India is an agriculturally important country. Two-thirds of its population is engaged in agricultural activities. Agriculture is a primary activity, which produces most of the food and raw material for various industries.
Primitive subsistence agriculture is practised on small patches of land with the help of primitive tools like hoe, dao and digging sticks, and labour. This type of farming depends upon monsoon, natural fertility of the soil and suitability of other environmental conditions to the crops grown.
It is a ‘slash and burn’ agriculture. Farmers clear a patch of land and produce cereals and other food crops to sustain their family. When the soil fertility decreases, the farmers shift and clear a fresh patch of land for cultivation. This type of shifting allows nature to replenish the fertility of the soil through natural processes. Land productivity in this type of agriculture is low as the farmer does not use fertilizers or other modern inputs.
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.
The main characteristic of this type of farming is the use of higher doses of modern inputs, e.g. high yielding variety (HYV) seeds, chemical fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides in order to obtain higher productivity. The degree of commercialization of agriculture varies from one region to another. For example, rice is a commercial crop in Haryana and Punjab, but in Odisha, it is a subsistence crop.
Plantation is a type of commercial farming. In this type of farming, a single crop is grown on a large area. The plantation has an interface of agriculture and industry. Plantations cover large tracts of land, using capital intensive inputs, with the help of migrant labourers. All the produce is used as raw material in respective industries.
In India, tea, coffee, rubber, sugarcane, banana, etc. are important plantation crops.
India has three cropping seasons:
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. The low temperature conditions during this season facilitate the cultivation of temperature and subtropical crops.
Kharif 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 rice, paddy, maize, jowar , bajra, tur (ar har), moong, urad, cotton, jute, groundnut and soyabean. The kharif season largely coincides with southwest monsoon under which the cultivation of tropical crops is possible.
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 water melon, muskmelon, cucumber, vegetables and fodder crops.
On the basis of main source of moisture for crops, the farming is classified as irrigated and rainfed (barani). There is difference in the nature of irrigated farming as well based on objective of irrigation, i.e. protective or productive. The objective of protective irrigation is to protect the crops from adverse effects of soil moisture deficiency which often means that irrigation acts as a supplementary source of water over and above the rainfall. Productive irrigation is meant to provide sufficient soil moisture in the cropping season to achieve high productivity.
Rainfed farming is further classified on the basis of adequacy of soil moisture during cropping season into dryland and wetland farming. In India, the dryland farming is largely confined to the regions having annual rainfall less than 75 cm. These regions grow hardy and drought resistant crops such as ragi, bajra, moong, gram and guar (fodder crops).
In wetland farming, the rainfall is in excess of soil moisture requirement of plants during rainy season. Such regions may face flood and soil erosion hazards. These areas grow various water intensive crops such as rice, jute and sugarcane.
On the basis of the structure of grain the food grains are classified as cereals and pulses. Major crops grown in India are rice, wheat, millets, pulses, tea, coffee, sugarcane, oil seeds, cotton and jute, etc.
India produces a variety of cereals, which are classified as fine grains (rice, wheat) and coarse grains (jowar, bajra, maize, ragi).
It is the staple food crop of a majority of the people in India. India is the second largest producer of rice in the world after China. 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. Development of dense network of canal irrigation and tubewells have made it possible to grow rice in areas of less rainfall such as Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh and parts of Rajasthan.
This is the second most important cereal crop. It is the main food crop, in north and north-western part of the country. This rabi crop requires a cool growing season and a bright sunshine at the time of ripening. It requires 50 to 75 cm of annual rainfall evenly distributed over the growing season. There are two important wheat-growing zones in the country - the Ganga-Satluj plains in the northwest and black soil region of the Deccan.
The major wheat producing states are Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and parts of Madhya Pradesh.
Jowar (Sorghum), bajra (Pearl Millet) and ragi (Finger Millet) are the important millets grown in India. Jowar is the third most important food crop with respect to area and production. Major Jowar producing States were Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
Bajra grows well on sandy soils and shallow black soil. Major Bajra producing States are Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana.
Ragi is a crop of dry regions and grows well on red, black, sandy, loamy and shallow black soils. Major ragi producing states are Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Jharkhand and Arunachal Pradesh.
It is a crop which is used both as food and fodder. It is a kharif crop which requires temperature between 21°C to 27°C and grows well in old alluvial soil. In some states like Bihar maize is grown in rabi season also. Use of modern inputs such as HYV seeds, fertilisers and irrigation have contributed to the increasing production of maize.
Major maize producing states are Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
India is the largest producer as well as the consumer of pulses in the world. Major pulses that are grown in India are tur (arhar), urad, moong, masur, peas and gram.
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. Therefore, these are mostly grown in rotation with other crops.
Major pulse producing states in India are Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Gram: Gram is cultivated in subtropical areas. It is mostly a rainfed crop cultivated during rabi season in central, western and northwestern parts of the country.
Tur: It is the second important pulse crop in the country. It is also known as red gram or pigeon pea. It is cultivated over marginal lands and under rainfed conditions in the dry areas of central and southern states of the country.
It is a tropical as well as a subtropical crop. It grows well in hot and humid climate with a temperature of 2°C to 27°C and an annual rainfall between 75 cm and 100 cm. Irrigation is required in the regions of low rainfall. It can be grown on a variety of soils and needs manual labour from sowing to harvesting. India is the second largest producer of sugarcane only after Brazil.
It is the main source of sugar, gur (jaggary), khandsari and molasses. The major sugarcane producing states are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Haryana.
Main oil seeds produced in India are groundnut, mustard, coconut, sesamum (til), soyabean, castor seeds, cotton seeds, linseed and sunflower. Most of these are edible and used as cooking mediums. However, some of these are also used as raw material in the production of soap, cosmetics and ointments.
Groundnut is a rainfed kharif crop and accounts for about half of the major oil seeds produced in the country. Linseed and mustard are rabi crops. Sesamum is a kharif crop in north and rabi crop in south India. Castor seed is grown both as rabi and kharif crop.
Tea cultivation is an example of plantation agriculture. The tea plant grows well in tropical and sub-tropical climates endowed with deep and fertile well-drained soil, rich in humus and organic matter. Tea bushes require warm and moist frost-free climate all through the year.
Frequent showers evenly distributed over the year ensure continuous growth of tender leaves. Tea is a labour intensive industry. It requires abundant, cheap and skilled labour.
Major tea producing states are Assam, hills of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Apart from these, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh and Tripura are also tea producing states in the country.
Indian coffee is known in the world for its good quality. The Arabica variety initially brought from Yemen is produced in the country. This variety is in great demand all over the world. Intially its cultivation was introduced on the Baba Budan Hills and even today its cultivation is confined to the Nilgiri in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
India is a producer of tropical as well as temperate fruits. Mangoes of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, oranges of Nagpur and Cherrapunjee (Meghalaya), bananas of Kerala, Mizoram, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, lichi and guava of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, pineapples of Meghalaya, grapes of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, apples, pears, apricots and walnuts of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh are in great demand the world over.
India is an important producer of pea, cauliflower, onion, cabbage, tomato, brinjal and potato.
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 mainly grown in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andaman and Nicobar islands and Garo hills of Meghalaya.
Cotton, jute, hemp and natural silk are the four major fibre crops grown in India. The first three are derived from the crops grown in the soil, the latter is obtained from cocoons of the silkworms fed on green leaves specially mulberry. Rearing of silk worms for the production of silk fibre is known as sericulture.
Cotton is one of the main raw materials for cotton textile industry. Cotton grows well in drier parts of the black cotton soil of the Deccan plateau. It requires high temperature, light rainfall or irrigation, 210 frost-free days and bright sun-shine for its growth. It is a kharif crop and requires 6 to 8 months to mature.
Major cotton producing states are Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
It is known as the golden fibre. Jute 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, Odisha and Meghalaya are the major jute producing states.