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 offarming 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.