Dry-Land Agriculture: Approach Towards Sustainable Agriculture: Tarananda Mandal

Author: Tarananda Mandal
BSc,Ag 7Th semester
IAAS, Paklihawa


Dry-land Agriculture means cultivation of crops entirely under natural rainfall without irrigation. It is a kind of subsistence farming in the regions where lack of the soil moisture retards the growth of water consuming crops like paddy, sugarcane etc. Dry-land areas are characterized by low rainfall and not any irrigation facilities. Dry-land agriculture is important for the coarse grain crops, pulses, oilseeds, and raw cotton which can grow on these lands. Dry-land areas receive rainfall between 500 and 1200 mm.

Types of Dry-land Agriculture

Depending on the amount of rainfall received, dry-land agriculture has been classified into three types:

  • Dry farming: It is production of crops without irrigation in areas where annual rainfall is less than 750 mm. Crop failures are more frequent under dry farming condition owing to prolonged dry spells during crop period. It is generally practiced in arid regions of the country.
  • Dry-land farming: It is the cultivation of crops in areas receiving rainfall above 750 mm is known as dry-land farming. Crop failures are less frequent. It is generally practiced in semi-arid regions.
  • Rain-fed farming: It is practice of crop cultivation without irrigation in areas receiving 1150 mm rainfall, mostly in sub-humid and humid areas. Here chances of crop failure and water stress are very less.

Prospects of Dry-land Areas


Most of the peasants involved in dry farming are small and marginal. Therefore, improvement in dry farming would raise the economic status of farmers thus helping in poverty elimination. Increasing production of cotton subsequently leads to increase in exports of cotton good. The expanding import of oilseeds is a cause of concern to nation.

The improvement of production of oilseeds in these regions will save country money. By enhancing the productivity of crops like jowar, bajra and and ragi which are mainly grown in dry-land farming would increase the nutrient consumption levels of our nation.

Marginal lands in the semi-arid regions offer potential for fodder production to feed the cattle population which is an integral component of farming practice of this region. Providing importance to these areas can solve the problems of pulses, oilseeds and cotton. The dry-land areas have also tremendous potentiality of increased food grain production.  It would also be helpful in eliminating the problem of hunger and malnutrition prevailed in below poverty line society of the country.

Constraints of Dry-lands

Dry-lands are characterized by low and uncertain rainfall therefore, crop failure is common feature. The various constraints of dry-lands include:

  1. In dry-land areas in general, the rainfall is low and highly variable which results in uncertain crop yields. The distribution of rainfall during the crop period is uneven, receiving high amount of rain when it is not required and lack of it when crop need it.
  2. Generally in dry-land areas when the monsoon sets in late, the sowing of crops are delayed resulting in poor yields. At times, the rains may cease very early in season exposing the crop to drought and during flowering and maturity stages which reduces the crop yields considerably.
  3. Soils of the dry-lands are not only dry but also deficient in macronutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous.
  4. The temperature in dry-land varies greatly. During the period of moisture stress and drought, the temperatures accelerate the crop development resulting into forced maturity. Chilling or frost injury at flowering results in poor grain setting and deteriorates the grain quality.
  5. Small size of land holdings (less than 2 hectares) usually fragmented and scattered, lack of market facilities, frequent crop failure, poor economic condition and other socio-economic problem related to dry-lands.
  6. Extremely poor condition of farmers, lack of infrastructure to boost production.

Dry-land Farming Technology

The following farming technology is needed to enhance agricultural production in dry-land areas.

  1. Timely preparation and seeding operations by storing moistures.
  2. The use of improved crop varieties should be done which can withstand stress. For moisture conservation in the soil, deep tillage, surface cultivation and stubble mulching need to be practiced.
  3. Conjunctive use of rainfall, surface and ground water.
  4. Harvesting of water for use in dry periods. Proper watershed management not only checks further degradation of ecosystem, but also restore the degraded lands.
  5. Soil conservation by contour bunding, terracing, land sloping and land levelling and also by practicing conservational tillage (zero tillage and minimum tillage).
  6. Lining of canals to minimize water loss.
  7. Agronomic practices like mixed cropping and crop rotation which increase the yield of crops need to be practiced.
  8. Integrated nutrient management need to be practiced with special focus on use of bio-fertilizers to maintain the soil fertility.
  9. Integrated weed management and integrated pest management need to be adopted to control weeds and pests, respectively.
  10. Alley cropping, pasture management, tree farming, silvi-pastoral management systems and agro-horticultural system which are more relevant to dry-land situations have to be adopted for successful dry-land farming system.


Dry-land contributes significantly to wheat, rice, pulses, oilseeds, coarse grain crops and cotton production. Therefore, it is the need of the hour to adopt and practice the available dry-land technology to maximum extent for the enhancement of agricultural production in those areas which would not only increase the food grain production of the country but would also improve the economic status of farmers.

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