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Advantages And Disadvantages Of Diversification In Agriculture Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 1761 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Agriculture is the pre-dominant economic line of work of the rural communities in India, and plays a vital role in the socio-economic development of these communities. India acquires its major share of production revenues from the rural / agricultural sector of the economy. The agriculture sector in India is enormously significant in spite of its declining share in GDP. Sectoral shifts occurred as a result of the industrialization which had raised the Services sector shares in GDP during the 1990’s, where as Agriculture, which had a major share in GDP in the 1950’s, contributed only 22.5 % by the end of March 2004 (Economic Survey, GOl, 2003-04). Thus came up a pressing need for a paradigm shift in the government’s agricultural policy to address the problems faced in the agricultural sector in the new domestic and global economic environment and avenues to enhance the income of the farmers. The possible solution for meliorating the agro sector is Diversification. This study traces the definition of diversification, area expansion problems, immediate needs, and its future prospects.

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Diversification can also involve “a shift of resources from one crop (or livestock) to a larger mix of crops and livestock, keeping in view the varying nature of risks and expected returns from each crop/livestock activity, and adjusting in such a way that it leads to optimum portfolio of income” (Joshi, et al, 2003). It is a way of a gradual movement from subsistence staple food crops towards diversified market-oriented crops which have a larger potential for land returns. DOA being a strategy would open up opportunities, to a large extent, for value addition in agriculture and will also lead to better crop planning and improve the earning opportunities in the farm community. In India, Andhra Pradesh has been proactive in taking up agricultural diversification as a strategy to accelerate the growth of agriculture.

Crop Diversification

Crop diversification takes into account the economic returns from different value-added crops. It also implies the effective use of environmental as well as human resources to grow a mix of crops with complementary marketing opportunities, and it entails shifting of resources from low value crops to high value crops. Due to globalization, crop diversification in agriculture is also a means to increase the total crop productivity in terms of quality, monetary and quantity value under specific, diverse agro-climatic situations all over the world.

There are two approaches to crop diversification in agriculture.

Horizontal diversification – the primary approach to crop diversification used in production agriculture. In this approach, diversification normally takes place through crop intensification which means adding new high-value crops to existing cropping systems as a way of improving the overall productivity of a particular farm or a region’s farming economy as a whole.

Vertical diversification approach in which value is added to the products by farmers through various methods such as processing, regional branding, packaging, merchandising, or other efforts to enhance the product.

Opportunities for crop diversification normally vary depending upon the risk, opportunity and the feasibility of proposed changes within a socio-economic and agro-economic context. Crop diversification may occur as a result of government policies. The “Technology Mission on Oilseeds”, “Spices Development Board”, “and Coconut Development Board” etc is some examples where the Indian government created policies to thrust changes upon farmers and the food supply chain at large as a way of promoting crop diversity.

Crop diversification is the outcome of several interactive effects of many factors:

Environmental factors which includes irrigation, rainfall, and temperature and soil fertility.

Price-related factors which includes output and input prices with respect to national and international trade policies and other economic policies that affect the prices either directly or indirectly.

Technology-related factors which includes seeds, fertilizers and water technologies, but also those related to marketing, harvest, storage, agro-processing, distribution, logistics, etc.

Household-related factors which includes regional food traditions, fodder and fuel as well as the labor and investment capacity of farm people and their communities.

Institutional and Infrastructure-related factors which includes farm size, location and tenancy arrangements, research, in-field technical support, marketing systems and government regulating policies, etc.

All these five factors are interrelated.

Area expansion problems under rice and wheat crops

Scaling up production area poses several new problems of significance such as:

1. Excessive use of groundwater leading to poor water use efficiency and depletion of groundwater.

2. Deterioration of soil health or soil fertility.

3. Multiple infestations of weed flora, insect pests and diseases.

4. Indiscriminate use of energy such as chemical, electricity or disease, etc.

5. Reduction in the availability of other protective food and high value crops.

6. Pollution of agro-ecosystems.

Despite the expansion problems, crop diversification has the potential to be an economic driver in agricultural regions. It may prove to become the paramount importance in meeting challenges that arise from a post-green revolution scenario. In view of shrinkage of agricultural land and operational holdings due to expansion of urban centers, changes in consumer food habits, exponential population growth rate, farmers are pressured to include or substitute additional crops in to the cropping system.

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Key Drivers Of Diversification

The key drivers of diversification that are identified are : (1) Food Security; (2) Employment generation through creation of off-farm and non-farm investment opportunities within the capabilities of the resource-poor farmers; (3) Changes in crop patterns and farming systems; (4) More effective use of land and water resources; (5) Market access initiatives replacing risk aversion with risk acceptance; (6) Changing consumer demands irrespective of the nature of habitation and standards of living due to spread-effect of health consciousness caused by the visual media and non-discriminatory demand for quality goods, and (7) The role of urbanization in fast developing countries like India.

Crop diversification can better tolerate the ups and downs in the market value of farm products and may ensure economic stability for farming families of the country. The adverse effects of aberrant weather, such as erratic and scanty rainfall and drought are very common in a vast area in agricultural production of the country. Incidence of flood in one part of the country and drought in the other part is a very frequent phenomenon in India. Under these aberrant weather situations, dependence on one or two major cereals (rice, wheat, etc.) is always risky. Hence, crop diversification through substitution of one crop or mixed cropping/inter-cropping may be a useful tool to mitigate problems associated with aberrant weather to some extent, especially in the arid and semi-arid drought-prone/dry land areas.

Immediate Need

In India, crop diversification in agriculture takes place vertically or horizontally, depending upon the market forces and also occasionally due to the domestic needs. With regards to use of land and water use and quality, there is an immediate need to consider the following factors (Aradhana , 2009):

Farm produce processing into value added products will offer employment scope in non-farm works as in distillation of active ingredients from medicinal and aromatic plants (herbal products), scope of industrialization in agriculture for sugar, paper board manufacturing, etc.

There is a need to find place-based approaches for diversifying the farming situations under various socio-economic conditions, infrastructure of market, domestic needs, supply of inputs, etc.

The research and development on crop diversification is best done in a farmer-participatory mode where a multi-disciplinary team consisting of scientists will involve farmers from the project planning phase till arriving at conclusions and solutions.

The concept of sustainable productivity for each land and water units through crop diversification needs to be fostered.

There is critical need for promoting co-operatives in rural areas to solve micro-level and demographic problems.

Strengthening food processing and other value-added industries in rural areas is a means to provide employment to rural youth.

Alternate cropping systems and farm enterprise diversification are most important for environment protection.

There are abundant opportunities in adopting the subsidiary occupations to the rice-wheat cropping systems present in India. They are vegetable farming, fruit cultivation, floriculture, medicinal and aromatic plants cultivation, mushroom farming, dairying, piggery, goatery, poultry and duckery, fishery or aquaculture, bee-keeping, to provide ample scope for diversification of rice-wheat cropping system in north-western and south India and north-eastern states.

Farm enterprise diversification will generate more income opportunities and rural employment round the year.


Diversification in agriculture will have a tremendous impact on the agro-socio-economic areas and also in the uplifting of resource-inadequate farming communities. It will be able to generate income and employment opportunities for rural youth around the year for the utmost benefits of the Indian farmers. It shows the use of local resources in a bigger mix of diversified cropping systems and livestock, aquaculture and other non-farm sectors in the rural areas. As in the WTO era along with the globalization of markets, diversification in agriculture is an ace means to step up the total production and productivity with respect to quality, quantity and monetary benefits under diverse agro-climatic state of affairs in the country. There are still numerous opportunities for crop diversification present in both- irrigated and non-irrigated vast areas in the rural India.


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