Crop Diversification


In the annual Economic Survey, the Department of Economic Affairs said that there is an urgent need for Crop Diversification in view of the severe water stress in areas where paddy, wheat and sugarcane are grown as well as to increase oil seed production and reduce dependency on imports of cooking oil.

What is Crop diversification?

Crop diversification means growing more than one crop in an area. Diversification can be accomplished by adding a new crop species or different variety, or by changing the cropping system currently in use. Commonly it can mean adding more crops into an existing rotation. Diversification can also be implemented to replace low-value commodities with high-value commodities, such as vegetables and fruits. It can also include an integration of crops and livestock, defined as mixed farming. Crop diversity encompasses several aspects, such as crop species diversity, varietal diversity within crop species, and genetic diversity within crop species. It is recognized as one of the most feasible, cost-effective, and rational ways of developing a resilient agricultural cropping system.

  • Cropping System: It refers to the crops, crop sequences and management techniques used on a particular agricultural field over a period of years.
  • Types: Major cropping systems in India are sequential-cropping, monocropping, intercropping, relay Cropping, mixed-cropping and alley cropping.


  • Increases  Farmers’ income: Agricultural crop diversification is an important stress-relieving option for the economic growth of the farming community.
  • Crop diversification and inclusion of the new varieties can be one of the important technologies in increasing the farmers’ income to a certain extent.
  • Increases natural biodiversity and productivity: It can also increase natural biodiversity, strengthening the ability of the agroecosystem to respond to these stresses.
  • It is enhancing plant productivity, quality, health and nutritional value and/or building crop resilience to diseases.
  • Reduces the risk of total crop failure: It reduces the risk of total crop failure as different crops will respond to climate scenarios in different ways.

  •  While the cold may affect one crop negatively, production in an alternative crop may increase.
  •  It is also practised in dryland areas to reduce
  • Food security: Crop diversification provides better conditions for food security and enables farmers to grow surplus products for sale at market.
    • The Government of India has now targeted to increase the area under pulses and oilseeds through National Food Security Mission (NFSM). 
  • Access to national and international markets: It can enable farmers to gain access to national and international markets with new products, food and medicinal plants.
  • Manage price risk: 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.
  • Conservation: Adoption of crop diversification helps in the conservation of natural resources like the introduction of legume in the rice-wheat cropping system, which has the ability to fix atmospheric Nitrogen to help sustain soil fertility.

What is the Need for Crop Diversification?

  • Adversities and Climatic Vagaries:
    • A farmer may confront a series of adversities and climatic vagaries during agricultural production, such as erratic rainfall, stone hail, drought, flood, and so on.
    • In addition, challenges like post-harvest losses, storage and unavailability of accessible proper marketing are further aggravating the problem.
      • Currently, the human-wildlife and / or human-crops conflict, forest fires, organic matter deficit soil, monoculture, plant disease and infestation, migration and the reluctance of youth towards agriculture are a new array of problems.
  • Problems in Maintaining Input Cost:
    • For more than five decades, Indian agriculture has been facing severe problems related to an increase in input cost to increase productivity.
    • However, the productivity proportional to input maintains for a certain time before plateauing and then progressively declines in many cases.
  • Following Same Pattern extract Specific Nutrients from the Soil:
    • Farmers have been using the 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.
      • The microfaunal population is responsible for the mobilisation and absorption of particular nutrients in the crop rhizosphere.
      • Reduction of the microfaunal population in the soil is a serious issue because without microfaunal activities, the soil is lost to self-perpetuate and its ecology for crop production.
    • The mono-cropping pattern also reduces resource-use efficiency.
    • Furthermore, mono-cropping patterns have more chances to be attacked by the same types of insects and pests, which in turn are controlled by pumping the insecticides and pesticides.

Challenges before crop diversification

  • The majority of the country’s farmed land is totally reliant on rain.
  • Suboptimal and excessive use of natural resources, such as land and water, has a severe influence on the environment and agriculture’s long-term viability.
  • Animal husbandry, after fossil fuels, is the second greatest source of human-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and a major contributor to deforestation, water and air pollution, and biodiversity loss.
  • Inadequate supply of better cultivar seeds and plants.
  • Land fragmentation makes modernization and mechanization of agriculture more difficult.
  • Basic infrastructure, such as rural roads, power, transportation, and communications, is in poor condition.
  • Inadequate post-harvest technologies and facilities for perishable horticulture products post-harvest handling.
  • Very weak agriculture industry.
  • Linkages between research, extension, and farmers are weak.
  • Inadequately trained human resources, as well as widespread and widespread illiteracy among farmers.
  • Most crop plants are affected by a variety of diseases and pests.
  • Horticultural crops have a poor database.
  • Investments in the agriculture industry have decreased over time.

Technologies help in providing opportunity for crop diversification

Soil and Water Sensors: These sensors can monitor moisture and nitrogen levels, and the farm can use this information instead of relying on a predetermined timetable to determine when to irrigate and fertilize. This not only saves money by making better use of resources, but it also helps the farm be more environmentally friendly by conserving water, controlling erosion, and lowering fertilizer levels in local rivers and lakes.

Weather Tracking: Farmers can use this technology to get enough prior notice of frost, hail, and other weather events so that they can take preparations to protect their crops or at the very least limit losses.

Satellite Imaging: Crop imagery allows a farmer to inspect crops as if he or she were standing there, but without having to do so. Even analysing photographs once a week can save a farm a significant amount of time and money. Additionally, this technology can be combined with crop, soil, and water sensors to provide farmers with notifications as well as suitable satellite imagery when danger thresholds are exceeded.

 Vertical Farming: Vertical farming is a growing trend in agriculture. The process of producing food in vertically stacked layers is known as vertical farming, and it is a kind of urban agriculture. This has numerous advantages. The capacity to grow in urban surroundings, and hence having fresher meals available faster and at cheaper rates, is perhaps the most obvious. Vertical farming, on the other hand, will not be limited to urban areas as previously thought. Farmers from all over the world can use it to make better use of available land and cultivate crops that would otherwise be impossible to grow in those areas.

 Mini-chromosomal Technology: A mini-chromosome is a small structure within a cell that contains relatively little genetic material but can retain a lot of information in layman’s terms. Agricultural geneticists can add dozens, if not hundreds, of features to a plant using mini-chromosomes. Drought tolerance and nitrogen utilisation are two examples of complicated characteristics. The most exciting aspect of mini-chromosomal technology is that the native chromosomes of a plant are not altered in any manner. As a result, regulatory approval and consumer acceptability are both expedited.

What is Agroforestry and its role in Sustaining Crop Diversification?

  • About:
    • It is a part of primitive and tribal agriculture nourished with indigenous technical knowledge.
    • 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.
    • Agroforestry is practiced for diversification around the world in different spheres of biological, ecological, economical and sociological considerations.
      • In North America, for instance, farmers preferred agroforestry over agriculture to improve their economic gain and natural resource conservation.
      • In Europe, agroforestry trees are dominated by oaks, pines, junipers and firs. In Australia, Pinus radiata and Eucalyptus globulus while in the African continent, coffee, cocoa, coconut, oil palm, and rubber are common agroforestry trees on farms.
      • The home gardens of the southern part of India are a classic example of maintaining temporal and spatial arrangement for crop diversity, with trees resulting in sustainable productivity from the unit area.
  • Role in Sustaining Crop Diversification:
    • Agroforestry can generate food, feed, fruits, fibre, fuel, fodder, fish, flavour, fragrance, floss, gum and resins as well as other non-wood products for food and nutritional security. It can also support livelihoods and promote productive, resilient agricultural environments in all ecologies.
    • Agroforestry contributes to a multifunctional production system which enhances biodiversity due to the creation of diverse habitat for macro- and micro-organisms and maintaining landforms for future generations.
    • It provides opportunities to integrate traditionally grown crops, with other commercial crops such as cereals, oilseeds, pulses, vegetables, fruits in agrihorticulture, hortisilviculture, silvolericulture, silvofloriculture, silvimedicinal, agrihortisilviculture, aquaforestry, silvipasture, hortipasture.

Government Policies And Strategies For Crop Diversification

The government of India have taken several initiatives for agricultural development in general and crop diversification in particular. These initiatives are as follows:

  • Launching a Technology Mission for the Integrated Development of Horticulture in the Northeastern Region: The programme will establish effective linkages between research, production, extension, post-harvest management, processing, marketing and exports and bring about the rapid development of agriculture in the region.
  • Implementing National Agriculture Insurance Scheme: The scheme will cover food crops, oilseeds, annual commercial and horticulture crops. Small and marginal farmers are eligible for 50 per cent subsidy under the Scheme.
  • Operationalizing Technology Mission on Cotton: The Technology Mission will have separate Mini-Missions on technology generation, product support and extension.
  • Creation of Watershed Development Fund: At the National level for the development of Rainfed lands.

  • Strengthening Agricultural Marketing: Greater attention to be paid to the development of a comprehensive, efficient and responsive marketing system for domestic marketing as well as exports by ensuring proper quality control and standardization.
  • Seed Crop Insurance: A pilot scheme on Seed Crop Insurance has been launched which will cover the risk factor involved in the production of seeds.

Way Forward

  • There is a need to identify crops and varieties that may suit a range of environments and farmers’ preferences.
  • There is a clear need for a shift in the perspective of skill development, with a focus on sustainable rural livelihoods. 
  • Research institutes should come with some other technological breakthroughs for shifting production frontiers and raising efficiency in the use of inputs, precision farming to raise production and income of farmers substantially etc. 
  • Adequate attention needs to be given to improve the welfare of farmers and raise agricultural income.
  • The government must promote crop diversification by purchasing crops produced other than wheat and rice at a Minimum Support Price

Source: DTE

You can find many articles on AGRICULTURE (part of GS III) in our website. Go through these articles share with your friends and post your views in comment section.

Q. फ़सल विविधता के समक्ष मौजूदा चुनौतियाँ क्या हैं ? उभरती प्रौद्योगिकियाँ फ़सल विविधता के लिए किस प्रकार अवसर प्रदान करती है ? (250 शब्दों में उत्तर दीजिए) 

Q. What are the present challenges before crop diversification ? How do emerging technologies provide an opportunity for crop diversification? (Answer in 250 words)  

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