge success of green revolution also created issues of long term sustainability. This could be assessed with sufficient time lapse especially with higher awareness of different dimensions of sustainability beyond mere crop yield and economics. The issues of advantage restricted to few crops, regions and ecologies was the concern.

The enthusiasm to depend heavily on high grade and quick response agrochemicals – fertilizers and pesticides indiscriminately with drastic reduction in organic manures has caused their misuse resulting in soil fertility and productivity problems of salinity, desertification, declining resource (fertilizer and water) use efficiency, need for higher input use, eutrofication of ground water and river systems and lakes, pest resistance and resurgence and over the years, decline in crop yield and quality are the evident ill effects of misuse of GR technologies. The efforts of creating farmers’ awareness of the limitations and side-effects of after-effects of indiscriminate use of agro-chemicals were not effective and serious. The need for reliable soil testing and advisories were wanting. The cheaper availability of fertilizers and irrigation water through government support further encouraged their higher (mis)use.

India still largely depends on monsoons and rainfed agriculture wherein the components of HYVs, fertilizer and agrochemical use is not feasible due to the associated risk and uncertainties of assured moisture despite effective dry farming technologies available for soil and moisture conservation and rainwater harvesting. Over and above the effects of climate change extremities further challenges agricultural sustainability. The attempts of diversification of crops and cropping pattern need matching economic advantage for adoption.

The National Agriculture Policy (2000) provides the framework for planning and sets out the following broad agenda as to achieve; i) a growth rate in excess of 4 per cent per annum in the agriculture sector, ii) Growth that is based on efficient use of resources and conserves our soil, water and bio-diversity, iii) Growth with equity, that is growth which is wide spread across regions and farmers, iv) Growth that is demand driven and caters to domestic markets and maximizes benefits from export of agricultural products in the face of challenges arising from economic liberalization and globalization, v) Growth that is sustainable technologically environmentally and ecologically.


Article by:

Dr. S.N. Sudhakara Babu,

Principal Scientist (Agronomy),

ICAR – Indian Institute of Oilseeds Research,

Rajendra Nagar, Hyderabad 500030


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