Crop Diversification

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    Recently,  Agriculture economists recommended Crop Diversification for Indian Agriculture Sector.

    About 

    Crop Diversification

    • 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 complimentary marketing opportunities.
    • It refers to the crops, crop sequences and management techniques used on a particular agricultural field over a period of years.

    Types

     

    Image Courtesy: Researchgate

    Benefits

    • Increases  Farmers’ income: Agricultural crop diversification is an important stress-relieving option for the economic growth of the farming community.
      • Crop diversification and inclusion of the new varieties can be one of the important technologies in increasing the farmers’ income to a certain extent.
    • Increases natural biodiversity and productivity: It can also increase natural biodiversity, strengthening the ability of the agroecosystem to respond to these stresses.
    • It is enhancing plant productivity, quality, health and nutritional value and/or building crop resilience to diseases.
    • Reduces the risk of total crop failure: It reduces the risk of total crop failure as different crops will respond to climate scenarios in different ways.
      •  While the cold may affect one crop negatively, production in an alternative crop may increase.
      •  It is also practised in dryland areas to reduce
    • Food security: Crop diversification provides better conditions for food security and enables farmers to grow surplus products for sale at market.
      • The Government of India has now targeted to increase the area under pulses and oilseeds through National Food Security Mission (NFSM). 
    • Access to national and international markets: It can enable farmers to gain access to national and international markets with new products, food and medicinal plants.
    • Manage price risk: Diversification can also manage price risk, on the assumption that not all products will suffer low market prices at the same time and increase the profitability of the farming community.
    • Conservation: Adoption of crop diversification helps in the conservation of natural resources like the introduction of legume in the rice-wheat cropping system, which has the ability to fix atmospheric Nitrogen to help sustain soil fertility.

    Challenges

    • Suitability for some crops: The majority of cropped area in the country is completely dependent on rainfall therefore some crops may not be able to survive 
    • Overuse of Resources:  Over-use land and water resources, causing a negative impact on the environment and sustainability of agriculture.
    • Inadequate infrastructure: Inadequate and skewed distribution of infrastructure such as road, power, market, pre- & post-harvest handling, and irrigation, are all major impediments for diversification. 
    • Lack of Knowledge and Training: Inadequately trained human resources together with persistent and large scale illiteracy amongst farmers.

    Government Policies And Strategies For Crop Diversification

    The government of India have taken several initiatives for agricultural development in general and crop diversification in particular. These initiatives are as follows:

    • Launching a Technology Mission for the Integrated Development of Horticulture in the Northeastern Region: The programme will establish effective linkages between research, production, extension, post-harvest management, processing, marketing and exports and bring about the rapid development of agriculture in the region.
    • Implementing National Agriculture Insurance Scheme: The scheme will cover food crops, oilseeds, annual commercial and horticulture crops. Small and marginal farmers are eligible for 50 per cent subsidy under the Scheme.
    • Operationalizing Technology Mission on Cotton: The Technology Mission will have separate Mini-Missions on technology generation, product support and extension.
    • Creation of Watershed Development Fund: At the National level for the development of Rainfed lands.
    • Strengthening Agricultural Marketing: Greater attention to be paid to the development of a comprehensive, efficient and responsive marketing system for domestic marketing as well as exports by ensuring proper quality control and standardization.
    • Seed Crop Insurance: A pilot scheme on Seed Crop Insurance has been launched which will cover the risk factor involved in the production of seeds.

    Way Forward

    • There is a need to identify crops and varieties that may suit a range of environments and farmers’ preferences.
    • There is a clear need for a shift in the perspective of skill development, with a focus on sustainable rural livelihoods. 
    • Research institutes should come with some other technological breakthroughs for shifting production frontiers and raising efficiency in the use of inputs, precision farming to raise production and income of farmers substantially etc. 
    • Adequate attention needs to be given to improve the welfare of farmers and raise agricultural income.
    • The government must promote crop diversification by purchasing crops produced other than wheat and rice at a Minimum Support Price

    Source:IE