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What is Dryland Agriculture?

  • Dryland Agriculture  refers to cultivation of crops entirely under natural rainfall without irrigation. 
  • It is a form of subsistence farming in the regions where deficit of the soil moisture retards the growth of water consuming crops like rice (Oryza sativa), sugarcane etc. 
  • Dryland areas are characterized by low and erratic rainfall and no assured irrigation facilities. 
  • Dryland agriculture is important for the economy as most of the coarse grain crops, pulses, oilseeds, and raw cotton are grown on these lands. 
  • Dryland areas receive rainfall between 500 and 1200 mm.

Characteristics Of The Dry Land Farming

  • Very low crop yield
  • Uncertain, ill-.distributed and limited annual rainfall
  • Undulating soil surface
  • Occurrence of extensive climatic hazards like drought, flood etc
  • Relatively large size of fields
  • Occurrence of extensive and large holdings
  • Similarity in types of crops raised by almost all the farmers of a particular region
  • Practice of extensive agriculture i.e. prevalence of mono cropping etc

Types of Dryland Agriculture

Depending on the amount of rainfall received, dryland agriculture has been grouped into three categories:

  • Dry farming: it is production of crops without irrigation in areas where annual rainfall is less than 750 mm. Crop failures are more frequent under dry farming condition owing to prolonged dry spells during crop period. The growing season is less than 200 days. It is generally practiced in arid regions of the country
  • Dryland farming: cultivation of crops in areas receiving rainfall above 750 mm is known as dryland farming. Dry spell during crop duration occurs, but crop failures are less frequent. Semi-arid regions are included under this category.
  • Rainfed farming: It is practice of crop cultivation without irrigation in areas receiving 1150 mm rainfall, mostly in sub-humid and humid areas. Here chances of crop failure and water stress are very less.

Main Problems of Dry Farming  | DRY AGRICULTURE 

  • The soils, being sandy, lack in humus and organic nutrients.
  • Scarcity of precipitation, erratic occurrence of rains leading to famines, droughts, and floods.
  • These are low yields per unit area.
  • The dry farming areas are highly vulnerable to soil erosion.
  • Most of the farmers in the dry farming regions being poor, are not able to apply the new costly inputs.
  • In the absence of moisture and irrigation, the use of High Yielding Varieties and new technology is not possible.
  • These areas are not having the basic irrigation and other infrastructural facilities, like roads, marketing and storage

Distribution of Drylands in India

  • Our country has fertile cultivable land and receives the highest rainfall on per unit area basis anywhere in the world due to short duration of rainfall in a year. 
  • One hundred and twenty eight districts in India have been recognized as dryland farming areas. 
  • Of these, 91 districts are spread in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, representing typical dry farming tracts. Rest of the districts belongs to Central Rajasthan, Saurashtra region of Gujarat and rain shadow region of the Western Ghats.
  • India has about 108 million hectares of rainfed area which constitutes nearly 75% of the total 143 million hectares of arable land. In such areas crop production becomes relatively difficult as it mainly depends upon intensity and frequency of rainfall. 
  • The crop production, therefore, in such areas is called rainfed farming as there is no facility to give any irrigation, and even protective or life saving irrigation is not possible.
  • Major dry farming crops are millets such as jwar, bajra, ragi, oilseeds like mustard, rapeseed, and pulse crops like pigeon pea , gram and lentil. 
  • Almost 80% of maize and Jwar, 90 per cent of Bajraand approximately 95% of pulses and 75% of oilseeds are obtained from dryland agriculture. In addition to these, 70% of cotton is produced through dryland agriculture. 
  • Dryland areas also contribute significantly to wheat and rice production. Thirty three per cent of wheat and 66% of rice are still rainfed.

Measures Need To Be Taken  | DRY AGRICULTURE 

  • Our country has fertile cultivable land and receives the highest amount of rainfall per unit area basis, anywhere in the world. 
  • However, there are some measures need to be taken to make dry farming more productive and profitable like:
    • Need to grow those crops which are drought tolerant.
    • India’s protein security is mostly laid in the dry land farming, so need to adapt technologies from the countries like Israel which has a significant experience and expertise in the dry land farming.
    • Control of weed of various types is also significant.
  • As our country’s 75 % area is semi-arid so the need for these two can be overemphasized, they help by By imparting knowledge regarding available resources and there use. 
  • Most importantly they promote local led development i.e. demand driven.

Government Initiatives  | DRY AGRICULTURE 

  • Sub-Mission on Agroforestry under the framework of National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) has been launched during 2016-17 for a period of 4 years (2016-17 to 2019-20).
  • The National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), which is one of the eight missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) seeks to address issues associated with climate change.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) was launched on 1st July, 2015 with the motto of ‘Har Khet Ko Paani’ for providing end-to end solutions in irrigation supply chain, viz. water sources, distribution network and farm level applications.
  • National Agroforestry Policy, 2014 has been formulated with the objective to bring coordination, convergence and synergy between various elements of agroforestry scattered in various existing Missions, programmes and schemes of the Government.
  • Even GOI has declared 2018 as year of millets and also proposed to declare 2019 as year of millets in FAO.
  • Agriculture Contingency Plan: CRIDA, ICAR has prepared district level Agriculture Contingency Plans in collaboration with state agricultural universities using a standard template to tackle aberrant monsoon situations leading to drought and floods, extreme events adversely affecting crops, livestock and fisheries


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