The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) plans to launch a nationwide project in April for augmenting the productivity of lead crops/activities through sustainable agricultural practices.

On a pilot basis, 20 to 30 villages in each State will be covered. Sources in the NABARD say the process of identifying villages in Tamil Nadu is yet to be finalised.

The objective of the project is to augment productivity of the lead crops/activities through adoption of appropriate technologies, which will result in increased income to farmers. The project will focus on 3-4 lead crops/activities such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, vegetables, fruit crops and dairy.

In the selected villages, all the schemes of the Central and State governments besides those of the Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK), Commodity Boards and NABARD would be converged to the extent possible.

The Project Facilitating Agency (PFA) could be institutions such as agricultural universities, regional training centres, KVKs, federations of farmers’ clubs, or non-governmental organisations specialising in the farm sector.

NABARD would provide need-based support either as grant or loan for the different components of the project, according to the State Focus Paper prepared it for Tamil Nadu for 2010-2011.

Talking of the State’s production and productivity, the NABARD’s document states that the production of food grains – paddy (rice), millets and pulses – recorded a decrease of 16.81 lakh tonnes or 20.3 per cent during 2007-2008 against the previous year’s performance.

The State’s production went down from 82.62 lakh tonnes in 2006-2007 to 65.82 lakh tonnes in 2007-08.

Productivity of rice, a major constituent accounting for 77 per cent of the total food grain production in the State, declined from 3,423 kg per hectare in 2006-07 to 2817 kg/ha in 2007-2008.

Officials of the State Agriculture Department explain that heavy rains in December 2007 and March 2008 adversely affected the production and thus, productivity. Pulses, representing nearly one-fifths of the food grains, also experienced a fall in its production by 36 per cent. The yield went down from 541 kg/ha in 2006-2007 to 303 kg/ha the next year.

Only millets escaped the wrath of the nature. Production of the crop, which is not considered season-specific, remained more or less the same at about 13.6 lakh tonnes in the two years.

According to the NABARD document, the provisional figures of production of rice, millets and pulses during 2008-2009 were 64.61 lakh tonnes, 21.95 lakh tonnes and 4.6 lakh tonnes. The figures of yield for the three crops were 2,817 kg/ha, 2,571 kg/ha and 303 kg/ha. The average yield of food grains was 2,125 kg/ha.