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Crop Diversification - Way to Welcome Agricultural Sustainability by Mitigating Climatic Changes

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The Indian economy is largely agrarian, with around 55% of the population dependent for their livelihoods on agriculture and allied sectors that generate 15% Gross Value Added (GVA) (GoI, 2017a).  The green revolution that has brought the major increase in crop yield during 1960s and 1970s in developing Asian countries is now showing signs of slow growth in productivity gains. Intensive agriculture practiced without maintain ecological aspects has led to degradation of soil health, decline in availability of freshwater resources and agro-biodiversity (Kesavan and Swaminathan, 2008). The negative impacts of climate changes have been seen to disrupt the balance between food supply and demand by shifting abruptly from its surplus to deficit. The increasing global temperature and water scarcity will fuel to it by effecting crop production. So, managing food security and its sustainable development is one of the biggest challenges in India. Within this framework, crop diversification or crop shift is a new paradigm of sustainable agriculture.

Why Crop Diversification?

Our objectives like natural resources sustainability, ecological balance, output growth, employment generation, risk coverage can be attained through following crop diversification which aims to increase total productivity in terms of quality, quantity and monetary value under specific, diverse agro-climatic situations worldwide.

The major driving forces for crop diversification:

(i) increasing income on small farm holdings, (ii) Minimizing price fluctuation, (iii) Balancing food demand, (iv) Improved fodder production for livestock animals, (v) Conservation of natural resources (soil, water, etc.), (vi) Minimizing environmental pollution and (vii) Decreasing insects, pests, weeds and diseases.

The approaches:

  • Horizontal approach by crop intensification and crop substitution

  • Vertical approaches- include processing, regional branding, packaging etc. to enhance the product value

  • Land use approach through alley cropping, pasture management etc.

  • Water saving approach (dryland agriculture)

  • Varietal diversification (introducing high yielding varieties for maximized profit)

  • Nutrient management through increased cultivation of legume crops,

  • Pest management (intercropping, resistant variety development),

  • Risk reduction by practicing crop rotation.

Climate change resilient practices:

Recent climate changes will have severe negative impacts on crop and milk production by 2050.

The following management practices should be adopted in this regard.

  • Development of drought- and high temperature stress tolerant crops with the help of biotechnology

  • Adopting water and nutrient management practices for more efficient use.

  • Development of high yielding varieties

  • Genetic engineering

crops

Possible outcomes:

(i) Increasing crop yield- that can be obtained by (a) bridging yield gap through reducing water shortage, proper supply and use of inputs and by (b) biotechnological approaches that involve crop and livestock production by enhancing yields, nutritional profile, stress tolerance and crop protection and also GM crops;

(ii) Water resource management- for enhancing farm incomes through adopting irrigation schemes like Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP);

(iii) Focused and better growth on dryland areas- adopting rainwater harvesting and storage;

(iv) Cost reduction- through (a) Smart nutrient management by implementing soil health card programme to all parts of India, (b) Low input agriculture- possible through organic farming, sustainable agriculture and precision farming, (c) Integrated Farming System, (d) Stabilizing income and risk management through mixed farming, sharecropping etc.

So, in short words, crop diversification in agriculture will have a tremendous impact in the uplifting of resource-inadequate farming systems and an overall increase in yield of crops under the impact of climate changes by mainly maintaining the physical and chemical properties of soil through adopting and practicing the above mentioned methods. It will also generate employment opportunities for rural youth around the year for the utmost benefits of the Indian farmers. There are still various constraints for crop diversification like poor basic infrastructure, inadequate post-harvest technologies, very weak agro-based industry etc., but location specific approaches and government policies and strategies for crop diversification need to be approved.

References:

Government of India (GoI) (2017a). Agricultural statistics at a glance 2016. Government of India, Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Directorate of Economics and Statistics.

Kesavan, P.C. and Swaminathan, M.S. (2008).  Strategies and models for agricultural sustainability in developing Asian countries. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B., 363: 877-891.

Authors:

Trisha Sinha and  Rajeswari Das (Ph. Scholar, RPCAU)

Dr. Shailesh Kumar (Assistant Professor, CBS&H, RPCAU, Pusa, Bihar-848125, India

shailesh_agri@yahoo.com)

Dr. A K Singh (Professor, CBS&H, RPCAU, Pusa)

Dr. Sweta Mishra (Associate Professor, COB, SVPUA&T, Meeurt-250110)


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