Agri students help farmers reduce crop loss due to pest attack

Surjit Kumar Dhal, Bhubaneswar, Aug. 28: Kharif paddy crop in 1.28 lakh ha, particularly in western Odisha, was destroyed due to Brown Plant Hopper attack during 2017-18 causing immense loss to farmers.

            The menace returned to haunt the farmers the next year as well, but the damage due to the pest attack was limited to only 10,500 ha drastically reducing the quantum of loss.It was the result of an initiative of the state government to deploy students of the final year B.Sc (Agriculture) students of the Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) who visited 57 blocks which had been affected earlier to interact with the farmers, train them in the methods of applying pesticide and in other agricultural procedures which made the turn around possible.

            The decision to send out the agri students to the fields to teach and guide the farmers as well as send the feed back to the government had worked wonders, Dr. M.Muthukumar, state’s Director, Agriculture and Food Production, said on Wednesday. “It has been a great achievement for the students and the government,” he said while speaking at the training session of the second batch of ‘Krushi Unnat Sahjogi’ (Agricultural Development Associates) at the SOA Deemed to be University here.

The training programme was attended by final year B.Sc. (Agriculture) students from SOA and Centurion University who would visit identified blocks of the state for a period of two months from September 1 next to interact with farmers and send their feedback to the agriculture and farmers’ empowerment department from the field.

            “This year around 490 agriculture students will get involved in the programme which will be part of their innovative two-month internship,” Dr. Muthukumar said adding Odisha was the first state in the country to provide opportunity to agriculture students for such internship implement such an innovative programme. The students would be provided mobile apps to keep in touch with the officials of the agriculture and farmers’ empowerment department and send their feedback during the two month internship, he said.“Your feedback is of great importance for the government as it would go a long way in framing policies for agriculture and the farming community,” he said.

            Prof. Amit Banerjee, Vice-Chancellor of SOA Deemed to be University, Dr. Laxmidhar Swain representing Centurion University, Mr. Bijoy Bhushan Patnaik, Deputy Director (Plant Protection) of the Agriculture department and Dr. Bijoy Kumar Sahu, Dean of Institute of Agricultural Sciences, SOA’s faculty of agriculture, also addressed the gathering.Dr. Muthukumar said the students being deputed to the fields would provide a plethora of information about the ground situation so that change in policy could be effected at the right time. “The area under cotton is increasing in Odisha and the government needs feedback from knowledgeable and skilled students,” he said. During the two month period, the students would make the farmers familiar in several areas including safe usage of pesticides, pest surveillance, fertilizer availability, cotton cultivation, marketing of product and the various government programmes for farmers, he said. Prof. Banerjee told the students that they should feel privileged as they would be part of governance as associates of the government which itself was a huge task.

            Pointing out that agriculture was the backbone of the country, he said the agriculture students had the responsibility to strengthen farming by empowering farmers who repeatedly faced the ravages of nature.SOA, Prof. Banerjee said, had been able to help farmers by correctly predicting about possible thunderstorms and lightning in different parts of the state through its Centre for Environment and Climate (CEC), a research centre, set up by the university. This, he said, had considerably reduced the number of deaths caused by lightning.

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