Scope and role of Agricultural Engineering in Soil and Water conservation department

Soil and water are the most crucial natural resources required to maintain life, yet they are the most neglected and overexploited. "Since soil gives dignity to all life, it deserves dignity." This encourages everyone to honour and respect natural resources in order to ensure future prosperity and sustenance. Natural resource management is critical for preserving diverse ecosystem services and meeting the aims of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Soil erosion caused by water is the most common kind of land degradation, resulting in soil nutrient loss, crop yield decline, increased recurrence of floods/droughts, and biodiversity loss, in addition to C-emission issues. The loss of top soil and dwindling water resources has major ramifications for the country's food security and environmental quality. Because soil is a non-renewable resource and the foundation for 97% of all food production, initiatives to minimise soil depletion are crucial for long-term development. 

The Indian National Agriculture Policy anticipates a 4% annual growth rate to reach a target of 377 million tonnes of food grain output by 2050. However, the rapid depletion of our finite land and water resources is leading in a loss of food, fodder, fibre, and fuel-wood production potential, as well as compromising the livelihood and environmental security of millions of people. Soil erosion by water is the most serious form of land degradation, resulting in crop productivity losses of 0.2-10.9 q/ha (66% total production loss) for cereals, 0.1-6.3 q/ha (21% total production loss) for oilseeds, and 0.04-4.4 q/ha (13% total production loss) for pulses, which has a direct impact on the country's food security. According to ICAR reports the average top soil erosion during the cropping period is 44MT/Ha/year and it could be as high as over 100MT/Ha/year. The havoc of these atrocities is resulting to flood, stream bank erosion and sedimentation in the downstream causing serious damage to valuable forest and agricultural land. 

The Nagaland State is confronted with a situation in which only soil has to be conserved but a sustainable infrastructural development that can give modification or alternative to shifting cultivation needs to be evolved to enable people to produce sufficient food grain for their sustenance, growth and wellbeing in addition to conservation of ecology and environment. One of the surest of achieving these objectives are to accept the land development with terracing in the hilly slopes, land development in rolling terrain by using heavy machineries and organic manures application of the developed areas for permanent cultivation of crops. 

With the rapid developments in GIS, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), Internet of Things, drone technology and remote sensing the difficulty in conducting topographical survey, acquiring soil data, and real time data of crop can be well handled and monitored thus minimizing the cost of manual/ traditional method of survey and attaining a sustainable, productive and profitable agricultural development. 

In this regard the highlight role of Agriculture Engineering which is about automation and technology for agriculture practices such as, food processing, technology in food production, agriculture process, machinery, etc. and in particular to Soil and Water conservation which is elucidated under: 

1. Soil erosion & Water/ Moisture conservation: Soil erosion is a very common natural process, especially in hilly terrain like Nagaland. Soil erosion control/mitigation/rejuvenation is essential to maintain and retain the soil fertility from being washed away, which thereby maintain crop productivity as well as reduces the sedimentation in streams and reservoir. Different methods of erosion controls like structural or non-structural engineering measures are directly handled and studied by Agricultural Engineering professionals. Different methods and application of in-situ and surface water conservation are major areas for Agricultural Engineers. It may be mentioned, that some of the water conservation practices and methods studied/familiarized are modified tillage and crop management practices including natural and artificial mulching techniques, level bench terracing, bonding, contouring, farm ponds, water harvesting Structure and other physical means of retaining precipitation on the land and reducing evaporative losses from the soil surface. 

2. Water Resources: Flood Water is one of the main natural resources which mankind depends on for a lively hood for all living, Agriculture and other activities. It is very important for the planning and management of this limited resource to be efficient and effective use. In agriculture, different Irrigation method is implemented for different projects which are only handled by Agricultural Engineering Professionals. Irrigation channel designs are based on the crop water requirement of the place which is usually designed by Agricultural Engineer. 

3. Meteorology: The availability of water, management, and planning in correlation with environmental and climatological factors are important issues for agricultural practices. For all this, Hydrological analysis of climatic factors is key input/technical know-how for proper planning of agriculture, soil conservation, and future crop decision which is one of the main areas for Agriculture Engineers. Apart from this, Agriculture Engineers are also involved in Flood control programs on agricultural lands for Agricultural drainage, irrigation, stream bank erosion, land clearing, and storage of water in small reservoirs. 

4. Soil survey and land use planning: Survey and Levelling of agricultural Land or any other agricultural project, which is a core subject of Agricultural Engineering, is one of the basic requirements for proper planning, management, and efficient delivery of the project outcome. 

5. Remote sensing and GIS application in natural resources management: In the modern era, Remote sensing and GIS applications is one of the emerging technologies applied in the management of land and water resources, Agriculture etc. Aerial photographs and remote sensing techniques are useful in obtaining information for planning watershed management projects. Agricultural engineers are well equipped with projects relating to natural resources management which covers a wide range of studies like topography, land use/ land cover, soil types, land slope, geomorphology, geology with the help of software’s like ArcGIS, ERDAS Imagine, Landsat etc. 

Therefore, it becomes an important field of study to utilize the resources consciously in a manner that harmonized the nature with application of technology methods. With a thriving Agricultural Engineering in our state, where new aspiring undergrads and graduates are enthused about bringing technology to agriculture and so enhancing the livelihoods of many people in the agricultural sector. However, it is disheartening to note that the Agricultural Engineering graduate is not given an adequate opportunity in terms of job opportunities, and as a result, we have seen degradation or regression in the performance of incumbent employees in the field of agriculture without a specialist course, particularly where the assigned work requires knowledge of technology. 

It is also worth noting that other states, such as Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Assam, give preference and reservation to B.Tech in Agricultural Engineering graduates/professionals, particularly in the Soil and Water Conservation Department, because it requires the most intervention of engineering and technology methods, which are difficult to handle by non-agricultural engineering professionals. 

As a result, we urged the authority to reciprocate the same reservation or preference in technical jobs as other states by reserving 50% of seats only to the B.Tech in Agricultural Engineering or by giving preferences to the graduate of B.Tech in Agricultural Engineering, thereby upholding the interest of the aspiring candidate as an Agricultural Engineer has a major responsibility in helping to meet various problems through the development and application of practices that reduces the unnecessary losses in storage, transmission and application; and thus provide a higher percentage of the water for actual use by the irrigated crop thereof.

Issued by Agricultural Engineering Graduates Association of Nagaland