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Background

    In India, out of 142 million ha of arable lands, 60% (5.2 million ha) is rainfed. Karnataka has the second largest area under rainfed agriculture after Rajasthan in the country. Crop yields in dryland areas are quite low (1-1.5 t ha-1) which are lower by two to five folds of the yield from researchers managed plots. Current rainwater use efficiency in dryland agriculture varies between 35-45% and vast potential of rainfed agriculture could be unlocked by using available scientific technologies including improved cultivars. The vast opportunities existing in dryland areas can be harnessed for improving rural livelihoods.

    Government of Karnataka has taken an innovative approach through Sujala-ICRISAT initiative is strongly based on building capacity of the farmers rather than only disseminating new technologies. The initiative which started with 13 watersheds in 2005 was scaled-up to 47 watersheds for demonstrating productivity enhancement measures. ICRISAT has developed stratified soil sampling (20-25%) method to cover watershed on farmer's fields. The learning's from the Sujala-ICRISAT initiative are:

1. The yield gap analysis undertaken by ICRISAT revealed that large yield gap exists for all the major rainfed crops grown in these districts of Karnataka and there is a potential of increasing the productivity by 2 to 3 folds using available technologies in the farmers fields.
2. Knowledge-based entry point activities enhanced the capacity of the farmers to undertake sampling by conducting the Gram sabhas and representative soil samples for 13 nucleus watersheds comprising 410 farmers fields were collected by the farmers.
3. Karnataka soils are not only thirsty are also hungry as 50-90% of the farmers fields are deficient in sulphur, zinc and boron.
4. Soil deficiency results revealed that in the targeted 7 districts, there is no widespread deficiency of potassium, however, wide spread deficiency of nitrogen (31 to 81%), phosphorus (31 to 67%) and available sulfur (79 to 93%), available boron (39 to 91%) and available zinc (32 to 80%) is recorded.
5. Farmers participatory action research are showed increased crop yields upto 345% with sunflower, 230% with ragi, 240% with groundnut, 150% maize, 116% soybean and 27% sorghum.
6. Scaling-up initiative results farmers revealed up to 58% increased crop yields even during the unfavorable year like 2008.
7. Farmers selected improved varieties based on the performance in their fields of different crops such as Ragi, Groundnut, hybrids of maize, and sunflower.
8. Along with improved cultivars, farmers also evaluated suitable land and water management practices to conserve rainwater in the soil.
9. The economic benefits because of improved management practices in case of grain crops vary from Rs. 6300/- per ha in case of finger millet (ragi) to Rs. 21000/- per ha in case of sunflower.
    The proposed initiative to be undertaken by the Government of Karnataka is the path breaking approach for development and inclusive growth through enhanced productivity in dryland agriculture.


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