“From just 37 precision levelers during the late 1990s, there are now approximately 25,000 machines available,” said M.L. Jat, CIMMYT senior cropping systems agronomist. According to Jat, the success of precision leveling in Punjab Province accrues to local shops that market the equipment for about US S4,600 – slightly more than one-third of the original cost – and to the flourishing business of local contractors, who buy the equipment and offer farmers leveling services at about US S16 per hour.
Water saving is urgent in northern India, where most groundwater goes for agriculture and studies have shown that excessive pumping could cause the collapse of farming.
“I save 30 percent in diesel costs for irrigation, thanks to precision leveling,” says Baljit Singh, a farmer from Kanoi village, Punjab.
Precision levelers are machines equipped with laser-guided drag buckets to level fields so that irrigation water flows evenly over and into the soil, rather than running off or collecting on uneven land.
Partners and donors
First used in Pakistan, precision leveling was studied and promoted region-wide through joint work by CIMMYT, IRRI and national research programs during 1994-2008 as part of the Rice-Wheat Consortium. Since 2011, CIMMYT in collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) has promoted laser land leveling in the western Indo-Gangetic Plains. Other partners include the Project Directorate of Cropping Systems Research, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agriculture University (CCSHAU), Sardar Vallabh Bhai University of Agriculture and Technology (SVBPUAT), Government of Haryana Department of Agriculture, Government of Punjab Department of Agriculture, Punjab Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies, and manufacturers. Key donors include the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank Group, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).