EGU24-7880, updated on 08 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Crop switching in the Indo-Gangetic Plain of India can improve water and food sustainability with increased farmers’ profit

Ruparati Chakraborti1, Kyle Frankel Davis2,3, Ruth DeFries4, Narasimha D. Rao5,6, Jisha Joseph1, and Subimal Ghosh1,7
Ruparati Chakraborti et al.
  • 1Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, Civil Engineering, India (
  • 2Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716, USA(
  • 3Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark(
  • 4Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA(
  • 5Yale School of the Environment, New Haven, CT, USA(
  • 6International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Laxenburg, Austria(
  • 7Inter Disciplinary Programme in Climate Studies, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai 400076, India(

Water and food security in the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) is severely affected due to the intensive irrigated agriculture, growing population, and changing climate. Agricultural intensification with the water-intensive rice-wheat system has increased the water demand in India. The declining monsoon rainfall and increased irrigation with more reliance on groundwater sources have resulted in groundwater depletion over India’s fertile region, the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP), with high energy usage. Despite several agricultural technology developments, no improvement is found in calorie production from cereal crops per unit of water consumption in the IGP. Crop switching from water-intensive rice and wheat to climate-resilient nutri-cereals can be a potential solution for water sustainability, but other dimensions i.e. food supply, and farmers’ profit need to be considered for implementation. So, a multi-objective optimization framework is needed to address the social, economic, and environmental sustainability objectives which are conflicting in nature, to find the optimal cropping pattern. In this study, an optimization model is developed and applied for crop switching with objectives to maximize calorie production, and farmers’ profit and to minimize water consumption by reallocating the cropped areas between cereals at the district level. Application of the model suggests switching from rice to millet and sorghum in the Kharif Season (monsoon), and wheat to sorghum and barley in the Rabi season (winter), which could potentially decrease water consumption by 32%, increase calorie production by 39%, and elevate farmers' profits by 140%. Water and energy savings (with the replaced cropping pattern are higher than changing irrigation practices (i.e. from flood to drip). So, crop switching coupled with efficient irrigation practices (drip) contributes to saving more energy and water. These findings suggest the potential of crop switching to address the multidimensional sustainability challenges in agricultural practices in the IGP, with a scope of application to other regions grappling with similar issues. The implementation of crop switching is driven by multiple factors such as the willingness of farmers, incentives, and other strategies for farmers to shift crop practice, procurement of nutri cereals through Minimum Support Price, subsidized supply through the Public Distribution System, and consumer demand; thus, leaving an opportunity to explore these aspects in future studies for policy framing towards sustainable agricultural practices.

How to cite: Chakraborti, R., Davis, K. F., DeFries, R., D. Rao, N., Joseph, J., and Ghosh, S.: Crop switching in the Indo-Gangetic Plain of India can improve water and food sustainability with increased farmers’ profit, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-7880,, 2024.