Agricultural systems in the Eastern Gangetic Plains are dominated by a rain-fed rice crop in the kharif (monsoon) season, although it is possible for two kharif crops to be produced (i.e. kharif 1 and 2). The rain-fed kharif crop(s) are followed by an irrigated crop in the rabi (dry) season when farmers have access to irrigation or residual soil moisture.
The main cropping systems differ by location, but are traditionally rice-rice and rice-wheat, with rice-maize a relatively new system in most areas.
The kharif crop is central to household food security in a region where most farming households operate at subsistence level.
Rabi crops in the study areas include wheat, maize, mustard, pulses (lentil, mung bean), jute and leafy vegetables depending on the location and water availability. Rice-wheat and rice-maize are the major cropping patterns.
In Bangladesh, tobacco, potato and mustard are other important crops in the rabi season, while rice, maize, jute, vegetables and pulses are grown in kharif.
In Bihar, vegetables and potato are planted in the rabi season, with rice, vegetables, maize, mung bean and jute in kharif. In West Bengal mustard, potato, summer rice, maize, pulses, tobacco are planted in the rabi season, with rice, jute, maize and vegetable in kharif.
In Nepal, wheat, maize, lentils, vegetables and potato are planted in the rabi season, with rice, maize, mung bean and vegetables in kharif.
Cropping intensity is highly variable across the EGP, ranging from 180 – 247% at the district level. This is coupled with low productivity and limited diversification due to a range of interacting factors including limited market access; sparse agricultural knowledge and service networks; and inadequate development of water resources (whether due to physical infrastructure or economic barriers to pumping).
Mechanisation is similarly limited to mostly diesel irrigation pumps, and 2- and 4-wheel tractors for farm operations. Thus, there is significant scope to improve the sustainable productivity of these systems.