Per capita annual water availability has declined from 5,177 cubic meter in 1951 to 1,508 cubic meter in 2014 and is likely to reduce further to 1,235 cubic meter by 2050.
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is working on crop planning for the entire country, under which it will recommend which crops to be grown in how much areas in a district based on local climatic conditions, water availability and overall demand-supply situation. This may help government to plan its incentives in such ways that farmers will adopt those recommended crops.
“Use of seasonal climate forecast in crop planning and management could possibly reduce the losses due to weather variability and provide opportunities for diversification,” said ICAR’s director general Trilochan Mohapatra. Crop planning will help the country to save water as there is a risk of India being tagged a water-stress country after 2050 due to continuous decline in per capita water availability since 1950.
ICAR’s National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NIAP) and Modipuram-based Indian Institute of Farming Systems Research are the nodal agencies working jointly to develop the crop planning for the entire country. Mohapatra said it may take another year to come out with the report for which state agriculture universities and states are also giving their inputs.
Per capita annual water availability has declined from 5,177 cubic meter in 1951 to 1,508 cubic meter in 2014 and is likely to reduce further to 1,235 cubic meter by 2050. “The situation may further deteriorate, if anticipated impact of climate change on hydrology and water resources are also considered,” he said.
He said a decision has to be taken whether water guzzling crops should be allowed in areas facing scarcity of water. If in any water-stressed area wheat is grown, which consumes 1,200-1,500 litre water to grow 1 kg, mustard can be suggested as an alternative crop, which takes 500-600 litre to produce 1 kg, for that region under crop planning.
Crops like paddy (water requirement of 2,000-5,000 litre), sugarcane (2,000 litre) should be avoided where water is not available, he said. Out of 48-50 million hectare irrigated area in the country, 60% depend on groundwater for the irrigation while the remaining use canal system. Water is the critical input of agriculture as about 80% of the current water available is consumed by the farm sector and it faces stiff competition from other sectors.
The mean productivity of food grain crops in rainfed area (71.62 m ha) is about 1.1 tonne/hectare compared with 2.8 tonne/ha in irrigated area. Simply by adopting micro irrigation like drip or sprinkler systems, there can be 40-50% saving of water, he said.