Multicropping or polycropping has a number of benefits and is aimed at drought-proofing dryland agriculture that entirely depends on rainfall.
As the future viability of agriculture depends on soil health, it is imperative to protect this precious resource. Keeping this in mind, farmers in Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapur district are gradually shifting to polycropping under zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) from the prevalent groundnut monoculture being practised since generations.
Zero budget natural farming (ZBNF)
Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is a set of farming methods, and also a grassroots peasant movement, which has spread to various states in India. The word 'budget' refers to credit and expenses, thus the phrase 'Zero Budget' means without using any credit, and without spending any money on purchased inputs.
Anantapur a case study:
- Zero Budget Natural Farming was introduced in September 2015. Currently, about 60,000 hectares (ha) are under ZBNF cultivation. The government plans to increase it to 1,00,000 ha by the end of 2018.
End of Monocropping
- As a result of ZBNF practice that encourages polycropping, groundnut is no more the solo crop being grown across many villages in Anantapur. In villages like Thammaiah doddi, Gundumala, Neelakantapuram and Nijavalli, polycropping is the new mantra.
- Lush green fields of paddy are interspersed with vegetables like brinjal, onion and spinach. A few farmers are trying out mulberry trees, along with pigeon peas. In a few farms, pomegranate trees grow with maize and tall coconut trees dot the border.
- Multicropping or polycropping has a number of benefits and is aimed at drought-proofing dryland agriculture that entirely depends on rainfall.
Fighting drought, migration
- Polycropping under zero budget natural farming has benefited Anantapur in another way too. Migration has reduced as farmers’ income has become assured.
- “Conservation of agricultural diversity and using on-farm inputs are the paths to a sustainable future
- Anantapur is a dry region where the annual rainfall is around 500 mm. So, naturally one of the efforts under natural farming is to increase the soil organic matter to fight drought. “Drought adaptation has increased in the district, as farmers are shifting towards natural farming.”
- To make agriculture climate resilient, water run-off is arrested across slopes. Under watershed management, trenches and earthen bunds have been created to absorb rainwater across farmers’ fields. Farm ponds have been dug to collect excess water at the time of rainfall.