In a scientific approach for increasing the yield of small and marginal farmers double fold, the State Agriculture Department officials have prepared a comprehensive plan for implementation in a phased manner.

As a first and foremost step, the officials have proposed to make soil test mandatory. By analysing the major and minor nutrients, such as the percentage of nitrogen and phosphorous contents among others available in the soil, the officials would suggest the best possible crop that could be grown.

This advice would be helpful to the farmers to change the crop pattern and subsequently they would be recommended to use available technology for higher productivity.

In the wake of shortage of farm labourers and rising costs, the government had ventured into some better alternatives. At a recent “scientific workers' conference” held in Coimbatore, addressed by Commissioner (Agriculture) Sandeep Saxena, the officials were instructed to take a series of steps in their respective districts. Some of the officials, who attended the meeting, told The Hindu here on Tuesday that they had started gathering basic details about small and marginal farmers in their respective regions.

For instance, in Madurai district, officials said that there are three lakh such farmers. It is targeted to create a data base of one-third of the farmers (about one lakh) and collect soil details of at least 50 per cent (about 1.50 lakh) by the end of this fiscal. Every farmer would be issued a “fertility index card” on payment of Rs. 20 which would have information such as name of the farmer, the district/block/taluk/village et al he/she belonged to. A code number would be given as an identity to the card holder for instant reference.

Prior to the issuance of the card, the farmers' would have to fill in details like irrigation source, present crop of cultivation, techniques used, yield particulars, machinery used and income details from the harvest.

It is proposed to issue GPS-linked personal digital handsets to field staff in the rank of assistant agriculture officers. During their visit, complaints of urea shortage, pest in crop or any other disease experienced by individual farmers would be communicated through the handset, which would get recorded at various levels of the administration for effective follow up, officials said. Based on the identity cards, the farmer's grievances would be addressed. Suggestions on quantum of fertilizers and change of crop would also be rendered at the spot at different stages of cultivation.

Assistant Director (Madurai East Block) S. Kanagaraj said that in their block there are 16,097 small and marginal farmers.

As per the government's plan, they are in the process of collecting data from 5,346 farmers (one-third) and soil tests from 8,000 farmers by this fiscal. “We conducted a campaign at Varichiyur in which the farmers were taught how to collect soil sample for test. By digging a pit in “V” shape for six inches, they should bring 500 grams of soil in a dry polythene bag. There was a good response,” he added.

More In: Madurai