Choice of crops and varieties – cropping systems in drylands

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Choice of crops and varieties – cropping systems in
9.1 Choice of crops
Traditional cropping pattern in the dry farming areas is dominated by food
grains viz., millets and pulses. In a predominantly subsistence type of farming
system, such dominance of food crops is natural. The choice of crops for drylands is
affected by
• Rainfall quantity and distribution
• Time of onset of rainy season
• Duration of rainy reason
• Soil characters including amount of rain water stored in the soil
• Farmer’s requirements
The major focus of research under AICRPDA has been on the identification of
most efficient crops for each dry farming region. The criteria for choice of crops for
dry farming regions comprise the following
• Tolerance to drought
• Fast growth during initial period to withstand harsh environment
• Genetic potential for high yield
• Short or medium duration to escape terminal drought
• Adaptability to wide climatic variations
• Responsive to fertilizers
For many dry farming regions of India, more suitable crops than existing ones
have been identified. However, the acceptance and adoption of the practice of crop
substitution by dry land farmers is poor since in most instances the new crops
replace food crops (Table 9.1).
Table 9.1 Suggested crops in place of traditional crops
Region Traditional
(q/ha) More suitable crop Yield
Agra Wheat 10.3 Mustard 20.4
Bellary Cotton 2.0 Sorghum 26.7
Bijapur Wheat 9.4 Safflower 18.8
Varanasi Upland rice 28.0 Maize 33.8
9.2 Selection of suitable varieties
In most crops of dry farming regions, traditional local varieties still dominate.
The preference for these local varieties is based on their pronounced drought
tolerance. But they are usually longer in duration susceptible to moisture stress at
maturity. They have low yield potential even under favourable rainfall. They do not
respond significantly to improved management practices such as nutrient supply.
The criteria now adopted for selection of crop varieties for dry lands include drought
tolerance, short or medium duration, high yield potential, response to nutrient
supply, high water use efficiency, moderate resistance to pest and diseases. Suitable
varieties for all dry land crops have been developed in all the dry farming regions
and have proved their high yield potential.
9.3 Choice of cropping system
Choice of suitable cropping system must aim at maximum and sustainable use
of resources especially water and soil. Cropping systems depend on rainfall quantity,
length of rainy reason and soil storage capacity. The broad guidelines in choosing a
cropping system for dry lands are given below (Table 9.2).
Table 9.2 Potential cropping systems based on rainfall and soil characters
(mm) Soil type
Suggested cropping system
350-600 Alfisols,
shallow vertisols
20 100 Single rainy season cropping
sorghum / maize / soybean
350-600 Deep aridisols,
20 100 Single cropping sorghum / maize
/ soybean in kharif / rabi
350-600 Deep vertisols 20 100 Single post rainy season
cropping sorghum
600-750 Alfisols, vertisols,
20-30 150 Intercropping
Sorghum + Pigeon pea Cotton +
Black gram
750-900 Entisols, deep
vertisols, deep
alfisols, inceptisols
30 200 Double cropping with
Maize – safflower
Soybean – chick pea
Groundnut – horsegram
> 900 As above > 30 > 200 Assured double cropping
Maize – chick pea
Soybean – safflower
Crops and cropping systems selected should match the length of growing
season during which they are not subjected to soil moisture stress. Climatalogical
analysis helps to identify suitable cropping systems for different regions. Feasibility
for intercropping, sequence cropping and double cropping can also be known from
such analysis (Table 9.3).
Table 9.3 : Length of effective cropping season in different areas (Randhawa
and Venkateswarulu, 1979)
Category Effective cropping season(weeks) in different
< 20 weeks Bellary (8)
Hissar (17)
Rajkot (17)
Anantapur (13)
Bijapur (17)
Sole cropping
Jhansi (21)
Udaipur (22)
Anand (25)
Kovilpatti (21)
Sholapur (23)
Akola (27)
Hyderabad (22)
Agra (24)
> 30 weeks Bhubaneswar (32)
Bangalore (36)
Rewa (36)
Samba (44)
Varanasi (32)
Hoshiarpur (35)
Ranchi (45)
Indore (36)
Dehradun (44)
9.3.1 Monocropping
In general a single crop is being taken in dry farming areas where the annual
rainfall is below 500 mm. Rainy season crop is taken in light soils like alfisols,
inceptisols and oxisols. Crops are being grown on residual moisture in vertisols in the
post rainy season in winter season. The most common monocropping systems are
groundnut in alfisols and associated soils in Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh,
sorghum or chickpea or wheat in black soils of Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh,
and Karnataka.
9.3.2 Intercropping
Intercropping refers to growing two or more crops in the same field with
specific row arrangement during the same season. In areas where the annual rainfall
is in the range of 600-850 mm, intercropping is being recommended and practiced.
In such areas, at least one of the component crops succeeds in drought years and
there is every chance to get two crops in good rainfall years. The different
intercropping systems are followed in different regions of the country based on soil,
rainfall, market price and marketing facilities. Intercropping systems are subject to
change due to change in market price of component crops. Intercropping is widely
practiced in dry farming since it offers many advantages as outlined below.
• Intercropping is a risk minimization strategy and provides an insurance
against complete crop failure due to rainfall abnormalities.
• It provides more yield and income per unit area per unit time than sole
• Stability in production is achieved
• Multiple products for home consumption as well as for marketing are
made available
• When legumes are included in intercropping, soil fertility is enriched
• Intercrop canopy suppresses weed growth
• Resource use efficiency is increased viz., light, water and nutrients are
efficiently used
• One crop provide physical support to other crop.
Disadvantages are
• Yield may be decreased due to competition effect
• Allelopathy effect
• Build up of certain diseases and pests
• May not be suitable for large farms with adequate resources
The different intercropping systems suitable for drylands are furnished in
table 9.4 and 9.5.
Table 9.4 Inter cropping systems suitable for drylands
Crops Geometry Base crop
duration (days)
Intercrop duration
( days)
Sorghum + Lablab 6-8:2 100-120 150-180
Sorghum + Redgram 6-8:1 100-120 180
Sorghum + Cowpea 2:1 100-120 80
Cotton + Black gram 2:1 150-185 65-75
Groundnut + Redgram 6-8:1 105 180
Groundnut + Castor 6-8:1 105 150-180
Bengalgram + Coriander 4:1 100 80
Maize + Cowpea 2:1 100-110 75-80
Ragi+ Cowpea + Redgram 6:1:1 100 75 + 180
Table 9.5 Dominant intercropping systems in different regions of India
Location Soil Rainfall (mm) Intercropping Row ratio
Anantapur Alfisols 550 Groundnut + pigeon pea 11 : 1
Akola Vertisols 825 Sorghum + pigeon pea 2 : 1
Rajkot Vertisols 590 Groundnut + castor 4: 1
Sholapur Vertisols 560 Chickpea + safflower 3:1
Bangalore Alfisols 890 Finger millet + pigeon pea 8:1 Efficient intercropping systems for different regions of Andhra Pradesh
a) For Telagana region:
Intercrop Ratio
Pigeon pea + Blackgram 1:2
Groundnut + Castor 5:1
Sorghum + Pigeon pea 2:1
Castor + Cluster bean 1:1 or 2:2
Pigeon pea + Sunflower 1:2
Among the different intercropping systems in Telagana region, sorghum +
pigeon pea (2:1) is the most efficient system which result in maximum returns.
b) Rayalaseema region:
Intercrop Ratio
Groundnut + Blackgram 7:1
Groundnut + Castor 5:1 or 7:1
Groundnut + Pearl millet 2:1
Pearl millet + Pigeon pea 1:1 or 2:2
Pigeon pea + Sunflower 1:2
Among the different intercropping systems in Rayalaseema region, groundnut
+ pigeon pea (7:1) or groundnut + castor (5:1 or 7:1) was found to be the most
efficient system which result in maximum returns.
9.3.3 Double cropping in drylands
Double cropping either by sequential cropping or relay cropping is possible in
places with high rainfall (> 900 mm), extended rainy season and high soil moisture
storage capacity. Double cropping is also possible with rain water harvested in farm
ponds which is used for establishing winter crop. Some of the important double
cropping systems of different regions are presented in Table 9.6 and 9.7.
Table 9.6 Important double cropping systems of different location
Location Rainfall (mm) Soils Double cropping
Ranchi 1,370 Oxisols Rice-linseed or chickpea
Indore 960 Vertisols Soybean-Wheat
Pune 1,050 Vertisols Rice-Chickpea
Bangalore 890 Alfisols Cowpea-finger millet
Table 9.7 Efficient double cropping systems for drylands of India
Soil type Region Water availability
Double cropping
Vertisols MP 210-230 Maize – chickpea
Soybean – wheat
Maharastra 190-210 Sorghum – safflower
Karnataka 130-150 Cowpea – sorghum
Greengram – safflower
Inceptisols UP 200-230
Rice – Chickpea
Pearl millet – chickpea
Blackgram – mustard
Oxisols Bihar 160-180 Maize – chickpea
Groundnut – barley
Alfisols Karnataka 190-220 Cowpea – ragi
Soybean – ragi
Alfisols and aridisols < 120 No double cropping
Double cropping by relay cropping
Groundnut / Ragi + Redgram – Horsegram
(Jun-Sep) (Jun-Jan) (Sep-Jan)
Groundnut or ragi is sown with redgram as intercrop in 6:1 proportion in
June. After harvest of groundnut in September, horsegram is relay sown in the space
between redgram rows.
Double cropping by sequential cropping
Pearl millet / ragi ( finger millet )/ sama
( little millet) (May – Sep)
Horsegram (Sep – Jan)
Groundnut / sesamum (May – Sep) Horsegram (Sep – Jan)
Cowpea / greengram (Jun – Sep) Sorghum (Oct – Jan)
Sorghum (Jul – Oct) Chickpea (Oct – Feb)