Agriculture has been the backbone of human existence since time immemorial. It has also seen much advancement over the years. However, the agricultural practices carried out in India are still largely traditional. Indian agriculture technology has many limitations as compared to modern agricultural technologies around the world. The main differences, similarities, advantages, as well as disadvantages of the two types, are discussed in this article.
Difference between traditional and modern agricultural practices
The main difference between the traditional agricultural practices of India and modern agricultural practices of the world stems from the inherent nature and outlook towards farming. Traditional farming involves methods that include labour for tilling, sowing and harvesting. Irrigation is majorly dependent on rain and the seeds used are not modern.
Modern agricultural practices use mechanised equipment for irrigation, tilling and harvesting along with hybrid seeds. In India, agriculture technology are labour intensive, whereas modern agriculture technology is mainly capital intensive. The agricultural land in India is small and disconnected in the ownership of individuals making mechanisation difficult.
On the other hand land for modern agriculture are being consolidated into one large farm. This led to easy access to mechanised equipment and the use of hybrid seeds for increased productivity and disease resistance (Schmitz & Moss 2016). The subsidies for modern agriculture technology is far more than traditional farming technologies. Modern agriculture gains from subsidies on energy, irrigation, seeds and fertilisers.
Irrigation and storage in modern and traditional agriculture technique
Traditional farming is entirely dependent on the environmental factors for irrigation, which sometimes prove to be very unpredictable and unfavourable. Out of the total water used for irrigation in traditional farming, only 20-50% reach the crop and the rest is lost during its. Moreover, traditional irrigation practices have exhausted renewable water sources. It has been observed that underground water tables are dropping by 10 metres annually (Viala 2008).
Modern farming has evolved with technology that the irrigation is mainly through tube wells, sprinklers and dripping systems. In the case of harvesting and storage, modern technology takes measures such as the use of tractors, mechanized equipment for tilling, ploughing and harvesting. Similarly with the construction of dry and cold storage buildings protect the harvest from water, insect pests as well as heat.
Traditional harvesting and storage conditions of Indian farms and farmers result in large proportions of crop wastage. It has been estimated that crop wastage due to inefficient storage is 7% of annual grain production per year in India. This percentage accounts for 21 million tonnes of wheat grain alone, as India lacks proper cold storage and cold chain transportation (Suprem et al. 2013).
Advantages of traditional and modern technology
The only instance in which traditional farming is better than modern agricultural technology is that it produces a high-quality product in smaller quantities. Whereas, the product obtained from modern agriculture technology produces big quantity but compromises in quality. In terms of fertilizers and pesticides, traditional technologies use fertilisers and pesticides that do not pollute the soil. Modern agricultural technologies have developed these chemicals in a way that they wipe out pests and herbs but also prove to be harmful to the environment, polluting land and water.
Traditional methods use biological pesticides and insecticides and the produce is healthier. Harvested products are grouped under the category of organic produce. Which is sold at high prices resulting in better profits than the produce of modern technologies.
On the other hand, the main advantages of modern agricultural technology lie in its predictability. The technology makes sure that the farmers have crops to harvest and sell. There is very little chance of the crop being lost to environmental factors like drought, floods, plant diseases or low yield. Modern agricultural technology makes sure that the agricultural sector gains profit every harvest season with very few crop losses.
For example, the annual crop yield in China using modern agricultural technologies is 415 million tonnes per year. On the other hand, despite having more agricultural land (than China), India produces 218 million tonnes per year (Piesse & Thirtle 2010).
Traditional Indian agricultural practices and its problems
The Indian agricultural sector is in a difficult phase due to the lack of mechanisation and dearth of technological advances. The agricultural sector in India:
- lacks relevant technical knowledge
- produces from low quality of seeds,
- does not use fertilisers and pesticides intelligently,
- lacks adequate irrigation infrastructure,
- lacks sufficient credit of capital for growth.
Along with this, the scientific rotation system of crops is not understood or appreciated in India. Most of the Indian farmers plant one crop on the same ground for years. This leads to depletion of soil with specific nutrients, leading to infertility and subsequently decreased yield of the crop. Crop rotation from modern agricultural practices maintains the fertility of the soil for subsequent crops through the years (McCracken 2012).
Disadvantages of modern agriculture technology
The main disadvantage seen in modern agricultural technology is the excessive use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. They deplete soil fertility and are harmful to the environment. Also, modern technologies are highly mechanised, increasing the use of non-renewable sources of energy.
The advent of modern technologies has fulfilled the food requirements in many areas of the world. However, these practices are leading to major environmental damage. These include contamination of groundwater, depletion of soil fertility and loss of biodiversity by converting forest areas into agricultural land. Also, modern agricultural practices are responsible for genetic erosion and extinction of the germplasm of the Indian subcontinent. This leads to less variability and loss of indigenous varieties of crop plants that may be better than the hybrid varieties (Fedoroff 2010).
Remedies for Indian agriculture sector
Based on the various aspects of agriculture discussed, modern technologies cannot be fully incorporated in the Indian subcontinent due to the limitation of landholdings. However, some measures can be adopted, which are:
- Testing of soil quality for planting correct crops.
- Using disease resistant seeds.
- Using technology to provide technical knowledge to the farmers.
- Increased use of government policies to utilise the subsidies provided.
Along with this, satellite imaging can help farmers understand meteorological events to plan in a better way. Farmers need to understand the genetically modified seeds to deflect any untoward event with proper regulation and registry.
Modern irrigation interventions can help farmers of smallholdings and farms to save water by 30%. Moreover, investment in advanced technologies like drip irrigation can save water up to 60% as compared to traditional irrigation systems (Sivakumar et al. 2005). Sustainable agriculture is the key that holds prosperity along with the preservation of the environment. Traditional knowledge along with modern technological advancements can help India become the foremost country of agricultural products in the world.
- Fedoroff, N. V, 2010. The past, present and future of crop genetic modification. New biotechnology, 27(5), pp.461–5.
- Government of India. (2016). Net Area Under Irrigation by Sources. Retrieved September 2, 2016, from https://data.gov.in/catalog/net-area-under-irrigation-sources
- McCracken, C., 2012. More of the Untold Story.
- Piesse, J. & Thirtle, C., 2010. Agricultural R&D, technology and productivity. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 365(1554), pp.3035–47.
- Schmitz, A. & Moss, C., 2016. Mechanized Agriculture: Machine Adoption, Farm Size, and Labor Displacement,
- Sivakumar, M., Das, H. & Brunini, O., 2005. Impacts of present and future climate variability and change on agriculture and forestry in the arid and semi-arid tropics. Climatic Change, 71(1-2), pp.31–72.
- Suprem, A., Mahalik, N. & Kim, K., 2013. A review on application of technology systems, standards and interfaces for agriculture and food sector. Computer Standards & Interfaces, 35(4), pp.355–364.
- Viala, E., 2008. Water for food, water for life a comprehensive assessment of water management in agriculture. Irrigation and Drainage Systems, 22(1), pp.127–129.
- Government of India. (2016). Net Area Under Irrigation by Sources. Retrieved September 2, 2016, from https://data.gov.in/catalog/net-area-under-irrigation-sources.