Horticulturalists told to go in for mixed cropping to deal with rain deficit

Written by Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: May 23 2014, 03:06am hrs
In its first advisory as part of dealing with a possible deficit monsoon, the agriculture ministry has recommended a series of measures for farmers, including zero tillage, mulching, mixed cropping and use of drip and sprinkler irrigation for horticultural crops such as vegetables and fruits.

Besides the ministry has suggested farmers to grow less water intensive legume crops such as beans, peas and lentils in case there is a rain deficit. We have suggested cultivation of legume crops in case of a deficit as they improve nitrogen in the soil, an official with the agriculture ministry told FE.

In vegetables crops, cluster bean, lima bean, chili, drumstick, brinjal, okra are suitable for rain-fed cultivation. Among these, legume vegetables can be recommended for contingency crop-planning in an eventuality of late monsoon, the ministry noted in its advisory.

The advisory includes specific measures for the crops and soil preparation in case of monsoon delays ranging from 15 to 30 days and also for terminal drought situation.

The ministry suggested that depending on actual rainfall and soil characteristics, at least 10% of the runoff water should be collected in farm pond for lateral usage during prolonged dry spell.

For retaining the organic matter content of the soil in case of deficiency in the rainfall, the farmers have been suggested to take up green manuring, crop rotation and promotion of agro forestry. Vegetables being a short duration crop, vermi-composting can be followed for quicker usage of available organic matter in the soil and improving the soil moisture holding capacity, the advisory noted. In crop specific recommendations for fruit crops such as mango, banana and pomegranate and plantation crops such oil palm, the ministry suggested measures including usage of drip irrigation, mulching of the soil surface and crop residue recycling to build organic carbon reserves to improve soil health and water-holding capacity to cope with dry spells.

Fruits and vegetables give higher returns to the farmers compared to grain crops, thus we have suggested measures for each of the crop in case of delay or deficit in monsoon rains, the official said.

Mainly attributed to the NHM launched in 2005, the production of horticultural crops increased from 145 million tonne in 2001-2002 to 268 million tonne in 2012-13. The area under horticulture crops has increased from 16.6 million hectare to 22.25 million hectare during the period.

India at present is the second-largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world, contributing 11% and 13% of the total global production of fruits and vegetables.

Last month, the IMD in its first forecast said the monsoon is likely to be 95% of the long period average (LPA) or just below the 'normal' range of 96-104% of LPA.