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October - December 2013

Indian Agriculture to a large extent depends on the weather and climatic conditions. In early 1988, a National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF) was established by the Government of India to develop suitable numerical weather-prediction models to issue weather forecasts, and to inform and guide farmers in advance to undertake farming activities.

In India, smallholders’ farms constitute 84.97% of the operational holdings, and cover 44.31% of the total operational area. Benchmark data from experimental marginal and small households indicate that individual households spend as much as 42% and 35% of their earnings, respectively, for meeting household food requirements. Crops and livestock constitute the predominant land-use system of these farms. Vertical expansion of the IFS system by integrating appropriate farming system components requiring less space and time is a novel feature for ensuring periodic returns to farmers. A quick survey to characterize existing farming systems across the country indicates existence of 19 predominant farming systems—a majority of them (85%) have crop + livestock as the important components. Crop-dominant systems are common in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, North-East, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, while livestock-dominant systems are in Rajasthan and parts of Gujarat. West Bengal, parts of Odisha and Asom have fisheries as a major component of farming systems. Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, parts of Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim have potential for horticulture (fruit)-based systems, while plantation dominant systems exist in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Kerala.

On-farm research in crop diversification and sustainable production indicates that complementary cropping systems with technological interventions can increase profitability by 2 to 3 folds. Low-cost interventions in livestock sector can enhance income of farmers by 3 to 4 folds. Besides, crops and livestock, integration of other need-based small and micro enterprises such as on-farm agro-processing and value-addition, apiary, mushroom, biogas, seedling production of high-value crops, protected horticulture, boundary plantations and kitchen gardening can provide additional returns to farmers. On-farm farming system modules evaluated in various NARP zones through the AICRP on the I n t e g r a t e d Farming Systems gave 6.8-fold increase in net returns (over variable cost of interventions) in improved farming systems with value of household consumption (produced within farm) increasing by 51.4%. The per day profit of marginal and small households can be increased by 69.2% through improved varieties, balanced nutrient application, integrated pest management, good quality and round-the-year fodder supply, area-and-species specific mineral mixture supplementation in feeds, cleaning /grading of farm produce and kitchen-gardening in farming systems’ perspective. Efforts have been made to develop IFS models and allied farming system packages for fetching monthly net income of `25,000/ha in irrigated and `10,000/ha in rainfed systems for marginal and small farmers.
Although the IFS models are promising, scientific underpinning of such mixed commodity systems needs to be evaluated further. Attempts needs to be made for (i) Systematic characterization of existing farming systems in different agroclimatic regions, (ii) Identification of farm constraints, (iii) Collective, compatible and convenient farm interventions, (iv) Convergence of resources for making a self-reliant farm, (v) Auditing of input-output, (vi) Impact assessment of interventions on employment generation, productivity enhancement, sustainability of natural resources, and (vi) Large-scale demonstration of farming systems in a participatory mode. The challenge before us is to transform cropping systems into farming systems mode to improve living standards of small and marginal households. Cluster-based demonstrations of the successful IFS models through farmers’ participatory approach involving tribal dominant areas/villages will pave a way for their large-scale adoption. Need of the hour in the country is to develop self-sustainable farming systems across different agroclimates to meet long-term goals of reducing poverty, unemployment and malnutrition while improving food and nutritional security at the household level.