In the research set-up, the agricultural information service is unique trial-based ‘seed-to-seed’ information delivered to farmers in their own farms by our specially trained and qualified extension advisors. The following are the key features of our DATES information service:
1. The agricultural extension advisor make visits to the fields of selected treatment farmers on a bi-monthly basis throughout the crop cycle. Each advisor is equipped with a unique IT/web-enabled handheld device – a tablet. These tablets contain a range of agricultural information with audio and video (animation of pest and diseases) that provides both written and spoken information in the local language. It also provides real time connectivity with the agricultural scientist in the local Agricultural Universities for help with new and undiagnosed pests and diseases.
2. The intervention provides wide-ranging information to farmers which are relevant for his business. The extension advisors visit the farms with the tablet that contains three main agricultural-based modules, such as: (i) nutrient management; (ii) plant protection; and (iii) crop agronomy. And, (iv) the DATES also covered information provision about agricultural credit such as government agricultural credit schemes, crop loans from banks and agricultural insurance information such as available government crop insurance schemes. .
3. In the nutrient management module, information on crop nutrition and soil nutrition is provided. In the initial stages of the intervention in 2013, majority of the farmers have had already applied fertilizer in their field. Hence, we had to wait until the end of the Kharif season to collect soil sample to test and advise the farmers on the nutritional requirements of their soil . For plant protection field issues, we used IT enabled interactive programme, named e-SAP (Electronic Solutions Against Agricultural Pests) that provide information to farmers in real time on pest-related problems on all the crops grown by our treatment farmers . The third module agronomy encompasses information on crop rotation, plant variety, irrigation and drainage, meteorology, and weed control.
4. Although, seven field crops are identified as the focus crop for the treatment in the study: Paddy, Ragi, Cotton, Redgram, Bengal gram, and Sunflower, we found during the field experience that there has been demand for information on various other field crops such as groundnut, pigeon pea, chili, sugarcane etc. For example, some selected farmers in the project sites: Siruguppa and Gubbi, cultivate groundnut and require information on that crop. Although we do not study the impact of DATES on all crops that a farmer grows, the project provided other demand based information.
5. If there is a problem in the crop, the extension agents will first try to diagnose it with the help of material in the tablet. Along with the diagnosis, the agents also suggest remedial actions with a paper printout of each prescription to the relevant treatment farmers. However, if he was not sure about the problem then he takes three photographs of the affected crop parts and field conditions from different angles and submits to the online server. The scientist at the back-end takes care of the issues. The solutions are uploaded in the server and the agent further communicates it to the farmer.
Thus, DATES is a complete ‘seed-to-seed’ treatment that fosters conditions for inclusive productivity growth with the provision of real-time information on agricultural technology, solution and communication. It provides combination of interventions, including better technical advice on production process, especially on the use of variable inputs (including water), with the objectives of increasing the efficiency of the methods of production, encouraging the adoption of new technologies and providing integrated agricultural information service to monitor plant health.