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Characterization of uplands

Land topography and depth and type of soil vary greatly in the uplands. A higher elevation, uneven topography and, occasionally, light-textured soil condition, will limit soil-moisture storage and hence its availability to the crop. Some uplands having sandy loam or lateritic soils have poor native fertility. They are characterized by low organic matter and nitrogen status, poor availability of phosphorus and iron, and poor retention capacity for both moisture and nutrients. Rain-fed uplands are located in zones of both low and high rainfall. They may be subject to periodical drought, due to untimely and irregular distribution of rain, during the crop season. Socio-economic factors vary. As a result, upland cropping, particularly rain-fed farming, shows wide diversification within the country.

The rest of this paper will discuss the suitability of crops (cereals, legumes, or oilseeds) and, or, cropping systems as influenced by the rainfall pattern (low, medium, or high) and interaction with input management (low or high), which is a consequence of socio-economic resources. The illustrations may not be exhaustive but are fairly representative.


Low Rainfall Zones (average rainfall below 700 mm)

Crop production strategy in low-rainfall areas includes effective utilization of rainfall by water-harvesting techniques, such as proper use of simple terraces, contour furrows, and bunding, which permit higher water retention by arresting the loss of run-off water. Jowar, bajra, or maize during normal rainfall (monsoon) by kharif intercropping with oilseeds or legumes, or through prospective environment sequence-cropping during rabi on conserved soil moisture, show good prospects with adequate and timely input management. Even so, alternative cropping strategies must be developed for aberrant weather conditions. particularly, in areas characterized by light soils coupled with scanty precipitation and an arid climate. The choice of crops or crop varieties that can mature with the available moisture received through precipitation would be an important part of the approach. In areas of low rainfall combined with a low management input, one prevalent technology is mixed cropping or intercropping. This practice is fairly helpful in normal as well as aberrant situations. In years of normal rainfall, the system will increase total productivity from a unit land area, and in abnormal years it would act as an insurance against complete crop failure.

Table 1 shows that double rows of moth bean, guar bean, and mung bean planted in the interspace of paired rows of bajra (30/70 cm) give an additional yield of grain legumes without affecting the yield of the principal bajra crop (Josh) and Singh 1981). Not only was total grain production higher, but the monetary benefit was even more favourable, because legume grain prices are appreciably higher than those of the cereal.

TABLE 1. Yield of Base and Intercrops in Cropping System


Yield in kg/ha


Base crop


Total grain

Uniform row of bajra




Paired row of bajra




Paired row of bajra + 2 rows of moth bean




Paired row of bajra + 2 rows of guar bean




Paired row of bajra + 2 rows of mung bean




Source: Joshi and Singh 1981

TABLE 2. Grain Yield from Intercropping Legumes with Sorghum as Base Crop

Treatment Grain yield (kg/ha)
1973/74 1974/75
Base crop Inter-crop Total Base crop Inter-crop Total
Sorghum 717 - 717 2,814 - 2,814
Sorghum + mung bean 1,148 216 1,364 2,750 265 3,015
Sorghum + pigeon-pea 1,405 389 1,794 2,631 902 3,853
Sorghum + groundnut 1,362 170 1,432 3,130 426 3,556
Sorghum + soybean - - - 2,690 299 2,989

Source: Srivastava and Singh 1980.

Similar, is the observation with sorghum as a base crop, and legumes (pigeon-pea, black gram, groundnut, and soybean) as intercrop . This cropping system yielded an increased amount of total food, besides a higher nutritive value. Among the different intercrops, pigeon-pea (var. Prabhat) gave the best performance (Srivastava and Singh 1980).

Under less favourable soil moisture situations, like delayed onset of the monsoon, the strategy lies in selecting crops constituting the intercrop combination with the ability to sustain soil moisture stress. Intercropping, using sunflower + mung bean, sorghum + pigeon-pea, maize + castor or mung bean or black gram in specific situations, has shown promise. Any further success depends on using management techniques to utilize soil, water, and fertility resources so as to provide a favourable environment for plant growth. Well-known soil and water conservation methods, including the collection of run-off water in storage tanks, and using the water as a life-saving measure when the crop faces drought, needs no emphasis. Both water harvesting in situ using the inter-row method. and surface mulches have proved useful and economical.

Non-monetary inputs, like optimum time of planting and the depth of seed placement when a dry-seeding technique is followed, need to be adopted precisely. The depth of seed placement must be so regulated that the pre-monsoon rain, which activates the seeds to germinate, has to permeate to such a soil depth that the total moisture, held in the soil profile following rainfall, is enough to support seedling growth and survival, till the regular monsoon sets in. Further, an optimum plant population must be maintained by adopting a suitable seed rate and row spacing. Application of farmyard manure in the seed furrows has been found useful in avoiding soil crust formation, which causes seedling mortality. Table 3 illustrates the effectiveness of such management.

TABLE 3. Grain Yield of bajra Grown under Different Types of Management


Yield in kg/ha




Bajra sown by pore method



Bajra sown with ridge and furrow method



Mixed seeding of bajra and legume



(legume removed after plant establishment)    
Gap filling of bajra using 25-day-old seedling (during rains)



Bajra sown with farmyard manure applied on seeded row



Source: Joshi and Singh 1981

Maintenance of a weed-free environment is an essential and integral part of management to sustain the productivity of crops in an arid region. Tillage and harrowing keeps weeks under check, and makes a thin layer of soil mulch which is helpful in moisture conservation. In cases of early withdrawal of monsoon, the following practices may prove useful: Thinning of stand by removing alternate rows of bajra to be used for fodder. Removal of lower leaves in maize and sorghum to reduce transpiration losses. In an intercropping system, removing moisture - sensitive crops for use as fodder, while maintaining resistant ones to maturity to produce grain. Mid-term corrections like harvesting of maize and sorghum for fodder, and early sowing of rabi crops like mustard, safflower, chick-pea, and sunflower.

Under delayed monsoon conditions, practices that may be helpful are: planting of 20-25-day-old seedlings of bajra rather than sowing seed; replacing sesame with sunflower, and bajra with castor or guar bean; early sowing of sunflower, chick-pea. mustard, raya, and safflower on conserved soil moisture in the rabi season.

When the rainfall is normal and regular, and the area has a soil type with good soil moisture and nutrient retentive capacity, a favourable environment exists for supporting sequence cropping. Successful cropping systems are: bajra/sorghum (for fodder)-mustard; bajra +cow-pea (for fodder)-mustard; black gram-chick-pea/mustard; mung bean-raya/safflower; and bajra-raya.

Using double cropping, forage yields of over 50 grams per hectare could be obtained by growing fodder (sorghum/bajra) and harvesting it before recession of the monsoon. After harvest of the fodder crop, seeding mustard (T. 59) on residual soil moisture gave a good harvest yield of 1,1 tonnes per hectare d/ha (Rathore 1980).

Situations occur where the monsoon sets in at the normal time, but it follows a long dry spell, with late subsequent rain again later. Here, early sowing of mustard (T. 59), safflower (N-62-8) or chick-pea (RS 10) helps to exploit the situation, yielding a good harvest of winter crops under conserved soil moisture.


Moderate Rainfall Zones (average annual rainfall 700-1,100 mm)

In the moderate rainfall zone, in the rainy (kharif) season, maize or cotton may be taken as a base crop. Intercropping with legumes like green gram, groundnut, and red gram, has been successfully followed in the north, north-western and central regions of the country. Since cotton or groundnut forms the base crop, intercropping enables a high cash earning. In the northern zone, winter (rabi) crops are also being grown on conserved soil moisture, either pure or intercropped, e.g. barley + chick-pea, barley + pea.

Some proven intercropping systems successfully adopted in different regions of the country under rainfed situations are as follows: north and north-western region: maize + green gram/soybean; cotton + green gram; central region: groundnut + red gram; cotton + green gram; southern region: groundnut/rag) + red gram; and north India in the winter season: barley + chick-pea/peas/mustard.

The beneficial effect of intercropping legumes (groundout and cow-pea) in cereals (maize and sorghum) has been established in rain-fed areas, both in terms of grain yield and land equivalent ration (Prasad and De 1980).

TABLE 4. Yield and Nutritional Efficiency of Some Intercropping Systems

System Yield (kg/ha) Estimated yield of protein (kg/ha)
Base crop Inter-crop Total Total Lysine
Sorghum base crop (1973/74/75)a
Sorghum (pure) 4,764 - 4,764 476 11.4
Sorghum (PR) + pigeon-pea (Hy-3A) 4,737 1,226 5,963 744 28.8
Sorghum (WR) + pigeon-pea (Hy-3A) 4,299 1,239 5,538 703 27.8
Sorghum + pigeon-pea (3:1 ratio) 4,152 1,259 5,411 692 27.6
Groundnut base crop (1973/74)a
Groundnut (pure) 1,056 - 1,056 274 9 9
Groundnut (PR) + pigeon-pea (Hy-3A) 1,100 1,487 2,587 603 30.6
Groundnut + pigeon-pea (3:1 ratio) 1,017 1,110 2,127 508 25.1

a. PR = paired row; WR = wide row.
Source: Reddy, Tarhalkar, and Rao 1977.

Table 4 demonstrates that intercropped sorghum + pigeon-pea gave an increased total grain yield, ranging from 15 to 25 per cent, over a pure sorghum crop. From the nutritional viewpoint also, the total protein yield increased from 45 to 55 per cent in value. Intercropping of sorghum and pigeon-pea resulted in an increase of 140 to 150 per cent in lysine yield over the pure sorghum crop. Considering groundnut as the main crop, pigeon-pea as an intercrop gave an increase of 100 to 150 per cent in total production. The groundnut + pigeon-pea system was found to be superior in terms of both total protein yield as well as quality (lysine yield), registering an increase of 100 and 200 per cent, respectively, over a pure groundnut crop (Ready, Tarhalkar, and Rao 1 977).

In a moderate rainfall zone, soils with good moisture retention capacity may sustain two crops in sequence with adequate moisture and high management inputs. Table 5 shows some possibilities. With an appropriate choice of crops, a two-crop sequence can be successful in rain-fed areas. Hybrid bajra (BJ104) or short-duration fodder in the rainy season (kharif), and safflower/mustard/chick-pea during the winter season (rabi) have been found successful in Jhansi (Patil and Ali 1980). Inclusion of bajra in the sequence made double cropping a feasibility in other areas too, like bajra-mustard (Hisser and Agro); baira-chick-pea (Varanasi), bajra-wheat (Jammu), bajra-cluster bean (Jodhpur).

TABLE 5. Suitable Sequence Cropping for Different Zones of India


Rainy season

Winter season




North and north-western Maize
Rice (early)
Central Bajra/sorghum
Black gram
Southern Sorghum
Green gram

Source: Annual Reports 1970-76.


High Rainfall Zone (mean annual rainfall above 1,100 mm)

As in the moderate rainfall region, intercropping systems with maize, sorghum, and rice (early) as the base crop, and legumes like pigeon-pea, groundnut, mung bean, and soybean as the intercrop, have proved successful in higher rainfall areas.

Intercropping legumes (mung bean, groundnut, and pigeon-pea) in upland rice in the kharif season in the ratio of 3:1, i.e. three lines of rice (20 cm apart) alternated with one line of the legume, gave increased yield of total grain production. This is shown in table 6.

TABLE 6. Grain Yield of Base Crop and Intercrops under Different Intercropping Systems


Yield of base crop

Yield of intercrop

Total yield





Rice (MW 10) (pure crop)




Rice + mung bean (3:1)




Rice + groundout (3:1)




Rice + pigeon-pea 14:1)




Source: Annual Report 1980.

Where the soil is sufficiently deep, and has a good capacity for retaining moisture and nutrients to sustain the crops, a double cropping system under rain-fed conditions has been successfully adopted. Table 7 shows some systems. However, the crop and their sowing time need specific attention to accommodate them in the system.

TABLE 7. Crop Sequence and Time of Seeding


Rainy season (kharif) crop

Sowing time

Winter season (rabi) crop

Sowing time

Dehra Dun, Maize Mid-June Toria End September
Uttar Pradesh Maize
Early November
Early November


Irrigated Uplands

Where the irrigation facility is available, the choice of the crops and cropping system from among crops suitable to the environment is governed primarily by socio-economic considerations. While in the north and north-western regions, cropping systems, like rice-wheat, maize-wheat/potato and bajra/pigeon-pea wheat, are viable, in the eastern region rice-wheat/potato, jute-rice-potato/groundnut/mung bean, and rice-potato-sesamum/mung bean are popular crop sequences. In the southern part of the country, rice-groundnut is the profitable and intensive cropping system. Wherever irrigation water is available, a third crop, such as green gram or cow-pea (fodder) in summer. is taken with profit. This is not uncommon even in the north or eastern part of the country.

In the suburban areas around cities, which have the potential for fresh vegetable sales. besides irrigation and good transport facilities, intensive sequence cropping, involving vegetables, is followed profitably. Crop sequences. like the following, are common: early cauliflower (July-October); pea (October-January); bhindi (ladies' finger) (February-June); ghindi (ladies' finger) (June-September); carrot (September-December); cauliflower (December-March); and radish (April-May).

In garden lands in Kerala, such coconut-based cropping systems as the following, have possibilities, of course, with good management: coconut + ginger/pineapple; and coconut + pepper + cocoa + pineapple.


Hill Zones

Since crop and crop varieties are thermo-sensitive, their selection for cropping systems in the hill zones must receive careful consideration. Thus, in Sikkim, up to 1,000 m above sea level, a crop rotation of maize (var. Him 123, Kissan, and Vijaya) and wheat (Girija, Shailaja. and V.L. 421) is adopted; at 1,700 m, maize-wheat/barley/potato is followed. On the other hand, a rice-wheat rotation (using IR. 8 or Pusa 33 for rice and Sonalika for wheat) has been adopted up to 1,500 m.


The prospect of exploiting the full yield potential of crops in the rain-fed uplands is intimately related to adequate and timely cultural operations, particularly fertilizer application and weed control. For cereals, balanced fertilization with nitrogen, phosphatic and potash fertilizers is required, and for legumes, phosphatic fertilizer is essential. In arid and semi-arid zones, a moderate level of fertilizers, along with farmyard manure applied in furrows, helps good crop growth. Foliar application of urea at the reproductive phase, in some cereals (like rice and barley), increases the protein content of grains. Manual weeding is, by far, the most effective measure for weed control, where labour is adequate and available in time, but effective chemicals to control weeds can today substitute for manual weeding. Some of them are: pre-emergence application of Semazine or Atrazine at 0.5 kg a.i./ha in bajra and maize, trifluratin (0.5-1.5 kg/ha) in legumes (mung bean, black gram, cow-pea, etc.) and butachlor (2.0 kg a.i./ha) in upland rice.


Annual Report. 1980, Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack.

Annual Reports. 1970-76. All-India Coordinated Agronomy Project.

Farmer and Parliament, 16(4), 15, 1981.

Gopalan, C., B.V. Ramasastri, and S.C. Balasubramanian, 1977. Nutritive Value of Indian Foods National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad Indian Farming, 27 (3), 8 30, 1977.

Jain, H.K. 1980. "Building on a Productive Past for the Agriculture of Tomorrow." Indian farming, 30 (7), 5-17.

Joshi, N.L., and Punjab Singh. 1981. "Towards Higher Bajra Yield in Arid Rajasthan " Indian Farming, 31 (4), 3-4 and 17.

Patil, B.D., and Masood Ali. 7980. "Bajra in Drought-prone Areas of Bundelphand." Indian Farming, 30 (1), 15-17.

Prasad, R., and Rajat De. 1980. "Agronomic Research in the Service of India's Changing Agriculture." Indian Farming. 30 (7), 85-94.

Rathore, S.S. 1980. "Crop Production Strategy in Drought-prone Areas." Indian Farming, 30 (3), 3 - 4.

Reddy, R.P., P.P. Tarhalkar, and N.G.P. Rao. 1977. "Improved Pigeon-pea Varieties for Mono and Inter-cropping." Indian Farming, 27 (9), 3-5 and 35.

Srivastava, S.P. and A.P. Singh. 1980. "Inter-cropping under Dryland Conditions of Udaipur Region." Indian Farming, 29 (10). 16 and 24.

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