Diversified intensive agriculture in rainfed areas

Rainfed Agriculture in Pakistan : Pakistan is an agricultural country spreading over an area of about 79. 6 million hectares (Mha) with arid and semi-arid climate.

Diversified intensive agriculture in rainfed areasShare of agriculture in GDP is 19.8%, engaging about 42.3% labor force of country (economic survey 2015-2016). In the past, less importance was given to agriculture on rainfed areas and resources were allocated for the development of irrigated areas, due to its intrinsic risks.

Increasing population pressure and food demand of the people combined with reduction in productive agricultural lands in Pakistan are forcing farmers of rainfed agro-ecosystems to adopt new developed technologies for diversified intensive agriculture in rainfed areas.

Intensification and Diversification in rainfed agriculture 

  • Agricultural Intensification

Increased average inputs of labor or capital on small land holding, either on cultivated land alone, or on cultivated and grazing land, for the purpose of increasing the value of output per hectare.

  • Driving forces

Increasing income on small farm holdings.

    • Withstanding price fluctuation.
    • Mitigating effects of increasing climate variability.
    • Balancing food demand.
    • Improving fodder for livestock animals.
    • Conservation of natural resources, depending on crop rotation, decreasing insect pests, diseases and weed problems
  • Agricultural Diversification

Addition of new crops or cropping systems to agricultural production on a particular farm taking into account the different returns from value-added crops with    complementary marketing opportunities.

Multifarious Problems of rainfed agriculture: 


Outcomes of major Problems :

  • Poor crop stands.
  • Reduction in plant population.
  • Reduction in crop grain yield.
  • Low productivity and economic loss.
  • Low-input enterprise for resource-poor farmers.

Differenet Production Technologies adopted for diversified intensive production in rainfed areas; 

  1. Soil and water conservation management
    • Terraces, other physical and biological structures to control erosion and water runoff
    • Rain Water harvesting techniques
    • Pressurized irrigation systems
    • Conservation tillage
    • Contour planting
    • Cover crops including nitrogen fixing legumes
    • Mulch tillage and stubble mulch
    • Minimum tillage and zero tillage
    • Subsoiling and use of farm machinery
  1. Crop establishment
    • Use of good quality seed.
    • Intercropping and alley cropping.
    • Sowing seed at shallow depth
  1. Controlling of weeds, diseases and pests.
    • Inter cropping and rotations
    • Integrated pest management(IPM)
    • The intermingled planting of crops genotypes that have disease resistance profiles called multiline-can also decrease or effectively eliminate a pathogen
    • Use of agrochemicals, biological control and mechanical control
  2. Soil fertility management
    • Crop rotations and manures
    • Compost and bio fertilizers
    • Green manures like sesbania, berseem, cluster bean and
    • Rice bean
    • Organic and precision agriculture
    • Integrated soil fertility management
    • Integrated plant nutrient management (IPNM)

Benefits :

  1. Application of new production technologies for crop diversification provides better conditions for food security and enables farmers to grow surplus products for sale at market and thus obtain increased income to meet other needs related to households.
  2. Diversified intensive farming can also manage price risk, on the assumption that not all the products will suffer low market prices at the same time, compared to producing monocultures, management techniques for diversified crops consist of more sustainable natural resource practices.
  3. Diversified intensive agriculture can potentially strengthen farmers cropping system by increasing yields, improving drought resilience, boosting resistance to pest and diseases and also by capturing new market opportunities.
  4. Production technologies like conservation farming reduces the input use, labor and equipment costs, enhances soil fertility, reduces erosion and improves water infiltration, improve crop residue management including mulching reduces unit costs and conserve land resources.
  5. IPM systems, precision agriculture, fertilizer use efficiency water conservation practices, new cropping patterns with drought tolerant varieties, organic farming and variety improvement are few appropriate technologies to improve productivity and sustainability of agriculture in rainfed areas of Pakistan.

Limitations :

  1. It may be difficult for farmers to achieve a high yield in terms of tons per hectare given that they have a greater range of crops to manage
  2. In terms of commercial farming access to national and international markets may be limited by a range of factors including government policy including subsidies, the price and supply of inputs, infrastructure for storage and transportation, amongst others.
  3. Farmers also face risk from poor economic returns if crops are not selected based on a market assessment. For example, drought tolerant crop varieties may fetch a low market price if there is not sufficient demand.

Conclusion :

  1. Proper emphasis should be given on development of appropriate technologies, taking into account farmers need, problems and social –economic background.
  2.  More emphasis should be given on production of farm literature in all local languages and successful demonstrations should be repeated for the sake of farmers to confirm the truth of technologies.
  3.  Production technologies for diversified intensive agriculture should be introduced in a manner that a farmer can understand easily and compatible with previous experiences and cultural norms

By Muhammad Fraz Ali

Muhammad Fraz Ali is the young researcher working in the field of crop production and management. Currently he is doing Master from University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.