Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profiles
Bimal K. Misri
India, the seventh largest country in the world, lies between latitudes 8oand 37o N and longitudes 68o and 97o, and occupies a geographical area of 32.9 M km2. It measures about 3,214 km from north to south and about 2,933 km from east to west. The country exhibits great diversity in climate, topography, flora, fauna and land use. The precipitation ranges from 150 mm in western and north-western deserts to 3126 mm in north-eastern hills. The altitude varies from the coastline to the lofty, snow clad mountains of the Himalayas. The temperature ranges from sub zero in the Himalaya to about 50oC in the central and western parts. India has common borders with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan (Anon. 1997a).
Agriculture is the main occupation of the people and about 70% of the population is engaged in this activity. Livestock rearing is complementary to agriculture. The total area under cultivation is about 169.7 M ha; an additional area of 0.4 M ha is under plantation crops. Traditionally, three systems of agricultural land tenure were prevalent in India. These were Ryotwari (property rights held by the holder), Mahalwari (community proprietorship) and Zamindari (ownership of several villages by a single family). However, with the introduction of various agrarian reforms such as land ownership ceilings and abolition of the Zamindari system, land tenure is now more rational. The average holding in India is tiny and often split into scattered pieces. Five major categories of land holding are: marginal (below 1 ha), small (1-2 ha), semi-medium (2-4 ha), medium (4-10 ha), large (10ha and above). During 1980-81, the total numbers (millions) of these holdings in India were:- marginal (50.12), small (16.1), semi-medium (12.5), medium (8.1) and large (2.2). Fragmentation of land holdings is continuing unabated.
Livestock rearing is an integral part of the various farming systems. Arable agriculture contributes a major fodder resource in the form of crop residues which are extensively fed to the animals.Wheat straw is transported from surplus areas such as Punjab and Haryana to deficit areas, mostly the Himalayan hills. Fodder crops like oats, Egyptian clover, fodder rape and chicory are grown during winter, while maize, pennisetum, sorghum and cowpeas are sown during the summer. Cultivation of forage crops is restricted to irrigated areas and land rich farmers. Sale of green fodder through retail outlets is a common practice. Cultivation of perennial grasses such as napier and napier X Bajra (Pennisetum) hybrids is becoming popular. Intensive fodder cultivation is restricted to States such as Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujrat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnatka. The area cultivated for fodder amounts to 4% of the total cultivable area. However, exclusive pastures and grasslands are widespread and are grazed by domestic animals. The total area of permanent pastures and grasslands is about 12.4 M ha or 3.9% of the country`s geographical area. An area of 15.6 M ha, classified as waste land, is also used for grazing. Forests, and their associated grasslands and fodder trees, are another major source of grazing and fodder collection.
The ruminant sector provides a significant proportion of self-employment opportunities and supplements the income of most sections of India's agrarian society. Livestock are more significant for people living in drought-prone, hilly, tribal and other less favoured areas where crop production may not be certain. Animal raising is a means of supporting the earning capacity of landless, marginal and small farmers. The importance of this sector can be assessed from the fact that the gross value of output from the livestock sector was about Rs 797 billion (US$ 1 is equal to about Rs. 40) in 1994-95 or about 20% of the total output from the agricultural sector. The current contribution of the livestock sector to GDP is 8.5 to 9% (Anon. 1997 b).
India is also a major exporter of various livestock products and during 1996-97 livestock products worth Rs 8130 M were exported (APEDA 1997). The country possesses 26 indigenous breeds of cattle and 6 breeds of buffalo. The total size of the livestock population in 2001 was 219.6 M cattle, 96.1 M buffalo, 58.2 M sheep and 123.5 M goats (Table 1). India produced 1.5 M tonnes of beef and veal, 1.4 M tonnes of buffalo meat, 0.23 M tonnes of sheep meat, 0.47 M tonnes of goat meat and 84 M tonnes of milk in 2001 (Table 1).
Source: FAO Database 2002; n.r. = no record
2. SOILS AND TOPOGRAPHY
Major crust movements have been responsible for the sharply demarcated three-fold structural and physiographical divisions of India, each with its own characteristic features: the Peninsula, consists mainly of Pre-Cambrian rocks in a stable shield area; the extra Peninsula consists of folded and faulted sedimentary beds; and an intermediate tectonic rift valley, known as the Indo-Gangetic trough, is filled with a thick deposit of alluvium (Pichamuthu, 1967). These major topographical features have given rise to a mosaic of features, which are unique to the various geographical areas.
Soils are diverse
and differ from area to area. Sixteen major types of soils have been recognized.
These are red loamy soils (eastern Himalaya, eastern Ghats, Tamil
Nadu uplands), red and lateritic soils (eastern plateau, north-eastern
hills, western Ghats), red and yellow soils (eastern plateau adjoining
central highlands), shallow and medium black soils (Deccan plateau,
central Maharashtra and Karnatka plateau), medium and deep black
soils (central highlands, Narmada Valley, Malwa plateau, Bundelkhand
and Kathiawar peninsula), mixed red and black soils (parts
of Deccan plateau, Telangana, Bellary and Anantpur regions of Karnatka
plateau), coastal alluvium - derived soils (eastern and western
coastal plains), alluvium - derived soils (western, northern
and eastern plains), desert soils (southwestern Punjab, Haryana
plains, Rajasthan, Marusthali and Kachchh peninsula), Tarai soils
(foothills of central and western Himalaya), brown and red hill soils
(eastern Himalaya), saline and alkali soils (Kathiawar peninsula,
alluvial plains of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan), shallow
and skeletal soils (Ladakh and Kashmir). Grey brown soils (foothills
of Aravallis), brown forest and podzolic soil (north-western Himalaya),sandy
and littoral soils (Lakashdweep and coastal areas of Andaman and Nicobar
3. CLIMATE AND AGRO-ECOLOGICAL ZONES
The climate may be broadly described as tropical monsoon type. The four seasons are: winter (January-February), a hot summer period (March-May), a rainy south-western monsoon period (June-September) and a north-eastern monsoon period (October-December). In addition, a number of micro-climatic patterns occur. The Kashmir valley and some other higher altitude regions experience a typical temperate climate, while still higher areas, such as Ladakh, Lahul and Spiti, have a typical cold-arid desert climate. India`s climate is formed by the north-east monsoon (winter monsoon) winds which blow from land to sea and the south-west monsoon (summer monsoon) winds which blow from sea to land after crossing the Indian Ocean, the Arabian sea and the Bay of Bengal. Most rainfall in India is caused by the south-west monsoon.
India has twenty agroecological regions (AER). This zonation is based upon physiography, soil characteristics and taxonomy, climate, growing period, land utilization and forest types.
Figure 1. Agro-ecological zones of India
AER-1: Western Himalayas; cold-arid climate; limited cultivation of millets, barley and wheat.
AER-2: Western plains and Kachchh Peninsula; climate is hot and arid; millets and pulses are the main crops.
AER-3: The Deccan plateau; hot arid climate; millets, cotton and oil seeds are the main crops.
AER-4: Northern plains, central highlands, parts of Gujarat plains; hot and semi-arid climate; millets, wheat, pulses, maize, sugarcane and cotton are the main crops.
AER-5: Central highlands, Gujarat plains and Kathiawar Peninsula; hot and semi-arid climate; millets, wheat and pulses are the main crops.
AER-6: Deccan plateau, hot and semi-arid climate; millets, cotton, pulses and sugarcane are the main crops.
AER-7: Deccan plateau and Eastern Ghats; hot and semi-arid climate; millets, oilseeds, rice, cotton and sugarcane are the main crops.
AER-8: Eastern Ghats and Deccan plateau; hot and semi-arid climate; oilseeds, rice, cotton and sugarcane are the main crops.
AER-9: Northern plains; hot sub-humid climate; pulses and sugarcane are the main crops.
AER-10: Central highlands; hot sub-humid climate; sorghum and pulses are the main crops.
AER-11: Eastern plateau and eastern Ghats; hot sub-humid climate; rice, pulses and millets are the main crops.
AER-13: Eastern plains; hot sub-humid climate; rice wheat and sugarcane are the main crops.
AER-14: Western Himalaya; warm sub-humid to humid climate; wheat, millets, maize and rice are the main crops.
AER-15: Bengal basin and Assam plains; hot sub-humid climate; rice, jute, plantation crops are the main crops.
AER-16: Eastern Himalaya; warm per-humid climate; rice and millets are the main crops.
AER-17: North-eastern hills; warm-hot to per-humid climate; forest and rice in patches are the main crops.
AER-18: Eastern coastal plain; hot semi-arid to sub-humid climate; rice, pulses and millets are the main crops.
AER-19: Western Ghats and Coastal plains; hot humid to sub-humid climate; rice, tapioca, coconut and millets are the main crops.
AER-20: Islands of Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep; hot sub-humid climate; forest, coconut and rice are the main crops.
Ruminant livestock husbandry has been a major component of Indian agricultural production systems since time immemorial. The major ruminant production systems are:- Peri-urban, Urban, Rural and Transhumant. Cattle, buffalo, sheep and goat are the preferred animals. In peri-urban systems, milk animals are reared in the peripheral areas of large cities and the milk is carried to the cities for sale. Urban systems comprise dairy units of 10-50 cows and buffaloes. It is common to find these systems in and around Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Bangalore and other large cities. Rural and transhumant systems are practised in and around villages where community grasslands and forests are the major source of feeding. In urban systems, milk is transported to the cities for sale. Co-operatives have become very common and effective methods for collection and sale of milk. Amul, the largest co-operative society, is the role model for the co-operative movement. The number of registered co-operative societies has gone from 1,588 in 1970/71 to 69,000 in 1994/95.
The average annual growth rate for employment in the livestock sector from 1972-73 to 1987-88 was 4.15% as against 1.1% for the agriculture sector as a whole. A livestock holding survey carried out a few years ago revealed that the ratio of milking bovines per 100 households rose from 37 in 1981-82 to 46 in 1991-92. The average size of holdings is directly influenced by the fodder resources available. However, in general the entire enterprise is based upon small-holdings (4-6 animals per family). Nevertheless, there are still very large herds in some arid areas where animals are more of an insurance against recurring droughts than an income generating enterprise.
There are different feeding systems for the various livestock rearing practices. In peri-urban and urban systems, the livestock are mostly tethered. Green fodder (Egyptian clover, rape, maize, pennisetums, sorghums, oats) is purchased from nearby rural areas and fed to the animals. This practice is heavily supplemented with crop residues mainly maize, pennisetum, rice and wheat straw. There is significant use of concentrates for milk animals. Premixed cattle feeds are readily available from local markets. Dry animals are adjusted to rural areas.
The transhumant system is prevalent in the Himalayas where there are several nomadic tribes such as the Gujjars, Bakarwals, Gaddis and Changpas, who rear sheep and goat under this system. The animals are moved to sub-alpine and alpine pastures during summer, while during winter, they are grazed on adjoining plains. The scale of this enterprise is widespread and is practised by a variety of farmers including landless and marginal farmers who have adopted this profession for earning a livelihood. Sale of wool and live animals for meat is their only source of income.
The rural system involves free grazing of community grazing lands and forests, supplemented with green fodder cultivated in the farmer`s fields. During lean periods, such as summer and autumn, tree leaf fodder is also used. The preferred fodder trees are Acacia Artocarpus, Albizia, Bauhinia, Dalbergia, Dendrocalamus, Ficus, Grewia, Terminalia, and Toona. Concentrates are fed only to lactating animals. While the urban and peri urban systems comprise mostly milk animals, the rural herds are mixed, with goats, sheep, cattle and buffalo. Goats and sheep are, however, reared only on grazing lands. Average quantities of daily feed offered to milk animals are 6.3 kg dry fodder, 5.3 kg green fodder and 0.25 kg concentrates for cows, while a milking buffalo is offered 8.3 kg dry fodder, 2.25 kg green fodder and 0.1 kg of concentrates.
The transhumant system is practised in order to locate the best herbage resources from pastures and grasslands. There are also well recognized pastoral tribes who practise a complete transhumance, moving from one place to another on traditional migratory routes. The dates of migration have traditionally been fixed. Even grazing rights rest with the migratory graziers by traditional usage, though they do not hold proprietory rights over the land. The transhumant system is prevalent in the Himalayan region. However, this system still exists in some states situated in the plains such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujrat and Uttar Pradesh.
Livestock rearing is strongly integrated with various farming systems. Besides providing drought power and transportation, it is a major source of income supplementation. Since crop residues form the major portion of animal feed, the integration of livestock rearing in farming systems is common. Recently, hortipasture and silvipasture systems of fodder production have been adopted, thus integrating livestock husbandry with plantation crops as well. Under the on-going national programme on watershed development, these systems are being introduced to enhance biomass productivity of degraded lands which in turn helps in increasing the livestock production. Silvi pasture systems with trees such as Acacia, Leucaena, Albizia, Melia, and understorey grasses Cenchrus,Chrysopogon, Panicum, Pennisetum, Dichanthium and legumes Stylosanthes hamata and Macroptilium are becoming very popular with the farmers.
Although livestock rearing has made remarkable progress in terms of increased production and income of farmers, this sector still requires strengthening of its infrastructure. In 1992/93, the country had 124 intensive cattle development projects, 75 frozen semen stations, 38,613 artificial insemination centres and 135 liquid nitrogen plants. The educational infrastructure for training and extension requires improvement. Pastures and grazing lands are commonly overgrazed and degraded. Therefore improved management, better use of crop residues, and production of dry fodder are required. The Indian Veterinary Research Institute, the Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute and a number of national research centres are active in research on various aspects of ruminant livestock production.
The grazing of animals takes place on a variety of grazing lands. True pastures and grasslands are spread over an area of about 12.04 M ha. Other grazing lands are available under tree crops and groves (3.70 M ha), on wastelands (1.50 M ha ) and on fallow lands (2.33 M ha). Pastures and grasslands have often resulted from degradation and destruction of forests until savannas are formed (Misra, 1983). True pastures as climax vegetation are found only in subalpine and alpine pastures in the higher altitudes of the Himalayas. Dabadghao and Shankaranarayan (1973) have grasslands classified into five types.
Shankar and Gupta (1992) have classified the Indian grazing lands as fragile eco-systems and have ranked them as class IV and V in their land capability classification. The carrying capacity of these areas is 0.20 to 1.47 adult cattle units (ACU)/ha, but the present stocking rates are much higher. In semi-arid areas, the present stocking rates are 1 to 51 ACU/ha against the carrying capacity of 1 ACU/ha (Shankar and Gupta 1992) while in the arid areas, the stocking rates are 1 to 4 ACU/ha against the carrying capacity of 0.2-0.5 ACU/ha (Raheja, 1966). The deterioration of Indian pastures, grasslands and other grazing lands may be ascribed to the large bovine population, free grazing practices, lack of management, and natural constraints like extremes of temperature, steepness of slopes, variable precipitation, and scarcity of moisture in arid and semi-arid situations. The situation in Himalayan pastures is even more alarming due to the severe pressure of the sedentary, semi-migratory and migratory graziers. Overgrazing has caused the near complete loss of edible species. Weeds such as Stipa, Sambucus, Aconitum, Cincifuga, Adonis, and Sibbaldia have heavily infested these pastures (Misri, 1995). Fodder cultivation has remained static at 4% of the total cultivated area. Availability of fodder seed is another limiting factor. The annual requirement for 6.9 M ha under fodder cultivation, and for improvement of an additional 1 M ha of wastelands, is 10 M tonnes of cultivated fodder seed, 25,000 tonnes of range grass and legume seed and 500 tonnes of fodder tree seed per year. Against this, availability is only 20, 15 and 10%, respectively, of these crops (Singh and Hazra, 1995a).
Despite various constraints on the productivity of pastures and grasslands, the development of grazing areas and fodder cultivation has tremendous potential in India. Research at the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute, Jhansi (IGFRI) and at various other organizations, such as ICAR Institutes and State Agricultural Universities, has developed appropriate technologies for the improvement of these areas. Studies conducted at IGFRI have revealed that the initial protection from grazing of newly improved grasslands can lead to better establishment and higher biomass (3.31 tonnes/ha against 0.93 tonnes/ha without protection). Live-hedge fencing has been found to be economic and suitable. Extensive grazing studies have revealed that the appropriate stocking rates are 25-30, 20, 17, 12 and 6 ACU/100 ha for the management of excellent, good, fair, poor and very poor classes of rangelands, respectively. Basic moisture conservation techniques like contour furrowing, contour bunding and contour trenching can lead to increases in herbage yield (Ahuja 1977). IGFRI studies, undertaken on natural pastures dominated by Sehima nervosum, Heteropogon contortus and Iseilema laxum, have revealed that their production can be increased from 4.1 to 7.6, from 3.4 to 5.6 and from 4.5 to 6.4 tonnes/ha/year by the application of nitrogen at a rate of 40 kg/ha (Shankar and Gupta, 1992). Kaul and Ganguli (1963) have recommended that pastures must have 14% of the area under edible bushes to obtain best production results. Silvipasture systems on degraded grazing lands (Pathak and Roy, 1995) have enhanced biomass by up to 7-15 tonnes/ha/year. Misri (1986) has reported an additional herbage availability of 35-48 tonnes/ha under hortipasture systems.
Singh and Hazra (1995b) have suggested methods to substantially increase pasture seed production in India. A number of highly productive, disease resistant and area specific cultivars of various forage crops, and range species have been developed. Hazra (1995) has listed more than one hundred cultivars of fodder crops developed by various research institutes. When fully adopted, these varieties may increase biomass yield from Indian pastures many-fold.
Anon. (1997a). India 1996 - A Reference Annual. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Government of India, New Delhi, 733 pp.
Anon. (1997b). Dairy India - 1997. Priyadarshni Vihar, Delhi, 903 pp.
APEDA (1997). Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority. New Delhi.
Dabadghao, P.M. and Shankarnarayan, K.A. (1973). The Grass Cover of India. ICAR, New Delhi.
Hazra, C.R. (1995). Improved Cultivars of Forage Crops for Different Agro- Environments. In: R.P. Singh (ed.) Forage Production and Utilization. IGFRI, Jhansi (India), pp. 326-335.
Kaul, R.N and Ganguli, B.N. (1963). Fodder potential of Zizyphus in the shrub grazing lands of arid zones. Indian Forester, 39, 623-630.
Misra, R. (1983). Indian Savannas. In: F. Bourliere (ed.) Tropical Savannas. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 155-166.
Misri, B. (1986). Forage Production in the Kashmir Himalayas. In: P. Singh (ed.) Forage Production in India. RMSI, IGFRI, Jhansi (India), pp. 32-38.
Misri, B. (1995). Range and Forest Grazing in the Himalaya. In: P. Singh (ed.) Workshop Proceedings. Temperate Asia Pasture and Fodder Sub-Regional Working Group. Kathmandu, pp. 28-33.
Pathak, P.S and Roy, M.M. (1995). Agrosilvipastoral farming systems for optimizing forage and energy resources in rainfed areas. In: R.P. Singh (ed.) Forage Production and Utilization. IGFRI, Jhansi (India), pp. 154-178.
Pichamuthu, C.S. (1967). Physical Geography of India. National Book Trust, India, New Delhi. 212 pp.
Raheja, P.C. (1966). Rajasthan desert can bloom with forage. Indian Farming, 15, 47.
Shankar, V. and Gupta, J.N. (1992). Restoration of Degraded Rangelands. In: J. S. Singh (ed.). Restoration of Degraded Lands-Concepts and Strategies. Rastogi Publications, Meerut, India, pp. 115-155.
Singh, P. and Misri, B. (1993). Rangeland Resources-Utilization and Management in India. Paper presented at International Symposium on Grassland Resources held at Huehot, Inner Mangolia, China, August 16-20.
Singh, R.P and Hazra, C.R. (1995a). Forage Seed Production-Status and Strategy. In: R.P. Singh (ed.), Forage Production and Utilization. IGFRI, Jhansi (India), pp. 309-323.
Singh, R.P and Hazra, C.R. (1995b). Forage Seed Production - Perspectives and Strategies. In: Hazra, C.R. and Misri, B. (Eds). New Vistas in Forage Production. A.I.C.R.P (Forage Crops) IGFRI, Jhansi(India), pp. 323-334.
information on forages in India contact:
Periodic profile updating will be undertaken by Dr. Misri.
was edited by H.M. Shelton in 1999 and updated by S.G. Reynolds in November 2002.