JSS Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Suttur village of Mysuru district’s Nanjangud taluk was initiated by Sri Shivarathri Deshikendra Mahaswamiji in 1994 to educate farmers in appropriate technology through on-farm testing and demonstrations. It is sponsored by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). We asked if humans can have clinics and hospitals, why not plants? That is how we started a pilot agri-clinic in July 2013. Last year, we opened another in Mysuru City in order to provide services to farmers from the adjoining districts of Chamarajanagar, Mandya, Hassan and Coorg.
Agri-doctors or the technical staff of the KVKs provide diagnostic services free of cost by studying specimens brought by farmers of crop damage which may be due to pest and disease attack or nutrient deficiency. They can buy the prescribed inputs from the KVK’s pharmacies, which stock products after screening them for efficacy and affordability. Retailers of agro-inputs often over-sell to farmers as they may not be qualified or may have an interest in pushing products, even if not appropriate. The intention behind the agri-clinics is to reduce production costs and indiscriminate use of agro-chemicals. They provide comprehensive solutions from micronutrient formulations to quality planting materials and bio-agents.
Nearly 15,000 farmers have visited the agri-clinics in the last three years. That is an average of 16 per day. About 90 percent of them were repeat visitors. The total transaction value was a little less than Rs 99 lakh or Rs 654 per farmer per visit. We reckon that they would have paid much more if they had bought from other retailers.
The KVK has used its own funds; it has not borrowed or taken grants. Nearly 60 percent of products sold are own products such as banana special, vegetable special, vermicompost, seeds and seedlings and fodder cuttings. The rest – neem oil, neem cake, humic acid, and agro chemicals- are obtained on credit from dealers and distributors who are paid monthly or fortnightly. There is a mark-up of 10 percent to cover administrative costs.
Visits peak in October, when paddy, the main crop, bears the brunt of pest and disease attacks.
The KVK has seen a spurt in popularity. The number of visits between April to July this year was close to 3,000, which is way above the annual figures for each of the first two years. The total value of transactions during this period – Rs 23.72 lakh – was also higher even though this period is agriculturally lean. Farmers growing vegetables round the year and summer paddy are visiting the agri-clinics and not just those growing paddy during the kharif season.
The six technical staff of the KVK are on duty at each of the outlets for one day a week on rotation basis. This way they gain hands-on experience and are encouraged to update themselves in areas other than their specializations like agronomy, horticulture, plant protection, soil science, seed technology, animal husbandry and fisheries.
More farmers have started visiting with specimens as they realize the importance of accuracy in diagnosis. They understand the delicate differences between pest, disease and nutrient deficiency.
With staff and farmers becoming familiar with each other, diagnosis is being done on the basis of digital images sent via WhatsApp and prescriptions are made online. This has extended the reach of the KVK staff to farmers in distant places.
(Top photo of a JSS KVK agri-doctor advising a farmer. Courtesy JSS KVK)