Farmers are ignorant of changing cropping pattern

Associate Professor, Department of Agronomy 
(S.A.U Tando Jam)
Dec 31, 2001 - Jan 06 , 2002

The crops are contributing major share in Pakistan's economy, especially food crops like wheat and rice and cash crops such as cotton and sugarcane. While fruits and vegetables also contribute a lot in our exports. We still import oil seeds and pulses for our consumption due to insufficient domestic production.

Pakistan with its increasing over burden of population, which is about 130 million narrowing food needs of the country by making it self sufficient in wheat through improved production technology. Besides, it reduces imports of edible oils by introducing canola and sunflower in our cropping pattern. When pulse crops like mungbean, lentil and gram can be grown on more area looking into water shortage in the country. While pulses or legumes are short duration crops sown with low water requirements. Such crops may amend soil structure and its fertility by incorporating organic matter in it. However, fodder crops including cereals and legumes are considered as value added crops in our economy for feeding and raising of livestock as a whole.

Farmers are ignorant of changing cropping pattern, who do not know why crops are being changed in a particular cropping zone. This is due to lack of participation by farmers in research activities of the Agriculture scientists at national and provincial sctors.

The need to bring changes in the cropping pattern grows in one way, after soils and/ or crops become unproductive towards national economy. But in other way, changes in environmental conditions, due to global warming and green house effect resulting in low rainfall, high Co2, pollution (air and water), soil degradation by drought, erosion, salinity and water logging, and desertification may enforce growers to grow short duration and low delta crops such as legumes, oil seeds and cereals like sorghum and millets in summer and wheat and barley in winter seasons.

The climate of Pakistan is subtropical, arid or semi arid type with high temperature and low rainfall. The insufficient rains have created many problems especially water shortage throughout the country, due to that storage capacity of the dams and natural flow of rivers has declined. This has resulted in declining crop intensities of kharif and rabi crops grown in Pakistan, more specifically in Sindh.

Sindh is agriculture important province of Pakistan that faces water shortage problems in both kharif and rabi seasons, which reaches more than 50% for its agricultural lands excepts supply to human population and animals. It is matter of great concern to the farmers and growers of this province, which contribute both agricultural commodities and more revenue in national income. Besides crops are also source of their life survival, such as wheat and rice.

In Sindh, the changes in cropping pattern due to water shortage conditions has remained under hot discussion at different forums, in official gatherings and in seminars participated by agricultural experts, growers and NGOs. However to bring changes in cropping patterns package of events is presented in table-1.

This province still needs new strategies regarding boosting up agriculture and its future planning. It is job of agricultural experts, planners and policy makers who take farming community to the right path while making changes in the cropping pattern due to severe water shortage in Sindh. The decrease of flow in the Indus, decline water storage in the dams, low rainfall and poor management in water distribution scheduling of different barrages and canals as well as water losses at farmers field are the main causes of water shortage. Therefore, it is time to keep check and balance over causes of water deficit and losses before proposing any steps towards changes in cropping pattern, because it needs sound footings for economy.

Naturally, Sindh is divided into five ecological zones including upper Sindh, central Sindh and lower Sindh, which is irrigated tract because Indus river passes through it. The rest two are non-irrigated tracts like Thar and Kohistan, which are desert and hilly areas of Sindh. The upper and lower Sindh zones have remained rice growing areas where as central part of Sindh is cotton wheat belt.

However, central parts of Sindh upto Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas areas have remained under gardens and orchards growing zones for fruits and vegetables. Besides, cotton, Wheat, Sugarcane, Oilseeds, Pulses and Fodders are sown in greater areas (Table-2).

The upper Sindh districts, especially Larkana, Shikarpur, Jacobabad and upper Dadu are Rice growing areas except Sukkur and Ghotki Districts. In the present water shortage conditions prevailing in Sindh, there is changing scenarios with regard to changes in cropping pattern and \ or preparing strategies for looking alternate of rice in the upper Sindh rice growing districts. It would not be role of a magic or magician to change cropping pattern in rice tract over day or night. This needs sound footings by looking into climatic conditions, soil type, food habits of the people, economic status of the farmer, availability of inputs including seed, fertilizer, farm machinery, pesticides etc. market places and market prices and industrial developments in the areas.

There are proposals of the scientists and researchers to grow cotton in rice tract to overcome the water shortage and to increase the income or earning sources of the farmer. But, question is that there is no single cotton ginning factory, spinning mill and textile mill in the above areas, there are no wholesale centres for this product in public and private sectors. What would be future of rice mills, Hullers and Rice Cellars in the areas? Who would pay the price for such industrial investments and installations?

The majority of population living in the rice tract has food habits to eat rice three times in a day and night in the shape of bread and cooked rice. This area receives water in kharif, which is seasonal water. What is surety of water for growing Rabi crops like wheat as food grain crop for their livelihood?. The climatic conditions do not favour to grow cotton as an early crop while in cotton belt of Sindh, crop sowing is started in the month of April in lower zones and upto June in Upper Zones. But in rice tract farmers grow rice upto July or even mid August.

There is also tendency of farmers to grow "Dubari crops" after rice harvest on the residual moisture. Such crops include wheat, Barley, Grams, Field peas, Lentil, Mustard, linseed, Indian rape seed, Safflowers, Coriander, Fenus Greek, Fennel, Psyllium seed, Alfalfa, Egyptian clover etc. However growing legumes, especially pulses and legume fodder is step towards follow up of crop rotation for maintaining soil fertility and organic matter, which could not be maintained by growing cotton in the rice tract except providing additional water to the area in winter season for growing rabi crops.

Rice tract of upper Sindh, has limited areas for orchards and vegetables, where jujube, Guava, Dates and Mango are produced for local consumption and export purposes. Whereas kharif and Rabi vegetables are grown around towns and cities of the area. In the second step, short duration and low delta crops are under the proposals of the scientists and researchers to be grown in the rice tract during water shortage conditions. There is choice for the farmers to grow such low delta crops again including sorghum, Millet, Sesame, Mungbean, cluster bean etc. But, such crops could not be substitute of rice crop, to meet food needs of people in the rice growing areas of upper Sindh. But, growing such minor crops as an alternate of rice, may not benefit to improve economic status of the farmer due to unavailability of market and potential market prices.

The cropping pattern in central parts of Sindh is broad-based on cotton, wheat, followed by pulses, oil seeds and fodder crops in rotation. This cotton-wheat zone concentrates upon central districts of Sindh province including Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Nawabshah, Sanghar, Naushero, Khairpur, and Sukkur and Ghotki districts. There is multi cropping system operating under perennial irrigation canals, which receives water from Rohri and Nara canals and Khairpur feeder canals from Sukkur barrage. This is most fertile zone where major and minor crops are produced on vast area. However, fruit orchards and vegetables also widely concentrate in this zone. By the introduction of sugar mills in this zone, Sugarcane is grown over larger areas to increase farmers income. But, it has created many problems of soil degradation due to water logging and salinity and disturbing dry crop belt such as growing of wheat- cotton in the central zone. At present, water shortage is the main problem of this zone and cropping intensity has declined in both kharif and Rabi seasons. Thus, it is need of the time to reduce areas under sugarcane and put ban over Rice cultivation in the central zone districts. Where as, Banana crop should also be expelled towards Southern districts of Sindh, especially Hyderabad, Badin and Thatta districts. However, Rice, Sugarcane and Banana could successfully be grown in such areas due to suitability of soil and climatic conditions. The introduction of sugar beet under such areas of central and lower Sindh would not be fruitful step due to short duration winter, poor soil and water quality and also non-availability of crushing units for sugar beet. Where as sugar beet along with its any part is non-edible and non-palatable to human beings and animals except sugar it produces.

The lower part of Sindh including Tando Mohammed Khan, Badin and Thatta areas, which are remained under rice cultivation, have cropping pattern changed from rice to sugarcane and Banana growing states. More over, some new crops are introduced successfully in the same areas. The crops like sunflower, Maize, tomato, Onion, muskmelon etc are gaining position in terms of area and production. But, larger areas of this zone are under Rice, Sugarcane and Banana as major crops. The rest of the minor crops including oilseeds, pulses, Vegetables and fodder crops are contributing towards increasing farmers income. The growing of sunflower and Tomato in Badin, Maize and Muskmelon in Thatta is not less than a sound economy of the people in these areas.

Thus, lower Sindh zone is far better from other crop zones of Sindh due to its environment that permit us also to grow world economic crops such as oil palm, coconut, Betel vine, Papaya etc. But, growing of sugarcane, Banana, Rice, sunflower, Tomato and Muskmelon etc have changed scenario of the economy in this zone. Therefore, existing cropping pattern of Sindh must not be disturbed, new intreques should be avoided and irrigation water availability may sufficiently be maintained to keep existing cropping pattern more efficient and productive one, to avoid such abrupt and unsuitable changes in cropping pattern, which needs sound footings.

Table-1: Package of events required for changing cropping pattern in Sindh

* Soil, climate and food habits of the people in the area.
* Irrigation system whether seasonal or perennial water available.
*Land holding capacity of the farmers whether land lord, peasant or tenant farmer.
*Suitability of crop rotation in the area whether Monocropping or Multi cropping system.
*Cropping intensity of the area including cereals, pulses, oil seed, fiber and sugar crops, fodder crops, fruit orchards and vegetables etc.
*Introduction of new crop in the area whether food, cash or industrial crop.
*Feasibility of growing cotton in rice tract.
*Feasibility of growing sugar beet as an alternate to sugarcane crop.
*Agro-Industrial status of the area whether rice mills, sugar mills, textile mills, vegetable oil mills etc.
*Source of income of the farming community in the area whether crops or animals.
*Agricultural prices whether stability, flexibility or need or need of support prices to the growers.
*Transfer of technology, inputs, and availability of agriculture loans and trainings to the farmers.

Table-2: Crop rotation followed in different crop zones of Sindh

Crop rotation in rice tract (upper Sindh)

*Rice-Gram/Field peas/lentil
*Rice-Alfalfa/Field peas

Crop rotation in cotton-wheat tract (central Sindh)

*Cotton-Berseem-Oil seeds

Crop rotation with chillies


Crop rotation with onion


Crop rotation with sugarcane

*Sugarcane (Plant Cane)-Sugarcane (Ratoon)-Mungbean-Sugarcane (Plant Cane)-Sugarcane (Ratoon)
*Sugarcane (Plant Cane)-Guar-Sugarcane (Ratoon)-Guar-Sugarcane (Plant Cane)-Sugarcane (Ratoon)

Crop rotation in rice areas of Kotri Barrage

*Rice-Lentil/Field Peas
*Rice-Wheat/Sesbania(Jantar)-Sugarcane(Plant Cane)-Sugarcane (Ratoon)
*Rice-Berseem (where water is available in rabi season)