India’s economic security continues to be predicated upon the agriculture sector, and the situation is not likely to change in the foreseeable future. Even now, agriculture supports 58% of the population, as against about 75% at the time of independence. In the same period, the contribution of agriculture and allied sector to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has fallen from 61 to 19%.
Around 43% of India’s geographical area is already under cultivation as compared to 11% of the world average. The present cropping intensity of 142% has registered an increase of only 30% since independence. Further, rainfed drylands constitute 65% of the total net sown area. There is also an unprecedented degradation of land (107 million ha) and groundwater resource, and also fall in the rate of growth of total factor productivity. This deceleration needs to be arrested and agricultural productivity has to be doubled to meet growing demands of the population by 2050.
Cropping systems of a region are decided by and large based on rainfall patterns and also by a number of soil and climatic parameters which determine overall agro-ecological setting for nourishment and appropriateness of a crop or set of crops for cultivation.
Cultivated areas in the country based on rainfall pattern:
1. Area where annual rainfall is above 1150 mm
Most of the areas in Assam, Kerala, Orissa and West Bengal can be included in the first category. Basic problems in these areas pertain to limited irrigation and poor drainage. Most of the farmers are engaged in rice cultivation.
2. Area where rainfall ranges from 750-1150 mm
Large parts of Tamil Nadu, Utter Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh fall in the second category and occupy about one third of the total cultivated area in the country. In these areas there is large potential for creating minor irrigation facilities.
3. Area where rainfall is below 750 mm
The third category also occupies nearly one third of the cultivated area, comprising parts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. In these areas, unless major and medium irrigation facilities are provided, there is little hope for raising cropping intensity to a substantial extent.
Other factors Affecting Cropping Pattern:
Nevertheless, at farmers’ level, potential productivity and monetary benefits act as guiding principles while opting for a particular crop/cropping system. It is further narrowed down under influence of several other forces related to infrastructure facilities, socio-economic factors and technological developments, all operating interactively at micro-level. These are:
- Infrastructure facilities: Irrigation, transport, storage, trade and marketing, post-harvest handling and processing etc.
- Socio-economic factors: Financial resource base, land ownership, size and type of land holding, household needs of food, fodder, fuel, fibre and finance, labour availability etc. Technological factors: Improved varieties, cultural requirements, mechanization, plant protection, access to information, etc.
i) Size of the Land Holding in India: Marginal and small farmers represent the majority of farming community. So, the mono crop paddy has become predominate as it fulfils the household needs and perpetuates the subsistence agriculture with little scope for commercial crop husbandry.
ii) Literacy: Majority of the farmers are ignorant of the scientific methods involved in mixed cropping, mono cropping and other technological knowhow for practicing better cropping pattern. 18 Agricultural Resources
iii) Disease and Pest: The cropping pattern also depends on the possibility of disease and pest infection
iv) Ecological Suitability: The cropping pattern of a particular region is highly dependent on the ecological condition (temperature, rainfall, humidity, etc.).
v) Moisture Availability: The source of irrigation greatly determines the type of the cropping pattern to be practiced. For example, in low rainfall area, dry land farming is the best possible way to profit maximization.
vi) Financial Stability: The economic condition of the farmers also affects the cropping pattern. As the cash crops (for example, cotton) involve high capital investments, these are practised only in estate farming. The marginal section of the farming community adopts low cost crops.
Cropping Pattern – based on water resources:
Depending upon the natural water resources, each region has certain area under irrigated agriculture. But, broadly considering, two distinct irrigated ecosystems emerge.
One is Indo-Gangetic Plain region comprising the states of Punjab, Haryana, plains of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and plains of Jammu & Kashmir.
The other ecosystem may be carved out of coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
At present 51-million-hectare net-cropped area is irrigated by different sources, which constitutes about 35 per cent of net cultivated area. Estimates indicate that more than 56 per cent of total food grain comes from irrigated ecosystem while progress has been considerably sluggish in rain fed agriculture which still accounts for 92.8 million hectare or 65 per cent of net area sown and contributes only 44 per cent to national food grain production. If past trends are any indication, it may be visualized that in future also the major gain in production, at least 80 per cent of the incremental food needs required by 2025, has to come from irrigated ecosystem where new genotypes and intensive fertilizer use will continue to play dominant role in enhancing crop productivity.
The principal crops having sizeable percentage of area under irrigation in the country are; sugar cane (87.9%), wheat (84.3%), barley (60.8%), rapeseed and mustard (57.5%), rice (46.8%), tobacco (41.2%), cotton (33.2%), chickpea (21.9%), maize (21.8%) and groundnut (19.2%).
Among the states, Punjab ranks first with 94.6 per cent cropped area under irrigation followed by Haryana (76.4%) and Uttar Pradesh (62.3%).
Multiplicity of cropping systems has been one of the main features of Indian agriculture. This may be attributed to following two major factors:
• Rainfed agriculture still accounts for over 92.8 million hectare or 65 per cent of cropped area. A large diversity of cropping systems exists under rainfed and dryland areas with an overriding practice of intercropping, due to greater risks involved in cultivating larger area under a particular crop.
• Due to prevailing socio-economic improving household food security has been an issue of supreme importance to many million farmers of India.
Under influence of all above factors, cropping systems remain dynamic in time and space, making it difficult to precisely determine their spread using conventional methods, over a large territory. However, it has been estimated that more than 250 double cropping systems are followed throughout the country. Based on rationale of spread of crops in each district in the country, 30 important cropping systems have been identified like rice-wheat, rice-rice, rice-gram, rice-mustard, rice-groundnut, rice-sorghum, pearl millet-gram, pearl millet-mustard, cotton-wheat, cotton-gram, cotton-sorghum, maize-wheat maize-gram, sugarcane-wheat etc.,
Types of Cropping:
In India, the cropping pattern follows two distinct seasons; Kharif season (monsoon crops) from July to October and Rabi season (post-monsoon crops) from October to March. The crops grown between March to June called Zaid.
The kharif crop includes rice, sorghum, bajra, maize, ragi, groundnut, cotton, etc. The crop occupying the highest percentage of the sown area of the region is taken as the base crop. All other possible alternative crops which are sown in the region either as substitute for the base crop in the same season or as the crops which fit in with the rotation in the subsequent season, are considered as the pattern.
- The Kharif Season Cropping Patterns – The kharif season cropping pattern comprises mainly rice and non-rice-based crops.
A. Rice-based cropping pattern – Rice is the best crop in this category and 9% of the area in India comes under rice-based cropping pattern. Nearly 45% of the total rice area in India receives 30 cm per month of rainfall during at least two months (July-August) of the south western monsoon and much less during other months. In contrast to these parts, the eastern and southern regions, comprising Assam, West Bengal, Coastal Orissa, Coastal Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala which receive 10-20 cm per month, also come under this cropping pattern. On the all India basis, about 30 rice-based cropping patterns have been identified in different states.
B. Kharif cereals other than the rice-based cropping pattern- Maize, jowar, bajra form the main kharif cereals, Ragi and small millets come next, these are grown in limited area. Maize is grown in high rainfall areas, jowar in medium rainfall areas and Bajra in low rainfall areas.
- Rabi-season Cropping Patterns – The major cropping patterns prevalent in India during the rabi season are: i) wheat and gram-based cropping pattern, and ii) jowar-based cropping pattern.
A. Wheat and gram-based cropping patterns – These two crops are grown under identical climate and can often be substituted for each other. The core of the wheat region responsible for 70 per cent of the area and 76 per cent of production comprises Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh flanked by Rajasthan and Gujarat in the Western region and Bihar and West Bengal in the Eastern region.
B. Rabi-Jowar based cropping patterns – On the all-India level, about 13 cropping patterns have been identified with the rabi jowar. Maharashtra has the largest number of these cropping patterns, wherein starting with the exclusive rabi jowar, bajra, pulses, oilseeds and tobacco are grown as alternative crops.
The crops are grown solo or mixed (mixed-cropping) or in a definite sequence (rotational cropping). The land may be occupied by one crop during one session (mono cropping) or by two crops during one season (double cropping) which may be grown in a year in a sequence.
a) Mono-cropping: Mono-cropping or monoculture refers to growing of only one crop on a piece of land year after year. It may be due to climatological and socioeconomic conditions or due to specialization of a farmer in growing a particular crop, e.g., under rainfed conditions, groundnut or cotton or sorghum are grown year after year due to limitation of rainfall.
b) Multiple-cropping: Growing two or more crops on the same piece of land in one calendar year is known as multiple-cropping. It is intensification of cropping in time and space dimensions, i.e., more number of crops within a year and more number of crops on the same piece of land at any given period. It includes intercropping, mixed-cropping and sequence cropping. Double-cropping is a case where the land is occupied by two crops, which are grown in a year in sequence.
c) Inter-cropping: Inter-cropping is growing of two or more crops simultaneously on the same piece of land with a definite row pattern. For example, growing Seteria and red gram in 5:1 ratio. Inter-cropping was originally practiced as an insurance against crop failure under rainfed conditions. At present, the main objective of inter-cropping is higher productivity per unit area in addition to stability in production. Intercropping system utilizes resources efficiently and their productivity is increased.
For successful inter-cropping, there are certain important requirements:
1) The time of peak nutrient demands of component crops should not overlap.
2) Competition for light should be minimum among the component crops.
3) Complementarity should exist between the component crops.
4) The differences in maturity of component crops should be at least 30 days.
d) Mixed-cropping: Mixed-cropping is growing of two or more crops simultaneously intermingled without any row pattern. It is a common practice in most of dryland tracts of India. Seeds of different crops are mixed in certain proportion and are sown. The objective is to meet the family requirement of cereals, pulses and vegetables.
e) Sequence-Cropping: Sequence cropping can be defined as growing of two or more crops in a sequence on the same piece of land in a farming year. Depending on the number of crops grown in a year it is called double, triple or quadruple cropping involving two, three and four crops respectively.
In addition to the above systems, relay cropping and ratoon cropping are also in existence. Relay cropping refers to planting of the succeeding crop before harvesting the preceding crops. Ratoon cropping or ratooning refers to raising a crop with re-growth coming out of roots or stalks after harvest of the crop.
f) Integrated Farming System: Integrated farming system is a holistic method of combining several enterprises like cropping system, dairying, piggery, poultry, fishery, bee-keeping, etc. in a harmonious way so as to complement each other. The objective is efficient resource utilisation and maximization of profit in such a way so as to cause least damage to soil and environment.
Specific issues relating to some important cropping systems:
Rice-Wheat system is the most widely adopted cropping system in the country and has become mainstay of cereal production. The states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh are now the heart land of rice-wheat cropping system with an estimated area of 10.5 million hectares. Despite enormous growth of this cropping system in the country during the past few years, reports of stagnation in the productivity of these crops, with possible decline in production in future, have raised doubts on its sustainability.
Important issues emerging as a threat to the sustainability of rice-wheat system are:
• Over mining of nutrients from soil
• Disturbed soil aggregates due to puddling in rice
• Decreasing response to nutrients
• Declining ground water table
• Build-up of diseases/pests
• Build-up of weeds like Phalaris minor
• Low input use efficiency in north western plains
• Low use of fertilizer in eastern and central India
• Lack of appropriate varietal combination.
Rice-Pulses cropping system is a dominant crop rotation in Chhattisgarh, Orissa and parts of Bihar. The higher productivity of rice, the base crop in the system, is possible and also imperative for this region if suitable varieties of paddy and pulses along with proper management are considered. Factors limiting productivity of this cropping system in the region are as follows:
A. Physical factors – Droughts and erratic distribution of rainfall. – Small area under assured irrigation. – High percolation, resulting in heavy nitrogen losses in red sandy-loam soils, particularly Bhata soils.
B. Input related factors – Delayed and prolonged biasi/transplanting. – Low coverage under high yielding varieties (HYVs). – Little attention to timely weed control. – Inadequate supply of quality seed. – Little attention to disease/pest control.
C. Social factors – Low literacy. – Large proportion of marginal and tribal farmers. – Practices of animal grazing on agricultural lands. – Low risk bearing capacity of farmers of the region.
The pearl millet-wheat is one of the most important cropping systems of the country and spreads over
- arid eco-region comprising, western plain, Kachch and part of Kathiawar Peninsula having desert and saline soils and representing Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana;
- semi-arid eco-region comprising northern plains of Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh (Agra region) and central highlands including Aravallis, Banswara, Jaipur and Tonk districts of Rajasthan with alluvium derived soil and Gujarat plains and Kathiawar Peninsula – Gujarat state, having medium and deep black soil.
Following issues are some of the concerns of sustainability:
1. Over mining of nutrients
2. Depleting soil fertility
3. Imbalance in fertilizer use
4. Decreasing response to nutrients
5. Lowering groundwater table
6. Build-up of diseases/pests and weeds.
In pearl millet-wheat system, farmers are now realizing the need to replace pearl millet with more remunerative crops. Therefore, diversification may prove to be of paramount importance in several farming situations, not only in mitigating problems of soil health, but also from economics point of view.
Pearl millet – Mustard
Pearl millet during Kharif and rapeseed during Rabi have been the most important crops of dryland and/or areas with limited water availability under marginal land condition of north-west, west and central parts of India. In several parts of Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh where mono-cropping of pearl millet and mustard was most common, increase in irrigation facilities has made it possible to grow these crops in sequence.
Following are some of the concerns related to pearl millet-mustard sequential cropping system:
1. Delayed sowing of mustard after harvesting pearl millet in October
2. Pearl millet in an exhaustive cereal crop and it depletes soil of essential nutrients
3. Non-application of sulphur in this area by farmers.
4. Shortage of farm machinery by the farmers in this area.
5. Build-up of diseases by continuous cultivation of pearl millet – mustard sequence.
Among maize-wheat growing areas, maize is the principal crop of Kharif season in northern hills of the country but plains of northern states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar also have sizeable acreage under this crop. Results of national demonstrations and lab to land demonstrations clearly revealed that this system has a potential to produce 8-10 t/ha per year.
There are number of reasons for poor yield but the most significant are:
1. Sowing time
2. Poor plant population
3. Poor weed management
4. Poor use of organic and inorganic fertilizers.
Legume Based Cropping
Legume crops (pulses and oilseeds) are popular for their suitability in different cropping systems. Recent advances in the development of large number of varieties of pulse and oilseed crops, varying largely for maturity duration, have made it possible to include them in irrigated crop sequences. The popular cropping systems are pigeon pea-wheat in Madhya Pradesh and groundnut-wheat in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and groundnut-sorghum in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
The major issues in legume-based cropping systems are:
- No technological breakthrough has been achieved so far in respect of yield barriers, particularly in legumes.
- Susceptibility of the pulses to aberrant weather conditions especially water logging and adverse soils making them highly unstable in performance.
- High susceptibility to diseases and pests.
- Low harvest index, flower drop, indeterminate growth habit and very poor response to fertilizers and water in most of the grain legumes.
- Nutrient needs of the system have to be worked out considering N-fixation capacity of legume crops.
India has made a good place for itself on the Horticulture Map of the World with horticultural crops covering about 9 per cent of the total area contributing about 24.5 per cent of the gross agricultural output in the country. However, the productivity of fruits and vegetables grown in the country is low as compared to developed countries
However, the constraints in production in these crops and zones/ states of cultivation of these crops is given briefly. Vegetable Crops Vegetable crops in India are grown from the sea level to the snowline.
Constraints in vegetables production:
1. Lack of planning in Production
2. Non-availability of seeds of improved varieties.
3. High cost of basic production elements
4. Inadequate plant protection measures and non-availability of resistant varieties.
5. Weak marketing facilities
6. Transportation limits
7. Post-harvest losses
8. Abiotic stresses.
Rice-rice is the popular cropping system in irrigated lands in humid and coastal ecosystems of Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala and it is spread over an area of six million hectares.
The major issues in sustaining productivity of rice-rice system are:
- Deterioration in soil physical conditions.
- Micronutrient deficiency.
- Poor efficiency of nitrogen use.
- Imbalance in use of nutrients.
- Non-availability of appropriate transplanter to mitigate labour shortage during critical period of transplanting.
- Build-up of obnoxious weeds such as Echinochloa crusgalli and non-availability of suitable control measures.
In north India (Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Bihar), which account for 68 per cent of the total area under sugarcane, sugarcane-ratoon-wheat is the most important crop sequence
Problems in sugarcane-wheat system are:
- Late planting of sugarcane as well as wheat.
- Imbalance and inadequate use of nutrients. Since majority of farmers apply only N in sugar cane and the use of P and K is limited. The emerging deficiencies of P, K, S and micro-nutrients are limiting system productivity directly and through interactions with other nutrients.
- Poor nitrogen use efficiency in sugarcane.
- Low productivity of ratoon due to poor sprouting of winter harvested sugarcane in north India.
- Build-up of Trianthema partulacastrum and Cyprus rotundus in sugarcane.
- Stubble of sugarcane pose tillage problem for succeeding crops and need to be managed properly.
Cotton is widely grown in alluvial soils of north India (Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Western Uttar Pradesh) and black cotton soils of central India (Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka). With the availability of short duration varieties of cotton, cotton-wheat cropping system has become dominant in North.
The major issues of concern in cotton-wheat cropping system are:
- Delayed planting of succeeding wheat after harvest of cotton.
- Stubbles of cotton create problem of tillage operations and poor tilth for wheat.
- Susceptibility of high yielding varieties of cotton to boll worm and white fly and consequently high cost on their control leading to unsustainability.
- Poor nitrogen use efficiency in cotton results in low productivity of the system.
- Appropriate technology for intercropping in widely spaced cotton is needed to be developed.
Recent Trends in Indian Agricultural scenario:
- The cropping pattern in India has undergone significant changes over time. As cultivated area remains more or less constant, the increased demand for food because of increase in population and urbanization puts agricultural land under stress resulting in crop intensification.
- Though the relative contribution of agriculture to the national economy has changed, the basic characteristics of Indian agriculture have not. Indian agriculture continues to be dominated by smallholders; in fact, their number has risen much faster in the recent period. As a result, there has been a significant reduction in the average size of a farm holding—close to one hectare at present.
- Dependency on cultivation across agro-climatic regions has not decreased showing large chunk of rural workers still pursuing cultivation and considering it as the principal source of income.
- The dominance of cereal crops in the food grains point to the poverty of the people. It meets the demand of the low-income people; in whose case a large proportion of income is spent on cereals.
- The predominance of food grains groups together with the fact that a significant proportion of agricultural production is concentrated in small farms, leads one to conclude that much of the cultivation is for self-consumption.
- The fact that large areas remains under food grains shows that land productivity has not increased at par with technological possibilities.
- Cropping pattern presently in vogue in India is cereal biased and fails in assuring balanced food security. The cropping pattern does not depict a picture of diversified agriculture despite some commercialization and technological progress.
- Higher production of food grains has resulted from more inorganic fertilizer and pesticide application. The higher chemical fertilizer and pesticide application Irrigation in India has led to toxicity in feeds. Area where pesticides use has been increasing vigorously has seen insurgency among the insects and pests, led to disturbance in bio-system.
- In addition, there has been increasing use of hybrid and high yielding variety replacing the local varieties heading to almost extinction of the local variety.
- The increase in net sown area and increase in cropping intensity in turn increased the demand for water sources for irrigation. This increased demand is causing depletion of water resources.
- Competing sectors are being deprived of required water as agriculture consumes as high as 70% of total water use. The intensive cropping pattern is always in need of higher irrigation supply. This in turn pushes for development of sources of irrigation. The higher requirement of water depletes the ground water level.
- Increased demand for irrigation in turn requires major, medium and minor irrigation projects, which are highly expensive. The construction of irrigation projects many times faces bureaucratic hurdles and opposition from local residents because irrigation projects cause various social and environmental problems.
- Much of the agricultural production is for domestic consumption, and only about one-tenth of the total value of production is exported.
- Milk and milk products now make a major contribution to livestock output, such that India is now the largest milk producer in the world. The livestock sector has also diversified, with more production of poultry meat and eggs over recent years.
- Empirical evidence supports a positive correlation between public and private investment. This positive correlation could be seen in the development of groundwater irrigation in India, whereby public investment in rural electrification encouraged farmers to invest in tube-well installation.
- In Himalayan regions, the proportion of farmers who are cultivating fruits & vegetables and sugar has increased while the proportion of farmers who are engaged in the cultivation of cereals and pulse has declined.
- In Gangetic regions, the proportion of farmers who are cultivating cereals, pulse and sugar has declined however, fruits & vegetables cultivation has increased in lower and upper Gangetic region.
- Beside these regions, in all plateau regions the proportion of farmers who are cultivating cereals, pulses and fruits & vegetables has declined and, except southern plateau region, the proportion of farmers who are cultivating oilseeds has increased.
- In east coast region, cultivation of cereals, pulse, sugar and oilseeds has decreased while fruits & vegetables, spice has increased.
- In western Ghats region, there is increase in the proportion of farmers who are engaged in the cultivation of cereals and spices.
- Apart from these regions, cultivation of cereals as well as fruits and vegetable in Gujarat has declined while pulses, oilseeds and fibre production have increased during the said period. In dry areas, cultivation of oilseeds has increased.
It is not that farmers are losing interest in farm activities and moving to the non-farm sector for search of employment, rather they are more intensively moving towards cultivation of cash/ commercial crops such as oilseeds, fruits, vegetables, spices, etc. from the traditional non-cash/ non-commercial crops such as than cereals and pulses.
- Adequate information is lacking on site-specific characterization of land and water resources and climatic parameters, which is crucial for efficient land use planning and resource deployment.
- To develop and improve upon existing agrotechnology, it needs to be acknowledged that involvement of farmers in conceptualization and extension of technologies is of paramount importance.
- Inadequate effort or lack of mechanisms to build up research programmes that take into account the experience and knowledge base that exists within the farming community.
- Top down approach of agricultural scientists had given a poor perception of the problems that they tried to solve.
- Despite the fact that water is a precious and scarce resource, its application and use efficiencies have been quite low
- Non-adoption of appropriate cropping systems. For example – extensive cultivation of rice in sandy soils of Punjab, and – advancement of rice transplanting to April/May in Punjab and Haryana.
- Soil salinity hazards due to ground water rise and impeded natural drainage in certain canal command areas are well known.
- The excessive pumping of ground water for irrigation purposes in intensively cultivated areas of Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh has caused lowering down of the ground water table in certain pockets.
- Declining water tables not only raise production costs due to higher energy requirements for pumping water from greater depths but such rapid rates of decline spark serious questions about the long-term sustainability of rice-wheat system itself in these areas.
- Contrary to this, the vast potential of ground water in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and adjoining areas remains untapped.
- In-efficient Land Use Diversion of highly productive irrigated land to non-agricultural uses; such as industry, housing etc., specially at rural-urban interface needs to be viewed seriously.
- Decline in Factor Productivity – Due to imbalance in fertilizer use, widespread deficiencies of secondary and micro-nutrients and reduced organic matter contents of cultivated lands, a declining trend for responses to nutrients, specially to nitrogen, in major cropping systems is being observed on farmers’ fields
- With intensive cropping, nutrient removal by crops from soil has far exceeded replenishment through fertilizers and manures. This is causing negative balance of nutrients in soil. And if this trend continues, a serious threat persists for sustainability of the major cropping systems of irrigated areas.
- Due to continuous cereal-cereal cropping in most of the irrigated fertile lands during post green revolution period, multiple nutrient deficiencies have emerged.
- Farmers have developed tendencies to use higher doses of nitrogenous fertilizers, may be because N is comparatively cheaper than P and K. This, therefore, has resulted in widening ratios of N:P and N:K to undesirable levels.
- With crop intensification under high input use, serious threats of occurrence and build-up of some obnoxious pests and diseases have crept in. Heavy infestation of Phalaris minor in continuous rice-wheat cropping system in north western plains is a glaring example.
- With a pressing need for producing more and more from less and less land resource, a serious threat is lurking upon the environmental quality. A potential danger may be envisioned in the form of pollution of natural water bodies and underground aquifers due to nitrate leaching and phosphate.
Future challenges and strategy:
- The first and foremost challenge is to attain and sustain a target growth of 4% per year in agricultural output. This growth should be inclusive and geographically widespread in terms of participation of smallholders and those in marginal production environments
- The second most important challenge is to address the vulnerability of Indian agricultural production. Currently, two-thirds of agricultural lands are rain-fed and subject to the vagaries of weather and other vulnerabilities. This vulnerability is further accentuated by the degradation and depletion of natural resources, which are also seen in irrigated production environments
- A national program should be created to educate farmers about long-term sustainability issues.
- Farmers should be empowered with the appropriate technologies to address sustainability and vulnerability concerns. This should be backed with policy interventions to manage risk and strengthen social safety nets.
- Climate change is a recent challenge, and its likely impacts are becoming better understood and local responses are evolving.
- Responses include a continued partnership with the international community to assess the challenge as the events unfold and further work on adaptation and mitigation strategies consistent with local realities.
- Given the increasing demand for high-value commodities, as well as the need to produce more food grains to feed a still growing population, the goals of food security and diversification for high-value agriculture should be pursued through technological interventions.
- An increase in the productivity of grains would enable land to be used to grow high-value crops like fruits and vegetables without compromising domestic food production.
- Continued government support for agricultural R&D and higher public investment in infrastructure are welcome steps in increasing productivity.
- Encouraging business interests in food and agriculture and fostering institutional innovations to improve smallholders’ access to technology are current policy thrusts.
- A supportive policy environment with well-structured incentives can be a major driving force to promote innovation in agriculture, and lessons from any localized successes in this regard also need to be well understood and replicated.
- Enhanced efforts to sustain India’s natural resources, provide productive infrastructure through better technological and institutional solutions, and develop human capital capacity will help accelerate the country’s agricultural growth.
- India could reduce the water it uses for irrigation by a third, and simultaneously address its persistent malnutrition problem, if it replaced its rice crop with more nutritious and less thirsty cereals.
Irrigation Systems in India
The population of India is likely to be 1.6 billion by 2050, resulting in increased demand for water, food and energy. This calls for infrastructure expansion and improved resource utilization. Of all the economic sectors, agriculture is the one where water scarcity has greater relevance. Agriculture accounts for approximately 70 percent of the global freshwater withdrawals and approximately 90 percent of its consumptive use. As per United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, irrigation and livestock segments accounted for 91 percent of water withdrawal in India, which is well above the global average.
Observations made on the source of water withdrawal are also alarming. About a third of the water withdrawal came from groundwater. Ground water is depleting very fast and there is no faster recharge mechanism considering it is a very long drawn process. World bank estimates show that groundwater supported 60 percent of irrigated agriculture and 80 percent of rural and urban water supplies. According to projections by the United Nations nearly 3.4 bn people would be living in ‘water-scarce’ countries by the year 2025.
The Indian sub-continent, with its unique position in South-Asia may face the brunt of the crisis and as a result, India would be at the centre of it. India has 18 percent of the world’s population with only 4 percent of the usable water resources. 90 percent of the waste water discharged into the rivers does not meet environmental standards, while 65 percent rainwater runoff flows into the seas, which is a major wastage. These two factors also add to the impending scarcity.
Over-dependence on groundwater beyond sustainable level use has resulted into significant decline in the groundwater table, especially in northwest India. On the other hand, Eastern region, where groundwater utilization is on a limited scale, offer greater scope for harnessing the benefits of groundwater usage to improve crop yields. Some of the state governments such as Punjab (Northern India) offer free electricity for pumping ground water. States such as Gujrat and Maharashtra (Western India) offer high subsidy for solar pumps. For increasing water usage efficiency high subsidy has been given on water sprinklers/ drip irrigation systems.
Several regions in the country face acute water stress chronically. These include districts of South and North Interior Karnataka (Southern India); Rayalseema in Andhra Pradesh (Southeastern coast of India); Vidarbha and Marathwada in Maharashtra (Western India); Western Rajasthan and Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh (Northern India) and Madhya Pradesh (Central India). Low and erratic rainfall for consecutive years in these districts have rendered water-harvesting structures devoid of water and the conservation measures almost unviable.
In addition to the sustainability issue, inequity in irrigation water use among crops across the country has left a little more than half of Indian agriculture still dependent on rainfall. The water guzzler paddy and sugarcane crop using more than 60 per cent of irrigation water available in the country are largely being cultivated in the most water scarce regions of the country restricting irrigation water availability for other major crops of the region. This situation has emerged over years primarily due to skewed incentive structures for rice and sugarcane in these regions. These incentives manifest in highly subsidized pricing of water, power, fertilizers on one hand, and assured markets for their outputs through procurement of rice in Punjab-Haryana belt, and of sugarcane by sugar factories at government determined prices. The relatively water abundant states in eastern region (eastern UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Assam, and even Odisha), lag behind in production of these crops as they have not been able to erect suitable procurement structures for rice or attract sugar mills in their areas. This has led to a major misalignment in cropping patterns from the point of view of water availability. The hot-spots being Punjab-Haryana belt for rice and Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu for sugarcane.
Regional Variations in water tapping and storage:
Tube wells are, today, the most popular source of irrigation in India. Today there are more than 50 lakh tube wells operating in different parts of India. Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of tube wells in the country. Tube wells are generally popular with rich and medium farmers. More than half of the net irrigated area is irrigated by wells and tube wells in the states of Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
Well and tube well irrigation has contributed substantially for the success of Green Revolution in India. A tube well is generally more than 15 metres deep. The water is lifted with the help of a pumping set. The following factors favour the installation of a tube well.
1. There should be enough groundwater, as a tube well can irrigate about 2 hectares per day against 0.2 hectares by an ordinary well.
2. The water level should be between 15 m and 50 m, otherwise the cost of lifting the water will be very high.
3. The power, i.e. diesel or electricity should be readily available, so that water can be taken out at the time of need.
4. The soil should be fertile and can produce enough to meet the cost of irrigation by a tube well.
Merits of Well and Tube Well Irrigation:
- Well is simplest and cheapest source of irrigation and the poor Indian farmer can easily afford it.
- Well is an independent source of irrigation and can be used as and when the necessity arises. Canal irrigation, on the other hand, is controlled by other agencies and cannot be used at will.
- Excessive irrigation by canal leads to the problem of reh which is not the case with well irrigation.
4. There is a limit to the extent of canal irrigation beyond the tail end of the canal while a well can be dug at any convenient place.
5. Several chemicals such as nitrate, chloride, sulphate, etc. are generally found mixed in well water. They add to the fertility of soil when they reach the agricultural field along with well water.
6. The farmer has to pay regularly for canal irrigation which is not the case with well irrigation.
Demerits of Well and Tube Well Irrigation:
1. Only limited area can be irrigated. Normally, a well can irrigate 1 to 8 hectares of land.
2. The well may dry up and may be rendered useless for irrigation if excessive water is taken out
3. In the event of a drought, the ground water level falls and enough water is not available in the well when it is needed the most.
4. Tube wells can draw a lot of groundwater from its neighbouring areas and make the ground dry and unfit for agriculture.
5. Well and tube well irrigation is not possible in areas of brackish groundwater.
Tank Irrigation in South India
Tanks are a common feature of the south Indian cultural landscape and many were built in the 18th and 19th centuries by kings, zamindars and even the British rulers. Tanks are one of the important and oldest sources of irrigation and though they are found in all parts of India, they are concentrated in the Southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Unlike the northern region, the rivers in the south are mostly seasonal and the plains are not much extensive. Further, the geology is not favourable for groundwater storage. The local topographic variations have been effectively exploited to impound rainfall in tanks which are used to raise irrigated rice crops and simultaneously serve as means of improving groundwater recharge in their command areas
Tanks are normally classified into system and non-system tanks. System tanks are those, which receive, water from nearby major streams or reservoirs in addition to the run-off from their catchment. Often these tanks enable farmers to raise more than one crop.
Non-system tanks depend on rainfall and are not connected to a river system. Usually a single crop is raised under these tanks. Non- system tanks are often linked with the other tanks, thus forming a series of tanks. During times of heavy rainfall, the surplus water from upper tank will flow to the lower tanks.
Tank irrigation, in certain parts of India, provides a good alternative for irrigation development. Tanks can have a wider geological distribution than large scale projects. Income distribution and employment generation effects are not limited to one area. Tank investments tend to be less capital intensive, have fewer negative environmental impacts and can better involve local communities in improvement and construction works. Currently the tank irrigation potential is under-utilized due to problems relating to rainfall, poor tank structures, and lack of collective tank management. The problems of several non-system tank irrigation systems are as under:
- Encroachment, siltation, soaking of supply channels resulting in poorer / no-inflow of water, pollution of tank water by tannery and dying factory influence (Coimbatore, Erode, Salem Districts)
- Tank chains almost disappear and their hydrologically interlinking, any improvement could revive the tank will have benefit of exploiting full tank irrigation through appropriate or selective moderanisation benefit
- Owing to vagaries of man, only 50-60 % of supply is realized by crop diversification.
Solutions to overcome problems of tank system irrigation
- De-silting for reviving the original capacity,
- Tank fore shore,
- Plantation to arrest the silt flow,
- Feasibility of connecting small different tanks into the percolation pond for ground water recharge,
- Rehabilitation of tank structure and inward channels are the solutions emanated from the tank system researches
A canal is an artificial channel that is constructed to carry water to the fields to perform irrigation. The water is taken either from the river, tank or reservoirs. The canals can be constructed either by means of concrete, stone, brick or any sort of flexible membrane which solves the durability issues like seepage and erosion.
Whatever be the irrigation scheme i.e direct irrigation using weir or a barrage and storage irrigation scheme like dams or reservoir, both demand a network of irrigation canals of various sizes and capacities.
Advantages of Canal Irrigation:
The main advantages of canal irrigation are:
- Development of un-irrigated wasteland.
- Dangerous droughts can be avoided that expedite economic development.
- The water requirement of crops during fluctuation in rainfall intensity can be met by having a proper irrigation system.
- Compared to conventional watering, higher productivity per hectare land is obtained due to canals.
- The canals constructed are permanent that require regular maintenance.
- Canal irrigation does not let the water table level go down. It only helps to increase the water level thus facilitating the digging of wells.
- Canals also serve the purpose of hydroelectricity, drinking water supply, fishery development, and navigation.
Disadvantages of Canal Irrigation:
The major disadvantages of canal irrigation are:
- Any imbalance in the water distribution process results in a scarcity of water in some areas and water clogging in other areas. This hence makes the soil unproductive due to the movement of harmful underground salts and alkalies to the surface level.
- Water present stationary in the canal results in the growth of worms, mosquitoes, and insects.
- Improper maintenance results in the collection of sediments in the canals that in turn affects the capacity of the canal.
- Canal construction demands economic investment and time. Hence, this is not a solution for all irrigation.
Water Application methods:
Water stored through the above methods is applied to fields using techniques mentioned below:
Surface irrigation entails water flowing by gravity over soil. Water is usually supplied by gravity from the water source through canals, pipes or ditches to the field. In some locations, however, water may need to be pumped from the source to a field at a higher elevation.
In this system of field water application, the water is applied directly to the soil from a channel located at the upper reach of the field. One of the surface irrigation method is flooding method where the water is allowed to cover the surface of land in a continuous sheet of water with the depth of applied water just sufficient to allow the field to absorb the right amount of water needed to raise the soil moisture up to field capacity.
Flooding method has been used in India for generations without any control what so ever and is called uncontrolled flooding. The water is made to enter the fields bordering rivers during folds. When the flood water inundates the flood prone areas, the water distribution is quite uneven, hence not very efficient, as a lot of water is likely to be wasted as well as soils of excessive slopes are prone to erosion.
The flooding method applied in a controlled way is used in two types of irrigation methods as under:
• Border irrigation method
• Basin irrigation method
Borders are usually long uniformly graded strips of land separated by earth bunds (low ridges) as shown in Figure. The essential feature of the border irrigation is to provide an even surface over which the water can flow down the slope with a nearly uniform depth. Each strip is irrigated independently by turning in a stream of water at the upper end as shown. As for the type of soil suitable for border irrigation, deep homogeneous loam or clay soils with medium infiltration rates are preferred. Heavy, clay soils can be difficult to irrigate with border irrigation because of the time needed to infiltrate sufficient water into the soil. Basin irrigation is preferable in such circumstances.
Basins are flat areas of land surrounded by low bunds. The bunds prevent the water from flowing to the adjacent fields. The basins are filled to desired depth and the water is retained until it infiltrates into the soil. Water may be maintained for considerable periods of time.
Basin method of irrigation can be formally divided into two, viz; the check basin method and the ring basin method. The check basin method is the most common method of irrigation used in India. In this method, the land to be irrigated is divided into small plots or basins surrounded by checks, levees (low bunds); as shown in Figure. Basin irrigation is suitable for many field crops. Paddy rice grows best when its roots are submerged in water and so basin irrigation is the best method for use with this crop.
Furrows are small channels, which carry water down the land slope between the crop rows. Water infiltrates into the soil as it moves along the slope. The crop is usually grown on ridges between the furrows, as shown in Figure. This method is suitable for all row crops and for crops that cannot stand water for long periods, like 12 to 24 hours, as is generally encountered in the border or basin methods of irrigation.
Furrow irrigation is suitable to most soils except sandy soils that have very high infiltration water and provide poor lateral distribution water between furrows.
As compared to the other methods of surface irrigation, the furrow method is advantageous as:
- Water in the furrows contacts only one half to one-fifth of the land surface, thus reducing puddling and clustering of soils and excessive evaporation of water.
- Earlier cultivation is possible
Micro irrigation is the slow application of continuous drips, tiny streams or miniature sprays of water above or below the soil surface Micro irrigation system is effective in saving water and increasing water use efficiency as compared to the conventional surface irrigation method. Besides, it helps reduce water consumption, growth of unwanted plants (weeds), soil erosion and cost of cultivation. Micro irrigation can be adopted in all kinds of land, especially where it is not possible to effectively use flooding method for irrigation
Features of micro irrigation system:
- Water is applied via pressurised piping system. Micro irrigation requires pumps for developing the required pressure for delivering water through pipelines, regardless of whether the source of water is surface or underground.
- Water is applied drop-by-drop for a long period in case of drip irrigation system.
- Water is applied at a low rate to maintain the optimum air–water balance within the root zone.
- Water is applied at frequent intervals as per the requirement of plants.
- Water is supplied directly to the plants and not to the other areas of the field, thus, reducing wastage.
- Soil moisture content is always maintained at ‘field capacity’ of the soil. Hence, crops grow at a faster rate, consistently and uniformly.
Field capacity is the moisture or water content present in the soil after excess water has drained away and the rate of downward movement has decreased, which takes place within 2–3 days after a spell of rain or irrigation. It means that after drainage stops, the large soil pores are filled with both air and water, while the smaller ones are still filled with water. At this stage, the soil is said to be at field capacity and is considered to be ideal for crop growth.
Classification of micro irrigation system
Micro irrigation system can be broadly classified into two categories:
(1) Drip irrigation system
(2) Sprinkler irrigation system
However, there are distinct differences in the water flow rate, operating pressure requirement and measurement of the wetted area between drip and sprinkler irrigation systems. Water flow rate means the amount of water discharged in an area at a particular time. It is expressed in litre/minute (lpm) or gallons/ minute (gpm). The system operating pressure must compensate for pressure losses through system components and field elevation effects.
Drip irrigation system
Drip irrigation system, also known as ‘trickle irrigation system’, is a method of applying the required amount of water directly to the root zones of plants through drippers or emitters at frequent intervals. In this system, water is applied drop-by-drop or by a micro jet on the soil surface or sub-surface at a rate lower than the infiltration rate of the soil. The emitters dissipate pressure from the distribution system by means of orifices, vortexes and tortuous or long flow paths, thus, allowing a limited volume of water to be discharged. Most emitters are placed on ground but they can also be buried. The emitted water moves within the soil system largely by unsaturated flow. The water moves into the soil and wets the root zones of plants vertically by gravity and laterally by capillary action. The lateral movement of water beneath the surface is greater in medium to heavy soil as compared to sandy soil. The wetted soil area for widely spaced emitters will, normally, be elliptical in shape. Drip irrigation can be used on windy days and during various land operations.
Sprinkler irrigation system
Sprinkler irrigation is a method of applying water in a manner similar to rain. It is suited for most row, field and tree crops. Water can be sprayed over or under the crop canopy. If a site is known to be windy most of the time, sprinkler irrigation will not be suitable. The sprinkler breaks up the water into droplets sized 0.5–4 mm. The drop size is controlled by pressure and nozzle size of the sprinklers. The average rate at which water is sprayed onto the crops is measured in mm/hour.
The application rate depends on the size of sprinkler nozzles, operating pressure and distance between the sprinklers. The application rate must not exceed the maximum allowable infiltration rate for the soil type. Excess application rate will result in water loss, soil erosion and surface sealing. There may be inadequate moisture in the root zone of crops or plants after irrigation and they may get damaged.
The force with which the water flows out of the sprinkler is known as its ‘water pressure’. Water pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (psi). Sprinklers are, therefore, designed to work at certain pressure levels, which are recommended as their operating pressure. If the pressure is above or below than the recommended level, then the distribution of water will be affected. When the pressure is low, the water drops become larger and they cannot irrigate the crops that are far from the system. If the pressure is high, then the droplets will be smaller and the crops will not be irrigated evenly. It can also damage the sprinkler heads. Although sprinklers are adaptable to most soils, they are best suited for sandy soil. These can be used for irrigating lawns, gardens and agricultural fields.
Bubblers are used to irrigate bigger areas and apply water on ‘per plant’ basis. Water from the bubbler head either runs down from the emission device or spreads a few inches in an umbrella pattern. Bubbler emitters dissipate water pressure through a variety of diaphragm material (a silicon diaphragm inside an emitter flexes to regulate water output) and deflect water through small orifices. Bubbler emission devices are equipped with single or multiple port outlets. Bubblers are available in adjustable flow and pressure compensating types.
In this system, jets, foggers or misters, also called ‘spitters’, are used. Water is applied only to a fraction of the ground surface. However, instead of dripping water from narrow orifice emitters, micro-sprayer systems eject fine jets that fan out from a series of nozzles. Each nozzle can water an area of several square metres, which tends to be much larger than individual areas wetted by a single drip emitter.
Advantages of micro irrigation system
As mentioned earlier, micro irrigation system has a number of advantages over surface irrigation system. Some of the advantages of micro irrigation system over surface irrigation system are described as follows.
Helps in saving water
Water requirement in drip or sprinkler irrigation is much less as compared to any other conventional method of irrigation. This is because of irrigation of a smaller portion of land, decreased evaporation from the soil surface and reduction or elimination of run-offs. Waterlogging, which occurs under flat surface flood irrigation, is rare in case of microirrigation. Since microirrigation system allows high level of water control application, water can be applied only when needed and losses due to deep percolation can be minimised or avoided. Microirrigation can reduce water usage by 25–40 per cent as compared to overhead systems and 45–60 per cent as compared to surface irrigation.
Uniform water application
Microirrigation systems ensure uniform water application. Therefore, all plants in a field receive equal amount of water. Higher uniformity results in efficient irrigation, thereby, causing less wastage of water, power and fertilisers. Consistent water application results in better and uniform crop yields as each plant is given the required amount of water and nutrients for optimum growth. Crop yield is the measurement of the amount of agricultural production harvested per unit area.
Helps in saving electricity
Microirrigation systems require less electricity as compared to other systems. Usually, delivery pipe in microirrigation systems operate at low pressure (2–4 bar). Therefore, these require less energy for pumping.
Improves chemical application
Microirrigation system can apply chemicals to plants through fertigation unit. ‘Fertigation’ is the application of fertilisers used for making soil amendments in order to improve plant growth. Since the fertilisers are applied directly to the root zones of the plants, a reduction in the total amount of fertiliser applied is possible, which saves an average of 25–50 per cent of the total cost. Microirrigation systems apply the right fertiliser to the plants at a given time. Herbicides, insecticides and fungicides can also be applied through microirrigation systems, and thereby, help improve the crop yield.
Reduces weeds and diseases
Weeds are the unwanted plants that grow in lawns, gardens and agricultural fields. They compete with the crops for nutrients, moisture and sunlight, which can reduce the crop quality and the yield. These also serve as a habitat for diseases and insect-pests, which attack the main crop. Weed growth is inhibited in areas irrigated by drip irrigation as only a limited area gets irrigated. Hence, the threat of weeds and diseases is reduced.
Improves tolerance of crops to soil salinity
Micro irrigation reduces the sensitivity of most crops to saline water or soil–water conditions due to high moisture content in the root zones of plants. Micro irrigation (especially, drip irrigation) keeps the soil moisture continuously at a high level near the root zone, and thus, maintains a low level of salt concentration. Therefore, crops under micro irrigation system are more tolerant to saline water.
Suitable to various topography and soil type
Micro irrigation systems can function efficiently on any topography, if appropriately designed and managed. Low water application rate with micro irrigation systems is ideal for clayey soil as water can be applied slowly enough for the soil to absorb without any surface run-off.
Regulates water through automation
Micro irrigation system can be semi or fully automatic. It uses automatic controller, which can be simple mechanical clocks or timers that open or close the valve on a pre-set time schedule. These can be programmed to run at night when evaporation is low. A micro irrigation system can be easily automated using electrical solenoid valves and a controller. This allows the system to operate at any time of the day and for any duration.
Reduces labour costs
One of the major advantages of micro irrigation system is that it reduces labour costs. Labour requirement is reduced as it is an automated system and does not require labourers to irrigate an area. A large area of land can be irrigated at once with micro irrigation system.
Improves quality and yield
Crop quality and yield is improved under micro irrigation system because of slow, regular and uniform application of water and nutrients. Besides, damages and losses due to the contact of water with fruits or foliage are practically eliminated.
Government Initiatives regarding Irrigation:
Soil Health Card Scheme
Launched in 2015, the scheme has been introduced to assist State Governments to issue Soil Health Cards to all farmers in the country. The Soil Health Cards provide information to farmers on nutrient status of their soil along with recommendation on appropriate dosage of nutrients to be applied for improving soil health and its fertility.
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) has been under implementation since kharif 2016 season in the country. It provides comprehensive coverage of risks from pre-sowing to post harvest against natural non-preventable risks. The insurance premium is paid to insurance companies on actuarial/on bidding basis, with very low share contributed by the farmers across the country (2 per cent and 1.5 per cent of the sum insured for food and oilseed crops for kharif and rabi seasons, respectively) and 5 per cent for commercial/horticultural crops and balance premium to be paid upfront and shared equally between Central and State Governments. It also provides better protection for the farmers in terms of sum insured which has been made equal to the scale of finance.
Neem Coated Urea (NCU)
This scheme is initiated to regulate use of urea, enhance availability of nitrogen to the crop and reduce cost of fertilizer application. NCU slows down the release of fertilizer and makes it available to the crop in an effective manner. The entire quantity of domestically manufactured and imported urea is now neem coated. It reduces the cost of cultivation and improves soil health management.
Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)
Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana is implemented with a view to promote organic farming in the country. To improve soil health and organic matter content and increase net income of the farmer so as to realise premium prices. Under this scheme, an area of 5 lakh acre is targeted to be covered though 10,000 clusters of 50 acre each, from the year 2015-16 to 2017-18.
National Agriculture Market (e-NAM)
It provides e-marketing platform at national level and support creation of infrastructure to enable e-marketing.
This innovative market process is revolutionizing agriculture markets by ensuring better price discovery. It brings in transparency and competition to enable farmers to get improved remuneration for their produce moving towards ‘One Nation One Market’.
Micro Irrigation Fund (MIF)
A dedicated MIF created with NABARD has been approved with an initial corpus of Rs. 5000 crore (Rs. 2000 crore for 2018-19 & Rs. 3000 crore for 2019-20) for encouraging public and private investments in Micro irrigation. The main objective of the fund is to facilitate the States in mobilizing the resources for expanding coverage of Micro Irrigation.
MIF would not only facilitate States in incentivizing and mobilizing resources for achieving the target envisaged under PMKSY-PDMC but also in bringing additional coverage through special and innovative initiatives by State Governments.
An Advisory Committee has been set up to provide policy direction and ensure effective planning, coordination and monitoring of the Micro Irrigation Fund.
Agriculture Contingency Plan
Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (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 (heat waves, cold waves, frost, hailstorms, cyclone) adversely affecting crops, livestock and fisheries (including horticulture).
Rainfed Area Development Programme (RADP)
Rainfed Area Development Programme (RADP) was implemented as a sub-scheme under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY).
- To improve quality of life of farmers’ especially, small and marginal farmers by offering a complete package of activities to maximize farm returns.
- Increasing agricultural productivity of rainfed areas in a sustainable manner by adopting appropriate farming system-based approaches.
- To minimise the adverse impact of possible crop failure due to drought, flood or un-even rainfall distribution through diversified and composite farming system.
- Restoration of confidence in rainfed agriculture by creating sustained employment opportunities through improved on-farm technologies and cultivation practices
- Enhancement of farmer’s income and livelihood support for reduction of poverty in rainfed areas and
National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas (NWDPRA)
The scheme of National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas (NWDPRA) was launched in 1990-91 based on twin concepts of integrated watershed management and sustainable farming systems.
- Conservation, development and sustainable management of natural resources.
- Enhancement of agricultural production and productivity in a sustainable manner.
- Restoration of ecological balance in the degraded and fragile rainfed eco-systems by greening these areas through appropriate mix of trees, shrubs and grasses.
- Reduction in regional disparity between irrigated and rainfed areas and;
- Creation of sustained employment opportunities for the rural community including the landless.
National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA)
NMSA is one of the eight Missions under National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). It aims at promoting Sustainable Agriculture through climate change adaptation measures, enhancing agriculture productivity especially in rainfed areas focusing on integrated farming, soil health management, and synergizing resource conservation.
NMSA as a programmatic intervention caters to Mission Deliverables that focuses mainly on conservation agriculture to make farm sector more productive, sustainable, remunerative and climate resilient by promoting location specific integrated/composite farming systems.
Schemes under NMSA
- Rainfed Area Development
- Soil Health Management
- Sub Mission on Agro Forestry
- Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana
- Soil and Land Use Survey of India
- National Rainfed Area Authority
- Mission Organic Value Chain Development in North Eastern Region
- National Centre of Organic Farming
- Central Fertilizer Quality Control and Training Institute
Gramin Bhandaran Yojna
Objectives of this Scheme:
- Create scientific storage capacity with allied facilities in rural areas.
- To meet the requirements of farmers for storing farm produce, processed farm produce and agricultural inputs.
- Promotion of grading, standardization and quality control of agricultural produce to improve their marketability.
- Prevent distress sale immediately after harvest by providing the facility of pledge financing and marketing credit by strengthening agricultural marketing infrastructure in the country.
Salient Features of the Scheme
Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) has been launched with the motto of providing “Har Khet Ko Paani” and end-to-end solutions in irrigation supply chain, viz. water sources, distribution network and farm level applications.
It comprises of four components, namely
- Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP),
- Har Khet Ko Paani,
- Watershed Development and
- Per Drop More Crop.
PMKSY has a two-tier structure at the Central level with National Steering Committee (NSC) under the Chairmanship of Hon’ble Prime Minister and National Executive Committee (NEC) under the Chairmanship of Vice Chairman, Niti Aayog.
PMKSY Mission Directorate has been established in Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation for mission mode implementation of 99 major and medium irrigation projects. The Mission is also responsible for overall coordination and outcome focused monitoring of all components of PMKSY for achieving its target.
At the state level, PMKSY has a three-tier structure. District Irrigation Plans (DIP) is the cornerstone for planning and implementation of different components of PMKSY which identifies gaps in irrigation chain after taking into consideration currently available resources and resources that would be added from ongoing schemes, both State and Central.
The scheme is to be implemented through the mechanism of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT). Aadhaar details of the beneficiary are required to access the benefit of the programme. Aadhaar details need to be linked through a web-based registration process. The scheme will be monitored through web-portal of PMKSY. Physical and Financial progress achieved during the preceding month is required to be uploaded by states on the web-portal of PMKSY by 5th of every month.
More focus be given on promotion of micro irrigation for water intensive/guzzling crops to minimise water requirement. The pattern of assistance payable to the beneficiary under the micro irrigation scheme will be 55% for small and marginal farmers and 45% for other farmers which will be met by both Central Government and State Government in the ratio of 60:40 for all states except the North Eastern and Himalayan 2 states. In the case of these states, ratio of sharing is 90:10. For the Union Territories, funding pattern is 100% grant by the Central Government. The subsidy payable to the beneficiary will be limited to an overall ceiling of 5 hectare per beneficiary.
Human resource development is an important component of the scheme and suitable provisions have been made in the guidelines for creating awareness, organizing training programmes, and exposure visits etc.
Impediments for micro irrigation growth in India
Absence of easy financing mechanisms for farmers: Financing for farmers continues to be a major impediment. Farmers continue to have difficulty finding financing options and even once they do, the collateral is very high. Finding ways to ensure easier financing norms for farmers should be a priority. There is precedence for loans to farmers without collaterals such as crop loans.
Uncertainty and sporadic changes in scheme guidelines: There are lack of smoother/longer-term guidelines, which causes each scheme to only be operational for a part of the year (on average five months) and not the full twelve months. On an average, it is seen that schemes are only effective for 5 months of the year and are not available to the farmers in peak demand months. As a result of this, farmers miss the cropping season and are unable to realise the true benefits of installing a micro irrigation system.
Scheme implementation and operating process: There are various inefficiencies in the operating process, especially with regard to the time and length of the process. In some states, the Scheme implementation and launch process goes through the months of August and September (even October in some cases), due to which a time lag crops up. By this time the main season has already ended. Hence, farmers are unable to draw the optimal benefit of the available technology. Therefore, ensuring timely completion of the process (before the beginning of April) is paramount to safeguard the interests of the farmers.
Delays in subsidy disbursement: Method of subsidy payment has been an impediment in previous schemes and continues to be one today. There is also a continued problem with unavailability of funds in certain states. This is a result of approving installation of equipment when the funds for the subsidy aren’t yet available to the states. This causes a shortage of funds, which in turn causes delays in subsidy payments and therefore, uncertainty for the suppliers of micro irrigation systems.
Lack of focus on micro irrigation: There is a lack of focus at a central level on micro irrigation, previously seen during the years of the National Mission on Micro Irrigation (NMMI). Since 2014-15, there has been a dilution of focus by subsuming micro irrigation as a component of government schemes, rather than a dedicated mission. At the state level as well, this lack of focus permeates, which has resulted in only a few states having a dedicated team for micro irrigation.
Lack of IT-backed operations: The entire process, from application to installation and payment, cannot be tracked online in a majority of states. In most cases, only a part, if any, of the process can be tracked, which makes monitoring the transactions and ensuring efficiency in the process a nearly impossible task. There is a lack of usage of systems such as geo-tagging and referencing, which allow real-time monitoring of projects. Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra are considered to be select examples in promoting micro irrigation, use such systems, which enable real-time monitoring at the state and central level.
Lack of focus on micro irrigation: The years of operation of National Mission on Micro Irrigation (NMMI) showed the strongest growth of micro irrigation penetration in the recent decade. However, since the scheme was changed to a component under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), there has been a lack of focus on spreading micro irrigation in India, which is a continuing issue seen with the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojna (PMKSY).
Lack of dedicated team and IT-backed operations: Tracking the installation of a micro irrigation system, stepby-step, from initiation of work order to installation and payment is still not possible in a majority of states, which is a major source of inefficiencies in the system where IT can play an important role. Also, the teams that are implementing the micro-irrigation schemes in various states (with an exception of few) are not dedicated for the said implementation, hence a focused approach is missing.
Delay in release of guidelines/government orders, uncertainty and sporadic changes in scheme guidelines: The lack of smoother/ longer-term guidelines pose a major challenge as evidenced by the fact that operational period of the schemes, on an average, is only 5 months where the farmers miss the utilisation of the micro irrigation system during the peak demand season.
Subsidy disbursement process: Continues to be a big impediment in the growth of the industry. Unavailability of subsidy funds for installations already approved, delayed release of funds, identification of beneficiaries among others, leading to significant delays.
Absence of easy financing mechanisms for farmers: Farmers face major challenges in finding financing option for the micro irrigation products and in case they do find a financing source, there are high collateral demands.
Re-aligning cropping pattern with available water resource endowments across states: The hydrological suitability of water guzzlers like rice and sugarcane are found to be somewhat perverse with respect to their major regions of production. Cropping patterns can be improved and effectively re-aligned with respect to water availability, using suitable demand side and supply side policy interventions.
Price policy reforms: Effective pricing of water and electricity in agriculture (at least recovering the O&M costs), carried out in sync with their improved quality and timely supply.
Improved procurement policies for crop outputs (particularly rice and sugarcane) in the states. Shift from price policy approach of heavily subsidizing inputs to income policy approach of directly giving money into the accounts of the farmers on per hectare basis (direct benefit transfer of input subsidies), and letting prices be determined by market forces.
In case, it is not possible to carry out reforms in pricing of water and power, the second-best solution will be to ration irrigation water supplies in canal irrigation system through a ‘warabandi’ type.
Feasibility of the improved water management technology may be taken up in the form of pilot studies in the bright spots and model districts identified in the study and evaluated for large scale dissemination across the country.
Improving irrigation efficiency of both canal as well as groundwater irrigation by adoption of precision irrigation technology like micro irrigation. Adoption of solar irrigation, with provision to sell excess solar energy back to the grid, helps to improve the water-energy nexus.
Infrastructure development for water management through investing on rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge structures.
Ensuring stronger IT capabilities, thereby a complete online tracking mechanism from installation of MI equipment to fund flow. For example, usage of Geographic Information System (GIS) for geo-referencing and tagging.
Ensuring smoother and long-term guidelines that remain in place for a significant period of time to reduce confusion and ensure steady implementation of the schemes.
Moderating subsidy levels in states where penetration of micro irrigation is already above the national average and re-routing that subsidy to states with very low penetration, where the technology still needs to be promoted.
Financial inclusion, which entails providing priority sector lending status to MI industry and helping the farmer with financing for the equipment through steps such as interest subvention and credit guarantee fund, to ensure that banks are more comfortable providing funding in this industry and this can be a step in the direction of reducing the dependence on subsidy over time.
Providing crop focus solutions, for example making use of micro-irrigation mandatory for water guzzling crops. This has been initiated by few states to make use of micro-irrigation mandatory for sugarcane. It can be considered to be taken up at the national level as well as for various other crops
Providing infrastructure status to the micro- irrigation industry to reduce some of the operating costs for MI manufacturers and thereby, reducing the cost of the equipment for the farmer.