1 What does the process of soil testing involve?

Ans. Soil testing is divided into four sections - Soil Physics, Soil Chemistry and Fertility, Soil Biology and Environmental Soil Science.

1. Soil Physics tests the geometrical arrangement or pattern of soil components like soil particles, soil aggregates, water, gas and solute in the soil. Equipment such as pressure plate apparatus, sand box, neutron moisture meter, depth density gauge, K-permeameter, rainfall simulator and root scanner are used. Testers come up with recommendations to enhance soil quality like conservation tillage, crop diversification, rainwater harvesting and sequestration.

2. Soil Chemistry consists of testing the chemical characteristics for mineral composition, organic matter, PKN nutrients and Ph levels. Devices such as UV Visible Spectrophotometers, Deep Freezers, Sonicators, microwave digestion units and flame photometers are used. Such studies help in improving efficiency of nutrient cycling, minimizing nutrient losses from soils and improving soil quality for sustained high productivity.

3. Soil Biology - is the study of microbial activity and ecology in the soil of organisms such as earthworms, nematodes, protozoa, fungi and bacteria. Laboratory tools such as laminar flow, BOD incubator and a research microscope with camera and CCTV system are used to view inner layers of the soil. Knowledge of soil biology can help in choosing fertilizers, pesticides and composting systems.

4. Environmental Soil Science - deals with the extent of soil pollution due to city, industrial and agricultural wastes and indiscriminate use of fertilizers for crop production. It develops suitable prescriptions and technologies for safe recycling of these wastes into agriculturally productive soils.

2Where can I purchase fertilizers and pesticides? How do I select the right ones?

Ans. Fertilizers and Pesticides may be purchased through different outlets such as:

1. The manufacturers own depots

2. Marketers, wholesalers and retail dealers

3. Service Centres of State agro industries, corporations and State commodity federations and agricultural extension centres

4. Village level cooperative societies of State Cooperative Marketing Federations and PACS (Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies)

5. Farmer Service centres of National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India or NAFED and Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited or IFFCO

6. Agri-business Centres

Information about the correct combination of fertilizers and doses for particular crops is available with your local area or block agriculture officer. The pesticides you need to buy vary for different crops, pests and regions. Search through our database for recommended pesticides. For any doubts contact the Agricultural Development Officer at the block level or Assistant Agricultural Officer at the village level of your area.

3What are the precautions to be taken while storing paddy?

Ans. Rice is stored in the form of paddy, rough rice, milled raw rice, milled boiled rice, bran and broken grain. These forms of rice may be stored on farms, mills or commercial warehouses depending on what it is needed for. Rice is usually packed into jute bags or in containers made of rope, straw or mud before being stored. Certain varieties of rice have to be stored for around a year before being consumed. Here are some rice storage tips:

1.Rice may turn rancid due to heat, moisture or attacks by insects; therefore it is necessary to see that the warehouse is aerated and free of dampness. The target moisture level for storage of grains is less than 14 percent.

2.Before storing grains, they should be properly dried.

3.Storage rooms and gunny bags should be disinfected to make them rodent and bird free. Spray insecticides like Phostoxin to control small insects and place traps for rats. Rat and damp proof plinths are a useful storage resource.

4 .Inspect the grains regularly for signs of damage and infestation. Common rice pests are rice weevils, khapra beetles, rice moths and Angoumois grain moths.

5. Cover the stock with tarpaulin and fumigants to get rid of insects.

6. To avoid losses through storage, it is recommended that farmers use steel or cement bins or silos and underground storage structures.

7. Cover stacks with specially fabricated polythene covers or phosphine fumigation covers.

8. B.ags of paddy should be placed on an elevated structure. They should not touch the floor or walls. This is done to prevent absorption of moisture and attacks by rats.

4How do I reduce financial risk to my farm from natural disasters like floods or drought?

Ans.The simplest way to reduce the risk of floods or drought for farmers is to take out a crop insurance policy. In India, the Agriculture Insurance Company of India (AIC) is exclusively responsible for implementing the National Agricultural Insurance Scheme or NAIS. The NAIS Scheme covers all farmers including sharecroppers and tenant farmers growing notified crops in notified areas from risk such as natural fire, lightning, storms, cyclones, floods, landslides, droughts, pests and diseases. Three levels of indemnity, viz., 90, 80and 60 per cent corresponding to Low Risk, Medium Risk and High Risk areas shall be available for all crops (cereals, millets, pulses and oilseeds and annual commercial / annual horticultural crops) based on Coefficient of Variation (C.V.) in yield of past 10 years' data.

AIC has other crop insurance schemes such as Varsha Bima , Sukha Suraksha Kavach and Coffee Insurance. This company is also involved in creating and implementing more insurance schemes in agriculture and related fields.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research offers contingency plans to farmers in case of floods or drought in different regions of the country. These advisories, are available for food grains, livestock, horticulture and fisheries sector.

What is the course content of different government farmer training programmes? How is it beneficial?

Ans. The Department of Agriculture of different States is responsible for conducting training programmes for farmers in their region. These programmes teach farmers about the packages of practice for crops in their region as well as enumerate new scientific technologies for production and marketing.

Scientists and field staff of the Agriculture Department conduct training camps at the district level at district headquarters during both seasons - Kharif and Rabi. Other farmer training programmes are held at the block and village levels at shorter intervals of time. These programmes also include field demonstrations of new techniques such as seed treatment against pests, methods of sowing and irrigation.

The Integrated Pest Management programme is one of the major farmer training programmes. Here farmers learn about the safe use of insecticides, economic thresh-hold level of the damage caused by pests and minimum use of pesticides.

Farmers are also given information about the balanced use of fertilizers, manufacturing compost, feeding livestock, new farm machinery, crop harvesting techniques, storage tips, market prices, crop insurance and loans. They are informed about new agriculture related industries like sericulture, aquaculture and floriculture. This new information increases their base of knowledge and leads to an increase in the quality and productivity of crops. That in turn results in higher profits and a better standard of life.

Krishi Vigyan Kendras or KVKs are local level organizations dedicated to teaching skill oriented programmes to farmers, rural youth and women. This is done through the conduction of short and long-term vocational training courses and income generating activities as well as by demonstrating the latest know-how right in the farmers' fields. The KVKs also offers farm information services through exhibitions, written material, field days, farmers' tours, kisan mela, crop seminars, animal relief camps, radio and television programmes, correspondence services, telephone consultancy and helpline services.

5How do I start a Floriculture, Sericulture or Aquaculture business?

Ans. The Ministry of Agriculture.Government of India, in association with NABARD has launched the AgriClinic and AgriBusiness Centre programme to take better farming methods to each and every farmer in India. According to this scheme, agriculture graduates can set up their own AgriClinics or AgriBusiness Centres to offer professional extension services to local farmers. The government also provides business free start up training to graduates in agriculture and allied subjects like horticulture, sericulture, veterinary sciences, forestry, dairy, poultry farming, and fisheries. Those who complete the training can apply for special start-up loans to finance their business.

The main function of these Agribusiness Centres is to advice farmers on crop selection, best farm practices, post-harvest value-added options, key agricultural information, weather forecast, price trends, market news, risk mitigation, crop insurance and farm credit as well as critical sanitary and phytosanitary considerations.

Tips On Starting An Agri Business: 1. The first thing about starting an agriculture business is deciding what you want to produce. Remember, the profits you make depend on the market value of the commodity you choose. The climate, soil, irrigation, fodder and other inputs in your area should suit this commodity.

2. Next, you will need cash to buy seeds, pesticides, land, fertilizer, machinery and other inputs. The government offers a variety of Kisan Credit Cards and financial schemes to help you out with finance. View list of various agricultural loans offered.

3. Hiring farmers and other staff can make the job of farming a lot easier.

4. After, harvesting begins the process of marketing and distribution.

Store your produce carefully and deal with marketing cooperatives and other agencies for good remuneration. 5. If you need any assistance contact the Agribusiness Centre in your area or call the local Kisan Call Centre. This call centre is accessible on a toll free telephone number - 1551 in 21 different languages.

6What is the import duty for different agricultural products?

Ans. Wheat grains have an import duty of 100 per cent; rice has a duty of 80 per cent while the rate for maize is 70 per cent. Grains like rye, barley, oats, buckwheat and canary seed may be imported for free. Soybeans, groundnut, linseed, sunflower seeds, cottonseeds, mustard seeds and the like have an import duty of 35 per cent. Coffee and Tea has a standard duty of 100 per cent. Spices like black pepper, cardamom, chilly and cloves have a duty rate of 70 per cent.

All live agricultural animals for breeding purposes like horses, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry, cows and buffalos and their edible parts have a standard customs duty of 30 percent. Fish, molluscs and crustaceans also have a customs duty of 30 percent. The duty applicable on animal products is - milk - 30 percent, butter - 40 percent, cheese - 40 percent and eggs - 30 percent.

Live trees, plants, bulbs, roots, roses, shrubs and bushes have a customs duty of 10 percent. Cut flowers and mosses for ornamental purposes have an import duty of 60 and 30 percent respectively. Most vegetables, fruits and spices have a customs duty of 30 percent.

Export Duty or Cess for other agricultural products are as follows - Coffee - Rs.2200 per quintal, Black pepper - Rs.5 per kg, skins and leathers - 60 per cent, raw wool - 25 per cent, raw cotton - Rs.2500 per tonne, jute - Rs.150 per tonne, animal feed - Rs.125 per tonne and tea - Rs.5 per kg. More details about the import and export duties, exemptions and clarifications

7What is the difference between ISI Mark and Agmark?

Ans.In 1947, the Central Government founded the Indian Standard Institute or ISI. Its main purpose was to maintain and standardize the quality of different products. In 1986, the ISI was renamed as the Bureau of Indian Standards or BIS. This bureau certifies products for domestic consumer consumption with an 'ISI' mark. BIS has a list of products that affect the health and safety of consumers or are products of mass consumption. These products include items such as packaged water, milk powder, vegetable oils, cement, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders and food colouring. Indian importers and foreign manufacturers of such products are also permitted to use an ISI mark provided their product passes the certification test. View list of Indian standards under mandatory certification.

Only agricultural products may apply for the 'Agmark' certification. The

Directorate of Marketing and Inspection gives this mark to products that pass the grading and certification tests. Agmark is used for agri products that need to be exported as well as for domestic trade. There are varied grading standards for different agricultural commodities like wheat, paddy, pulses, cereals, vegetable oils, fruits, vegetables, noodles, fibre crops, animal products and spices. Products that are certified with an ISI Mark or an Agmark are considered to be of a good quality and standard. More details on grading standards.

8Where do I find the latest agricultural machinery?

Ans. Farm machines and equipment play a pivotal role in crop production, harvesting, transportation, processing and preservation. In 1955, the government established the 'Agricultural Machinery Utilization Training Centre' at Budni, Madhya Pradesh to promote the use of machinery in agriculture. This centre was later renamed the 'Central Farm Machinery Training and Testing Institute'.This institute is involved in testing the latest imported farm machinery and training farmers on their proper use, maintenance and up-keep.

This institute is involved in testing the latest imported farm machinery and training farmers on their proper use, maintenance and upkeep. This institute has acquired international standards in the field of farm machinery training and testing. It is equipped with demonstration-cum-training laboratories for tractors, engines, irrigation pumps, tractor hydraulics, tractor electrical, improved bullock drawn implements and the like. The institute also consists of a museum of tractors, farm machinery and equipment