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Dryland agriculture

Dryland agriculture refers to cultivation of crops where lock of moisture limits pasture production to part of the year. It is a form of subsistence farming in the regions where deficit of the soil moisture limits the growthof water consuming crops. 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 1150 mm.

Distribution of Dryland farming:

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. three hundred and sixty three districts in India have been recognized as dryland farming areas. Of these, 215 districts are spread in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Chattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, representing typical dry farming tracts. Rest of the districts belongs to Central Rajasthan, Saurashtra region of Gujarat.

The total land area of India is 329 million hectares of which 144 million hectares is arable land, of this 94 million hectares fall under dry lands constituting 65% of dryland and rainfed area produce 40% of the total food grains that feeds 40% of the total population. The remaining of 50 million hectares constituting 35% of irrigated areas account for 60% of the crop production. Major dry farming crops are millets such as jowar,bajra, ragi,oilseeds like mustard, rapeseed, and pulse crops like pigeon pea, gramsAlmost 78% of maize and Jowar, 90% of Bajra and around 90% of pulses and 80% of oilseeds are obtained from dryland agriculture. In addition to these, 65% of cotton is produced through dryland agriculture. Dryland areas also contribute significantly to wheat and rice production. 27% of wheat and 57% of rice are stillrainfed.

Prospects of Dryland Agriculture:

More than 90 % of the farmers involved in dry farming are belongs to small, marginal and medium categories. Therefore, improvement in dry farming would raise the economic status of farmers thus helping in poverty elimination. Dryland farming holds greater 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 huge foreign exchange of natiuon and there is need to improvement of production and productivity of oilseeds indryland region will save valuable foreign exchange reserves. By enhancing the productivity of crops like jowar, bajra and ragiwhich 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.

Major Constraints of Dryland Agriculture:

Drylands are characterized by more prone to risk and uncertain rainfall therefore, crop failure is common feature. The various constraints of drylands includes:

Generally in the dryland region the rainfall is low and unequal distributuion which results in uncertain crop yields

Soils of the drylands are not only dry but also deficient in macronutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous. Thus in other words drylands are not only thirsty but they are hungry too

Because of high degree fluctuationof temperature in drylandarea the crop development resulting into forced maturity during the period of moisture stress

Dryland areas suffer from various process of soil degradation especially soil erosion

Extremely poor condition of farmers, lack of infrastructure to boost production and productivity.

Technology needed for enhancing production in dryland farming:

Timely preparatory and seeding operations including conservation of stored soil moistures.

The use of improved crop varieties should be done which can withstand stress

 Harvesting of water for use in dry periods. Watershed a natural hydrological unit is a good device for water harvesting. Proper watershed management can stop not only further degradation of ecosystem, but degraded lands can also be restored

Soil conservation by contour bunding, terracing, land sloping and land levelling and also by practicing conservational tillage (zero tillage and minimum tillage)

Agronomic practices like mixed cropping and crop rotation which increase the yield of crops need to be practiced

Integrated nutrient management need to be practiced with special emphasis on use of bio-fertilizers to maintain the soil fertility

 Integrated weed management and integrated pest management need to be adopted to control weeds and pests, respectively


Dryland areas constituting more than two-third of total arable lands in India are the major 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.






Writer :: R.S.Bhawar and Arsha Balakrishnana      Published on :: 08-May-2017

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