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.
Types of Dryland Agriculture
Depending on the amount of rainfall received, dryland agriculture has been grouped into three categories:
Distribution of Drylands
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 Bajra and 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.
Prospects of Dryland Areas
More than 75% of the peasants involved in dry farming are small and marginal. Therefore, improvement in dry farming would raise the economic status of farmers thus helping in poverty elimination. Dryland farming holds immense significance especially in the context of fluctuating food grain production and expanding population in our country. The biggest employer in our country, the cotton mills are fed by raw cotton grown mostly in dryland areas. Increasing production of cotton subsequently leads to increase in exports of cotton good. The expanding import of oilseeds is a cause of concern to Indian nation. The improvement of production of oilseeds in these regions will save valuable foreign exchange reserves. By enhancing the productivity of crops like jowar, bajra and ragi which are mainly grown in dryland farming would increase the nutrient consumption levels of our nation.
Marginal lands in the semi-arid regions offer potential for fodder production to feed the cattle population which is an integral component of farming practice of this region. Providing importance to these areas can solve the problems of pulses, oilseeds and cotton. The dryland areas have also tremendous potentiality of increased food grain production. Thus enhanced agricultural production in these areas would boost the agriculture dependent economy of India. Moreover it would also be helpful in eliminating the problem of hunger and malnutrition prevailed in below poverty line society of the country.
Constraints of Drylands
Drylands are characterized by low and uncertain rainfall therefore, crop failure is common feature. The various constraints of drylands includes:
Major Areas of Concern
Major areas of concern in dryland agriculture are :
Dryland Farming Technology
The following farming technology is needed to enhance agricultural production in dryland areas.
Dryland areas constituting more than two-third of total arable lands in India are the chief contributor of pulses, oilseeds, coarse grain crops and cotton. Drylands also contribute significantly to wheat and rice production. Therefore, it is the need of the hour to adopt and practice the available dryland technology to maximum extent for the enhancement of agricultural production in these areas which would not only boost the food grain production of the country but would also improve the economic status of farmers in these areas.
Contributed by : Piyush Pradhan & Mukesh Kumar Pandey