From political, retail and consumer perspectives there is a clear push to make all sectors of food production less dependent on conventional chemical crop protection products. Great progress has been made in the use of Biorational products in protected cropping for ornamentals, fruit and vegetables but there remains considerable discrepancy between the political demands and the practical realities at this moment in field crops. The struggle will not be to find new Biorational products, but to make them consistently effective in the field. Biorationals are defined by Certis Europe s ‘registered plant protection products generally derived from the natural environment, offering improved benefits for plants, people and the planet, which are increasingly important factors for Integrated Crop Production to satisfy requirements of the value chain and consumers’. They have mostly no residue issues as the active ingredients are naturally occurring substances degrading rapidly. Because of this feature Biorationals are also used in organic production and form the basis for Integrated Pest Management crop programs. Biorationals are generally nicely compatible with the use of beneficial arthropods as a tool to manage pests, having mostly no impact or minimal impact on pollinators, predators and parasitoids of the most important pests. Importantly they also pose a lower risk than conventional products to workers applying them, to bystanders and to consumers of the end produce. In fact their environmental profile is significantly better overall and a further significant advantage is that there is a low risk of resistance development with Biorational products. Their use is therefore strongly favoured by growers and produce buyers alike.
Launched in January this year, the Maha Agri Tech project seeks to use technology to address various cultivation risks ranging from poor rains to pest attacks, accurately predict crop-wise and area-wise yield and eventually to use this data to inform policy decisions including pricing, warehousing and crop insurance. When farmers in six districts of Maharashtra begin sowing for the coming rabi season, this project will enter its second phase where artificial intelligence and satellite imagery will be used to mitigate risks. Fields of the farmers that are part of the project will be monitored via satellite images at every stage right until the harvest. In its first phase the Maha Agri Tech project used satellite images and analysis from the Maharashtra Remote Sensing Application Centre (MRSAC) and the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) in Hyderabad to assess the acreage and the conditions of select crops in select talukas. In its second phase, various data sets from diverse data providers will be combined to build yield modelling and a geospatial database of soil nutrients, rainfall, moisture stress and other parameters to facilitate location-specific advisories to farmers. Satellite imagery helped analyse the extent of crop destruction in parts of western Maharashtra after the floods this August. Once indicative crop yield prediction and accurate analysis of highly localised soil health/moisture conditions is possible using satellite imagery combined with artificial intelligence, policy decisions and advisories ranging from crop suitability, inventory, crop damage assessment and early season crop forecasts can be based on these.
The 2019 Global Agricultural Productivity Report, "Productivity Growth for Sustainable Diets, and More," released today by Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, shows agricultural productivity growth - increasing output of crops and livestock with existing or fewer inputs - is growing globally at an average annual rate of 1.63 percent. According to the report's Global Agricultural Productivity Index, global agricultural productivity needs to increase at an average annual rate of 1.73 percent to sustainably produce food, feed, fiber, and bioenergy for 10 billion people in 2050. Productivity growth is strong in China and South Asia, but it is slowing in the agricultural powerhouses of North America, Europe, and Latin America. The report calls attention to the alarmingly low levels of productivity growth in low-income countries, where there also are high rates of food insecurity, malnutrition, and rural poverty.