Cropping activities go on all the year-round in India, provided water is available for crops. In northern India, there are two distinct seasons, kharif (July to October), and rabi (October to March). Crops grown between March and June are known as zaid. In some parts of the country, there are no such distinct seasons, but there they have their own classification of seasons. The village revenue
officials keep plot-wise record of crops grown in each season. These are annually compiled district-wise, state-wise and on all-India basis. From these records one could calculate the relative abundance of a crop or a group of crops in a region. These crops are grown sole or mixed (mixed-cropping), or in a definite sequence (rotational cropping). The land may be occupied by one crop during one season (mono-cropping), or by two crops (double-cropping) which may be grown in a year in sequence. Of late, the trend is even more than two crops (multiple-cropping) in a year. These intensive croppings may be done either in sequence or even there may be relay-cropping-one crop undersown in a standing crop. With wide-rowed slow growing cropping patterns, companion crops may be grown. There are various ways of utilising the land intensively. It is proposed to give a synoptic view of cropping patterns prevalent in the country. Before dealing with the cropping patterns, a brief description of the factors that determine the cropping systems of an individual locality or region are briefly presented here. In any locality, the prevalent cropping systems are the cumulative results of past and present decisions by individuals, communities or governments and their agencies. These decisions are usually based on experience, tradition, expected profit, personal preferences and resources, social and political pressures and so on. Essentially, they are answers to some of the following questions:
- What with the present pest-and-disease control methods are
- What interactions occur among the ecologically practicable crops, and the
chosen crops and must be combined in a special way (rotations) in the farming systems?
- Are any of the ecologically feasible crops ruled out by infrastructural factors?
- Which of the crops, now remaining on the list, are most profitable (or yield most food in a subsistence agriculture)?. In what combinations and at what level of input application would they make the best use of local land, climate and input resources in short-term and long-term situations bearing in mind the degree of food and income security required by the individual farmer
and the community?
- What operational factors rule out or amend the size and the method of any of the economically preferable crop combinations thereof?
- Finally, are the crop combinations, the farming systems and the input levels suggested by this process of the individual farmers compatible with his own skills, enterprise preferences, health, age and capital?
The climatic, edaphic and socio-economic diversity of the Indian crop-production scene is dotted with many cropping patterns. With a geographic area of 328.048 million hectares, stretching between 8oN and 36oN latitude and between 68oE and 98oE longitude, its altitude varying from the mean sea-level to the highest mountain ranges of the world, India presents a range and diversity of climate, flora and fauna, with a few parallels in the world. The country presents a paradox of containing in it the station with the highest mean annual rainfall in the world (Cherrapunji in Assam) and also dry, semi-desert area in Rajasthan. The variability of rainfall is most important in all the states, but especially where rainfall is low. In parts of Rajasthan and the Deccan, the variability is more than 100 per cent of the mean. Years of drought account for only too frequent a history of crop failures, whereas the years of flood also cause very considerable loss of agricultural production. Temperatures also vary greatly, both geographically and seasonally. Northern and central parts of India in January have temperature comparable with those in Europe in July, though with a greater daily range, but in these places in the pre-monsoon months the maximum temperatures of over 40oC are reached over a large area. Frost may occur in winter in the plains, as far south as a line drawn through Madhya Pradesh and may be heavy in Kashmir and areas north of Punjab. Socio-economically, the peasantry ranges from the relatively affluent Punjabi farmers who operate with a high input intensity in agriculture to the subsistent farmers of eastern and central India. They even today, sometimes practice shifting cultivation. Between these two extremes, various intensities of cultivation are practised. The outstanding fact on the socio-economic is the smallness of holdings, the average farm-size in most areas being lower than that is in most tropical countries. Crops production, therefore, presents such an enormous diversity owing to differences in latitude, altitude and variability of rainfall and edaphic diversity which have presented in detail in the book. Thus it may not be possible to enumerate and describe here every type of cropping pattern prevalent in the country. Some broad contours of farming, however, emerge. The most
important element of farming in India is the production of grains and the dominant food-chain is grain-man. On this basis, the country may be divided broadly into five agricultural regions.
- The rice region extending from the eastern part to include a very large part of the north-eastern and the south-eastern India, with another strip along the western coast.
- The wheat region, occupying most of the northern, western and central India.
- The millet-sorghum region, comprising Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and the Deccan Plateau in the centre of the Indian Peninsula.
- The temperate Himalayan region of Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and some adjoining areas. Here potatoes are as important as cereal crops (which are mainly maize and rice), and the tree-fruits form a large part of agricultural production.
- The plantation crops region of Assam and the hills of southern India where good quality tea is produced. There is an important production of high-quality coffee in the hills of the western peninsular India. Rubber is mostly grown in Kerala and parts of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. There are some large estates, but most of the growers would come under the category of small holders. Sugarcane, which in many countries is a plantation crop, is almost entirely grown by small holders in India.
There had been substantial investments in major irrigation works in the colonial days. The post-Independence era saw many multi-purpose irrigation works. Lately, interest in the medium and minor irigation works has increased, especially after the drought of 1966. Thus, at present, an all-India irrigation potential of 38.5m ha has been created and is expected to increase up 110 m ha by 2025. Irrigation, especially the minor works, has provided a base for multiple-cropping. The All-India Co-ordinated Crops-Improvement Projects run co-operatively by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the agricultural universities have generated short-season, photo-period-insensitive high-yeilding varieties of various crops suitable for a high intensity of cropping. The adaptability of these varieties on the farmer’s fields has been demonstrated in the National Demonstration Programme spread all over the country. The various developmental and the educative programmes, especially the High Yielding Varieties Programme, have also resulted in newer cropping patterns involving intensive cropping. The area of rice has increased in Punjab and Haryana. Similarly wheat is now grown in West Bengal and to some extent in the southern states of the country.
All these factors have led to the present cropping patterns, which are getting more and more intensive both in respect of the number of crops grown per year and in respect of the intensity of inputs utilized in the production of these crops.