DRY LAND FARMING IN INDIA: CHARACTERISTICS AND PROBLEMS
India has about 108 million hectares of rain fed area which constitutes nearly 75 per cent of the total 143 million hectares of arable land. In such areas crop production becomes relatively difficult as it mainly depends upon the intensity and frequency of rainfall. The crop production, therefore, in such areas is called rain fed farming as there is no facility to give any irrigation, and even protective or life saving irrigation is not possible. These areas get an annual rainfall between 400 mm to 1000 mm which is unevenly distributed, highly uncertain and erratic. In certain areas the total annual rainfall does not exceed 500mm. The crop production, depending upon this rain, is technically called dry land farming and areas are known as dry lands. India has about 47 million hectares of dry land out of 108 million hectares of total rain fed area. Dry lands contribute 42 per cent of the total food grain production of the country. These areas produce 75 per cent of pulses and more than 90 per cent of sorghum, millet, groundnut and pulses from arid and semi-arid regions. Thus, dry land and rain fed farming will continue to play a dominant role in agricultural production. Dry land, besides being water deficient, are characterized by high evaporation rates, exceptionally high day temperature during summer, low humidity and high run off and soil erosion. The soils of such areas are often found to be saline and low in fertility. As water is the most important factor of crop production, inadequacy and uncertainty of rainfall often cause partial or complete failure of the crops which leads to period of scarcities and famines. Thus the life of both human being and cattle in such areas becomes difficult and insecure. Despite all these improvements in agriculture, we have yet not been able to solve an appropriate package of practices for our dry land areas. The income of farmers of dry land regions is still very low.
Dry land areas may be characterized by the following features:
- Uncertain, ill-.distributed and limited annual rainfall;
- Occurrence of extensive climatic hazards like drought, flood etc;
- Undulating soil surface;
- Occurrence of extensive and large holdings;
- Practice of extensive agriculture i.e. prevalence of monocropping etc;
- Relatively large size of fields;
- Similarity in types of crops raised by almost all the farmers of a particular region;
- Very low crop yield;
- Poor market facility for the produce;
- Poor economy of the farmers; and
- Poor health of cattle as well as farmers.
Problems of Dry Farming in India: The major problem which the farmers have to face very often is to keep the crop plants alive and to get some economic returns from the crop production. But this single problem is influenced by several factors which are briefly described below:
Moisture stress and uncertain rainfall: According to definition the dry farming areas receive an annual rainfall of 500 mm or even less. The rains are very erratic, uncertain and unevenly distributed. Therefore, the agriculture in these areas has become a sort of gamble with the nature and very often the crops have to face climatic hazards. The farmers also take up farming half-heartedly as they are not sure of being able to harvest the crops. Thus, water scarcity becomes a serious bottleneck in dry land agriculture.
Effective storage of rain water: According to characteristics of dry farming, either there will be no rain at all or there will be torrential rain with very high intensity. thus, in the former case the crops will have to suffer a severe drought and in the latter case they suffer either flood or water logging and they will be spoilt in case of very heavy downpour, the excess water gets lost as run-off which goes to the ponds and ditches etc. this water could be stored for providing life saving or protective irrigation to the crops grown in dry land areas. the loss of water takes place in several ways namely run-off, evaporation, uptake through weeds etc. the water could be stored for short period or long period and it can be preserved either in soil, pond or ditches based on situation and utilized for irrigation during dry periods.
Dry land agriculture cannot compete with conventional standards and definitions of productive agriculture. If such a competition is attempted, it will only turn out to be an economic and environmental disaster for the dry lands. Therefore, norms, standards and definitions have to redraft for dry land agriculture separately and realistically.