IIT Ropar & MIT, USA, collaboration set to make Punjab agricultural practices Safer, Sustainable

Ropar, 27 January 2020 (Yes Punjab News)

By winning the 2020 MIT-Ropar Seed Fund, IIT Ropar has made its way again to touch the lives of the local farmers for the betterment in their agricultural practices.

To bring a solution to this challenge, Chintan Vaishnav, a senior lecturer in the Sloan School of Management, is collaborating with Dr. Parwinder Singh, Psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Ropar.

They will use ethnography-based system dynamics modeling to determine the conditions that would be most supportive to the transition from conventional to organic farming, as well as those that would be most favorable to the farmer.

They will use these data to develop a decision-support tool to assist farmers in effectively making this transition. The research and modeling will focus on the regions of Punjab and Haryana in India where the problem of chemical overuse in agriculture is most acute.

At the close of the project, the team will have a checklist-based advisory that smallholder farmers in India can use to guide their risk perception and actions during their transition from conventional to organic farming.

In another research initiative, Dara Entekhabi, a Professor from the Department of Environmental Engineering from MIT, USA and Dr. Reet Kamal Tiwari, an Assistant Professor from the Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Ropar are developing a remote sensing device that can draw information on vegetation and soil using active and passive microwave systems.

Together, they aim to develop mapping capabilities to map critical variables in agriculture such as vegetation health, growth stage, and soil moisture. The team intends to use this data to monitor food crop yields and perform crop forecasting in advance of harvests that can eventually improve the productivity of smallholder farms, the efficiency of existing agricultural practices, and overall food security in the region.

This grant program, launched in 2019, was developed between the Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab and the Indian Institute of Technology Ropar (IIT Ropar). MIT-IIT Ropar seed fund, awards researchers up to $15000 to support research engagements between MIT and IIT Ropar to develop water and food systems solutions to challenges agricultural sector across India.

Agriculture, soil input, and field management choices made by farmers pose a significant impact on environmental sustainability. In India, 98% of farmers currently follow conventional practices using chemical fertilizers. They remain hesitant to adopt organic farming, despite, its promise of greater sustainability and profitability.

One common assumption is that their reluctance stems from the debilitating consequence of a ’worse – before – better’ scenario, where agricultural yields- and therefore income- decline temporarily during the transition from conventional to organic farming transition, even though organic farmers refute this notion.

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