Indian Agriculture

Salient features of Indian Agriculture – UPSC IAS

In this article, You will read the Salient features of Indian Agriculture and terminologies related to Indian Agriculture – for UPSC IAS.

Indian Agriculture

  • Agriculture is made up of two words –‘Ager’ + ‘culture’. ‘Ager’ means soil and ‘culture’ means cultivation.
  • Agriculture is defined as the art, science and business of producing crops and livestock for economic purpose.
  • Livestock, fisheries poultry comes under the allied agricultural activities.
  • Importance of Agriculture in India:
    • Two third of the livelihood of the Indian population is directly or indirectly dependent on Agriculture.
    • 55% of the labour force is directly or indirectly involved in Agriculture.
    • Agricultural sector accounts for 15% of the export earnings and 14% of India’s GDP.
    • Agricultural sector provides raw material for various industries such as textiles, sugar, flour mills, Jute, Apparel etc.
    • Flourishing Agricultural production in India is the main factor behind the food security of the large Indian population.
  • Allied sectors in agriculture involve- horticulture, animal husbandry, dairy, fishing etc.
  • Agriculture and allied sector plays vital role in providing nutrition and livelihood to the huge population in India.

Salient features of Indian Agriculture

  • Subsistence agriculture: The type of agriculture in India is mostly Subsistence agriculture. In Subsistence agriculture the agricultural produce is for self-consumption only, there is no surplus production to sell in the market.
  • Commercial agriculture: Large-scale commercial agriculture is also practiced in India, such as tea plantation in Assam, coffee in Karnataka, coconut in Kerala, etc. Commercial Agriculture is the agricultural practice where large agricultural produce is sold in the market by the firms for making profits.
    • Since the land resource in India is limited the pressure of increasing population on agriculture is increasing day by day.
  • Mechanisation: After Green Revolution, there has been an increasing trend in the use of machines in farm operations. This has led to the mechanization of Indian agriculture. Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh, River valleys of Andhra, and Tamil Nadu are major agriculturally mechanized areas in India.
  • Monsoon dependent: Due to lack of irrigation facilities Two-third of Indian agriculture is dependent on monsoon rains.
  • Variety of crops: Due to the presence of different types of topography, diverse soil (like alluvial, red, black cotton soil, etc), and different types of climate, India is blessed with the production of different varieties of crops in different regions. For eg., hilly areas are suitable for tea cultivation, plains for rice cultivation
  • Predominance of food crops: In order to feed a large population and predominance of subsistence agriculture, food crops are mainly grown in order to keep with the food security demands of the huge Indian population.
  • There are basically three cropping seasonal patterns in India namely Kharif, Rabi, and Zaid.

Cropping Seasons in India

  • There are three distinct crop seasons in the northern and interior parts of the country, namely Kharif, rabi, and Zaid.
    • The Kharif season: The crops which are grown in the Kharif season require a good amount of water, thus the sowing of Kharif crops largely coincides with the onset of the Southwest Monsoon.
    • The Rabi season: The sowing of rabi crops begins with the onset of winter in October- November and the harvesting is done in March-April. The celebration of the festival Holi can be related to a good harvest in the month of March- April.
    • The Zaid season: It is a short duration summer cropping season beginning after harvesting of rabi crops, the cultivation of watermelons, cucumbers, vegetables, and fodder crops during this season is done on irrigated lands.
  • However, this type of distinction in the cropping season does not exist in southern parts of the country due to high temperature. The same crop can be grown thrice a year.
Cropping Seasons in India

Note: There are some crops that are grown in both Kharif and Rabi seasons like Maize, Jowar and Groundnut.

Shifting Cultivation/Land Rotation/Jhumming

  • Shifting cultivation is called so because of the shifting of the land after the cultivation of a crop when the soil losses its fertility (generally in 2 to 3 years).
  • In Shifting cultivation forest land is cleared and cultivated. It is also called land rotation because the same crop (generally rice) is grown on a different piece of land.
  • Due to the cultivation of the same crop on the same cleared forest land year after year, soil productivity is lost. After the land fertility is lost, the crop is shifted to other slashed and burnt land.
  • Shifting cultivation leads to Soil Erosion, it is because clearing of forest land leads to the clearing of vegetation over the soil which in turn leads to soil erosion.
  • Shifting cultivation is practiced in northeastern states of India, Chotanagpur plateau of Jharkhand, M.P., and in Hilly areas of the Himalayas, the Western Ghats, and the Eastern Ghats.
  • The process involved in the shifting cultivation is shown in fig.

Crop Rotation

  • Crop rotation is the reveres of land rotation (Shifting Cultivation)
  • In crop rotation, there is repeated cultivation of crops and fallow land which is done in a certain sequence in a scientific manner to conserve the fertility of the land.
  • For example, on a particular piece of land, in the first year we are sowing Malt – Barley in a sequence and in the second year Spring-Wheat in a sequence and in the third year we are sowing potatoes and then again in the fourth year we are back to Malt – Barley sequence(refer the figure).
  • Since the nutrient requirement of different crops are different, sowing different crops on the same piece of land in sequence and in a scientific manner maintains and even improves the soil fertility and stabilizes the income of farmers.
  • Crop rotation checks the soil erosion and conserves moisture. It is because there is always some crop thriving on the land to check erosion of the topsoil.
  • Suitable crop rotation is the key of modern scientific agriculture which aims to produce maximum yield by maintaining soil productivity.

Sustainable Agriculture/Eco-Farming

  • The concept of sustainable agriculture has come up because yields from modern farming techniques reaching a plateau and the environmental problems due to excessive use of chemicals and fertilizers and pesticide residue in the food chain. The high use of modern farming techniques has led to the degradation of land and has led to various ecological problems like eutrophication, land degradation, etc., which has depleted the quality of land as a sustainable resource.
  • Hence, we need a system of agriculture which produces sufficient food to meet the needs of the present generation without eroding the ecological assets and productivity of life supporting systems of the future generation.
  • The table depicted below throws light on the fact that in sustainable agriculture the quantity of Input is low and output is high, thereby keeping the requirements of conservation of soil and increasing land productivity.
Agriculture types
  • Sustainable agriculture is a system of cultivation with the use of manures, Crop rotation, and minimal tillage. Some of the practices in Sustainable Agriculture are depicted in fig:
Sustainable agriculture
  • Sustainable agriculture also involves agroforestry (growing trees near the crops), multi-level cultivation (growing trees of different heights in sequence), and integrated animal husbandry (growing crops with animal rearing practices).
  • The term sustainability denotes the characteristic of a process that can be maintained indefinitely. Herewith the help of sustainable farm practices, the needs of the present generation can be met out without compromising the needs of future generations.

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Himaan Dagar

To the point and relevant article

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