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Why does India practice Dryland Farming? The best methods for increasing water absorption

Dryland Farming: The vast majority of India is characterized as arid, which limits the use of conventional rainfed irrigation. Therefore, despite insufficient rainfall and irrigation facilities, India adopted desert farming to leverage these areas.

The practice of dry farming is the cultivation of drought-resistant crop varieties in arid and semi-arid regions. Further, plants can be prevented from evaporating and transpiring their water.

This guide will walk you through:

  • Why is Dryland farming so popular?

  • Dryland farming is important for India

  • The dry farming technique

  • Crops grown on drylands

  • Practicing Dryland agriculture in Indian states


    Why is Dryland farming so popular?

    Dryland Farming
    Dryland Farming

    Farmers who practice desert farming grow crops in areas with less than 500 mm of annual rainfall. As an added benefit, crops are grown from the moisture that has been stored in the soil from last year’s rainstorms.

    Drylands are often characterized by irregular rainfall or lack of irrigation systems. The area receives 500-1200 millimeters of rainfall annually. It is highly preferred by farmers to use tractors like the John Deere 5050 D and the New Holland 4710 paddy special to prepare the land for dry farming.


    Dryland farming is important for India

    In arid and semi-arid regions, dry farming provides an advantage since crops cannot be dependent on natural rainfall. There is a chronic shortage of supplemental rainfall in certain parts of India due to climate change. Despite shortages, dry land farming appears as a sustainable solution.



    The dry farming technique

    Three principles govern the practice of desert farming in India :

    1. Retaining precipitation on the land is essential.

    2. Avoiding evaporation or transpiration by choosing methods that can retain soil moisture.

    3. Choosing crops that can withstand droughts and are not dependent on heavy rains and flooding.


    Dryland-Farming aarug agro
    Dryland-Farming aarug agro


    How to Farm Drylands : What you need to know?


    The primary goal of this farming technique is to lock water in the soil for later use during dry seasons. Dryland farming involves the following practices:

    • The crops used in the method are drought-resistant and can survive dry conditions. These crops can also be early maturing, dwarf, or mini cultivars.

    • Approximately 250 millimeters of rain must fall each year.

    • Planting and growth must be done in a cool, dry environment to prevent heat and evaporation.

    • You need to preserve the soil so that it can absorb the maximum amount of moisture from the previous rainy season. It should be about 10 feet to 3 metres deep. Sand, clay, and gravel shouldn’t be present as they can restrict water flow. 450mm is the minimum feasible soil depth.

    As soil depth increases, its water storage capacity and drought resistance increase as well.

    How to Improve the Absorption of Water in Dryland Soil

    Soil surface crusting should be avoided

    It is important to prevent soil seals or crusts from preventing water intake. Soil clods can be broken down and dispersed by rainfall.


    It is possible to create a cloddy surface by tillage. Additionally, this method increases the time it takes raindrops to break up clods and seal a surface. Large seeds should have a finer bed than small seeds.

    Mulch should be applied after harvesting. As a result, the rain water will be slowed down and water will be absorbed more efficiently.

    Water Runoff Reduction 


    There isn’t much problem with waterclogging to a certain extent. A large amount of running water, however, can lead to erosion. To absorb water, you can follow the following practices.

    • A well-leveled field is important.

    • The slope of the land should be taken into account when tillage & planting. As a result, downward water movement would also be hindered.

    • The retention of water can be improved by building bunds or contours.

    Reducing soil moisture/evaporation through various methods

    In dry growing seasons, soil moisture is crucial for crop survival. It is possible to capture soil moisture from previous rainfall by adopting the following methods.

    • The use of mulches

    • Uses of windbreaks

    • The use of antitranspirants

    • The Control of Weeds


    1.The use of mulches:  Rainfall can evaporate 60-75% from soil. Mulches help prevent soil moisture by layering soil. Besides conserving soil, it also maintains temperature, reduces soil sanity, controls weeds and maintains soil structure.

    Dryland-Farming aarug agro
    Dryland-Farming aarug agro

    The types of mulch to use

    A mulch can protect soil from evaporation by using one of the following types.

    Mulch for soil/dust :  The loosening of the soil or dust protects the soil from evaporation by acting as a soil mulch. As well as dust, this loose soil can also be referred to as soil mulch. Furthermore, inter-cultivation produces dry mulch for growing crops.

    The straw mulch : Mulching with straw or crop residue can prevent soil from evaporating. This is why stubble mulch is called stubble.

    The Mulch of Stubble : Stubble mulch is made from wheat straw or cotton stalks, etc. Mulch also helps prevent soil degradation and water evaporation.

    The use of plastic mulch : The soil can be protected from evaporation by covering it with polyethene or polyvinyl chloride.

    The vertical mulching method : Using vertical mulching, narrow trenches are created across the field to improve rainwater retention and infiltration. Crop residues and straws cover these narrow trenches.

    2. Uses of windbreaks: The field can be protected from heavy winds by creating windbreaks and shelterbelts. The plantings and vegetation used in the creation of these belts and breaks are also extensive. As well as reducing wind erosion, protecting plants and crops, and preventing evaporation, these large plantings also reduce wind erosion.

    Wind Breaks & Shelterbelts Uses
    Wind Breaks & Shelterbelts Uses

    3. The use of antitranspirants : A plant loses almost 99% of the water it absorbs through transpiration. The balance of water can be improved if transpiration is managed.

    It is possible to reduce water loss from plants when antitranspirants are applied to their surfaces. The process of photosynthesis is slowed down by antitranspirants. In addition, they prevent major moisture loss in the crop. Nurseries and horticulture crops also utilize them extensively.

    4. The Control of Weeds : The transpiration rate of weeds is much higher than that of crops. A large amount of soil moisture can be taken up by weeds as well. It is therefore crucial to control and prevent weeds during dryland agriculture.

    The most important crops for drier farming

    A selection of dryland farming crops that are suitable for growing in areas with a lack of rain is shown below.

    • Wheat
    • Corn
    • Millet
    • Rye
    • Pumpkin
    • Beans
    • Tomatoes
    • Grapes
    • Beans
    • Maize
    • Sunflower
    • Watermelon

    Aspects such as gram, lentil, pigeon pea, ragi, bajra, and jwar are considered major dry crops, as are oilseeds such as rapeseed and pulses such as mustard. India uses dryland agriculture to produce almost 80% of Jwar and Bajra, 90% of Bajra, 75% of oilseeds, and 95% of pulses.




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