Cropping Pattern- Definition, Types & Importance


Cropping Pattern

Cropping pattern refers to the proportion of area under different crops at any given point of time in a unit area. It indicates the temporal and/or spatial arrangement of crops in a particular area. There are different types of cropping patterns depending on the availability of various factors/resources (as discussed further).

Cropping System

A cropping system is a broader term than cropping pattern and includes the sum total of all crops and the practices used to grow those crops on a field or farm. It comprises of all components, such as water, soil, technology etc. required for the production of a particular crop and the interrelationships between them and the surrounding environment.



For example, in a Simple Cropping System only one variety of crop is grown each year in the same field with regular fertilizer application to replenish the soil nutrients. While in a Complex Cropping System multiple crops like fruits, vegetables, tree crops, grain, fodder crops and livestock are all grown on a farm during a year with multiple harvests along with managed recycling of nutrients within the system. While talking about cropping systems we tend to apply systems approach to crops.


Difference between Cropping Pattern and Cropping System

Cropping Pattern  Cropping System
Includes crop rotation practiced by a majority of farmers in a given area or locality. Includes cropping pattern and its management to derive benefits from a given resource base under specific environmental conditions.
Type and management of crops in time and
The cropping patterns used on a farm and their interaction with farm resources, other farm enterprises and available technology which determine their make-up.
Yearly sequence and spatial arrangement of crops or crops and fallow on a given area. The proportion of area under various crops at a point of time in a unit area. Pattern of crops taken up for a given piece of land, or order in which crops are cultivated on a piece of land over a fixed period, associated with soil, management practices such as tillage manuring and irrigation.



Significance of Cropping System

All around the world, different variations are adopted in agriculture, which have some common associated benefits, such as:
1. Maintain and enhance soil fertility: Growing of different crops such as nitrogen fixing leguminous crops enhance the nitrogen content of soil. Growing of perennial forages and millets help to enhance soil organic content. (Land Reforms)
2. Minimize spread of diseases: It encourages biodiversity by providing a habitat for a variety of insects and soil organisms. Some of them may act as predator for the certain diseases, thus limiting the outbreaks of diseases.
3. Inhibit pest and insect growth: It reduces the homogeneity of farm. This heterogeneity increases the barriers against biological dispersal of pests in the field.
4. Control weed: It reduces the likelihood that specific weed species will become adapted to the system and become problematic. For example, rotation of crops is the most effective means yet devised for keeping land free of weeds.
5. Use resources more effectively: Multiple activities, if scientifically planned, lead to better usage of resources. For example, fodder crops can be used for livestock feed, animal dung can be used as organic manure and dairy products helps to enhance farmer’s income.
6. Reduce risk for crop failure: Different crops have different response to the climate vagaries and varied degree of susceptibility to disease attack. Due to such heterogeneity, the risk of total crop failure is reduced.
7. Improved food and financial security: By reducing the risk of crop failure & diversifying the income opportunities for the famers, scientifically designed cropping system improves food and financial security.

Factors Affecting the Cropping Pattern

The cropping pattern and crop diversification in a particular geographical area depends on different categories of factors. All the factors vary in their impact on the crops under different circumstances and times. These factors have been differently classified by different researchers/ institutions. For example, World Bank (1990) has put forward a detailed list of factors under the broad categories of agronomic, economic and policy factors in this regard as determinants of cropping system strategies as mentioned in the table below. All these factors are interrelated and their relative importance changes over time. 

Agronomic/Technical Economic Government Policy
(a) Climate and soil type
(irrigation, topography, fertility, drainage etc.)
(b) Availability of
required inputs
(fertilizer, chemical,
credit, tractors etc.)
(c) Plant/seed of high
genetic quality.
(d) Management
techniques and
quality managers.
(e) Abundance of labour.
(a) Flow of market signals and communication and
information systems, for
example, regarding prices in the market, supply –demand etc.
(b) Venture capital and
(c) Transparency of input and output prices.
(d) Information on export
standards, market demand
and relative profitability.
(e) Efficient marketing systems.
(a) Non-distortionary policy to avoid discrimination among crops. (eg. MSP Policy)
(b) Efficient research and extension programmes, without any bias for major crops or against high value
(c) Contract-farming opportunities
(d) Rural credit.
(e) Off-farm employment
(f) Marketing systems including quality standards.
(g) Involvement of the private sector.


Types of Cropping Systems

1.  Mono-Cropping

Mono-cropping or monoculture refers to growing of only one crop on a piece of land year after year.
(i) It may be due to climatic and socio-economic conditions
or due to specialisation of a farmer in growing a particular crop. For example, groundnut or cotton or sorghum are grown year after year due to limitation of rainfall, while in canal irrigated areas, under a waterlogged condition, rice crop is grown as it is not possible to grow any other crop.

2. Multiple Cropping

It is the practice of growing two or more crops in the same field within a given year.

(i) It is the intensification of cropping in time and space dimensions, i.e., more number of crops within year and more number of crops on same piece of land in any given period.
(ii) It includes mixed-cropping, inter-cropping and sequence cropping.

(A) Mixed Cropping

(i) Two or more crops grown in the same field within a given year without a definite row arrangement. It is a common practice in most of dry land tracts of India. Seeds of different crops are mixed in certain proportion and are sown.
(ii) The objective is to meet the family requirement of cereals, pulses and vegetables. Ex: sorghum, pearl millet and cowpea are mixed and broadcasted in rain-fed conditions.

(B) Inter-cropping

(i) It includes growing two or more crops simultaneously with definite row
arrangement on the same field with an objective of higher productivity per unit area in addition to stability in production.
(ii) It was earlier practiced as an insurance against crop failure under poor rainfall
conditions. If done unscientifically, it might lead to intercrop competition for available
Requirements for successful Inter-cropping:
(a) The timing of peak nutrient demands of component crops should not overlap.
(b) Competition for light should be minimum among the component crops.
(c) The difference in maturity of component crops should be at least 30 days.

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