[Model Answer QP2021 GS3]What are the present challenges before crop diversification? How do emerging technologies provide an opportunity for crop diversification?


Crop Diversification refers to a shift from the regional dominance of one crop to regional production of a number of crops, to meet ever increasing demand of cereals, pulses, vegetables, fruits, oilseeds, fibres, fodder, grasses etc It aims to improve soil health and to maintain dynamic equilibrium of the agro-ecosystem. 
Crop diversification is a strategy applied to grow more diverse crops from shrinking land resources with an increase in productivity in the same arable land. 
Rice-Wheat cropping System:The concerns relating to diversification of rice-wheat cropping systems area in the country came to fore when yield levels of these two most important food crops experiencedstagnancy and net profit accruals showed a diminishing trend. The problem got furtheraggravated due to depletion of water table in North-West plains zone comprising Punjab,Haryana and West Uttar Pradesh. Thus, dwindling groundwater resource in these Statesdue to excessive withdrawal of water for irrigation led to impurities in the water-a causeof attendant crop health effects. 
Cropping pattern

Present Challenges to crop diversification

1. Common government-promoted Green Revolution cropping pattern — rice-wheat-rice for a longer time to enhance productivity. Unilaterally, following the same cropping pattern for a longer period of time has extracted the specific nutrients from the soil, resulting in soil deficiency in those nutrients along with a declined population of microfauna in the soil. 
2. Institutional factors: Unsuccessful land reforms resulting in skewed distribution of agricultural land. Majority farmers are small and marginal but their land holding is very small whereas large landowners still control huge volumes of land. Crop diversification is difficult to manage for small and marginal farmers as the input cost is high.
3. Infrastructural Factors: Fragmented supply chain of agriculture sector both upstream and downstream has resulted in farmers not getting fair remuneration for the crops grown. This disincentives crop diversification. Ex: Highly fragmented APMCs.
4. Moving towards monoculture plantations: Due to high profitability in the short term, farmers are growing commercial crops such as Sugarcane, Banana, Cotton, rubber, etc.

Emerging Technologies provide an opportunity for crop diversification

1. Micro Irrigation Techniques: Drip and sprinkler irrigations that help increase water use efficiency and improve agricultural productivity.
PM Krishi Sinchai Yojana: Promotes watershed development, increasing irrigation coverage and strives to achieve high water use efficiency. Ex: (Per Drop More Crop) This promotes crop diversification.
2. Zero Budget Natural Farming: More a science than technology of reusing inputs scientifically so that the input cost to the farmer is minimal.
3. Agroforestry: Agroforestry is a land-use system that includes trees, crops and / or livestock in a spatial and temporal manner, balancing both ecological and economic interactions of biotic and abiotic components. It harnesses the complementarity between trees and crops for efficient utilisation of available resources.
4. Integrated Farming system: The integrated farming system is an offshoot of agroforestry, advocating the diversification of the agri-production with other associated secondary and tertiary agriculture practices. The role of microorganisms, nitrogen-fixing trees, leaf litter decomposition, forest hydrology and nutrient fluxes in agroforestry is well known to promote the crop diversification with various underutilised and wild crops.
Case study of Garhwal Himalaya: Traditional method of crop diversification: Traditional pattern of agriculture in India has wider crop diversity, more stable and pro-nature. In the Garhwal Himalayan region of India, Barahnaja is a crop diversification system for cultivating 12 crops in a year. ‘Barah anaaj’ literally means ‘12 foodgrains’ and is the traditional heritage of the area. 
Case study of Garhwal Himalaya: crop diversification
Diversifying from the monoculture of traditional staples can have important nutritional benefits for farmers in developing countries and can support a country for becoming more self reliant in terms of food production. Diversification can also manage price risk, on the assumption that not all products will suffer low market prices at the same time and increase the profitability of the farming community

Extra Reading:

AgroForestryThe major agroforestry practices in India include multifunctional improved fallows, home gardens, plantation crop-based mixed-species production systems, alley cropping, woodlots, windbreaks, protein banks, shifting cultivation and Taungya in different regions. 


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