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Crop Diversification: Way to Improve Farmers’ Livelihood

Crop field

Economy of India is largely dependent on the farming community. As we all are aware that 70% of our economy depends on agriculture sector to raise production level to feed the nation. In this direction, the Green Revolution concept came into existence to enhance our production level a step towards food security. More emphasis was given on cereals crop in cropping system.

The Father of Green Revolution had almost changed the face of agriculture.

The Impact of Green Revolution

In the present scenario too, more emphasis is given to cereal-cereal cropping system, such as rice wheat, pearl millet –wheat, etc. As we started from Green Revolution in 1960’s with a motive to feed nation, but under the passage of time, it also led to several challenges such as deterioration of soil health, degradation of land & water resources, depletion of ground water, increase of soil & water pollution due to excessive use of chemical fertilizer, and changes in climatic condition. The magnitude of insect-pest and disease problem has also been quantified and many more issues arise due to this mono cropping pattern.

Moreover, continuously growing same crop again and again leads to soil exhaustion and also excessive use of unbalanced dose of N & P results in drain of money. More focus on macronutrient in large quantity has led to multi micronutrient deficiencies. The impact of Green Revolution has made us self sufficient in cereal crops cropping system to increase food grain production. Under this critical situation, the concept of crop diversification strongly came out for the specific cropping system particularly cereal – cereal cropping system.

Diversification in the direction of cropping system will help in mitigating many issues or you can say problem related to soil fertility, soil health and soil micro flora and fauna, which are going to be extinct due to large scale use of unbalanced fertilizer.

In the present scenario, farmers are characterized by small land holdings. The average farm size is smaller than 2ha with decline in per capita land holding. So, it is very hard to shift to other cropping pattern. Before green revolution, food security was a big challenge. To fulfill this concept, again crop diversification is needed for nutritional food security, sustained soil, water, flora -fauna atmosphere and generating income possibilities. Now, it is time to made efforts towards diversification of food basket for food with nutritional security.

crop rotation
crop rotation

Concept of diversification

In agriculture, the concept of crop diversification is to bring desirable changes towards existing cropping pattern to meet the demand of cereal pulses, oilseed, fibre, fodder etc. without degrading soil health and other related issues. One more issue came in the account of crop diversification is economic returns from all these farm enterprises with the concept of multiple cropping in small land holding. It implies that use of farm resources in such manner to gain complementary effect on quality and monetary values. In this direction, a farmer growing agriculture crops can also adopt different sectors like dairy, fishers, horticulture, and vegetable crops with value addition of their products, which enhance the economical security.

Need of crop diversification

Area expansion under rice–wheat or mono cropping pattern led to several new challenges like:

  1. Excessive use of ground water leads to depletion.

  2. Deterioration of soil health.

  3. Resistance development in insect pest, disease, and weed flora.

  4. Imbalance/ indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizer.

  5. Pollution of land, water & air (due to burning of crop residue to vacant field for next crop).

  6. Depending on single crop, in case of crop failure leads to economic set back

  7. Poor quality food basket.

  8. Exploitation of soil micro fauna diversity.

Crop diversification may prove to be important in meeting the challenges because of small agriculture land and operational holdings, change in life style (food habit), and population growth rate.

Farmers have to opt this option to gain benefit in terms of economy with the following concepts.

Crops for rotations (Source: YouTube)

Concepts

  1. Increase income on small land holding: At present, 70-80% farmers have land below 2ha. To overcome this, existing cropping pattern must be diversified with high value crop such as maize, pulses, etc. The Government of India has also supported in this direction by announcing that farmers switching to other alternate crops instead of paddy will be paid Rs.7000 per acre incentive to encourage farmers by registering themselves on the portal Mera Pani - Meri Virasat (Source: May 2020, Hindustan times)

  2. Economic Stability: Crop diversification can better tolerate the ups and downs in price of various farm products and it may ensure economic stability of farming product.

  3. Mitigating natural calamities: Sudden adverse weather conditions like erratic rainfall, drought, hail, incidence of insect pest, (eg. white fly incidence in cotton in the year 2020) disease. Under this situation, crop diversification through mixed cropping may be useful.

  4. Balance food demand: Most of the Indian population suffers from malnutrition. Most of the girl children have anemia. Including crops like pulses, oilseed, horticulture, and vegetable crops can improve socio economic status by adding quality to food basket and also improve soil health with the aim of food safety and nutritional security. Government of India is now targeted to increase the area under pulses and oilseeds through NFSM (National Food Security Mission).

  5. Adoption of crop diversification helps in conservation of natural resources like introduction of legume in rice-wheat cropping system, which has the ability to fix atmospheric Nitrogen to help sustain soil fertility. Farmers can also refer to Soil Health Card Scheme.

  6. Some more concepts can also be included in this, such as chick pea and mustard mixed cropping.

To secure the farming community with improved livelihood socio economic status and to raise agriculture-based income, there is a need of crop diversification. It can enable farmers to grow in national & international market by diversifying themselves from mono cropping pattern to diversified cropping pattern to mitigate the risk associated with small land holding farmers, who only depend on agriculture.

About Authors:

Yogita Bali, Gulab Singh, and Meenu - Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Bhiwani, CCS Haryana Agriculture University, Hisar.

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