Indian Agriculture

What is Agriculture?

  • Agriculture is the process of producing food for people, fodder for cattle, fiber and many other desired products by the cultivation of certain plants and the raising of domesticated animals (livestock).
  • India is an agriculturally important country.
  • Two-thirds of its population is engaged in agricultural activities.
  • It is a primary activity.

Types of Farming:

Primitive Subsistence Farming:

  • It is also called as Shifting Cultivation or Jhumming or Slash and Burn Cultivation.
  • It is practised on small patches of land with the primitive tools like hoe, dao and digging sticks, and family/community labour.
  • This type of farming depends upon monsoon, natural fertility of the soil and suitability of other environmental conditions to the crops grown.
  • In shifting cultivation, a plot of land is cleared by felling the trees and burning them. The ashes are then mixed with the soil and crops like maize, yam, potatoes and cassava are grown. After the soil loses its fertility, the land is abandoned and the cultivator moves to a new plot.
  • It is called as jhumming in north-eastern states like Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland; Pamlou in Manipur, Dipa in Bastar district of Chhattishgarh, and in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Jhuming / BewarNorth eastern states of India
MilpaMexico and Central America
MasoleCentral Africa
Chengin / KainginPhilippines
ChenSri Lanka

Intensive Subsistence Farming:

  • This type of farming is practised in areas of high population pressure on land.
  • It is labour-intensive farming, where high doses of biochemical inputs and irrigation are used for obtaining higher production.
  • Intensive subsistence farming is prevalent in the thickly populated areas of the monsoon regions of south, southeast and east Asia.

Commercial Farming:

  • Main characteristic of this type of farming is the use of higher doses of modern inputs.
  • Example– high yielding variety (HYV) seeds, chemical fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides in order to obtain higher productivity.
  • The degree of commercialisation of agriculture varies from one region to another.
  • For example- rice is a commercial crop in Harayana and Punjab, but in Orissa, it is a subsistence crop.
  • Plantation is also a type of commercial farming.
  • In this type of farming, a single crop is grown on a large area.
  • Plantations cover large tracts of land, using capital intensive inputs.
  • In India, tea (Assam and North Bengal), coffee (Karnatka), rubber, sugarcane, banana etc. are important plantation crops.

Dryland Agriculture:

  • Dryland agriculture is associated with agriculture in absence of irrigation facilities. Thus this type of agriculture is wholly dependent upon rain. This type of agriculture is significance from Indian point of view because more that 75% of the cultivable land fall under rainfed area. A not so well developed canal system and sinking ground water further makes it significant.

It is divided into 3 types

  1. Dry Farming – Moisture/Precipitation is less than 750 mm annually.
  2. Dryland Faming – Mositure is more than 750 but less than 1000 mm.
  3. Rainfed Farming – Cultivation of crops in regions receiving more than 1,150 mm.
  • Crops that are grown in such areas are – Pulses, Winter Wheat, Mllets like – Bajra.
  • Dryland farming depends upon the moisture-holding capacity of the soil and many measures are taken to promote this – like mulching, clearing of weeds, contour ploughing, etc.
  • However, dryland farming is also more prone to erosion especially wind and water. In rainy areas, this is more acute such as Maharashtra and Punjab wherein peak rainy season erosion is more.

Methods of Dry Farming:

  • The field is ploughed repeatedly in order to conserve moisture in the soil. This process is necessary especially during the raining season so that rainwater is properly utilized.
  • Soil fertility is reduced when cultivation is continued for a number of years. This problem becomes serious particularly in the background of farmer’s inability to make use of fertilizers and manures. In order to solve this problem, the land is left as fallow land. It helps in the recuperation of soil fertility.
  • The Pulverisation of soil is done before sowing. This process converts soil into small particles that permit the easy flow of water in the soil and plant roots find ample opportunity to grow in strength and support the plants.
  • Hoeing, weeding, and pruning are done at regular intervals. Hoeing allows air to enter the soil space and helps in plant growth. It is generally done before sun-rise so that night dew can enter the soil and provide moisture to plants. Through weeding, unwanted plants in the fields are removed and pressure on the soil to feed the plants is reduced. Pruning removes unwanted parts of the plants and wanted plants to find ample opportunity to grow.
  • The land is usually covered with straw to reduce evaporation of the soil moisture and to control soil erosion by wind.
  • In order to improve their income level, the farmers keep themselves engaged in allied agricultural activities such as livestock keeping and dairying.

Problems of Dry Zone Agriculture:

  • Rainfall is scarce, erratic, unreliable, and uncertain which makes this region susceptible to floods, droughts, and famines.
  • Large areas are covered by sandy soil which lacks nutrient materials for soil fertility.
  • The area is prone to soil erosion, particularly erosion by wind.
  • Yields are low and crops are susceptible to pests and diseases.
  • Due to a lack of moisture and inadequate irrigation facilities, it is difficult to use HYV seeds and new technologies.
  • The majority of the farmers are poor and cannot afford costly inputs like better seeds, fertilizers, farm mechanics, etc.
  • Large areas of dry farming lack basic infrastructural facilities like market, transport, storage, refrigeration, etc. The farmers are forced to opt for distress sales in the absence of these facilities and fail to get remunerative prices for their products.

Cropping Pattern:

India has three cropping seasons- rabi, kharif and zaid.

Rabi Crops:

  • Are sown in winter from October to December and harvested in summer from April to June.
  • Some of the important rabi crops are wheat, barley, peas, gram and mustard.

Kharif Crops:

  • Also called as monsoon crops.
  • Are grown with the onset of monsoon in different parts of the country and these are harvested in September-October.
  • Important crops grown during this season are paddy, maize, jowar, bajra, tur (arhar), urad, cotton, jute, groundnut and soyabean.
  • In states like Assam, West Bengal and Orissa, three crops of paddy are grown in a year. These are Aus, Aman and Boro.

Zaid Crops:

  • In between the rabi and the kharif seasons, there is a short season during the summer months known as the Zaid season.
  • Some of the crops produced during ‘zaid’ are watermelon, muskmelon, cucumber, vegetables and fodder crops.
  • Sugarcane takes almost a year to grow.

Major Crops In India:


  • It is basically a tropical crop.
  • Staple food crop of a majority of the people in India.
  • It is a kharif crop which requires high temperature, (above 25°C) and high humidity with annual rainfall above 100 cm.
  • In the areas of less rainfall, it grows with the help of irrigation.
  • Rice is grown in the plains of north and north-eastern India, coastal areas and the deltaic regions.
  • Deep fertile loamy or clayey soils are considered ideal for this crop.


  • A subtropical crop grown in the winter season in India.
  • It is the main food crop, in north and north-western part of the country.
  • It requires a cool growing season and a bright sunshine at the time of ripening.
  • Mean temperature is between 10 and 15 degree Celsius
  • It requires 50 to 75 cm of annual rainfall.
  • Well drained loamy soil is ideal for wheat cultivation.
  • There are two important wheat-growing zones in the country- the Ganga-Satluj plains in the north-west and black soil region of the Deccan.
  • Major wheat-producing states are Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and parts of Madhya Pradesh.
  • The wheat production in the country showed maximum increase after Green Revolution introduced in 1966.


  • Jowar, bajra and ragi are the important millets grown in India.
  • Also called as coarse grains, they have very high nutritional value.
  • Ragi is very rich in iron, calcium, other micro nutrients and roughage.
  • Ragi is a crop of dry regions and grows well on red, sandy, loamy and shallow black soils.
  • Karnataka is the largest producer of ragi.
  • Jowar is a rain-fed crop mostly grown in the moist areas which hardly needs irrigation.
  • Maharashtra is the largest producer of jowar.
  • Bajra grows well on sandy soils and shallow black soil.
  • Rajasthan is the largest producer of bajra.


  • Used both as food and fodder.
  • It is a kharif crop which requires temperature between 21°C to 27°C.
  • Grows well in old alluvial soil.
  • In some states like Bihar maize is grown in rabi season also.
  • Karnataka is the largest producer of maize.


  • India is the largest producer as well as the consumer of pulses in the world.
  • Major source of Protein.
  • Pulses need less moisture and survive even in dry conditions.
  • Being leguminous crops, all these crops except arhar help in restoring soil fertility by fixing nitrogen from the air.
  • Mostly grown in rotation with other crops.
  • Major pulse producing states in India are Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Food Crops other than Grains:


  • Tea cultivation is an example of plantation agriculture.
  • It is also an important beverage crop introduced in India initially by the British.
  • Tea plant grows well in tropical and sub-tropical climates.
  • It requires warm and moist climate all through the year.
  • Tea grows best on the mountain slopes receiving large amount of rains (above 150 cms).
  • Well drained deep loamy soils, rich in humus is ideal for tea plantation.
  • Undulating plains of the Brahmaputra valley extending into low hills of Assam is the home of Indian tea.
  • Hills of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri in northern West Bengal and the hills of the Annamalai and the Nilgiri are other tea producing areas.
  • Tea is a labour intensive industry.
  • India is the leading producer as well as exporter of tea in the world.


  • Coffee grows in tropical highlands at altitudes varying between 900 and 1800 metres above sea level.
  • In India, they grow well on laterite soils and is confined to the Nilgiri in Karanataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.


  • Sugarcane is the native plant of India
  • It is a tropical as well as a subtropical crop.
  • It grows well in hot and humid climate with a temperature of 21°C to 27°C and an annual rainfall between 75 cm and 100 cm.
  • Irrigation facility is required if rainfall is not enough.
  • Fertile loamy and black soils are ideal for this crop.
  • India is the second largest producer of sugarcane only after Brazil.
  • Uttar Pradesh is the largest producer of Sugarcane.

Non-Food Crops:


  • It is an equatorial crop, but under special conditions.
  • It is also grown in tropical and sub-tropical areas.
  • It requires moist and humid climate with rainfall of more than 200 cm and temperature above 25°C.
  • It is an important industrial raw material.
  • It is mainly grown in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Garo hills of Meghalaya.

Fibre Crops:

  • Cotton, jute, hemp, and natural silk are the four major fibre crops grown in India.
  • Natural silk is obtained from cocoons of the silkworms fed on green leaves especially mulberry.
  • Rearing of silkworms for the production of silk fibre is known as sericulture.


  • India is believed to be the original home of the cotton plant.
  • Cotton grows well in drier parts of the black cotton soil of the Deccan plateau which is considered ideal for its cultivation, though it is also grown on alluvial soils of the northern plains.
  • It requires high temperature, light rainfall, or irrigation.
  • It is a Kharif crop and requires 6 to 8 months to mature.
  • Leading producers of cotton in India are Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, etc.


  • Jute was called the golden fibre of the Indian subcontinent.
  • It grows well on well-drained fertile soils in the flood plains where soils are renewed every year.
  • High temperature is required during the time of growth.
  • West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Orissa, and Meghalaya are the major jute producing states.
  • It is used in making gunny bags, mats, ropes, yarn, carpets, and other artifacts.

Other Points:

  • Land Reform was the main focus of the First Five Year Plan.
  • The Green Revolution based on the use of package technology and the white revolution (Operation Flood) were some of the strategies initiated to improve the lot of Indian agriculture.
  • M.S. Swaminathan, the father of Green Revolution in India
  • Main Features of Green Revolution include: Continuing expansion of farming areas; Double-cropping in the existing farmland; Using seeds with improved genetics (High Yielding Variety Seeds), Chemical Fertilisers, Pesticides.
  • Verghese Kurien, the father of White Revolution in India
  • Operation Flood was a rural development programme started by India’s National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in 1970.
  • Objectives of Operation Flood’s include: Increase milk production, Augment rural incomes, Fair prices for consumers.
  • Mahatma Gandhi declared Vinoba Bhave as his spiritual heir.
  • The Bhoodan-Gramdan movement was started by Acharya Vinoba Bhave is also known as the Blood-less Revolution.
  • In order to ensure the availability of food to all sections of society, our government carefully designed a national food security system. It consists of two components- a buffer stock and the public distribution system (PDS).
  • PDS is a programme which provides food grains and other essential commodities at subsidized prices in rural and urban areas.
  • India’s food security policy has a primary objective to ensure the availability of foodgrains to the common people at an affordable price.
  • The focus of the policy is on growth in agriculture production and on fixing the support price for procurement of wheat and rice, to maintain their stocks.
  • Food Corporation of India (FCI) is responsible for procuring and stocking foodgrains, whereas distribution is ensured by the public distribution system (PDS).
  • The FCI procures food grains from the farmers at the government announced minimum support price (MSP).
  • The government used to provide subsidies on agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, power, and water.
  • Excessive and imprudent use of fertilizers and water has led to waterlogging.
  • Organic farming is much in vogue today because it is practiced without factory-made chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides.
  • The crops which are cultivated for commercial purpose are called cash crops. These crops include sugarcane, tobacco, fibre crops (cotton, jute, and mesta) and oilseeds.
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