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Waning interest in public discussions… Tribute Preserving for the future Medical costs hit the roof... Sweet news for TN sugar mills A yen for wastage… Parliament in paralysis... Paytm karo... A friendly business group Should we change the official year? F C Kohli - his concerns all embracing A Grand Finale for SN’s MS centenary at the US… Muffled voices for merit… to the lack of interest on the part of these to focus on original research. This despite the much lower costs of such research in India. The industry which thrived on the protection of a closed economy and the advantage of a vast domestic market, has failed to organise its evolution on healthy lines L&T- the specialty of special purpose vehicles Another Indian music maestro at the UN Build close rapport with business leaders The rise and rise of KCP PC’s preference for professionals Secularism and anti-Hinduism Small units prefers to remain small... 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Nuclear power at the nucleus EVM is tamper-proof Liberal imports idling indigenous capacities Delhi is distant Roaring Ro-Ro facility Delhi Chalo... Online not in line with brick and mortar businesses... How Air-India loses customs... Not just in-laws (and outlaws); they’ve renowned academics at the helm! The rise and fall of Annamalai University Tribute – Manikam Ramaswami He continues the focus on social amelioration An enemy’s enemy is a friend Solar thermal shines… CIPET hqrs to stay at Guindy – for the present? Fortune 500 review A rich pool of talent not utilised…. Fuel for thought Whistle-Stop Tour of Raghuram Rajan Lesson from Chandrababu Naidu Adharma of opposition politics Pharma – overdose of copying TIAM turns a full cycle Cement prices continue to rise… Naidu’s return augurs well for Seemandhra When small is no larger beautiful.. Things happen by accident and not by design... Land reclamation from sea appears cheaper! 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More heat than light Permanent secretariat for TN GIM Music happens Telangana in top gear… Padma Bhushan for A Ramakrishna Convulsions in The Hindu IPL type auction for VCs? Intellectual of rare qualities Moily’s bold thrust …and of a popular trade leader Editor's Notes The Swadeshi Trump Kinetic Karnataka Godspeed, Chief Minister JJ Auto components surge… Noble nonagenarians... Solar, solar everywhere … A think tank for Chennai Mu Sigma – is no more More Shakti to resource mobilisation... S V Raju – a ‘good’ true liberal The balancing act For whom the MIDS bell tolls? Return to king coal for urea... The Jan Dhan bonanza Airlines in India: cost and space A welcome initiative by the judiciary Tatas moving out of urea production... Dr C Rangarajan returns to Chennai The why of tax incentives Kudos to NDTV... The few handicaps... Bihar – Nitish Kumar adopts the Lalu model The ‘Jayanthi Tax.’ Inflation: are we emulating Argentina and Brazil? Vibrant Gujarat This scant respect for Law Why this malaise in medical education? More tributes to GR Which side are you, Montek? London, London Narayan TN accounts for the largest recruits by the IT sector Modi storms Silicon Valley No engine for this car Don’t seem to feel the pulse…
 
Align crops to agro climate endowments…

The six states in mid-west USA are large producers of corn and soybean. Over time these states have expanded production (that touched a peak 361 million tonnes in 2015), taking massive recourse to technology. Universities in this region like Wisconsin-Madison help achieve constant improvements in yields that average around 10,000 kg per acre (in India the average is around 800 kg).  For decades the region has been accounting for massive exports of corn (around 40 million tonnes last year) and corn products. In recent years a sizeable portion of production of corn is used for producing ethanol for powering automobiles. In several states a blend with ethanol has been made mandatory.

In the mid-western states I noticed no great dams, irrigation systems and canals. Seasonal rains of the region are largely found adequate to irrigate the crop. Water has been used so effectively! Combined with precision farming techniques taking liberal recourse to technology, rich harvests have been realised.

The main lesson is the selection of crop that is so perfectly aligned to the agro-climatic conditions. I noticed such an approach in Florida focusing on oranges and in California with its desert-like conditions (just 10 inches of rain a year) flourishing in the production of almonds, grapes and tomatoes (against 38 inches for Tamil Nadu).

For three decades I have been suggesting such a practice for India. Historically, different regions have been raising crops to individual preferences. The desire to be self-sufficient, family-wise and village-wise, resulted in raising crops unmindful of their suitability or economics. Every region producing rice illustrates this. Such an approach was understandable in the era of little cross-country trading in food-grains or little surplus in production over demand. The concept of self-sufficiency at the state level had lost its meaning over four decades ago when the country moved from shortage to surplus in most agricultural products.

In this background one is appalled at the lack of attention to the selection of crops most suited to the agro-climatic endowments of a particular region. The recent widespread drought experienced by several states point to the absurdity of persisting with the cultivation of water-intensive crops in such regions subjected to visitations of drought. Marathwada region in Maharashtra is among the worst hit by drought but it persists with raising the water-intensive sugarcane.

Sugarcane is raised over two lakh hectares in the eight districts of this region. Such a practice is also witnessed in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu that have not been well-endowed with water resources. The practice is sustained by frequent and huge increase in the state-advised price for sugarcane and free power for agriculture in Tamil Nadu. Over the last four decades the price for sugarcane in Tamil Nadu had shot up from Rs 78 per tonne to around Rs 2600 per tonne. With elections around and with an eye on the votes of sugarcane farmers, political parties breezily promise even Rs 4000 per tonne.

For decades a licence for sugar mill is part of political patronage. This is quite evident from the large number of sugar co-operatives led by politicians of different hues in Maharashtra. In Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister M G Ramachandran gifted sugar mill licences to his close friends like G Varadaraj, Palani G Periasamy and S Viswanathan of Seshasayee Group.

Sugarcane is a water guzzler. The country should focus on producing sugar as it did historically in water surplus states like Bihar and UP.

Few states have bothered to tackle effectively the seasonal character of sugar production. Despite the sustained success of utilising bagasse for the production of paper by Tamil Nadu, other states are content to focus on sugar and alcohol. Lack of policy backup by the Centre over four decades has resulted in the neglect of newsprint production in large scale or in utilising molasses for the production of ethanol for powering automobiles.

It is so easy for courts to ban IPL matches in drought – struck Maharashtra; but don’t we need more attention to water use by crops? Like the US? Like Gujarat, states should select crops most suited to their agro-climatic endowments.

 

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