The Bold Voice of J&K

Rainfed agriculture in J and K: an overview

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      Dr. Parveen Kumar, Dr. Anil Kumar

Agriculture in India is practiced under a wide variety of agro-climatic zones and rainfall pattern. In India out of total net cultivated area of 142 million hectares about 81.8 million hectares (57.6 per cent) is rain fed. This rain fed area has a vital role to play for food security of the country. Nearly 44 per cent of food requirement comes from the rain fed regions besides support to 40 per cent of human population and 60 per cent of livestock population.
If we take the global scenario the rain fed regions account for 1.75 billion hectares and this area is about 5 to 6 times the irrigated areas of the world. The country has the distinction of being at the first spot with respect to the rain fed agricultural countries of the world in terms of both extent of area and value of produce. There is also a huge difference in the land productivity in the irrigated and the rain fed region. While in the irrigated area it comes at Rs 8,017 per hectare, in the rain fed regions it is just Rs.5,716. This leads to another major difference and that is in the per capita consumption of food grains. The per capita consumption of food grains in the rain fed regions is 260 kg /year while in irrigated regions it is 471 kg/year. This is absolutely why the poverty is more prevalent in these regions.
The State of Jammu and Kashmir has a varied topography with agriculture being the backbone of the economy of the state. About 65 percent of its population depends on agriculture and allied sectors directly or indirectly. Of the total geographical area of the state, about 3.3% is under cultivation. Of this 3.3 per cent, the rain fed area accounts for about 58 per cent. The State has four agro-climatic zones viz subtropical, intermediate, temperate and cold arid. The climate during the Kharif season is governed by the southwest monsoon while the climate during the rabi season is governed by the western disturbances. The major limitation of the agriculture sector in the state is the size of holdings. More than ninety percent of the farmers are marginal and small with holdings size varying from one to two hectares. 81.42 per cent of the farmers are marginal having land holdings less than 1 ha and around 12.39 per cent farmers are small farmers which constitute around 94 per cent of the total farmers of the state.
The major crops grown in the rain fed area in the kharif season are Maize, Oilseeds like Til (Sesame), Pulses like Mash, Lentil, Chickpea and Moong. In the rabi season crops like wheat, oilseeds like Mustard, Toria and pulses like Lentils are grown in the rain fed regions. The region despite being so important for food security faces lot of constraints which hampers the food production in the country.
Constraints of Rainfed Agriculture:
Water stress is common phenomenon in these regions. As the cultivation of crops is largely dependent of the timely arrival of monsoon, it becomes a gamble for the farmer. If there is timely rainfall, than sowing is done otherwise huge tracts of land are left uncultivated. Still, despite good germination at the initial stages, water stress during subsequent stages of crop growth results in a huge reduction in yields and crop failure in extreme water scarcity. This is more so in case of kharif pulses like Mash, Moong and oilseed like til.
The soils of rain fed regions are very low in fertility, are shallow with low organic matter, have an undulating topography with very low microbiological activity. The situation gets further complicated by untimely and erratic rainfall. The soils are poor in essential nutrients. Reports reveal that due to this shallow nature of soils 42 per cent of total rainfall is lost through evaporation, 28 per cent is lost through runoff, 7.5 per cent is lost through deep percolation and only 22 per cent is retained in the soil profile.
Strategies for Rain fed Agriculture
Selection of location specific suitable varieties which can withstand the adverse heat of the rain fed regions should be taken up and promoted. For Maize, hybrids like Double DeKalb, Kanchan and Tip Top perform better. For wheat, varieties like PBW-175, JAUW-598, PBW-396, HD-2285, Raj-3077 are good performers under moisture stress conditions. Similarly DGS-1, GSL-1, GSL-2 for Gobi sarson; RSPT-1 for Toria; Gaurav, PBG-1, C-235, SCS-3 for chickpea; PU-19, Uttara and T-9 for Urad bean (Mash), Rachna for peas; PDM-54, ML-131, SML-668 for Moong bean, PB-1 for Til and have been found to be promising for rain fed areas. Some of these are also recommended by Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Jammu.
Line sowing of Maize and Wheat with Maize planter and seed cum fertiliser drill is also a very promising technology for rain fed regions. Besides saving quantity of seed required per hectare, it places the seed at proper depth and space thereby increasing the yield. The chances of the crop lodging at maturity when strong winds blow are also diminished as the seed is placed at proper depth.
Changing cropping pattern according to the weather also helps to prevent the risk of crop failure. It also maintains soil fertility. Intercropping of Maize with mash or Moong or cowpea in Kharif season and wheat with mustard or Toria in rabi season can be practiced by the farmers. With the same quantity of fertilisers the farmers can get two crops in a season from the same field. This will also increase their income. This is also necessary because of the extreme shortage of pulses in the country and the huge exports the country has to make to meet the pulse requirements of the country.
Diversification with fruit trees is also very good option to improve the income of the farmers in this region. Various fruit trees like Mango, Amla, Lemon and other Citrus species and Guava can be raised profitably. The farmers can be linked to markets under proper buy back arrangements so that the produce does not go waste and the farmer gets a remunerative price of his produce. The Agri-horti system involving Aonla and Gobhi sarson in rabi and maize in Kharif season has been reported to give very good results under rain fed conditions of Jammu region.
The constraints have to be overcome if we have to make these regions the hub for food security. As the farmers here are marginal and small the technology adoption is very less. With a very low rate of adoption of technology, the soil being poor in nutrients and the cultivation still being done by the crude traditional methods worsen the conditions which ultimately give very less yields. The government of India has also started many programmes to make these regions more productive. It is also important that the people be made aware of the various programmes for the rain fed regions. For this the State department of Agriculture and the allied ones, the State Agricultural Universities need to devise suitable strategies to disseminate useful information to the farmers
The stability in production in this vital region can be obtained by using appropriate crop production technologies, taking various soil and water conservation measures to minimise the effects of rising temperatures. This will result in increasing the per unit yield of crops ultimately leading to food security.

(The authors are from Advanced Centre for Rainfed Agriculture (ACRA), SKUAST-Jammu)

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