Characteristics of Dry land Agriculture

Dry land areas may be characterized by the following features:

  • 1. Uncertain, ill- distributed and limited annual rainfall;
  • 2. Occurrence of extensive climatic hazards like drought, flood etc;
  • 3. Undulating soil surface;
  • 4. Occurrence of extensive and large holdings;
  • 5. Practice of extensive agriculture i.e. prevalence of monocropping


  • 6. Relatively large size of fields;
  • 7. Similarity in types of crops raised by almost all the farmers of a particular region;
  • 8. Very low crop yield;
  • 9. Poor market facility for the produce;
  • 10. Poor economy of the farmers; and
  • 11. Poor health of cattle as well as farmers.

Problems of Dry Farming in India

The major problem which the farmers have to face very often is to keep the crop plants alive and to get some economic returns from the crop production. But this single problem is influenced by several factors which are briefly described below.

Moisture stress and uncertain rainfall According to definition the dry farming areas receive an annual rainfall of 500 mm or even less. The rains are very erratic, uncertain and unevenly distributed. Therefore, the agriculture in these areas has become a sort of gamble with the nature and very often the crops have to face climatic hazards. The farmers also take up farming halfheartedly as they are not sure of being able to harvest the crops. Thus, water scarcity becomes a serious bottleneck in dry land agriculture.

Effective storage of rain water According to characteristics of dry farming, either there will be no rain at all or there will be torrential rain with very high intensity. Thus, in the former case the crops will have to suffer a severe drought and in the latter case they suffer either flood or water logging and they will be spoilt in case of very heavy downpour, the excess water gets lost as run off which goes to the ponds and ditches etc. This water could be stored for providing life saving or protective irrigation to the crops grown in dry land areas. The loss of water takes place in several ways namely runoff, evaporation, uptake through weeds etc. The water could be stored for short period or long period and it can be preserved either in soil, pond or ditches based on situation and utilized fr irrigation during dry periods.

Dry land agriculture cannot compete with conventional standards and definitions of productive agriculture. If such a competition is attempted, it will only turn out to be an economic and environmental disaster for the dry lands. Therefore, norms, standards and definitions have to redraft for dry land agriculture separately and realistically.

The burgeoning population growth of India coupled with rapid urban development has led to an increasing demand on the country's land resources. An indication of this burden on the natural resources is a simple comparison between India's share in total world land area and in the total world population. While the former is a meagre 2 per cent of the world geographical area, the latter constitutes 16 per cent of world's population. Land resources provide livelihood to two thirds of India's population. The increasing pressure on land, relentless exploitation of this valuable resource for agricultural and allied, housing, industrial and manufacturing activities has made the productive farm lands less productive, leading to its constant degradation.

The total geographical area of the country is around 329 million hectares out of which only 264 million hectares (80 per cent) are fit for vegetation. While 142 million hectares are covered under all types of crops, 67 million hectares of land are under forest cover and 68.35 million hectare area of land is lying as wastelands in India. The Government of India (GoI) defines wastelands as the degraded land which is currently under utilised and can be brought under vegetative cover, with reasonable effort by resorting to effective and appropriate water and soil management.

It is estimated that approximately half of the wastelands in India which are not covered under forests of any kind can be made productive if treated properly. It is the unprotected and unpreserved non forestlands, which are subjected to constant degradation. The tremendously increasing biotic pressure on the land resources, in the last six decades, have promoted deforestation and done irreversible damage to the soil and environment. Land degradation is not only impacting the livelihoods of the land dependent communities but also disrupting the ecosystem as a whole. Keeping this in view the government created the Department of Wasteland Development (presently renamed as Department of Land Resources) in July 1992 under the Ministry of Rural Development to restore ecological imbalance through development of degraded non forest wastelands.

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