Jammu and Kashmir is a hill state having varied topography and great diversity in cultural, social and economic practices of its different regions. However, agriculture remains the backbone of the economy of Jammu and Kashmir with over 65 percent of its population depends on agriculture and allied sectors. These sectors contribute around 27 percent to the State's income.
The diversity in physiographic features, agro-climatic variations at macro and micro level, existence of cold arid, temperate, inter-mediate and sub-tropical zones within a small geographical area of 2.22 lakh square kilometers, speaks volumes about the vast agricultural potential in the State.
Though, the large diversity in agro-climatic conditions of the State is conducive for propagation of diversified farming system, the terrain at the same time is tough and accessibility to a greater part of the region is poor. This causes a lot of hurdles to the inhabitants in provision of inputs, products and level of literacy and awareness.
Over the years, the agriculturists and farmers have adopted several area specific and time specific cultivation practices to meet the requirement of their staple food crops. Rice, maize, wheat, pulses, fodder, oil seeds, potato and barley are the main crops of the region.
The farmers are now diversifying to cash crops such as flowers, vegetables, quality seeds, aromatic and medicinal plants and mushrooms etc round the year. Honey-bee keeping, fodder intensification, production of quality saffron, basmati rice, rajmash, off-season vegetables, potatoes etc are also practiced in specific areas, belts and clusters depending upon their agro-climatic suitability.
However, still state is facing the low productivity of all agricultural crops and there is massive deficit in its own production of food grains (40 percent), oil seeds (70 percent) and vegetables (30 percent). The net sown area of 7.52 lakh hectares (2004-05) is 35 percent of the reported area as against national average of 46 percent.
Over 70 percent of the Net Sown Area is under food crops and the area under fruits is a little over 13 percent. Viability of agriculture as a profession is presently affected capital inadequacy, lack of infrastructural support and controls on movement, storage and sale etc of agricultural produce. Dwindling water resources too is a major challenge as only 42 percent of the cultivated area is under irrigation.
Hilly terrain puts limits to mechanical farming and transportation of Products, especially horticulture produce. Fragile soil in hilly areas is susceptible to soil erosion and a single cropping season is available in temperate and high altitude areas.
Within the State, Jammu division itself is a home for large diversity in physiographic features; cultural richness, agro-climatic variations etc again underline the vast agricultural potential in the division.
Net irrigated area in the region is just 24 percent and double and multiple cropping is followed on a larger scale in the intermediate and warmer plain sub-tropical areas. Wheat, maize and rice crops grown in about 250, 000 hectares 210,000 hectares and 110,000 hectares area respectively are the major cereal crops of Jammu division. Basmati rice and rajmash (pulses) are valuable cash crops of the region. Vegetables, oil seeds, spices and condiments, aromatic and medicinal plants and fodder are also grown in specific areas of the region.
Yogesh Sharma, AIR Correspondent, Jammu