Production of fruit crops under arid condition
Authors: Narayan Lal, Govind Shiurkar and Dalit Kumar Jaiswal


The Indian arid zone is characterized by high temperature, low and erratic rainfall which limit the scope for high productivity of fruits. In India, the area under fruit cultivation is about 6.9 mha with production of 81.2 million ton. The soils of arid region are very poor in fertility. The proper soil depth, hard layer/pan are also a problem in some part for better plantations. The water holding capacity of soil is also poor. Soil is generally rich in total potassium and boron but is low in nitrogen, phosphorus and micro-nutrient such as copper, zinc and iron. The soil is often having high salinity. The irrigation water resources in the region are seasonal rivers and rivulets, surface well and some runoff water storage devices and canal irrigation in arid region. Thus the water resources in arid region are limited and can irrigate hardly 4 per cent of the area.

The annual average rainfall in arid region is very low and varies from 100 mm in north western sector of Jaisalmer to 450 mm in the eastern boundary arid zone of Rajasthan. Most of the precipitation in north western arid region occurs during July-September in about 19-21 rain spells. Due to low and erratic rainfall pattern in arid region, appropriate technology is needed to increase productivity. The area expansion and yield potential of arid horticultural crop has increased many fold because of development of new variety and advancement in agro-techniques in arid region. Selection of suitable crops and vaieties for arid zone can boost fruit production in India.

Selection of crops/varieties:

The selection of crops/verities is very important to grow fruits in arid region. It needs adequate care as the raised plantations remains productive for 20-60 years depending upon crop selected. Growth period of selected fruit crop must synchronize with the period of maximum water availability and low evapo-transpiration losses. Flowering and fruiting period should be completed well before the onset of summer. Fruits like guava, pomegranate, acid lime which bears fruit two-three times in distinct bahar and bahar which coincide with rainy season (Mrig bahar) should be encouraged. Since the water is limiting factor in arid region. The crop selected should have following characteristic:

  • It should have deep root system
· Leave shedding in summer to minimize water losses through transpiration.

· Minimum water requirement for quality production.

· Xerophytic character like wax coating, hairiness, sunken and covered stomata as in fig, phalsa, gonad, ber etc.

· Fruit crop of arid region should also have tolerance to salinity and saline irrigation water and alkalinity which are common feature of these crops eg. Aonla, bael, karonda.

· Varieties selected for different fruit crop in arid condition should be of short duration, so that can complete their fruiting period in shortest possible time to evade drought condition.

Table 1. List of fruit crops which can be grown under arid and semiarid condition:

Name of crop Botanical Name Family
Ber Zizyphus mauritiana Rhamnaceae
Borhi Zizyphus rotundifolia Rhamnaceae
Pomegranate Punica granatum Punacaceae
Aonla Emblica officinalis Euphorbiaceae
Datepalm Phoenix dactylifera Aracaceae
Bael Aegle mormelos Rutaceae
Cactus pear Opuntia ficus indica Cactaceae
Phalsa Grewia subinaequalis Tilliaceae
Fig Ficus carica Moraceae
Mulberry Morus alba Moraceae
Marula nut Sclerocarya birrea Anacardiaceae
Sweet orange Citrus sinensis Rutaceae
Karonda Carrisa congesta Apocynaceae
Lasora Cordia myxa Bograinaceae
Wood apple Feronia limonia Rutaceae
Ker Capparis deciduas Capparidaceae
Manilla tamarind Pithocelobium dulce Fabaceae
Jamun Syzigium cumunii Myrtaceae
Mango Mangifera indica Anacardiaceae
Guava Psidium guajava Myrtaceae
Custard apple Anona squamosa Annanaceae
Table 2. Recommended varieties of important arid crops in arid region:

Crop Varieties
Ber Early- Gola, Mundia, Thar sevika, Thar Bhubhraj
Mid season- Jogia, Seb, Banarasi, Karaka, kaithali
Late- Umran, Mahrawati, Bagwadi, ZG-3, Kali
Aonla NA-6, NA-7, NA-10, Goma Aishwariya
Pomegranate Jalore seedless, Ganesh, G-137, P-23, Sindhuri, Arakta, Bhagwa, Goma khatta
Bael HB-5, NB-7, NB-9, CISH B-1, CISH B-2, Goma yashi
Datepalm Medjool, Khunezi, Barhee, Khadrawi, Hillawi
Jamun Goma priyanka
Tamarind Goma prateek, Yogeshwar, Pratisthan

Constraints for survival of crops in arid and semi rid eco system:

1. Insufficient and erratic precipitation.

2. In efficient irrigation method

3. Brackish nature of underground water.

4. In adequate efforts for harvesting rain water for life saving irrigation.

5. Less adoption of in-situ moisture conservation practices.

6. Extreme of temperature and high wind velocity.

7. Less efforts of rainwater harvesting for agriculture purpose.

8. Sandy soil with poor water holding capacity.

9. Poor soil fertility in the region.

Rainwater harvesting:

Rainwater harvesting is accumulation and deposition of rainwater for reuse on-site, rather than allowing it to runoff. Harvested water can be used for garden, irrigation, domestic purpose, live stock etc. In many places the water collected is just redirected to a deep pit with percolation. The harvested water can be used as drinking water as well as for storage and other purposes. Rainwater is the only copious and clean source of water, but its distribution is neither uniform nor assured in all parts. India receives about 400 million hectare meters of rain per year over an area of 329 mha. The rainfall ranges from as low as 100 mm in the Thar Desert to 15000 mm in the North East.

Advantages of water harvesting:

Ø Recharging the ground water table.

Ø Availability of plenty of good water for drinking or irrigation.

Ø To beneficiate water quality in aquifirs.

Ø Green cover increases in the surrounding areas.

Ø Soil erosion is reduced.

Ø To conserve surface water runoff during monsoon.

Ø Silting of rivers is reduced.

Ø Flood and runoff get controlled.

Ø To inculcate a culture of water conservation.

Table 3. Different types of water storage structures in Arid region in India:

Sl No. Name of structure Type of structure Prevalent in area
1 Kunds/Kundia Underground storage Western Rajasthan
2 Kuis/Beris Deep pits near tanks Western Rajasthan
3 Baoris/Bers Community wells Rajasthan
4 Jhalaras Tank Rajasthan, Gujrat
5 Nadi Village pond Jodhpur, Rajasthan
6 Tankas Underground tank Bikaner, Rajasthan
7 Khadins Embankment across lower hill slopes Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
8 Vav/Vavdi/Baoli/Bavadi Stepwells Rajasthan, Gujrat
9 Virdas Shallow wells Rann of Kutch, Gujrat
10 Paar Area where water has percolated, accessed by kuis Rajasthan

Tarais (Reservoires): These are built in the valley between sand dunes by constructing bunds at the two ends. When it rained the rainwater collected in the reservoir. The tarais dry in a few months owing to the highly porous soil, but the region round it remains wet and moist. Wells are usually dug close to the tarai.

Tanka: Individual homes and farms in Bikaner build tanka. They are round or rectangular underground room that functions as water tanks. Rainwater from the roof or terrace is directed towards an opening in the floor which leads to the tanka.

Stepwell: These are India’s most unique contribution to architecture. They are called vav or vavadi in Gujarat and bavadis in Rajasthan and north India. The stepwell of Gujarat consist of a vertical shaft in the middle from which water is drawn. This shift is surrounded by corridors, chamber and steps which provides access to the well. They are profusely carved as a cool resting place in summer.

Nadis: Nadis are the main source of drinking water in Rajasthan specially in Rajsamand area where rain water is harvested and reuse. The most of the nadis are now barried up by the silt of rain water during the water runoff from the catchment area. Many renovation works has been done for reviving these nadies. The afforestation of drained basis helps a lot from de-siltation of nadies.

Kund or Kundis: In western Rajasthan and Gujarat, they harvest rainwater for drinking in the sandy tracts of the Thar Desert. The saucer shaped catchment area gently slopes towards the pit in the centre which has a dome shaped cover to protect the water. The water inlets are covered with mesh. the depth and diameter of kunds depends on their use.

Kuis: Kuis are deep pits dug near tanks to collect the seepage. They are also used to harvest rainwater in area with scanty rainfall. From a narrow mouth a kui gets wider to prevent evaporation of collected water but at the same time facilitates more water collecting.

Jaldhar Model: In the Eastern Highlands, rainwater is harvested ina portion of the farmland. Pits are dug in each plot to accumulate water. This pit also helps the subsurface flow of water to lower plots and improves the soil moisture of the area as a whole.

Rapat: A rapat is a percolation tank with a bund to impound rainwater flowing through a watershed and a waste weir to dispose of the surplus flow. If the height of the structure is small, the bund may be built of masonary, otherwise earth is used. Rajasthan rapat being small are all masonary structures. Rapat and percolation tanks do not directly irrigate land but recharges well within w distance of 3-5 km downstream

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