Crop Diversification

In the successive years of green revolution when food security was fulfilled at national level due to stupendous efforts of ICAR, the emphasis of agricultural scientists has been put on implementation of crop diversification. This was advocated to the farmers for two main reasons.

First, the prices of food grains like rice and wheat were not encouraging and farmers ended up with very low net returns even during years of bumper production. By concentrating on other crops like cotton, chilli and sunflower the farmers were encouraged to earn higher profits. Second, the productivity of rice and wheat was poor in some regions like uplands and dry lands due to high moisture stress sensitivity of these crops. Hence by encouraging farmers to diversify to oil seeds and pulse crops and high value medicinal plants which require less quantity of irrigation compared to that of field crops, they would certainly get higher profits.

The trend of temporal change in area share of the crops in India revealed that the area under cereals (expressed in percentage of gross cropped area) has been found to be declined from 56.53 in 1991 to 51.74 in 2008 (Table 1).

All India temporal change (5) in the area share of main crop and crop groups, 1991 to 2008

Area (million hectares)
Crop TE 1991 TE 2008
Cereals 103.68 99.01
Pulses 23.74 22.71
Oil Seeds 24.2 26.97
Fruits 3.09 5.54
Vegetables 5.17 7.48
Spices 2.26 2.47
Gross Cropped Area 183.42 191.36

Similarly, the area under pulses has also come down from 23.74 in 1991 to 22.77 in 2008 making the area under food grains decline. The area under oil seeds during the same time period has enhanced from 24.2 million hectares to 26.97 million hectares. An increase in proportion of area under fruits, vegetables and spices was also witnessed during the same period.

The need of the hour is to prioritize the preferential crops that suit well under each agro-climatic region of the country so that higher net returns can be achieved by the farming community through crop diversification. The options for combining crop component with animal component such as integrated rice-fish farming may be explored which would result in additional net returns to the farmers without affecting the food security.

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