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Majour Crops in India

Major Crops in India

                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 that we consume. Besides food grains, it also produces raw material for various industries.

               The physical diversities and plurality of cultures in India reflects in agricultural practices and cropping patterns in the country. Various types of food and fibre crops, vegetables and fruits, spices and condiments, etc. constitute some of the important crops grown in the country. India has three cropping seasons — rabi, kharif and  zaid.


Rabi crops

               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. Though, these crops are grown in large parts of India, states from the north and northwestern parts such as Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh are important for the production of wheat and other rabi crops.

                Availability of precipitation during winter months due to the western temperate cyclones helps in the success of these crops. However, the success of the green revolution in Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and parts of Rajasthan has also been an important factor in the growth of the abovementioned  rabi crops.


Kharif 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 paddy, maize, jowar, bajra, tur (arhar), moong, urad, cotton, jute, groundnut and soyabean. Some of the most important rice-growing regions are Assam, West Bengal, coastal regions of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra, particularly the (Konkan coast) along with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

              Recently, paddy has also become an important crop of Punjab and Haryana. In states like Assam, West Bengal and Odisha, three crops of paddy are grown in a year. These are Aus, Aman and Boro.



       Zaid occurs 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.

         A variety of food and non food crops are grown in different parts of the country depending upon the variations in soil, climate and cultivation practices. Major crops grown in India are rice, wheat, millets, pulses, tea, coffee, sugarcane, oil seeds, cotton and jute, etc.



     It is the staple food crop of a majority of the people in India. Our country 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. Wheat:

     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 evenlydistributed 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, bajra and ragi are the important millets grown in India. Though, these are known as coarse grains, they have very high nutritional value. For example, ragi is very rich in iron, calcium, other micro nutrients and roughage. Jowar is the third most important food crop with respect to area and production. It is a rain-fed crop mostly grown in the moist areas which hardly needs irrigation.

      Major Jowar producing States were Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in 2011-12. Bajra grows well on sandy soils and shallow black soil. Major Bajra producing States were: Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana in 2011-12. 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, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh. Pulses: India is the largest producer as well as the consumer of pulses in the world. These are the major source of protein in a vegetarian diet. 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. Food Crops other than Grains.



          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 75cm. and 100cm. 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, Telangana, Bihar, Punjab and Haryana.


Oil Seeds:

             In 2008 India was the second largest producer of groundnut in the world after china. In rapeseed production India was third largest producer in the world after Canada and China in 2008. Different oil seeds are grown covering approximately 12 per cent of the total cropped area of the country. 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 kharif crop and accounts for about half of the major oilseeds produced in the country. Gujarat was the largest producer of groundnut followed by Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in 2011-12. 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. It is also an important beverage crop introduced in India initially by the British. Today, most of the tea plantations are owned by Indians. 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 labourintensive industry. It requires abundant, cheap and skilled labour. Tea is processed within the tea garden to restore its freshness. 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. In 2008 India was the third largest producer of tea after China and Turkey.



        In 2008 India produced 3.2 per cent of the world coffee production. 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.


Horticulture Crops:

         In 2008 India was the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world after China. India is a producer of tropical as well as temperate fruits. Mangoes of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, 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, Telangana and Maharashtra, apples, pears, apricots and walnuts of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh are in great demand the world over.

          India produces about 13 per cent of the world’s vegetables. It is an important producer of pea, cauliflower, onion, cabbage, tomato, brinjal and potato.


                                                          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. Rubber 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. In 2010-11 India ranked fourth among the world’s natural rubber producers.


Fiber Crops:

          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.



         India is believed to be the original home of the cotton plant. Cotton is one of the main raw materials for cotton textile industry. In 2008 India was second largest producer of cotton after China. 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, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.



        It is known as the golden fiber. 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. It is used in making gunny bags, mats, ropes, yarn, carpets and other arte facts. Due to its high cost, it is losing market to synthetic fibres  and packing materials, particularly the nylon.



        Cropping Pattern refers to a yearly sequence and spatial arrangement of crops and fallow in a given area Cropping pattern used on a farm and its interaction with farm resources, other farm enterprises and available technology that determines its makeup, is called a cropping system.

        A farmer’s choice of crops is governed by several sets of factors: Physical, Social and Economic. But, by and large, most of the Indian farmers go for cultivation of a number of crops at their farms and rotate a particular crop combination over a period of 3-4 years. It results in a multiplicity of cropping systems, which remains dynamic in time and space making it difficult to precisely determine the spread of different cropping systems.

        Scientists have identified more than 250 cropping systems being followed throughout the country but it is estimated that only 30 major cropping systems are prevalent (except the areas under monocropping due to moisture or heat conditions) A large diversity of cropping systems exists under rainfed and dryland areas with an overriding practice of intercropping. 

       This is because of greater risks involved in cultivating a large area under a particular crop. While in areas with assured irrigation only a few cropping systems are followed and they have a considerable coverage across the region and contribute significantly to food grains production at the national level.


Types of Cropping Systems in India:

Broadly speaking there are 3 types of cropping systems in India:


1. Sequential – In sequential multiple cropping, farmers use short duration crops and intensive

input management practices. E.g.

              In Maharashtra:- Rice-Frenchbean-Groundnut

              In Rainfed Areas:- Pigeon Pea – Wheat


2. Inter-Cropping

Growing two or more crops simultaneously on the same field is called intercropping. In this case, crop intensification is in both temporal and spatial dimension. There is an inter-crop competition during all or in part of crop growth. E.g.

             Maize and Groundnut in Ranchi

             Cotton and Groundnut in Junagarh


3. Alley Cropping System:

       Growing of annual crops with multipurpose perennial shrubs/trees is called alley cropping. It is a way of increasing production potential under fragile environments. It is recommended to meet food, fodder and fuel needs besides improving soil fertility

         e.g. In the salt affected alluvial soil areas of Modipuram, alley cropping of rice-wheat sequence is done with trees like babool.


Major Cropping Systems in India:

            The crop occupying the highest percentage of sown area of the region is taken as the base crop and all the other possible alternative crops sown in the region as substitutes (i.e. spatial variation) for the base crop in the same season or as the crops that fit in with the rotation in the subsequent seasons (i.e. temporal variations) are considered in the pattern.


1. Rainy Season Cropping Systems:

             Among the Kharif Crops – Rice, Sorghum, Pearl Millet (Bajra), Maize, Groundnut and Cotton are the prominent crops to be considered as the base crops for describing the Kharif Cropping Patterns.


1. Rice Based Cropping Patterns:

              Rice is grown in the high rainfall area or in the areas where supplemental irrigation is available to ensure good yields. At an all India Basis, nearly 80% of rice is sown during June to September and the rest during the remaining season. E.g.

                          ★ With rice, other crops being cotton, vegetables and fruits (in Meghalaya)

                          ★ Jute as an alternative to rice (in Orissa, coastal Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam etc.)

                          ★ In Bihar, the alternative crops being pulses, wheat, maize, jute, sugarcane and oilseeds


2. Kharif Cereals other than rice:

          Maize-based cropping systems: Maize is grown in high rainfall areas or on soil with a better capacity for retaining moisture, but with a good drainage. Sorghum based cropping system: Grown in medium rainfall regions.

             These systems are popular in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. The alternative crops being cotton, pulses, groundnut, and small millets in Maharashtra.

            Pearl-Millet based cropping system –Pearl millet is a more drought resistant crop than several other cereal crops and is generally preferred in low or less dependable rainfall and on light textured soils. These are popular in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. E.g. in Rajasthan with pulses, groundnut, oilseeds, etc.


3. Groundnut based cropping systems:

             These are popular in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. E.g. in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, rice forms an alternative; in Karnataka, Sorghum is the main alternative crop, whereas cotton, tobacco, sugarcane and wheat are also grown here.


4. Cotton based cropping systems:

These are popular in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab. E.g. Cotton with other crops:

            ★ Sorghum (Kharif and rabi), groundnut, pulses and wheat etc;

            ★ With irrigation in some places sugarcane and rice are also grown with cotton.


2. Winter Cropping Systems:

             Among the Rabi Crops, wheat together with barley and oats, sorghum and chickpea are the main base crops. Generally, wheat and chickpea are concentrated in the subtropical region in northern India, whereas Rabi sorghum is grown mostly in the Deccan.


1. Wheat and Chickpea based cropping systems:

            Wheat and Chickpea are grown under identical climate and can be substituted for each other. E.g. alternative crops in Madhya Pradesh being Kharif sorghum groundnut, oilseeds, cotton, small millets etc. In Punjab, the alternative crops are rice, maize, cotton, pearl-millet etc.


2. Rabi Sorghum based cropping systems:

            These are popular in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. E.g. in Maharashtra, the alternative crops are pearl millet, pulses, oilseeds and tobacco etc.


3. Plantation and other commercial crops:

            Sugarcane, Tobacco, Potato, Jute, Tea, Coffee, Coconut, Rubber, Spices and condiments are important crops. Some of these are seasonal, some annual, some perennial. Generally, the areas occupied by these crops are very limited compared with those of food and other crops.

            Nevertheless, they are important from commerce point of view. Besides the above-mentioned crops, there are certain horticultural crops like apple, mango and citrus fruits. E.g. in the jute growing areas, rice is the usual alternative crop; in Punjab, Bihar, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, wheat and maize are rotation crops with sugarcane.


4. Mixed Cropping:

         Crop Mixtures, for example, pulses and some oilseeds are grown with maize, sorghum and pearl millet. Lowland Rice is invariably grown unmixed, but in upland rice, several mixtures are prevalent. E.g. In un-irrigated areas of the north, during Rabi season, wheat, barley and chickpea are the mixtures of grain crops.

         Note: Mixed Cropping was considered by some researchers a primitive practice, but now many researchers regard it as a more efficient way of using the land. [Mixed cropping ≠Mixed Farming; Mixed Farming = Farming + Animal Rearing. Note the difference!]


                                             DYNAMICS OF AGRICULTURAL GROWTH


                     The agricultural growth in India has been fluctuating since more than 50 per cent of agriculture in India is rainfall dependent as noted in the overview. However, the sector has been witnessing a gradual structural change in recent years.

                     The share of livestock in GVA in agriculture has been rising gradually, the share of the crop sector in GVA has been on the decline from 65 per cent in 2011-12 to 60 per cent in 2015-16.

                     The structural changes that are being witnessed by the agriculture sector in India necessitates re-orientation in policies towards this sector in terms of strengthening the agricultural value chain by focusing on allied activities like dairying and livestock development along with gender-specific interventions structural transformation is also manifested in the farm incomes of the households.

                     The decrease in share of crop sector in the total gross value added of the agriculture and allied sector has impacted the sources of incomes of the farm households. As can be seen from Figure 2 in 2002-03 the share of livestock in total farm incomes was just 4 per cent which increased to 13 per cent by 2012-13. The significance and contribution of allied sectors like animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries have been highlighted in Chapter 7 of the Economic Survey 2016-17, Vol.II released in August 2017.


                                          CROPPING PATTERN IN INDIAN AGRICULTURE

                India ranks first, with 179.8 Mha (9.6 percent of the global net cropland area) of net cropland area according to United States Geological Survey 2017. The pattern of cropping is determined by various factors like agro-climatic conditions, farm size, prices, profitability and government policies. A diversified cropping pattern will help in mitigating the risks faced by farmers in terms of price shocks and production/ harvest losses.

                  With 9.6 per cent of the global net cropland area, India has tremendous potential for crop diversification and to make farming a sustainable and profitable economic activity. In the following paragraph, it is examined whether there has been adequate crop diversification in India over time.

                 The Index of Crop Diversification1 has been computed for major States and All India to examine whether there have been a major changes in the cropping patterns across States. The index value ranges between 0 and 1 and higher the value, greater the diversification. It is evident from the Table 5 that there is a declining inter-temporal behaviour in crop diversification for the States like Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

                   Among these States, the decline in the index has been sharp for Odisha. The index for the State declined from 0.740 in 1994-95 to 0.703 in 2005-06. The year 2010-11 saw a steeper decline in the index for the State as it fell to 0.380 and subsequently to 0.340 in 2014-15. Two of the States Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand have shown increasing values in crop diversification. The crop diversification scenario for India as a whole appears to be almost stable throughout the periods.

               In Odisha, by 2014-15, 80 per cent of the cropped area has been under rice, around 10 per cent under other pulses and around 4 percent under other food crops. In Punjab too, wheat and paddy cover 83 per cent of the cultivable area of the State. The issues related to monoculture as witnessed in Odisha and Punjab are declining productivity, lower fertilizer response ratio, degradation of soil health and declining profitability of cultivation.

          Crop diversification needs to be encouraged to improve soil health, productivity and thereby profitability of cultivation. The inverse relationship between change in crop diversification index and variability of output can be seen in the plot of States (excluding outliers Odisha and Jharkhand). There is a need to diversify into high value crops and horticulture crops for which Government has taken several measures.

              Crops Diversification Programme is being implemented by the Government in original green revolution states viz. Punjab, Haryana and in Western UP to diversify paddy area towards less water requiring crops like oilseeds, pulses, coarse cereal, agroforestry and shifting of tobacco farmers to alternative crops/cropping system in tobacco growing States viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.


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