Rainfed-drylands, as an important biome, occupy more than 41% of the world’s land area and provide much of the world’s food and fibre, further supporting biodiversity and providing ecosystem services (UNCCD, 2017). Climate change, which is expected to manifest as increased frequency and intensity of extreme climate events including droughts is particularly of concern in rainfed agroecosystems species and communities have to cope with extreme temperature and droughts. Climate change is a significant driver of land degradation in drylands. In some dryland areas, increased land surface air temperature, evapotranspiration and decreased precipitation amount, in interaction with climate variability and human activities, have contributed to desertification. Land degradation in drylands can also manifest itself through the loss of soil organic carbon (IUCN, 2015). The depletion of water, either as soil moisture, groundwater, flowing rivers or reservoirs, disrupts water cycles and leads to water scarcity (UNCCD, 2017). Water scarcity affects among other things the length of growing season. Rainfed agriculture in India is practiced in diverse agro-ecologies covering about 48% of 142 million ha net sown area and contributes 40% of country’s food basket and dominant producer in nutri-cereals, pulses, oilseeds, cotton, jute and allied fibres. Rainfed areas produce 84-87% of nutritious cereals and pulses, 77% of oilseeds, 60% of cotton etc. and thus immensely contribute country’s economy. Rainfed regions support 60% of livestock, 40% of human population and contribute 40% of food grains and several special-attribute commodities such as seed spices, dyes, herbs, gums, etc. It is estimated that even after achieving the full irrigation potential, barring for successful completion of river linking project, nearly 45 to 50% of the total cultivated area will remain dependent on rain. Though rainfed area reduced to 48% of net cultivated area, it continues to play significant role in the livelihoods of the majority of the small & marginal farmers. Therefore, rainfed agriculture would continue to occupy a prominent place in Indian agriculture for a long time to come. Despite the progress made so far, rainfed agriculture in India still challenged by multiple risks and biophysical and socio-economic constraints. The agricultural production, productivity and stability in rainfed areas is more vulnerable to climate variability particularly during kharif due to its high dependency on south-west (SW) monsoon. Droughts are the general features of rainfed agriculture globally, particularly in India. The risk involved in successful cultivation of crops depends on the nature of drought (chronic and contingent); probable duration, and periodicity of occurrence within the season. Coupled with edaphic constraints like poor water and nutrient retention capacity, low soil organic matter (SOM) make rainfed agriculture highly vulnerable and less resilient requiring a different.
Acharya Narendra Deva University of Agriculture and Technology 1