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Agricultural intensification was associated with crop diversification in India (1947-2014).

  • Author(s): Smith, Jamey C
  • Ghosh, Aniruddha
  • Hijmans, Robert J
  • et al.

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Declines in agricultural biodiversity associated with modern farming practices may negatively affect the sustainability of agro-ecosystems, but formal knowledge of historical variation in spatio-temporal variation of agro-biodiversity is limited. We used time series of national (1947-2014) and district-level (1956-2008) crop distribution data for India to show that despite strong agricultural intensification after 1960, the average crop species diversity at the district level was stable, but increased at the country-level. While there was a decline in diversity in the major rice and wheat producing regions of northwestern India, associated with intensification of the production of these crops, diversity in western and southern India increased due to expansion of oilseeds and horticultural crops that replaced millet and sorghum. These opposite, but related, trends in crop-level diversity at the sub-national level partially canceled each other out at national level, but there nevertheless was a noticeable increase in overall crop diversity in India during this time period. Our results illustrate how patterns of change in crop diversity need to be considered at different levels of aggregation, and how a decrease in diversity associated with intensification and specialization in one area, may be associated with increased diversity elsewhere, and that support for intensive agriculture with relatively low crop diversity in some regions may be associated with an increase in crop diversity in other regions and at a higher level of aggregation.

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