A large sector of our population is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. In most parts of the country, two crops are produced in a year though in certain places even three crops are produced. Rabi and Kharif are the two most important crops of India. Rabi crops are sown in October-November and harvested in March-April except certain crops like sugarcane, which are sown and harvested in other months.
Rabi crops include wheat, barley, peas, grains, and pulses like arhar; cotton and oilseeds except groundnut. Kharif crops include maize, millets, pulses like urad and moong, hemp and paddy that are sown in July and harvested in the end of September or beginning of October.
The variety of crops and their yield depends upon various factors like soil, rainfall, temperature, availability of irrigation facilities etc. in the plains of northern India, alluvial soil is found.
In Punjab and western half of Uttar Pradesh, production of wheat is moiré favored and good yield is procured because of fertile soil, favorable temperature and adequate rainfall.
In the eastern half of the Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal where soil is fertile, temperature is nearly the same as Punjab and Western Uttar Pradesh but rainfall is more than these areas, paddy is produced easily.
In West Bengal and Tamil Nadu heavy rains help raise three crops of paddy during a year. Among the non-food grain crops, the most important is oilseed, sugarcane, raw cotton, jute, tea, coffee, rubber and tobacco. Cotton production is abundant in the Southern Peninsular Plateau except in the coastal plains. Cotton requires black soil, less quantity of rains and a comparatively dry climate. Besides these agricultural products, different kinds of fruits and various spices are produced in our country. These are exported to a large extent. In the Southern Peninsula, valuable spices are grown on the hills. Cardamom hills are known only for production of cardamom.
Indian agriculture is still largely traditional; it is dependent on the vagaries of weather, and the land under cultivation is extremely unevenly distributed. A very large percentage of farmers are concentrated on a very small percentage of total area of cultivation; agriculture suffers from lack of water, and credit and lack of incentives.
Though agriculture is necessary for the country, it contributes to several environmental problems. More and more agricultural land is needed for the growing population, for which forests are cleared. Thus, indirectly agriculture contributes to soil erosion, depletion and various other problems. The western model of high-input agriculture has indeed paid dividends but has brought in its wake problems of topsoil loss or depletion. The cropland itself is under stress on account of urbanization and industrialization. We have to evolve some new system of crop production in which high inputs are reduced.
About half of India’s land is cultivated and about one-fifth is forest, while the rest is uncultivated. The quality of soil is generally poor and soil erosion is common in many parts of the country. About three-fourths of the total land area under forests is ‘reserved’ or protected. The remaining is unclassified and generally not well managed. Only the Himalayan belt and a few mountainous areas have thick forests. Because most of the plains are bereft of any worthwhile forest, cover there has been a desiccation in the climate and vegetation. Moisture has been removed from the soil and this in turn has led to adverse effects on rainfall from the monsoon clouds.
Among the important species of trees present are teak, sal, bamboo and the coniferous group and many medicinal plants. Forest cover is important in maintaining the ecological balance. For a long time, these forests have been destroyed for petty needs and greed of timber merchants. But now their importance has been realized and efforts are being made at all levels not only to preserve the existing forests but to increase the forest area by planting new trees. These forests also check soil erosion. A forestation is necessary in dry desert areas to check further erosion; therefore, plants suited to this climate must be planted in large numbers.
Although India has the largest livestock populations in the world, milk yields are extremely low. The main milk producers are the buffalos and rows. Only about 5 percent is produced by goats, sheep and camels. The low yield of milk is due to the poor quality stock, inadequate fodder resources, limited grassland areas, and old-fashioned methods of livestock management. The present fodder resources are sufficient for only two-thirds of the total livestock strength.