The Times of India
August 17, 2009
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

What is the general cropping pattern in India?

Foodgrains, classified as cereals and pulses, are the dominant agricultural products, accounting for two-thirds of India’s cropped area. Oilseeds occupy about 14% of the total cropped area, while fibre crops like cotton and jute and other crops including sugarcane, tea and coffee are grown in the remaining area. Given India’s range of agro-climatic conditions, there can be multiple patterns even within the same state, for example there are about 30 rice-based cropping patterns, 12 ways of cultivating and mixing maize with other suitable crops, 17 cropping patterns in which jowar is the base crop and so on.

What are the different crop seasons?

Although these vary across states, in terms of crop seasons India can be roughly divided into two agricultural zones — the northern and interior parts comprising one and the southern parts the other. The northern and interior parts have three distinct crop seasons — kharif, rabi and zaid, while this kind of distinction in cropping seasons does not exist in the south, where the temperature is high enough to grow tropical crops during any time of the year and what is grown depends on the available soil moisture. Thus, the same crops can be grown thrice in an agricultural year in southern India, provided the soil has enough moisture to support it.

What are kharif, rabi and zaid?

Stretched between June and September the kharif season coincides with the arrival of the southwest monsoon in most parts of northern India. It’s the season in which tropical crops such as rice, cotton, jute, jowar, bajra and tur are cultivated in the north.

In the rabi season, the relatively low temperatures facilitate the cultivation of temperate and subtropical crops like wheat, gram and mustard.

On irrigated land. which does not have to wait for monsoon, zaid crops are grown in the short duration between kharif and rabi seasons. Different crops might be grown because of the temperature variation between the north and south, but Indian agriculture largely depends on monsoon rains as 60% of the total sown area is rainfed.

What are the various types of farming practised in India?

On the basis of the source of water, farming can be classified as irrigated or rainfed. Rainfed farming is further classified on the basis of adequacy of soil moisture during the cropping season as dryland or wetland farming. Dryland farming is practised in regions having annual rainfall less than 75 cm, while wetland farming is done in areas well endowed with rains. The selection of crops depend on the climatic and geographical conditions of any particular region. For example, Similarly, 85% of wheat cultivation is confined to northern and central India, where it is grown as a rabi crop in irrigated lands.

Jowar is suitable for the semi-arid areas of central and southern India while bajra, which is a hardy crop, is sown in the hot and dry climatic conditions of northwest and western India. Maize which serves as food as well as a fodder crop, is grown under semi-arid conditions over inferior soil across India. Pulses, which are rainfed crops, are largely confined to the drylands of Deccan and central plateaus and hence the yield fluctuates with the monsoon.

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