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Changes in Cropping Pattern

It has been observed that as irrigation commences, farmers change their cropping pattern from low value crops to high value crops. Usually these high value crops are non-food crops, and even if food crops are grown, emphasis is on cereals like wheat and rice, which are mostly consumed by rich people.

Irrigation has increased the imbalance between food crops and non­food crops. It is observed that the imbalance between fine grains and the so-called coarse grains, which are in fact nutritionally superior and the pulses, the demand for primary source of protein for the poor, has been expanded.

The millets in mid-eighties, in India have stagnated at less than 30 million tonnes. From the mid seventies to mid-eighties, production of millets in India has decreased. The production of pulses has not increased at all; in fact, in the eighties production has decreased by about 20 per cent from the sixties and the level of wheat production has gone up by five per cent and rice production has doubled.

It is important to note that the area under coarse grains, which is mainly consumed by the people, is constantly decreasing. It is seen that after the introduction of irrigation, the cropping pattern has changed from more nuritive to less nutritive crops.

Change in the cropping pattern due to irrigation has increased pest attacks. In Chhattisgarh, which is known as a rice bow] of India, farmers started taking double crops of paddy after the introduction of irrigation, instead of one crop of paddy and one crop of minor millets (Kodo, Kutaki and Jowar).

The double cropping of paddy has increased the extent of damage to the crop. Fields are already affected adversely by diseases and pest attacks and farmers do not get- time for reploughing, which is a natural way of destroying diseases and pests. "Gangai" disease was reported on a large scale in Raipur and Durgh districts of Chhattisgarh after the introduction of irrigation.

"Gangai" damages the stem of plants. After some time, plants become yellow and these results in non-formation or the weak formation of paddy. Punjab is another example, where irrigation has altered the cropping pattern. Fazilka district of the Punjab was a cold ton-growing region. After introduction of irrigation, salinity of land has increased and land has become infertile. This region cannot grow cotton or any minor millet at lower yield rates.

Not only in India but in several other countries too changes in the cropping pattern have been reported after irrigation was introduced. For example, in the Kano river basin irrigation project in Nigeria, the cropping pattern has changed from growing staples (sorghum and millets) to wheat and tomatoes. As a result, large farmers were able to improve their consumption standards but the poor could not afford to procure wheat. Wheat was diverted to urban bakeries and local markets.

The overall effect on the food consumption has been reduced and it has become less accessible to the poor with less varied and less nutritious food, as people have- shifted from coarse grains to processed wheat. Thus, after introducing irrigation, is not serving this purpose and becoming more cash crops it oriented.