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Farmer access and differential impacts of zero tillage technology in the subsistence wheat farming systems of West Bengal, India

Author: Krishna, V.
Author: Aravindakshan, S.
Author: Chowdhury, A.
Author: Rudra, B.
Year: 2012
ISBN: 978-607-8263-11-0
Abstract: The present study was carried out with the broad objective of assessing the patterns of adoption and farm profitability potentials of conservation agriculture (CA) in the three northern “disadvantaged districts” of West Bengal, namely Malda, Uttar Dinajpur and Dakshin Dinajpur. The eastern region of the Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) of South Asia, which encompasses the study area, is considered relatively unfavorable for wheat production. Late-sown wheat is grown here, mostly under rain-fed conditions. The per-unit cost of production of wheat in West Bengal is the second highest in India, indicating the prevalence of rather adverse farming conditions. The farmers are extremely resource-constrained and income-poor, with limited market infrastructure for inputs as well as implements. In this background, it is anticipated that the production cost- and labor-saving CA technology, such as zero-tillage (ZT) wheat, would generate significant positive livelihood impacts. Owing largely to the short history of the ZT technology diffusion in this region, its adoption and farm-level impacts are hardly examined. The data source for the present study is a survey among 160 wheat growing households. These farmers were selected, employing a stratified random sampling procedure and household census of 10 purposively selected villages of the aforementioned districts. Both landholding size and technology adoption were employed for the household selection. The details on adoption of ZT technology and the input-output relations in wheat from the winter (rabi) crop of 2009-10 were collected during the personal interviews conducted in May-June 2010. In addition, the secondary data on wheat production and agro-climatic characteristics of the study area were assimilated to provide the necessary background. During the rabi season, wheat occupies about 40% of the cultivated area in the sample villages. Percentage of on-farm use of drills was found ranging from 0 to 85% in the wheat acreage, with partial adoption of the technology being common. Farming was subsistence-oriented and the respondents were resource-poor. The average land-holding of the sample household was 1.05 ha. One-fourth of the respondents practiced leasing-in of land for cultivation. About one-third of farmers were indebted due to crop failure in at least one of the previous three years of survey. An equal share of respondents was also reported to have faced hunger during this period. Even in the face of such economic backwardness, the low productivity of wheat allowed them only a partial dependence on the farm produce for home consumption. Enhancement of wheat productivity through input-saving, yield-enhancing CA-based resource conserving technologies (RCTs) gained social significance in this milieu. Despite the economic potentials of the technology, two major factors were found limiting the wider dissemination of the ZT wheat in the study area: 1. Limited availability of ZT seed drills. Only a small share of the farmers, who are willing to adopt ZT (that constitutes about 90% of the survey respondents), have actually adopted the technology. Scarcity of seed drills is one of the major reasons behind nonadoption and dis-adoption. 2. Lack of information on the working of no-till practice among farmers. About 29% of ZT drill adopters were using the drill as a mere wheat seeding equipment after ploughing the land. Such variant use or partial adoption of this “bundled technology” comes with a significant cost increase, given the high prevailing wage rate for human labor and custom hiring charges for land preparation. Scarcity of quality seeds of system-specific wheat varieties was another major constraint in wheat production in the study area. The major variety found in the farmers’ field was PBW-343, one of the popular wheat varieties developed by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) for the northwest plain zones for timely sown, irrigated conditions. Although this long-duration variety is not highly congenial for the late sown wheat cultivation of West Bengal, about one-third of the sample farmers were found to be adopting this. The varietal adoption is also closely related with adoption of drills. The major source of wheat seeds for the drill adopters is Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK; the grass-root level agricultural training and extension centers) and government extension offices, who are also promoting the wheat. These public sector agencies provide the wheat seeds at a subsidized rate to the potential users of drill as a mechanism to promote the technology. Lack of locally adaptable wheat varieties prompts these agencies to supply “older variety seeds” like PBW-343 and Sonalika. However, it should be noted that in the absence of these public sector agencies, chances of getting quality seeds for farmers would be lower. The supply- and demand-side factors behind access and no-till adoption and the factors determining full/partial adoption of the technology are further examined, employing a multinomial logit model. The model results are summarized as follows: Access to information from public extension is found to be facilitating ZT drill use, but not the no-till practice per se. However, farmer communication networks are found not to be aiding the diffusion of no-till practice. Status of land tenancy, although having no impact on no-till adoption, favors ZT seed drill use against broadcasting of wheat seeds. Cattle ownership enhances tillage adoption, and additional animals owned reduce the chances of following ZT over conventional tillage (CT) by 33%. However, if a cattle owner prefers to use ZT drill, he may go for no-till, and not partial adoption (till + drill). Number of adult members in the household is found positively affecting the ZT drill adoption. However, this variable does not distinguish farmers adopting no-till with those following partial adoption. Education is found to have a significant and positive role in adopting both no-till as well as the drill use as seeding device. The aggregate community/village adoption of drills is found helpful for increasing the chances of resident farmers adopting the no-tillage practice. The total number of wheat farmers in a given village, which indicates competition for the limited number of drills, is found to reduce the chances of drill adoption for an individual farmer. This factor is also found to raise the probability of adopting no-till over partial adoption. Increase in the number of drills per village could overcome this constraint for rapid diffusion of the technology. The impacts of ZT technology were studied using mean-variance analysis and kernel-density function. The no-till farmers are found to save about 12% of the paid-out cost per-acre, even when public-sector assistance/subsidy factor is accounted. There is a significant reduction in family labor use alongside ZT adoption. When the family labor cost is imputed along with the paid-out costs, the cost-savings widens to 19%. Cost of cultivation under partial adoption, using drills with tillage, is higher than that of wheat cultivation under CT, although the difference is statistically insignificant. No significant difference is found in wheat yield in ZT plots. Thus, despite having remarkable cost-saving effects, gross margin effect of ZT technology is less pronounced due to the insignificant mean yield difference. In sum, against the average farm-gate price of Rs. 9.24 (US$ 0.18)1 for 1 kg of wheat grain, Rs. 6.13 (US$ 0.12) was the cost of wheat production under ZT and Rs. 6.00 (US$ 0.11) under CT. The cost of production is Rs. 8.46 (US$ 0.16) and Rs. 8.98 (US$ 0.17) per kg, respectively, when the family labor cost is imputed. However, cultivation of wheat variety PBW-343 is found to be critically limiting the wheat yield. Although the study is based on a single-year observation and the technology assessed is at its early phase of diffusion, it is evident that the existing limitations in the infrastructure and service/extension institutions are found to play a crucial role in defining the success of the CA Program in the subsistence cereal production system of the eastern IGP.
Format: PDF
Language: English
Publisher: CIMMYT
Serie: Socioeconomics Working Paper ; 7
Copyright: CIMMYT manages Intellectual Assets as International Public Goods. The user is free to download, print, store and share this work. In case you want to translate or create any other derivative work and share or distribute such translation/derivative work, please contact indicating the work you want to use and the kind of use you intend; CIMMYT will contact you with the suitable license for that purpose.
Type: Book
Country focus: India
Region: South Asia
Place of Publication: Mexico
Pages: x, 36 pages
Agrovoc: WHEAT

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  • Socioeconomics
    Including topics such as farming systems, markets, impact & targeting, innovations, and GIS

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