Rain-fed areas produce nearly 90% of millets, 80% of oilseeds and pulses, 60% of cotton and support nearly 40% of our population and 60% of our livestock. These facts present an existing vulnerability to ensuing climate change. The only option we have is being prepared, adapt, and mitigate climate change.
Rain-fed areas are ecologically fragile and hence vulnerable to climate change and they are also largely inhabited by poorer farmers. But at the same time, rain-fed areas provide nutrition security through millets, pulses and oilseeds.
Most of the endemic and cultivable land races of these regions are ephemerals. The word ‘ephemeral’ denotes all plants lasting a very short period of time and they inhabit rain-fed areas.
Whenever rains come, dormant seeds sprout, flower, seed and disperse their seeds in a short time. Productivity of most of the rain-fed crops is meagre as compared to their irrigated cousins and hence traits of resilience and improved productivity are screened for under rain-fed crop improvement programs
India is a subtropical country with 15 agro-climatic zones and primarily dependent on the south-west monsoon.
Challenges of Rainfed Agriculture
- Droughts and famines are the general features of rainfed agriculture in India.
- Since the Green Revolution of the 1960s, the national agricultural policy is driven by the need to maximize crop yield, using irrigation and intensive use of HYVs, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides.
- This has been a major challenge in preserving soil in the drier regions and rainfed farming systems.
- Rainfed agriculture in India comprises small and marginal farmers who accounted for 86% of operational holdings in 2015- 2016 compared with 62% in 1960-1961.
- Most of the rural areas are characterized by a subsistence economy. The surplus farm produce is sold only if family requirements are met.
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