Cropping seasons in Indian agriculture

India is known worldwide for being an agricultural country. The cropping patterns in Indian agriculture varies with seasons and have significantly evolved with time. The plurality of cultural and physical diversities are reflected in the agricultural activities as well.

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Agriculture is the backbone of India. The agricultural activity in India dates back to the start of Indus valley Civilization. More than two-thirds of India’s population is engaged in agricultural activities and more than half of the population of the country is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. India has long growing seasons due to its geographical location. It contributes to 14 percent of the country’s GDP. Agriculture produces food grains and raw materials for industries. Today, India ranks second worldwide for its agricultural outputs.

Cropping Patterns in Indian agriculture is dependent on many factors like the temperature of the place, the fertility of the soil, the climatic conditions and most importantly the oncoming of monsoons. The farmers choose their crop depending on the physical factors and the changes in cropping pattern to increase the fertility and productivity of the soil.

There are three major cropping seasons in India.

Kharif crops

In Arabic, “Kharif” means “Autumn”. Since the season coincides with the arrival of monsoons in India, they are also referred to as “autumn crops” or “monsoon crops”. Kharif season is usually from June to September. The sowing begins during the onset of monsoons (June-July) and crops are harvested during (September-October). Hot and Humid climate is required for Kharif Crops. Largest cultivation in the country happens during Kharif Seasons. Cultivation is majorly done in states of Assam, West Bengal, Coastal regions of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. These states receive rainfall from the southwestern wind. Kharif crops require high temperatures of about 25-35 degree Celsius and high rainfall of about 150-200 cms. Some of the Kharif Crops include paddy, maize, jowar, bajra, cotton, jute, tur (arhar), moong, urad, groundnut, tea, coffee, soybean and many more.

Rabi crops

In Arabic, “Rabi” means “spring”. The Rabi crops are also referred to as ‘winter crops”. Rabi season starts from October to March. The crops are sown during the winters (October-December) and are harvested during Summer (April-June). The North Eastern monsoons during the summer help these crops grow.  The crops during Rabi season require fewer irrigation facilities and relatively cool climate during growth period but warm temperatures during germination. Availability of precipitation during winters due to western temperate cyclones helps in the growth of these crops. Crops are grown only once a year in about 70 percent of the cultivation area. These crops grow mainly in the north and north-eastern states like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Jammu and Kashmir. Some of the important Rabi crops are barley, wheat, mustard, oats, cereals, pulses, potatoes, oilseeds. Rabi crops require low temperature at about 10-25 degree Celsius and low rainfall at about 50-100 cms. The green revolution has tremendously helped in the growth of Rabi Crops. The green revolution was a period during which the agriculture sector increased its yield because of the technological advancements.

Zaid crops

Zaid season lasts for a very short time period. These crops are grown during the summer months. The crops are sown in summer (March-April) and harvested in June. It falls between the Rabi and Kharif seasons. Some of the crops are cucumber, watermelon, musk melon, and other fruits and fodders. These crops are grown through artificial irrigation. These crops require warm, dry weather for growth and require longer time for flowering. These crops are usually grown in states of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.

Apart from the various cropping seasons, there is a variety of food and non-food crops grown in different parts of the country. These crops generally depend on a variety of factors like the monsoons, natural fertility of the soil, and the environmental conditions. Major crops in India are rice, wheat, tea, coffee, sugarcane, oilseeds, millets, pulses, cotton, and jute.

  • Rice is the staple food crop of the majority of the people in India. India is the second-largest producer of rice after China. This Kharif Crop requires high temperature about 15-27degree Celsius and high rainfall of 100-150cm. The highest rice producer in the country is West Bengal. Rice is also produced in other parts with canal irrigation and tube wells as in the case of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan. Rice is grown in North and North-eastern plains, the coastal regions and the deltaic plateau.
  • Wheat is the second most important food grain after rice. India ranks fourth in the worldwide wheat production. It is the staple diet in the North and North-western part of India. It requires a temperature of 12-25 degree Celsius and rainfall of 50-75cms. The major wheat-producing states are Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana, and parts of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Millets: Jowar, Ragi, Bajra are some of the millets grown in India. The temperature required is 20-35degree Celsius and rainfall is 25-75 cms. Maharashtra is the highest producer of Jowar. Rajasthan ranks highest in Bajra production and Karnataka ranks highest in Ragi production. Millets have high nutritional value.
  • Maize is a product which can be used both as a food and as fodder. It requires a temperature of 21-27degree Celsius and grows well in alluvial soil. The rainfall required is 65-125cms. Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Telangana are some of the states which produce maize.
  • Sugarcane: grows well in hot and humid climate at a temperature of 21-27degree Celsius and rainfall between 75-100cms. India is the second-largest producer of sugarcane after Brazil. Sugarcane is the source of jaggery, sugar and molasses. Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh are some of the places where sugarcane is grown.
  • Tea and Coffee: India is the second-largest tea producing country. Tea plants grow well in tropical and fertile well-drained soil. Assam is the highest tea producer in the country. Karnataka is famous for coffee productions.
  • Rubber: Rubber plantations require moist and humid climate with temperatures more than 25 degree Celsius and rainfall more than 200 cms. Rubber is used as raw material and can also grow in tropical and sub-tropical areas. It is grown in Garo hills of Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • Cotton and Jute: Maharashtra is most famous for cotton production. Cotton is a raw material for textile industries. Cotton requires high temperature and less rainfall. Jute grows well in fertile soils in the flood plains. It requires a higher temperature. West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Assam and Meghalaya are some of the jute producing states. Jute is used for making bags, carpets and mats.

The varied climatic conditions, as well as the soil conditions in India, are the reason behind such a variety of crops being grown here. All kinds of crops, tropical, temperate, and subtropical crops are grown in the country, but food crops occupy the larger share of cultivated area.

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