Rice-Wheat Cropping System: Features and Issues

The Rice-wheat cropping system is India’s most widely adopted cropping system practiced on an estimated area of around 11 million hectares. This system is prevalent in Indo-Gangetic plains (IGP) and is predominant in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh etc.

Key Features of Rice-Wheat Cropping System

Both rice and wheat have different soil requirements. For example, if rice needs stagnant water conditions; wheat needs well-pulverized soil balanced with moisture, air and thermal regime. Due to this, a key feature of Rice-wheat cropping system is the annual conversion of soil from aerobic to anaerobic and then back to aerobic conditions.

  • Although this is an irrigated cropping system yet; yield are dependent on climatic situation in India mainly on south west monsoon
  • Both Rabi and Kharif season are occupied by wheat and paddy crop rotation. The Rabi crop of wheat consumes more fertilizers than Kharif crop of rice.
  • This system is known for high cropping intensity(Cropping Intensity is the ratio of Net Area Sown to the Total Cropped Area).
  • Green fodder is easily available in rice-wheat cropping system and this in turns helps to support large livestock population

Rice-wheat cropping system is known for plenty of methane generation and its contribution to global warming.

Key Current Issues about Rice-wheat Cropping Pattern

Rice-Wheat cropping pattern is cornerstone of India’s food security and is most widely prevalent in not only India but in entire South Asia. This cropping system is a main feature of the Indo-Gangetic Plains. However, Cultivation of rice and wheat over a prolonged period has caused degradation of natural resources (groundwater, soil) to a great extent. Thus, the sustainability of rice-wheat system is affected due to overmining of vital nutrients from soil; declining groundwater levels; diseases / pests; disturbance in soil due to rice puddling etc. The governments have been promoting the alternate crops like Summer Moong, Sunflower and Maize in order to reduce the wheat and paddy crop rotation because legume crops have capability to increase soil nutrition.

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