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Cropping Patterns and Major Crops of India

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Agricultural-related activity is one of the major economic activities in India and it accounts for 14% of India’s GDP. Two-thirds of the Indian population depends on agriculture for its sustenance. Climate, especially rainfall, controls agricultural activities. In the extremely hot and dry season, agricultural activities come almost to a grinding halt. Depending upon soil types and climatic parameters, we have three agricultural seasons in India i.e Kharif, Rabi, and Zaid. The Kharif season started with the Southwest Monsoon (June to September) under which the crops such as Rice, Maize, Cotton, Jowar, Sugarcane, Groundnut, and Bajra are cultivated. The Rabi season starts with the onset of winter (October to March) and ends with the beginning of summers under which the crops such as Mustard, Wheat, Oat, Chickpea. Zaid season is a short duration summer cropping season (March to June) between rabi and Kharif season, generally lasting for 2-3 months.

Various Cropping Seasons in India are:

1. Kharif Cropping Season And Crops:

In India, this season starts from June to July with the onset of monsoon and ends with the withdrawal of monsoon in the mid of October-November. These crops are sown at the beginning of the first shower during the advent of the south-west monsoon season, sowing date varies from mid of may in southern states (Kerala) to July in northern states (Haryana). These crops generally require moderate to high temperatures with good amounts of rainfall. In the Kharif season, total foodgrains production is around 150.5 million tons in 2021. Rice, Millets, Maize, Groundnuts, Jute, Groundnut, Soya bean, Tea, Coffee, and Cotton are the major Kharif crops.


Rice is the most important Kharif crop and major staple crop of India, which feeds more than 60 percent of the population. In India total area under rice cultivation is 39.43 lakh hectares in 2021 and produces around 122 million tons in 2021, which was only 34.58 million tons in 1960. It requires a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius and above and rainfall of more than 150 cm. So this crop is suitable for rain intense regions or the regions with perennial rivers and irrigation facilities. It requires flooded fields during the growing period. West Bengal is the largest producer of rice in India and accounts for 15% of total rice production which is around 15.75 million tons. In Assam, Orissa, and coastal areas of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka paddy is grown thrice a year.


Maize is the second most important Kharif crop in India. Total maize production in India is around 24.51 million metric tons. It is a cereal crop and accounts for approximately one-tenth of the total agricultural produce in India. It requires a temperature of 21 to 27 degrees Celsius and rainfall of 50-75 cm. Cultivation of maize is prominent in the regions of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana. Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have the highest area under maize (15%).


India is the largest producer of cotton in the world accounting for more than 25% of the world cotton production. India produces about 6.05 million metric tons of cotton in 2020-21. It is a cash crop and used as a raw material for cotton textile industries. It requires a temperature of 20-30 degrees Celsius and 75-100 cm rainfall. Maharashtra is the largest producer of cotton in India.

2. Rabi Cropping Season and Crops:

Rabi cropping season starts with the season of retreating monsoon and ends with the beginning of the summer season. These crops are sown in winter from October to December and harvested in summer from April to June and require a cool climate during the growth period but a warm climate during the germination of seed and maturation. Total rabi production in India is about 153.25 MMT in 2021. Rabi crops are grown in large parts of India, states such as Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttar Pradesh are major rabi crop-growing regions. Some of the major rabi crops are wheat, barley, gram, peas, mustard, oat, and rapeseed.


Wheat is the second most important staple crop and favorite among the north Indians. The total area under wheat cultivation is about 34.5 million hectares and total production was over 109 million metric tons in 2021. India is the second-largest producer of wheat in the world after China. Wheat requires cool temperatures during its growing season in the range of 14 -18 degrees Celsius and rainfall of about 50-90 cm. Bright sunshine and slightly warmer weather are most suitable during the harvesting of wheat. India is highly dependent on wheat for its agricultural income. Uttar Pradesh is the largest wheat-growing state and alone produces more than 33 million metric tons, followed by Punjab and Haryana.


Mustard is a commercial crop. India produces about 10 million tons of mustard in 2020-21. Oil extracted from mustard is edible and vastly used for cooking purposes in India. It requires dry and cool weather and the ideal temperature range for the growth of mustard is between 10 and  25 degrees Celsius. Rajasthan is the largest producer of mustard in India and accounts for 46 percent of total mustard cultivation, followed by Haryana.


Barley is the important rabi cereal crop, also known as ‘Jau’ in Hindi. It is the fourth most important crop after Rice, Wheat, and Maize. The total production of barley in India is about 1.67 million metric tons. Barley is widely used as food and fodder and for producing beer, more than 90% of world malt comes from Barley. It requires around 12-15°C temperature during the growing period and around 30-32°C at maturity and rainfall of 75cm is good for its growth. Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Jammu and Kashmir are major producing areas. Rajasthan is the largest producer of barley in India.

Zaid Cropping Season and Crops:

Zaid is a short season between Kharif and Rabi season in the months of March to July. These are dry summer season crops and require a very short period of time for their maturity. These crops are sown at the beginning of summer in Feb- March and harvested in April- June. Warm soil, high temperature, dry weather, and longer day length are required for flowering and fruiting of these crops. The total area under Zaid crops is 67.87 lakh hectares in 2021. Major Zaid crops are watermelon, pumpkin, cucumber, bitter gourd, and muskmelon. These crops are grown with the help of proper irrigation facilities. So states like Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu where irrigation facility is well developed are more suitable for these crops. In some areas, rice is also grown on irrigated land as a Zaid crop. Zaid crops provide extra income to farmers and act as a gap-filler between Rabi and Kharif cropping season.


As we know India is an agricultural country and these three seasons are perfectly designed to maintain the ecological balance. But in recent years this ecological balance has been disturbed by adopting unsustainable agriculture practices like growing unseasonal crops, using excessive chemicals, and artificial irrigation facilities; which is harmful not only for humans but also for soil health, and the environment. In order to address this concern, farmers should be aware of the importance of growing crops according to their season and must follow sustainable agriculture practices. So that, our land resources will continue to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations.

Last Updated : 14 Apr, 2022
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