21 March 2016 Current Affairs GK: Farmers often struggle for basic information like weather updates, crop prices and expert advice, ending up often relying on hearsays.A new mobile app—Kisan Suvidha—launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will prove helpful for farmers in this regard but they must own a smartphone.The app is likely to have many takers as India is second largest smartphone market in the world with 87 million mobile Internet users in rural areas.The app has a simple interface and provides information on five critical parameters—weather, input dealers, market price, plant protection and expert advisories. An additional tab directly connects the farmer with the Kisan call centre where technical graduates answer their queries.The design is simple and neat.To begin with, a farmer has to register the mobile number, choose a language—at present limited to Hindi and English—and enter details of the state, district and block or sub-district.A tap on the weather button shows details of temperature, humidity, wind and rainfall for the current day and the forecast for the next five days. Additionally, a farmer can get extreme weather alerts like hailstorms or unseasonal rains—a useful tool for farmers. For instance, after harvesting, farmers often leave their cereal crops in the field to dry. Prior information on freak rains can help them save their crop.The market price button shows latest price of all crops traded in a mandi or registered agriculture market of the particular district a farmer belongs to. Additionally, he gets to see the maximum price in the district, state and the entire country on a particular day.For small farmers, who often sell their produce to local traders, this could be an important bargaining tool. Also, farmers can decide on whether to take their produce to the mandi or delay it based on information on current prices.Other information points are useful too. The plant protection button gives pest, weed and disease-related information as well as management practices for each stage of crop development—from nursery to harvesting. A farmer from, say Ganganagar district in Rajasthan, can scan the information for all major crops grown in the district like mustard, wheat and vegetables.The agro advisory section shows messages for farmers from district agriculture officials and state universities in their local language. These primarily deal with crop management practices based on the prevailing situation, say a remedy for a widespread pest attack or imminent showers.Farmers can also access names and mobile numbers of input dealers selling pesticides, seeds, fertiliser and machinery. This is a handy tool—farmers can now make a call and compare prices and availability before they actually head out to purchase these inputs.The agriculture ministry, which developed the app, describes it as an “omnibus for quick and relevant information”. Adding more local languages will take it a step further.