Uncertain rainfall, poor soil conditions and low level of management has made annual cropping of field crops a non-remunerative enterprise in many pockets of dry lands. In some instances, cropping has been given up altogether and lands remain fallow and become wastelands overgrown with unwanted vegetation. To arrest this trend and to bring back the land under economically useful vegetation, alternate land use systems such as grasslands/pastures, agroforestry and horticulture are recommended.
This has become necessary for the following reasons:
• Annual field crop production is nonviable and uneconomical in many years.
• Yield of field crops is low and fluctuates widely between years affecting stability and income.
• Continued use of the eroded and degraded lands under the present system of annual cropping may ecologically degrade the lands further affecting sustainability of the fragile eco-system in the dry lands, leading to the creation of wastelands.
• Alternate land use systems such as grasslands and tree culture are less risky, more productive and remunerative in these marginal lands. They will provide stability and sustainability.
The choice of an alternate land use system depends on the land capability. Most of the lands under dry farming tracts come under the land capability classes of III and above.
|Land capability class||Alternate land use recommended|
|Class II||Dry land horticulture|
|Class III and IV||Agro-forestry/ley farming|
|Class V||Pastures/silvipasture/tree farming|
|Class VI||Range lands/wood lots|
A. Pastures and Grasslands
Forage crops play an important role in dry land economy. They help to promote livestock husbandry to improve and stabilize income. Forage grasses and legumes are best suited for marginal lands and sub marginal lands, sloppy lands, eroded and degraded lands for soil and moisture conservation and for reclamation of wastelands.
B. Forage Crops
Forage crops for dry lands include:
Annual cereals- Sorghum, maize, pearl millet
Annual legumes- Cowpea, cluster beans (guar)
- Cenchrus ciliaris (Anjan or Kolukkattai grass)
- Cenchrus setigerus (black kolukkattai)
- Cenchrus glaucus (blue buffel)
- Dichanthium annulatum (marvel grass)
- Chloris gayana (Rhodes grass)
- Heteropogon contortus (spear grass)
Annual grass- Pennisetum pedicellatum (Deenanath grass)
- Stylosanthes hamata,
- Stylosanthes scabra (Stylo or muyal masal)
- Macroptilium atropurpureum (siratro)
- Clitoria ternatea (sangupuspham)
- Desmanthus virgatus (Hedge lucerne/velimassal)
- Leuceana leucocephala (subabul), berseem.
Forage crops can be introduced into the dry land farming system through any of the following ways:
• Grasslands or pasture with perennial grasses and legumes for grazing by livestock, cutting and stall feeding (cut and carry system) and hay or silage making.
• Strip cropping with alternate strips of grasses/legumes and annual crops.
• Ley farming where in perennial forage crops are grown in rotation with annual crops in 4–5 year cycle e.g., Stylosanthes hamata (3 years)–sorghum (1 year)–castor (1 year).
C. Ley Farming
Ley farming offers the following advantages:
• Provision of fodder for cattle,
• Low risk system,
• Soil and moisture conservation,
• Enrichment of soil fertility,
• Prevention of soil compaction, and
• Control of perennial weeds.
Silviculture refers to the raising of trees. When trees are introduced into farms along with field crops, it is known agrisilviculture or agroforestry system. Tress provides many benefits to mankind. They play protective role by making available a variety of products for human consumption, for livestock and for industrial raw material needs. E.g., fruits, nuts, fuel, fodder, timber, wood, wax, resin, etc. They also play a protective role through soil and moisture conservation, enrichment of soil fertility through nutrient recycling and protection of environment.
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