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Crop Diversification

  • 10 Feb 2022
  • 7 min read

For Prelims: Crop Diversification, Agroforestry

For Mains: Crop Diversification and its benefits, Need to practice Crop Diversification.

Why in News?

In the annual Economic Survey, the Department of Economic Affairs said that there is an urgent need for Crop Diversification in view of the severe water stress in areas where paddy, wheat and sugarcane are grown as well as to increase oil seed production and reduce dependency on imports of cooking oil.

What is it?

  • Crop diversification refers to the addition of new crops or cropping systems to agricultural production on a particular farm taking into account the different returns from value-added crops with complementary marketing opportunities.
    • Cropping System: It refers to the crops, crop sequences and management techniques used on a particular agricultural field over a period of years.
    • Types: Major cropping systems in India are sequential-cropping, monocropping, intercropping, relay Cropping, mixed-cropping and alley cropping.
  • Many farmers also use the mixed crop-livestock system to increase their standards of living and income.
    • Animal husbandry or Animal Agriculture is the branch of science dealing with the practice of breeding, farming and care of farm animals (livestocks) such as cattle, dogs, sheep and horses by humans for advantages.
    • It refers to livestock raising and selective breeding. It is a branch of agriculture.

What is the Need for Crop Diversification?

  • Adversities and Climatic Vagaries:
    • A farmer may confront a series of adversities and climatic vagaries during agricultural production, such as erratic rainfall, stone hail, drought, flood, and so on.
    • In addition, challenges like post-harvest losses, storage and unavailability of accessible proper marketing are further aggravating the problem.
      • Currently, the human-wildlife and / or human-crops conflict, forest fires, organic matter deficit soil, monoculture, plant disease and infestation, migration and the reluctance of youth towards agriculture are a new array of problems.
  • Problems in Maintaining Input Cost:
    • For more than five decades, Indian agriculture has been facing severe problems related to an increase in input cost to increase productivity.
    • However, the productivity proportional to input maintains for a certain time before plateauing and then progressively declines in many cases.
  • Following Same Pattern extract Specific Nutrients from the Soil:
    • Farmers have been using the common government-promoted Green Revolution cropping pattern — rice-wheat-rice for a longer time to enhance productivity.
    • Unilaterally, following the same cropping pattern for a longer period of time has extracted the specific nutrients from the soil, resulting in soil deficiency in those nutrients along with a declined population of microfauna in the soil.
      • The microfaunal population is responsible for the mobilisation and absorption of particular nutrients in the crop rhizosphere.
      • Reduction of the microfaunal population in the soil is a serious issue because without microfaunal activities, the soil is lost to self-perpetuate and its ecology for crop production.
    • The mono-cropping pattern also reduces resource-use efficiency.
    • Furthermore, mono-cropping patterns have more chances to be attacked by the same types of insects and pests, which in turn are controlled by pumping the insecticides and pesticides.

What is Agroforestry and its role in Sustaining Crop Diversification?

  • About:
    • It is a part of primitive and tribal agriculture nourished with indigenous technical knowledge.
    • Agroforestry is a land-use system that includes trees, crops and / or livestock in a spatial and temporal manner, balancing both ecological and economic interactions of biotic and abiotic components. It harnesses the complementarity between trees and crops for efficient utilisation of available resources.
    • Agroforestry is practiced for diversification around the world in different spheres of biological, ecological, economical and sociological considerations.
      • In North America, for instance, farmers preferred agroforestry over agriculture to improve their economic gain and natural resource conservation.
      • In Europe, agroforestry trees are dominated by oaks, pines, junipers and firs. In Australia, Pinus radiata and Eucalyptus globulus while in the African continent, coffee, cocoa, coconut, oil palm, and rubber are common agroforestry trees on farms.
      • The home gardens of the southern part of India are a classic example of maintaining temporal and spatial arrangement for crop diversity, with trees resulting in sustainable productivity from the unit area.
  • Role in Sustaining Crop Diversification:
    • Agroforestry can generate food, feed, fruits, fibre, fuel, fodder, fish, flavour, fragrance, floss, gum and resins as well as other non-wood products for food and nutritional security. It can also support livelihoods and promote productive, resilient agricultural environments in all ecologies.
    • Agroforestry contributes to a multifunctional production system which enhances biodiversity due to the creation of diverse habitat for macro- and micro-organisms and maintaining landforms for future generations.
    • It provides opportunities to integrate traditionally grown crops, with other commercial crops such as cereals, oilseeds, pulses, vegetables, fruits in agrihorticulture, hortisilviculture, silvolericulture, silvofloriculture, silvimedicinal, agrihortisilviculture, aquaforestry, silvipasture, hortipasture.

Way Forward

  • Although there are challenges which can not be ignored, crop diversification provides an opportunity to double farmers income and create food security for the nation.
  • Therefore, the government must promote crop diversification by purchasing crops produced other than wheat and rice at Minimum Support Price. This could also help conserve the dwindling supply of underground water.
  • Agricultural emissions can also be limited through smarter livestock handling, technology-enabled monitoring of fertilizer application, simple changes in field layout and other, more efficient agricultural techniques.

Source: DTE

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