Crop Diversification is the addition of new crops or cropping systems to agricultural production on a particular farm considering the different returns from value-added crops with complimentary marketing opportunities. This practice allows farmers to expand production, which helps generate a higher income level.
Crop diversification is recognized as a pro-environment, cost-effective, and reasonable approach to reducing uncertainty in agriculture, particularly due to climate change. Crop diversification, as opposed to specialized farming, is an attempt to promote crop diversity by crop rotation, multiple cropping, or intercropping, with the goal of improving productivity, sustainability, and supply of ecological systems.
The traditional pattern of agriculture in India has wider crop diversity, more stable and pro-nature. In the Garhwal Himalayan region of India, Barahnaja is a crop diversification system for cultivating 12 crops in a year. ‘Barah anaaj’ literally means ‘12 foodgrains’ and is the traditional heritage of the area.
Need for Crop Diversification
- Rapid urbanization: Rapid urbanization is one of the biggest reasons of crop diversification. Urbanization puts pressure on land resources, a small number of farmers requires to produce for a larger number of consumers.
- Change in demand: Change in demand is also a reason for crop diversification. Shifting from a diet-based staple to nutrient-rich animal products, fruits and vegetables.
- Climate change: With greater climate variability, shifting temperature and precipitation patterns, and other global change components, we expect to see a range of crop and ecosystem responses that will affect integral agricultural processes. Such effects include changes in nutrient cycling and soil moisture, as well as shifts in pest occurrences and plant diseases, all of which will greatly influence food production and food security.
- Technology: Technology innovation may be a powerful driver for fostering crop diversification and accelerating agricultural growth.Example- Mini-chromosomal Technology: A mini-chromosome is a small structure within a cell that contains relatively little genetic material, it retains a lot of information in general terms. Agricultural geneticists can multiple 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.
Advantages of Crop Diversification
- Increase in farmer’s income: Diversification of crops is one of the best alternatives for the increase in farmers’ economic status in the country. Crop diversification helps divide the risk posed by fluctuating market prices. If in one season the vegetables don’t perform well, the farmer can sail through with the income brought in by the pulses that year. And when both crops get good prices, there is also an opportunity to maximize the earnings.
- Increase in Natural Biodiversity and Production: If farmers continue to follow the same cropping pattern for a few more years, it will create a deficiency of soil nutrients. To meet the deficiency of soil nutrients, farmers apply fertilizers periodically, which further results in a change in the soil’s chemical and biological properties.
- Lowers the Risk of Crop: Different crops react to climate scenarios differently, crop diversification reduces the risk of crop failure. While the cold might impact one crop unfavorably, production in an alternative crop may grow.
- Food security: Diversification of crops one of best system to ensure food security and helps farmers in growing surplus products for sale at the market.
- Access to national and global markets: Crop diversification can enable farmers to gain access to national and international markets with new products, food and medicinal plants. Diversifying from the monoculture of traditional staples can have important nutritional benefits for farmers in developing countries and can support a country for becoming more self-reliant in terms of food production.
- Managing the Price Risk: Diversification of crops can help manage price risk since all products would not suffer low market prices simultaneously, which results in increase in the farmers’ income.
• Conservation of resources: Adopting crop diversification helps conserve natural resources. For example, the introduction of legumes in the rice-wheat cropping procedure can fix atmospheric Nitrogen that helps sustain soil fertility.
Steps taken to promote Crop Diversification
- Introducing of Technology Mission for the Integrated Development of Horticulture in the Northeastern Parts of India: It promotes the expansion of agriculture in the targeted area by establishing ties between research, production, extension, post-harvest management, processing, marketing, and exports.
- Implementation of National Agriculture Insurance Scheme: The scheme covers food crops, oilseeds and yearly commercial and horticulture crops. It provides a 50% subsidy to small and marginal farmers.
- Implementing the Technology Mission on Cotton: The Technology Mission will have independent mini-missions on technology generation, product support and extension.
- Establishment of Watershed Development Fund: Watershed Development Fund is created nationally to promote rainfed lands.
- Seed Crop Insurance Pilot Program (PSSCI): It is an insurance programme for seed crops to address the risk associated to seed production.
- Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for the Food Processing Industry: It is implemented with an outlay of INR 10,900 crores for a period of seven years from 2021-2022 to 2026-27. The primary objectives of this scheme include support to the creation of global food manufacturing champions and support for Indian brands of food products in the international markets.
- International Year of Millets 2023: The Government has evolved the ‘Seven Sutras’ (themes) in the run-up to the IYOM, which will be rolled out by the concerned Ministry/Departments, – Enhancement of Production/Productivity, Nutrition & Health benefits, Value Addition, Processing & Recipe Development, Entrepreneurship/Startup/Collective Development, Awareness creation including Branding Labelling & Promotion, International Outreach and Policy Interventions for Mainstreaming.