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Food for all continues to be a key issue, especially in the developing world where every fifth person is chronically undernourished. India, a fast growing developing country has also experienced serious food shortages for example in the mid 1960s. Punjab, a small northern Indian state has developed, particularly since the Green Revolution in the mid 1960s, to be a key agricultural area producing 13% of the food grains of India. Increased productivity brought economic benefits to farmers and led to the establishment of Wheat-Rice Cropping Pattern (WRCP) as the main agricultural system of Punjab which more recently has become reliant on underground water resources, agricultural machinery, chemical fertilisers and pesticides. More recently stagnating yields and increased cost of cultivation of WRCP have squeezed the net farm profitability. However, the WRCP has been, and remains the first choice of farmers, because of its comparative economic advantage, assured marketing and stable productivity level. This paper compares the economic sustainability of WRCP to that of other alternative cropping patterns in Punjab and answers the question “Why farmers continue with the WRCP despite various crop diversification efforts in the past”. Interviews with 120 farmers across Punjab illustrated the economic and risk advantages of WRCP over other potential cropping patterns and concludes that if cropping systems in Punjab are to become more environmentally sustainable then policy makers will need to put mechanisms in place which either encourage a more sustainable WRCP or provide the basis for the growth of alternative, less environmentally damaging cropping systems.


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