What is the need for improvement in food production?
India is a big country with a billion plus population. The country needs more and more food to feed its ever growing population. India is already an intensively farmed country. Area of land under cultivation cannot be increased beyond certain level. Hence, there is a need for various methods to improve farm yield so that food for the huge population can be made available.
1: (a) June to October, 2: (b) November to April, 3: (d) Wheat, 4: (c) Soyabean, 5: (a) Insect pests, 6: (c) Drought, 7: (b) Short height, 8: (a) Thick stem, 9: (d) Cross between Alphonso and Dussehri mangoes, 10: (c) Bacillus thuringiensis
According to the 1996 World Food Summit, food security is said to exist when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. This definition not only talks about the improved availability of food but also of access of food to the masses. Moreover, this definition also harps on the safe and nutritious food which is affordable to each member of the population.
Sources of carbohydrate: Wheat, maize, millets, sorghum, etc.
Sources of protein: pulses, meat, fish, etc.
Sources of fat: Oilseeds, milk, butter, etc.
Minerals and vitamins: Vegetables, spices and fruits.
Fodder crops: Berseem, oat, sudan grass, etc.
Cropping Seasons in India
The kharif season is from June to October. Crops which are grown in this season are called kharif crops, e.g. paddy, soyabean, pigeon pea, maize, cotton, green gram, black gram, etc. Kharif crops require plenty of sunlight and water to grow.
The rabi season is from November to April. Crops which are grown in this season are called rabi crops, e.g. wheat, gram, peas, mustard, linseed, etc. Rabi crops require moderate amount of sunshine and rain.
Improvement in Crop Yields
Major activities for improvement in crop production can be classified into three groups which are as follows:
- Crop variety improvement
- Crop production improvement
- Crop protection management.
Crop Variety Improvement
For this purpose, a crop variety is chosen which can give good yield. The crop is selected by breeding for various useful characteristics; like disease resistance, response to fertilizers, product quality and high yields. This is generally done by hybridization.
The crossing between genetically dissimilar plants to produce a new variety is called hybridization. Crossing can be of following types:
- Intervarietal: When crossing is done between different varieties of plants, it is called intervarietal. In this case plants of the same species but from different populations are cross-bred to produce a new variety.
- Interspecific: When plants from two different species but from the same genus are crossed, it is called interspecific crossing.
- Intergeneric: When plants from different genera are crossed, it is called intergeneric.
When a gene with a desirable character is introduced into a plant or animal, it is called genetic modification. BT cotton is a good example of genetically modified crop. Here, BT stands for Bacillus thuringiensis which is a bacteria that produces various toxins against different types of pests. Introducing the gene from BT equips cotton with an ability to ward off attacks from different types of insect pests. It helps in improving the yield of cotton.
A new variety of crop should be able to give high yield under different conditions in different areas. Some places get plenty of rainfall, while some others may not get rainfall at all. Type of soil is also different in different area, and so are climatic conditions. A new variety of crop should be able to flourish under any condition in order to gain wide acceptance among farmers.
Goals of Variety Improvement
- Higher yield: A crop variety which can produce higher yield can improve per acre productivity of farm.
- Improved quality: Quality parameters vary from one crop to another crop. For example; baking quality is important for wheat. Protein quality and availability is important for pulses. On the other hand, fruits and vegetables should have the quality to remain fresh for a longer duration.
- Biotic and abiotic resistance: Crop production can go down due to biotic (diseases, insects and nematodes) and abiotic (drought, salinity, water logging, heat, cold and frost) stresses under different situations. Varieties resistant to these stresses can improve crop production.
- Change in maturity duration: If maturity duration of a crop can be reduced, it will help in saving resources and time. This will reduce the cost of production and will help in harvesting more number of crops in a given year. Moreover, the maturity period should be uniform for all the crops. It will make the harvesting process easier and will help in reducing the losses during harvesting.
- Wider adaptability: A crop variety with wider adaptability will flourish and different conditions. Thus, a single variety can be grown in different parts of the country with equal ease.
- Desirable agronomic characteristics: Desirable agronomic characteristics vary from one crop to another. For example; fodder crops need to be tall and should have profuse branching. Cereal crops should be dwarf so that less amount nutrients can be consumed by the plant and more nutrients can be channelized to making grains.
Production practices show a wide variation among farmers in India. Some farmers have large farms while some others have very small plots. Some farmers do not have capital to buy seeds or latest farm equipments. Some farmers may have enough capital to buy high yielding varieties of seeds and latest farm equipments. Due to this there is wide variation in farming practices in India. Farming practices among Indian farmers can be divided into three types, viz. ‘no cost production’, ‘low cost production’ and ‘high cost production’.