Is extension in agriculture needed ?

Dr. Pawan Kumar Sharma, Dr  R K Arora
Extension in agriculture is the dissemination of relevant information and advice to farmers. The first recognized historical instance of agricultural extension is of inscribed advice on watering crops and getting rid of rats during 1800 BC in Iraq.In India, the public expenditure on agricultural extension in sectors, including crops, livestock & fisheries has increased from Rs. 2657.16 million in 1972-73 to Rs. 12822.41 million in 2011-12. What if, this much of amount was distributed directly to the farmers for their development? Critics generally argue the public sector expenditure in agriculture extension due to the absence of its visible effects on ground. Well, now the duty of extension personnel is not only to act as a bridge between the research institute on one side and farmer on the other, but also to showcase their achievements in terms of success stories etc.
The extension of technologies in agriculture is not a simple process as it takes generations to change perception of humans to shift from an age old practice to a new one, involving different kind of set-up. The other major constraint observed,is the execution of agricultural extension over a large area,with a limited number of trained manpower. The number of operational holdings per extension personnel in the state of Jammu & Kashmir is 249, whereas the net cropped area is around 127 ha against 1156 and 1187 ha per extension personnel, respectively at national level.
Acknowledging the importance of farmers and agriculture in the society and economy, the present day government is giving impetus on doubling the farmers’ income. The responsibility for achieving the target  mainly lies with the Krishi Vigyan Kendras in convergence with extension functionaries of state agriculture and departments and they are on right path to do so. The Krishi Vigyan Kendras under the administrative control of SKUAST-Jammu have been functioning for uplifting the economy of farmers in their respective districts with focus on community-based participatory agricultural extension. Farmers Clubs/Self Help Groups are being registered with NABARD and the efforts are in process to promote them to Farmers Producers Organization. The farmers of remote and hilly areas are developed into entrepreneurs in the fields of bee-keeping, mushroom, floriculture, poultry, vermicomposting, ornamental fisheries, piggery and value addition and processing of fruits, vegetables and meat products for realizing overall social benefits for the region.
KVK Kathua  revolutionized rice production in the district by procuring just 1 kg seed of Pusa 1121 in 2011-12 from IARI and at present transforming more than 76% area to highly remunerative Pusa 1121  from earlier grown less profitable coarse varieties of rice. This intervention has yielded more than Rs. 8120 lakhs to the rice growers of the district in the last 7 years. A proud farmer  Manohar Lal of village JangiChak of Hiranagar tehsil, himself revealed that with the increase in income due to this intervention of KVK Kathua, he was able to take his parents for pilgrimage by Air travel. The menace of yellow rust in wheat during 2011-12, brought losses to the farmers,ranging from 10 to 15 q/ha. But after that, KVK Kathua in collaboration with state department succeeded in complete elimination of losses to farmers caused by yellow rust in wheat. Similarly, the efforts of KVK Jammu helped the wheat growers of Jammu district to realize more yield per unit area with an additional yield of 8.8 q/ha resulting in net gain of Rs. 13594/ha to the farmers of Jammu district. The income of the farmers in hilly districts of Rajouri, Reasi, Poonch and Doda is being enhanced by respective KVKs through transformation of more than 80% area from local varieties to hybrid varieties of maize, which is the staple crop of the people in these districts. The significant achievement was the reduction in seed rate of maize to just 20 kg per hectare from 100 kg, practiced earlier by the farmers, thus reducing cost of cultivation by more than Rs. 5600 per hectare in these remote districts of Jammu region.  Sh. BansiLal, a farmer of Poonch district realized maize yield of 110-130 q/ha against the national average of 24 q/haand the state average of 18 q/ha.
The importance of Soil Health Cards is well known in optimizing the use of chemical fertilizers. It is worth an achievement that in J&K, 4.54 lakhs Soil Health Cards have been generated through SHC portal, including 1.50 lakhs in Jammu region.However, their use by farmers has to be ensured for effective nutrient management in different crops. The dissemination of sustainable and profitable agricultural production technologies to last corner of the country is the need of the hour and extension is required for achieving it with reduced cost and higher incomes to the farmers in India.