India is predominantly an agricultural country. Agriculture is the mainstay of our economy, provides employment to about two-thirds of working population. It also contributes about a third to our national income. (The contributory share in gross domestic product at present is 24.5%). Indian agriculture is dependent to a large extent on monsoons, soil and relief. Poor marketing and storing facilities are further problems characterizing Indian agriculture.
Though agricultural production has increased several fold after independence still, there are certain features which hampers balanced growth and development. So certain changes were made in pattern of cropping to make our country self sufficient such as:
- Zamidari system was abolished
- Small land holdings (quite uneconomical) were consolidated
- Certain non-traditional areas developed like Punjab known for wheat began to grow rice.
- New varieties of high yielding seeds developed.
- Electricity provided to install their own tube-wells.
- Efforts to provide marketing and transport facilities to farmers.
Agricultural Seasons in India:
1. The Kharif Season:
Crops are sown at the beginning of south-west monsoon and harvested at the end of the south-west monsoon.
Sowing Season: May to July.
Harvesting Season : September to October.
Important Crops: Jowar, Bajra, Rice, Maize, Cotton, Groundnut, Jute, Hemp, Tobacco etc.
2. The Rabi Season:
Crops need cool climate during growth period but warm climate during the germination of seed and maturation. Sowing Season: October to December Harvesting Season: February to April Important Crops: Wheat, Barley, Gram, Linseed, Mustard, Masoor & Peas.
3. The Zaid Season:
These Crops are raised throughout the year due to artificial irrigation.
1. Zaid Kharif Crops:
Sowing Season: August to September
Harvesting Season: December-January
Important Crops: Rice, Jowar, Rapeseed, Cotton, Oilseeds.
2. Zaid Rabi Crops:
Sowing Season: February to March.
Harvesting Season: April-May.
Important Crops: Watermelon, Toris, Cucumber & other vegetables.
The crops are divided into two major groups. Food grains and non-food grains.
Rice is India’s staple food. Next to China, India is a leading producer of rice in the world. Certain geographical conditions are required like clayey soil, and standing water during growth. Temperature to be uniformly high (above 25°C) and rainfall between 100 to 200 cm is needed. It is a kharif crop.
Rice cultivation is concentrated mainly in the Northern plains which have alluvial soils and adequate water supply. West Bengal is the leading producer of rice.
It is one of oldest crop introduced in India from the Middle East. It is a rabi or winter crop. It is grown in winter season when the temperature is less than 20°C. Annual rainfall of 50 to 75 cm is adequate for the crop. Loamy soils of Northern plains and black soils of Deccan are suited for wheat cultivation. Wheat is sown generally in October-November and harvested in March-April.
India ranks fourth in wheat production with about one-eighth of world output.
Millets are coarse grains and serve as food for a large number of people in India. They are kharif crops and grow in less rainy areas in the following order – Ragi (damp areas), Jowar (moist areas) and Bajra (dry areas). They require high temperature and less rainfall. They are alternative to rice as rainfall decreases.
Ragi is confined to areas which include Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Jowar in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bajra in drier parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and south west Uttar Pradesh. India leads the world in production of millets.
Maize, being an American crop, is a relatively new entrant and is gaining popularity because of its high yields and its easy adaptability to various soils and climatic conditions. It is rich in protein and requires moderate rainfall.
India is the largest producer as well as consumer of pulses. They are rich in protein and require moderate rainfall and verifying temperature. Pulses include gram, arhar, moong, peas, masoor. They are leguminous plants and help in restoring the fertility of the soil.
India is one of the leading producers of oilseeds in the world. They are the main source of edible oils. Some of them are used for preparing paints, varnishes, perfumes, medicines, soap etc.
The main oilseeds are groundnut (kharif crop in peninsular India), rapeseed and mustard (rabi crops in wheat belt). Other oilseeds are seasamum (Orissa, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra), Linseed (Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra), Castor-seed (Gujarat) and Cotton Seed (Gujarat, Maharashtra and Punjab).
India is the world’s third largest producer of coconut. Kerala accounts for two-thirds of total production.
India is known as the original land of sugarcane. It is sown before kharif season and harvested in winter. It requires about 100 cm of rain. Many new varieties of sugar such as gur and khandsari are produced from sugarcane.
It is a kharif crop and is known as the king among fibres. India is the fourth largest producer in the world. It requires warm climate and high temperature.
There are three varieties: Long staple, Medium staple and Short staple. India mostly produces medium and short staple. Gujarat and Maharashtra are the leading producers of cotton.
Jute was called the golden fibre of Indian sub continent. India is the second largest producer of Jute in the world after Bangladesh. It is a fibre plant and requires high temperature and rainfall above 200 cm. Jute grows well in well-drained fertile soils or in the flood plains.
India is the leading producer of tea, and it requires a temperature of 24°C to 30°C. Rainfall on an average should be above 200cm. The soil should be deep fertile and well drained where water does not stagnate.
Undulating plains of Brahmaputra and Surma Valleys of Assam is the house of Indian tea. Tea is one of the major foreign exchange earners of India.
It stands next to tea as a popular beverage in the world as well as in India. It thrives in rich and well drained soil and grows best in tropical highlands. If tea belongs to north-eastern part, coffee is confined to the south-western part. Nearly 50% of Indian’s production is exported to other countries.
Rubber plantations were first established in Kerala in 1902. It needs hot-wet climatic conditions (temperature above 20°C and rainfall above 300 cm). Most of the land under rubber belongs to small land holders.
A large variety of fruits are produced in India. This includes Bananas, Pineapples, Jack-fruits, Oranges which are grown in tropical region. India is a leading producer in Cashewnut. Apples, Plums, Peaches, Almonds which are grown in Himachal Pradesh. Fruits are also exported. India ranked second in fruit production.
India is fourth largest producer and sixth larger exporter of tobacco. The crop needs freedom from frost. It needs fertile soils and heavy doses of fertilizers. Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat are leading producers of tobacco.
Tribal Co-operative Marketing Development Federation of India Ltd., was established in August 1987 and started functioning in 1988. The aim was to save tribal from exploitation by private traders and offer remunerative prices for their minor forest produce. It is an agency for collecting, processing, storing and developing all oilseed products. Agriculture ministry gives aid to TRIFED for compensating loss incurred due to price fluctuations.
National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd., has been established in cooperative sector at national level for marketing of agricultural products.