How diversified was Punjab before the Green Revolution

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Punjab, which has currently around 78 lakh hectares (LH) Gross Cropped Area under Kharif (April to October) and Rabi (October to March) crops, has been mainly growing two cereals – wheat and paddy – only on majority of its cropped area, including nearly 35 LH under wheat and another 30-31 LH under paddy (including basmati).

Both these crops take up around 84% of the total agricultural area now. Gross Cropped Area is the total area sown once as well as more than once in a particular year. But the state was never like this, as before the advent of the Green Revolution in the mid-1960s, the area under both the crops was around 39% in 1960-61 and in the remaining area, Punjab was growing pulses, oilseeds, maize, sugarcane, bajra, barley, and cotton. A peep into history revealed quite a diversified cropping pattern in the early 1960s against the mono-cropping pattern now. Under the Green Revolution, high-yielding variety seeds and fertilisers were provided on subsidies for proper usage along with minimum support price (MSP) on wheat and paddy to make India self-sufficient in foodgrains.

According to the data compiled by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, Punjab was growing wheat on 14 LH in the early 1960s (before the Green revolution) against nearly 35 LH now. An increase of nearly 21 LH was seen under wheat in all these years. Similarly, the rice area – including paddy and basmati – was just 2.27 LH then, against 30-31 LH now. Rice cultivation saw an increase of around 28 LH since the early 1960s. When both these crops have seen an exponential increase in their area, other crops’ area has been marginalised.

Maize and cotton (both Kharif crops) had 3.27 LH and 4.47 LH, respectively, then and now this area has been reduced to nearly 3.65 LH under both crops, including 2.52 LH under cotton. Both are the best alternatives for paddy.

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Groundnut (Kharif) used to be grown on around 2.22 LH at the advent of the Green Revolution, but now its area is less than 2,000 hectares. Its area is also taken over by paddy. The sugarcane (whole year crop) area was 1.33 LH which has come down to around 96,000 hectares now.

The area of pulses was 9.17 LH in the early 1960s – including around 8.81 LH under Rabi season pulses-gram and ‘massar’ and the remaining 36,000 hectares under Kharif pulses-‘moong’, ‘mash’ and ‘arhar’ – against around 20,000 hectares under both Rabi and Kharif season pulses now. Though the area under summer ‘moong’ – which was grown on around 95,000 acres this year – has increased, this is sown in March and harvested in June. This is the third crop between Kharif and Rabi season crops and has nothing to do with the diversification except that it adds to the farmers’ income who take three crops in a year instead of two.

Total oilseeds (Rabi and Kharif) used to be grown on 3.99 LH at the time of Green Revolution which was reduced to just 48,000 hectares till a couple of years ago and now the government is pushing to increase its area and this year it is expected that the area under mustard and rapeseed (Rabi) may increase to 70,000 hectares. Barley (Rabi) used to be grown on 67,000 hectares in the past against 7,000-8,000 hectares now. Bajra used to be grown on 2.13 LH against just 1,000 to 2,000 hectares now.

Like summer ‘moong’, sunflower is also a third crop which farmers can grow in March and harvest in June. The area under it used to be 1.03 LH in the mid-1990s, now its area too has drastically fallen to 4,000 to 5,000 hectares. All the reduced areas of Rabi and Kharif seasons have been diverted under only two crops – wheat and paddy – now.

Experts said that increasing wheat area is not that big problem because it just needs to be irrigated 4-5 times during the entire six-month-long duration crop, but the four-month-long duration paddy crops need to be irrigated around 30 times, apart from the rainwater.

They said that Punjab needs to divert at least 1 million hectares from paddy to other Kharif season crops like cotton, maize, groundnut and Kharif pulses (‘arhar’, ‘moong’ and ‘mash’), and the government can give MSP to these alternative crops.



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