How to Cut Down Input Costs Without Sacrificing Yield
Input cost is one of the major costs in Agriculture. Since inputs are the basis of the production, we can’t completely get rid of input cost. But we can reduce the input cost up to a tolerable level while saving the yield. Seeds/planting materials, fertilizers, pesticides, water, soil amendments, and farming equipment are considered as Agricultural inputs. Out of them Seeds/planting materials, fertilizers, pesticides, and water are the essential and basic inputs for plant growth and they directly affect the crop yield.
We can reduce the input cost according to two major principles as,
Reduce the input amount
Increase the input use efficiency
By these two methods, we can either minimize/stop the yield reduction or increase the yield per unit area.
Reduce the Input Amount
The seed/ planting material of a crop is a very important component in crop production. Because it is one of the major determinants of crop growth and it ultimately determines the crop yield. So it is important to use the correct seed rate and the correct number of planting materials. It has been found that lower seed rates give a higher yield than higher seed rates. When overpowering the seed rate unnecessarily, it leads the plant populations to grow very close. That means too high a seed rate results in higher plant densities which cause high competition among plants for resources and finally, it reduces the growth performances. So practicing seedling cultivation methods, row seeding/row planting, and nursery management like methods can reduce the seeds and planting material requirement. Also broadcasting like methods can be avoided because it requires very high seed rates and it wastes a higher amount of money unnecessarily.
Fertilizers provide nutrients for plant growth when planting medium unable to fulfill the plant nutrient requirements. But over-application of fertilizers causes environmental pollution (especially groundwater pollution) and nutrient toxicities to plants. Ultimately it affects the cost of production adversely. So strictly following government recommendation and site-specific fertilizer application reduce the unnecessary fertilizer usage and it also increases the growth and yield performances.
Pesticides are also important in crop productions because sometimes pest attacks can cause severe yield reductions. If we don’t maintain the pest population in our field below the Economic Injury Level (EIL), the yield reduction is severe and it will become economically non-profitable because the cost of pest control will suppress the profit. By adapting to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, we will be able to control the pest population while minimizing the chemical pesticide usage because the chemical application is the last option in controlling pests according to the IPM procedure. Pesticide application is one of the highest cost factors in crop cultivation. So IPM practices will help you to reduce that cost. Also, the correct identification of pests is also really important because false identifications may cause unnecessary expenses without any positive results.
Water management is one of the crucial factors that highly affect crop yield. Too much application of water leads to the high cost of production, soil erosion, and soil nutrient loss. Since water is an essential parameter for crop growth we must supply enough water amounts. So how can we reduce the amount of water input? For that, we can adjust to micro-irrigation practices (Drip irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, misting, etc.) rather than using macro/surface irrigation methods (Flooding and furrow irrigation). Although micro-irrigation requires a somewhat higher initial investment, the time benefits of micro-irrigation will go beyond its initial cost. Micro-irrigation practices reduce water use by a large amount than conventional methods. For example, drip irrigation reduces water use by more than 70-80% as compared to conventional irrigation methods. So it reduces the cost of water application
Labors are also an important input in Indian Agriculture. Labor scarcity is not a problem in India at all. So we don’t need to reduce the number of laborers but have to increase the labor performance.
Increase Input use efficiency
When considering seed performance, we don’t need to spend our money on seeds that don’t show a better performance in the field. For example, it’s a waste of money to spend on non-germinable seeds, highly pest and disease susceptible seeds and plants obtain from them, etc. To spend our money in a profitable way, always we can use certified seeds from a certified agency or institute, which gives the maximum yield and profit per unit of our valuable money.
Fertilizer Use Efficiency (FUE) is a very popular topic today because over usage of fertilizer has been recognized as one of the major reasons for globalization and it also leads to environmental problems such as eutrophication. It is really important to increase the FUE to reduce the fertilizer cost and to increase the yield at the same time. Here we have to consider both agronomic (Nutrient uptake) and physiological efficiencies (Nutrient usage inside the plant). Site-specific fertilizer management is one of the best approaches to increase fertilizer use efficiency. Here we apply fertilizer according to the 4R concept. Accordingly, the fertilizer is applied at the Right Time, at the Right rate, by the Right source, and to the Right Place. Crop rotation will also be a good option to reduce some nutrient requirements. As an example, If we cultivate a legume crop for one season, for the next season you can cultivate another crop that belongs to another family under very low nitrogen fertilizer usage because legumes fix atmospheric N in the soil.
To reduce pesticide usage, IPM is the best approach to be implemented. This is the most effective and cost-efficient method of pest management. Pesticide application is the last approach in an IPM program and pesticide use only if all other approaches failed or only if the pest population is very large. Then pesticide application will be more effective and the control will be long-term. Since pesticides are used only if need, it reduces the amount of pesticide usage throughout the crop growing period. So it helps to reduce the pesticide cost. Correct identification of pests and diseases helps to select the most suitable pesticide or fungicide without wasting money.
Improvement of the Water Use Efficiency (WUE) is a must in Agricultural fields in order to obtain higher yield. In India, this may be the most important aspect to be considered. Since India is a tropical country located near to the equator, there are some parts of India which have a very high atmospheric temperature. Water evaporation during day time is very high in those areas. So it is essential to have a mechanism to save water and increase the WUE in the field. Although 61% of farmers use surface water to irrigate their fields, it is the most vulnerable water source to water loss mechanisms such as leaching, evaporation, run-off, etc. So to increase the WUE in the field, we can adapt to some water-saving mechanisms such as optimum cropping density, regular inspection, and maintenance of waterways, use of cover crops, mulching, cultivating plants with less water requirement, incorporation of organic matter to the field, and use of micro-irrigation practices.
Good maintenance of farm machinery, equipment, and farm equipment you do not have to buy new things every year for every growing season. The cost of purchasing farm machinery is limited to the first year of your cultivation. Also, using one multi-purpose tool, such as combine harvesters, reduces the money we spend on multiple tools.
To increase the labor performance, you need to give an appropriate salary for their work and do the labor-management humanely. Also, a safe and happy working environment increases the performances of laborers. You have to admire your labors every time because they are a reason for your success.
Proper input use efficiency and precise input management help you to reduce the input cost without sacrificing your yield.