The scientists — K Hari, D Puthira Prathap, P Murali, A Rameshsundar and B Singaravelu – have received the award in the best research/innovation and adaptation of new technology in water conservation category from Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu. The award carries a cash prize of Rs 2 lakh and a citation.
The scientists have developed a user-friendly SMI device for farmers to assess soil moisture levels while scheduling irrigations and ensuring that they save considerable amounts of water.
“This soil moisture indicator has been designed to indicate the soil moisture status in different types of soil. It works on the principle that electrical conductivity of the soil is directly proportional to soil moisture. When conventional irrigation methods were followed, a sugarcane yield of 55.8 tonnes per acre in a year was obtained, as against 60.4 tonnes per acre in a year by following SMI-driven irrigation scheduling,” said Dr K Hari, principal scientist and principal inventor.
The technology has been evolved through farmer’s participation and the project was closely monitored by the Central Water Commission and Jal Shakti Ministry.
“Initially a prototype of SMI was developed and tested under various levels of soil moisture conditions in Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Cuddalore, Erode and Coimbatore belonging to three agro-climatic zones and a refined version was launched during 2010,” said Dr D Puthira Prathap, principal scientist and co-inventor.
It was found that sugarcane farmers could conserve about 15 per cent of water by using SMI. “Its advantage has been demonstrated in crops such as groundnut, brinjal, coconut, banana, paddy, sesame, black gram, green gram, tomato and mustard besides sugarcane,” Dr Prathap added.
Dr Bakshi Ram, Director of the Institute, highlighted that, with the fast depletion of water resources becoming a serious cause of concern, the widespread use of versatile devices such as SMI would go a long way in achieving the objective of generating sustainable gains to farmers.
Already, twelve firms have been granted license for commercial production.