In India, around 70% of the population earns its livelihood from agriculture. It fulfils the basic need of human beings and animals. It is an important source of raw material for many agro-based industries. India’s geographical condition is unique for agriculture because it provides many favourable conditions. There are plain areas, fertile soil, long growing season and wide variation in climatic condition, etc. Apart from unique geographical conditions, India has been consistently making innovative efforts by using science and technology to increase production.

Types of Farming in India

The physical variations along with other factors like availability of irrigation, use of machinery, modern agricultural inputs like High Yielding Varieties (HYV) of seeds, insecticides and pesticides have played their respective roles in the evolution of different farming practices in India.

1. Subsistence and Commercial Farming

Majority of farmers in India practises subsistence farming. This means farming for own consumption. The entire production is largely consumed by the farmers and their family and they do not have any surplus to sell in the market. In this type of farming, landholdings are small and fragmented. Cultivation techniques are primitive and simple. There is a total absence of modern equipments like tractors and farm inputs like chemical fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides. In this farming, farmers mostly cultivate cereals along with oil seeds, pulses, vegetables and sugarcane.

Commercial farming is just the opposite to subsistence farming. In this case, most of the produce is sold in the market for earning money. In this system, farmers use inputs like irrigation, chemical fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides and High Yielding Varieties of seeds. Some of the major commercial crops grown in different parts of India are cotton, jute, sugarcane, groundnut, etc. Rice farming in Haryana is mainly for commercial purpose as people of this area are predominantly wheat eaters. However in East and North-Eastern states of India, rice cultivation would be largely of subsistence type.

2. Intensive and Extensive Farming

The basic difference between these two types of farming is the amount of production per unit of land. In comparison with temperate areas of USA, Canada, and former USSR, India does not practise extensive cultivation. When we use large patch of land for cultivation then we call it extensive farming. Here, total production may be high due to larger area but per unit are production is low.

Intensive Farming records high production per unit of land. Best example of intensive cultivation is in Japan where availability of land for cultivation is very limited. Similar kind of situation can be observed in the state of Kerala in India.

3. Plantation Farming

It is an estate where a single cash crop is grown for sale. This type of agriculture involves growing and processing of a single cash crop purely meant for sale. Tea, coffee, rubber, banana and spices are examples of plantation crops. Most of these crops were introduced in India by the Britishers in the 19th Century.

4. Mixed Farming

It is a situation in which both raising crops and rearing animals are carried on simultaneously. Here, farmers engaged in mixed farming are economically better of than others. 

Revolutions in India

Green Revolution: It stands for a major technological breakthrough in India based on (i) improved seeds of high yielding varieties, (ii) adequate and assured supply of water for irrigation, and (iii) increased and appropriate application of chemical fertilizers for increasing agricultural production.

White Revolution: It stands for remarkable increase in milk production and establishment of a national milk grid, removing regional and seasonal imbalances. Among the technological inputs are (i) crossbreeding of indigenous cows with high milk yielding European breed; (ii) pasteurization of milk for keeping it for a longer duration; (iii) collection of quality milk from members in rural areas; and (iv) refrigerated transport system which helps sending milk to far off metropolitan centres both by road and rail.

Blue Revolution: It refers to big rise in catching of fresh water and marine fish.

Yellow Revolution: It refers to remarkably steady and assured supply of poultry products.

Pink Revolution: It refers to a considerable rise in the production of quantity of apples particularly in the states of Himachal Pradesh and J&K.

Features of Indian Agriculture

1. Subsistence Agriculture

Most parts of India have subsistence agriculture. This type of agriculture has been practised in India for several hundreds of years and still prevails in a larger part of India in spite of the large scale change in agricultural practices after independence.

2. Pressure of population on Agriculture

Despite increase in urbanisation and industrialisation, about 70% of population is still directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture.

3. Mechanisation of Farming

Green Revolution took place in India in the late sixties and early seventies. After more than forty years of Green Revolution and revolution in agricultural machinery and equipments, complete mechanisation is still a distant dream.

4. Dependence upon Monsoon

Since independence, there has been a rapid expansion of irrigation infrastructure. Despite the large scale expansion, only about one third of total cropped area is irrigated today. As a consequence, two third of cropped areas is still dependent upon monsoon. Monsoon in India is uncertain and unreliable. This has become even more unreliable due to change in climate.

5. Variety of Crops

India has diversity of topography, climate and soil. Since India has both tropical and temperate climate, crops of both the climate are found in India. There are very few countries in the world that have variety comparable to that of India.

6. Predominance of Food Crops

Since Indian agriculture has to feed a large population, production of food crops is the first priority of the farmers almost everywhere in the country. However, in recent years, there has been a decline in the share of land used for food crops due to various other commercially most advantageous uses of these land.

7. Seasonal Patterns

India has three distinct agricultural or cropping seasons - kharif, rabi and zaid. In India there are specific crops grown in these three seasons. For example, rice is a kharif crop whereas wheat is a rabi crop.

Major Crops of India

1. Food Grains

Crops that are used for human consumption. For example, Rice, Wheat, Maize, Millets, Pulses and Oil seeds.

2. Commercial Crops

Crops which are grown for sale either in raw form or in semi-processed form. For example, Cotton, Jute, Sugarcane, Tobacco and Oil seeds.

3. Plantation Crops

Crops which are grown on Plantations covering large estates. For example, Tea, Coffee, Coconut and Rubber.

4. Horticulture

Sections of agriculture in which fruits and vegetables are grown.