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 () 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 ecologically practicable?
- 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?