Dryland Farming in India
Dryland farming refers to the agricultural technique where the cultivation of crops is dependent on natural rainfall. The land entirely depends on nature and irrigation methods are not used.
Dryland farming, while accounting for 73 per cent of the cultivated area in India contributes only about 42 per cent of the food grains produced. This is primarily because this form of cultivation has not been accorded the level of priority it deserves, either by agricultural scientists, or by the government.
Proper understanding of the rainfall patterns: Dryland farming is cultivation of land which derives water only through rains. Hence, an understanding of rainfall patterns and land characteristics is crucial for optimizing use of available water for Dryland crops. Apart from rainfall, two other important elements are, one, moisture availability to crops and, two, chemical treatment of land for conservation of moisture, priority needs to be given to proper water and land management.
Target oriented apporach: The Planning Commission is yet to detail a concrete target-oriented approach towards boosting productivity Dryland Farming Areas of India. It is now feared that food imbalances would persist unless cultivation of oilseeds, pulses and coarse grains is stepped up in dry areas.
Educate farmers at grassroot levels: Significantly enough, the few Dryland projects sponsored by the Central Government, have yielded encouraging results. Schemes to popularize the use of seeds of improved varieties, fertilizer drills and plant protection measures were launched. It is also true that while the required knowledge and methodology for Dryland farming are available in the country, these have not reached the farmer at the grassroots level. This is because of the lack of extension services in the States. State Governments have not shown much interest in promoting Dryland farming, which they seem to consider as the exclusive responsibility of the Centre.
Holds good prospects: Agricultural experts believe this form of cultivation holds great promise in increasing the country’s food grains output. It needs to be borne in mind that even after full exploitation of the irrigation potential available, 50 per cent of India’s cultivable land would still depend upon rains.
Emphasis on evenly distribution of dryland farming: In this context, greater attention has to be paid to the less developed regions so that agricultural prosperity is evenly distributed and the consequent increase in purchasing power of the farming community plays a supportive role for industrial advance.
Usage of better quality fertilizers and pesticides: The chance of good crops increase with the usage of proper fertilizers and pesticides. The farmers need to be educated regarding the benefits of fertilizers. Studies have revealed that enthusiasm in adoption of better quality fertilizers and pesticides has slackened because farmers cannot be convinced that investment in costly inputs could be profitable in dryland regions also. It has been proved that intercropping combinations with improved seeds, fertilizers and soil management are the most profitable and stable means of increasing yield and crop intensities for Dryland agriculture.
Preserve soil moisture: In purely geographic terms, India holds 13 per cent of the world’s semi-arid areas and quite a sizeable population resides in these regions. As such, the thrust of its agricultural programme has necessarily been on preserving soil moisture and preventing wastage of pond water. Tillage and planting operations, establishing optimum plant population levels, scientific weed control and efficient use of fertilizers are equally significant.
Contingency plans: Scientists have also devised contingency plans for dryland to meet the challenges of aberrant weather. These plans call for instant change of crops. It would be necessary to set up buffer banks to make available alternative crop seeds.
Open land: As rain water has to seep into the soil through the surface, the land has to be kept open for receiving more and more moisture.
Leveled and weeds free land: It should also be free of weeds, and leveled, wherever necessary, so that the maximum amount of rain water seeps into the soil.
Improved agricultural tools for dryland farming: All these operations call for the use of improved ploughs and other improved ploughs and other implements. For sowing and applying fertilizer simultaneously, better quality seed-cum-fertilizer drills are now available. For timely weeding, farmers are making use of the rotary weedier and sweepers, besides conventional blades. Such equipment not only helps in weed control, but also reduces evaporation losses in the soil moisture.
Conclusion: Dryland farming thus needs to be given a complete scientific orientation and obtaining better results in a regime where there is too little utilization of irrigation potential. Increased production would bring down prices, the Government’s burden on food grains subsidy would be reduced, and the public distribution system would become redundant.