Cultivation of traditional crops to enhance India’s food supply

indica News Service-


A University of Delaware in USA, in a study has found that India can sustainably enhance its food supply and improve its environmental footprint by reducing its reliance on rice and planting more nutritious and less environmentally damaging crops such as sorghum, finger millet and pearl millet.

According to lead researcher Kyle Davis, Assistant Professor at the University of Delaware, “You often see agriculture presented as causing environmental problems, when in fact agriculture is the solution to many challenges. Our study shows there are opportunities to realize a number of different benefits through more thoughtful agricultural practices, and it shows that a single intervention can change multiple outcomes for the better.”

When Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution came to India, cereal production in the country increased three fold due to emphasis on growing high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat. Rice now contributes to almost half the country’s cereal production make up much of the calorie consumption in India’s urban and rural households.

What went overlooked in the haste to triple the production was that excessive cultivation of rice in place of local cereals lead to two new problems- first, rice did not offer the nutritional value found in other cereals like sorghum and millets and second that when grown in areas that are not necessarily suited to rice production which can have adverse environmental impacts.

While the reliance on rice during the Green Revolution succeeded in feeding a large population, it also pushed out a lot of traditional cereals that are still consumed in India but to a lesser extent, Davis explained.

“We’ve found that those traditional cereals have a higher nutritional quality and also tend to use less water, require less energy to be grown, and emit fewer greenhouse gases on a per kilogram basis,” said Davis.

Because rice is flood irrigated, it requires a lot of water which is a burden in a country like India that is experiencing widespread depletion of groundwater resources.

In addition, the standing water in rice fields contributes to anaerobic respiration which causes methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to be emitted into the atmosphere.

Since the other cereals are not flood irrigated, their production does not produce any methane emissions, said the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.