Short essay on Food Crops in India

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Due to its large population Indian agricultural is largely dominated by the predominance of the food crops which occupy 64.9 Der cent of the total cropped area of the country, (1999-00) these crops are bound to have priority in years to come despite the emerging trends of commercialisation and diver­sification in the country’s agriculture.

Even the increasing share of non-food crops in the gross cropped area (from 23.3% in 1950-51 to 35.1% in 1999-00) has been made possible due to phenomenal increase in the output of food grains under Green Revolution.

There has been about four times (299%) increase in the production of food grains between 1950-51 and 1998-99. These crops are raised all over the country and throughout the year. In Assam, West Bengal and coastal regions of the Peninsula as many as three successive crops of rice are grown in a year. In irrigated areas of Punjab and Haryana the field is hardly vacant and wheat, gram, rice, bajra, and maize are the main crops.

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Food crops have attracted highest attention of our planners, policy makers, administrators and ag­ricultural scientists.

It is in these crops, particularly in wheat, maize, bajra, jowar, and rice high yielding varieties have been developed and Green Revolu­tion has set in. Whenever the production of these crops is adversely affected due to the vagaries of the weather famine and drought conditions develop which often lead to the political turmoil and instability.

In recent years efforts are being made to popularise dry farming and introduce Green Revolution technol­ogy to augment the production of coarse grains and pulses so as to improve the availability of food grains and nutrition level of the weaker section of the Indian society.

Food crops include cereals and pulses amongst which rice, wheat, jowar, bajra, maize, barley, ragi (as cereals), gram and tur (as pulses) are important.

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Rice (Oryza Sativa)

Rice, an indigenous crop, is grown all over the country with highest concentration in north-eastern and southern parts of the country. It is mainly a tropical crop with mean temperature of 24°C and annual rainfall of 150 cm. The crop requires at least 12 cm per month of rainfall or equivalent moisture through irrigation. Deep fertile clayey or loamy soils are well suited for rice cultivation.

It also needs abundant supply of cheap labour together with credit facilities to carry on farm activities. In recent year’s greater use of chemical fertilisers, insecticides, pes­ticides and weedicides and assured irrigation have facilitated higher yield and multiple cropping and remunerative prices have also helped in extending rice cultivation to non-traditional areas.

Cultivation

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Rice in India is sown in three ways-(l) broadcasting, (b) ploughing or drilling, and (c) trans­planting. The first method is practised where labour is scarce and soil infertile. Here seeds are scattered all over the field after ploughing before the onset of monsoon. Under the second method, mostly con­fined to the Peninsular India, seeds are sown in rows with the help of drills.

The third method is common in the deltaic and flood plain regions and requires abundance of labour. Here plants are first grown in nurseries and after 4 to 5 weeks when they attain 25 to 35 cm of height these are uprooted and trans­planted into prepared rice fields in the group of 4-6 at a distance of 30-45 cm. Until the seedlings are firmly established, the field is flooded with 2-3 cm deep water. Subsequently the depth of water is increased to 4-6 cm till the crop matures.

This method of rice cultivation is popular due to higher yield. Its improved form, popularly called Japanese method has been introduced in 1953 and has gained wide popularity in recent years. The method fixing row and plant distances at 25 and 15 cm respectively, involves more plant care (removal of weed etc) and high maturing.

Rice, in India, is essentially a winter crop which is sown from June to August and harvested from November to January. This crop is locally known as anian, salior Agahani. But in Assam, West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Tamil Nadu it is also grown as autumn and summer crop.

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The autumn crop, locally called aus or kar is sown in May-June and harvested in September-October. Similarly sum­mer crop, locally called boro or dalua, is sown in November-December and is ready for harvest in March-April. About 62% of the country’s produc­tion of rice is obtained from a man or Agahani crop. (Aus or Kartiki crop yielding only 37%). Generally Aus are sown by broadcasting, Boro by transplanting and Aman by both these methods.

India has over 3,000 varieties of rice of which some are quick maturing which need only 60 to 75 days to yield harvest. Due to increasing use of newly developed high yielding varieties many of the indigenous vari­eties have almost disappeared.

Among the high yielding varieties mention may be made of IR-8, IR- 5, IR-20, IR-22, Taichung native, Tinan 3, Chiaung 242, Sabarmati, Bala, Ratna, IET-1039, IET-1136, Jamuna, Karuna, Jaya, Kanchi, Jagannath, Krishna, Kavery, Hansa, Padma, Vijai, Pankaj and Annapuma, These high yielding varieties occupied 77.37% of the total rice area in 1995-96 against 14.9% in 1970-71.

Yield

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The average yield of rice in the country has been 1804 kg per hectare 2002-03 which is roughly 2.7 times more than that of 1950-51 (668 kg/ha) and 61 per cent increase over 1970-71.

This yield is much lower than that obtained in Egypt (6490 kg/ ha), U.S.A. (6444 kg/ha) Japan (6322 kg/ha) and Russia (4242 kg/ha). This is due to mismanagement of water supply, primitive methods of cultivation and less application of modern agricultural inputs and green revolution technology. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, West Bengal and Punjab record higher per hectare yield of rice than the national average.

The highest per hec­tare yield of rice is obtained in Salem and Thanjavur districts of Tamil Nadu; Raichur, Shimoga and Mandya districts in Karnataka; East and West Godavari, Guntur and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh; Kashmir Valley of Jammu and Kashmir; and Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts of Punjab.

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