Madhu Patial*, K.K. Pramanick, A.K. Shukla, Anjana Thakur1 and Ruchi Chauhan 
ICAR-IARI, Regional Station, Tutikandi Centre, Shimla (H.P)
1CSKHPKV, KVK, Bara, Hamirpur (H.P)

Diversification in Agriculture is becoming more relevant than ever as demand patterns are shifted towards high-value food products from the staples. Changing demographics along with greater disposable incomes make it natural for growing middle class to go for fruits and vegetables, milk, animal products, processed and ready to eat. This market-led demand is ultimately giving a fillip to high-value production and diverse entrepreneurial opportunities to the farmers.

According to an estimate for the crop year 2016-17, it’s expected that India may produce 272 million tonnes (MT) of food grain which is marginally higher than the overall production in the year 2015-16. The CACP reports that the domestic supply of edible oils and pulses are falling short of the demand and the shortfall is made good by imports. In contrast, since the granaries are overflowing with wheat and rice, there is an urgent need to move away from cereals to pulses and oilseeds. In India from food grain buffer stock share, one-third of it would be stored in the open, and vulnerable to damage from rain, as covered storage capacity is only 50 million tonnes. Ironically, India faces serious problems in pulses production as there is a deficit of 3 million tonnes to demand. Similarly, in oilseeds, we are one of the major importers of vegetable oil in the world. With both the area under production and yields declining or stagnant, prices for these traditional nutrient-rich foods are increasing, and there are few alternatives protein sources available for low-income communities. After liberalization and advent of WTO regime, it became even more conducive & compelling to do better in Agriculture diversification with opportunities in organized retail and exports. According to Economic and Political Weekly, agricultural diversification is strongly influenced by price policy, infrastructure development (especially markets and roads), urbanization and technological improvements which are undergoing a positive change.
The main issues in crop diversification are:
·         Overuse of resources like land and water causing a negative impact on the environment and sustainability of agriculture
·         Rainfed cropping system
·         Fragmented and small land holdings and lack of mechanization of agriculture.
·         Poor basic infrastructure like roads, transport etc.
·         Inadequate post-harvest technologies and inadequate infrastructure for post-harvest handling of perishable produce
·         Very weak agro-based industry
·         New species of diseases and pests affecting most crop plants

In quest for the development of sustainable approach for rehabilitation of degraded lands and simultaneous improvement of the livelihood system, an integrated farming system approach was used by the Indo German Eco-development Project (IG-CEDP) in lower Himalayas in which optimal land use pattern was designed with its components in the proportion: Cereal 1.5: Fodder 1.0: Cash Crops 1.0: Veg.-Fruits 0.5. Similar patterns may be designed for specific locations. Implementing diversification may be seen as relatively easier to adopt medium and large farmers, but, it may be presenting different set of challenges to small and marginal Indian farmers. In a nation with more than 75% of holdings less than 2 hectare, cultivation of vegetables is one of the practical avenues which smaller farmers can resort to it, with lesser investments, better remuneration, shorter production cycle and leverage of family labor, which has also been emphasized by studies by IFPRI as well.
Secondly, after vegetables’ cultivation, “organic farming” shall be one of the major areas for diversification. Diversification is boon for creating and sustaining self-sufficient organic farming systems as various outputs (feed, fibres, manure, agriculture waste) can be recycled for utilization in the farming unit itself. Moreover, there shall be decreased pests, diseases and weed incidence in organically diversified farms.
Thirdly, Agri-Tourism is also a progressive option to be looked from diversification perspective as accessory farm activity. A study revealed (Shehrawat, 2009) reasons for developing Agri-Tourism; its easy to enter (62 %), high profit (81 %), employment opportunity (75 %), no competition (37 %). Agri-tourism increases income as it is a new enterprise with less competition, it is the business activity as compared to traditional farming, less land with low productivity can give more returns, and provides employment to farmers of a wide range. Agri-Tourism helpful in maintaining natural resources as nutrient mining is less and soil conservation is good. Although Organic farming and Agri-Tourism shall be more convenient when done at group level by the farmers, from an environmental perspective, having diverse enterprises creates opportunities for recycling so that pollution is minimized because waste in one enterprise becomes an input for another. The risk minimization, employment generation and sustained/increased household income are the benefits associated with multi-enterprise farming systems. However, appropriate and situation-specific farm diversification models need to be developed and diffused (FAO, 2006). Diversification shall be a true suitable answer for mitigating changes in climate, trade policies, and consumer demand & further to provide sustainable solutions to small and marginal farmers of the country.