Towards sustainable, productive and profitable agriculture: Case of Rice and Sugarcane

This paper looks at the issue of sustainable agriculture from the point of view of irrigation water use. In doing so, it examines productivity and profitability of two of the most water consuming crops in Indian agriculture, namely rice and sugarcane, which together consume more than 60 percent irrigation water of the country. We look at their productivity not only on per hectare basis but also on per cubic meter of irrigation water applied. Our focus on rice, especially in Punjab, and sugarcane in Maharashtra, brings out “distortions” in cropping patterns that are not in line with the water endowment of these regions. No wonder that they are putting undue pressure on scarce irrigation water supplies, and thus questions are being raised about their sustainability. We hope this research will provoke people to think a little differently about Indian agriculture, and in due course, will promote sustainable agriculture that is also productive and profitable. In carrying out this research we have gained immensely from a number of experts in the field. We express our sincere gratitude to Dr. Vipin Sharma (Former Cane Commissioner, Commissionerate of Sugar, Pune) and Mr. Pandurang Shelke (Former Joint Director (Development) Commissionerate of Sugar, Pune), Mr. Jalinder Pangare (Deputy Director of Agriculture, Maharashtra) and Mr. Abinash Verma (Director General, Indian Sugar Mills Association) for providing us with important statistical data and critical insights necessary for fine tuning our research. We would like to thank Dr. Soman (Senior Vice President (Projects), Jain Irrigation Systems Limited) for his valuable interactions regarding precision agriculture and micro irrigation practices.