Sunday, October 21, 2007


Agriculture in India is one of the most prominent sectors in its economy. Agriculture and allied sectors like forestry, logging and fishing accounted for 18.6% of the GDP in 2005 and employed 60% of the country's population. It accounts for 8.56 % of India’s exports. About 43 % of India's geographical area is used for agricultural activity. Despite a steady decline of its share in the GDP, agriculture is still the largest economic sector and plays a significant role in the overall socio-economic development of India.

The monsoons play a critical role in the Indian sub-continent's agriculture in determining whether the harvest will be bountiful, average, or poor in any given year. The entire rainfall in the sub-continent is concentrated in the few monsoon months.

Agriculture in India is constitutionally the responsibility of the states rather than the central government. The central government's role is in formulating policy and providing financial resources for agriculture. The government administers prices of essential commodities to protect farmer's interests. It also administers other commodities which are produced by government-controlled companies, like petroleum, coal, nitrogenous fertilizers, etc. Other than these, most agricultural commodity markets operate under the normal forces of demand and supply.

History of Indian Agriculture
Evidence of the presence of wheat and some legumes in the 6th millennium BC have been found in the Indus Valley. Oranges were cultivated in the same millennium. The crops grown in the valley around 4000 BC were typically wheat, peas, sesame seed, barley, dates and mangoes. By 3500 BC cotton growing and cotton textiles were quite advanced in the valley. By 3000 BC farming of rice had started. Other monsoon crops of importance of the time was cane sugar. By 2500 BC, rice was an important component of the staple diet in Mohenjodaro near the Arabian Sea
The Indus Plain had rich alluvial deposits which came down the Indus River in annual floods. This helped sustain farming that formed basis of the Indus Valley Civilization at Harappa. The people built dams and drainage systems for the crops.

By 2000 BC tea, bananas and apples were being cultivated in India. There was coconut trade with East Africa in 200 BC. By 500 AC, egg plants were being cultivated.
Agriculture in the Indian States

Agriculture is the main component for most of the state economies in India.

Historically, the Punjab region (the five rivers region) has been one of the most fertile regions on earth. The region is ideal for wheat-growing. Punjab is called the "Granary of India" or "India's bread-basket". It produces 60% of India's wheat, and 40% of India's rice. The south Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are also major producers of rice, Andhra Pradesh being India's second biggest producer of rice. These states are mostly irrigated by the rivers Krishna, Godavari and Cauvery.

Haryana is self-sufficient in food production and the second largest contributor to India's central pool of food grains. Haryana contributed significantly to the Green Revolution in India in the 1970s. The National Dairy Research Institute at Karnal, and the Central Institute for Research on Buffaloes at Hisar are instrumental in development of new breeds of cattle and propagation of these breeds through embryo transfer technology. The Murrah breed of water buffalo from Haryana is world-famous for its milk production.

The high-altitude states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir are ideal for production of apples. Arunachal Pradesh also has a large number of fruit orchards. Tea is the other produce of the high altitude regions of Assam, West Bengal (Darjeeling), Tripura, Tamil Nadu (Ooty), Himachal Pradesh and Kerala. Assam produces some of the finest and most expensive teas in the world (see Assam tea). However Assam tea is grown at elevations near sea level, giving it a malty sweetness and an earthy flavor, as opposed to the more floral aroma of highland (e.g., Darjeeling, Taiwanese) teas.

In the north-eastern states like Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, shifting cultivation known locally as jhum, was practised by the tribal groups, but that has come to be less practised. In mountainous states like Sikkim, farming is done on terraced slopes. The state has the highest production and largest cultivated area of cardamom in India.

Karnataka is the largest producer of coffee in India and accounts for 59% of the country’s coffee production. It is grown moslty in the lower slopes of the Western Ghats in Kodagu district.
Karnataka is also the largest producer of sandalwood based products like perfumes. Sandalwood comes from the dense forested areas of southern Karnataka. The state is also the largest producer of raw silk and Mysore silk saris are famous. The other state manufacturing silk is Tamil Nadu.

Rajasthan is among the largest producers of edible oils in India and the second largest producer of oilseeds. The state is also the biggest wool-producing state in India.

Kerala produces 96% of national output of pepper. It is also the largest producer of spices which include cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Kerala is also the largest producer of natural rubber in India (91%). The other state producing rubber is Tripura.

30 percent of Mizoram is covered with wild bamboo forests, and accounts for 40 percent of India's 80-million-ton annual bamboo crop.

There has been an economic shift towards agriculture for some states like Bihar after the mineral rich areas were carved out to form the new state of Jharkhand.

Developed and released nearly 3,300 high-yielding varieties/hybrids of field crops for different agro-ecologies; facilitated verification and identification of technologies under the country-wide, synergistic network of All India Coordinated Projects; these outputs ushered in the eras of green and yellow revolutions in mid­1960s and mid-1990s, respectively; national average productivity raised by 2-4 folds in foodgrains, rapeseed-mustard and cotton since 1950-51.
First in the world to develop hybrids in grain pearl millet and cotton in the 1970s; also developed hybrids in other crops, including non-conventional crops, such as castor, safflower, rice, pigeonpea and rapeseed-mustard; developed single cross hybrids in quality protein maize (QPM) and baby corn for high nutritional value in addition to high yield.

Employed genes for stress resistance and quality in several crops from their wild relatives; developed early and suitable plant types for new niche areas and cropping systems in pulses and other crops; evolved effective male sterility systems for hybrid development in many crops.

For the first time, successfully employed molecular marker assisted selection/pyramiding and backcross transfer of 'xa13 , and 'Xa21 , genes from IRBB55 in the genetic background of Pusa Basmati 1; thus developed bacterial blast resistant variety Improved Pusa Basmati 1.

Developed Bt-cotton for resistance to bollworms using an indigenous variety Bikaneri Narma; developed ready-to-use diagnostic kits to detect Bt-cotton and non-Bt cotton.

Identified and isolated a gene conferring male sterility in mustard that is useful for hybrid development in other crops; developed a SCAR marker for fertility restorer gene.

Cloned and characterized a gene 'Pi-Kh' that confers resistance to Blast disease; validated the gene in transgenic rice.

Identification of novel Arabidopsis- derived promoter that drives constitutive expression of foreign genes in transgenic plants.

Isolated and cloned drought stress responsive transcription factors 'TaCBF5' and 'TaCBF9' from drought tolerant wheat variety C-306.

Sequenced 6.7 million base pairs of long-arm of chromosome 11 of rice in a major global effort.
DNA fingerprinting in 33 major crops; fingerprinted 2215 released varieties and landraces.

Conserved over 346,000 germplasm accessions of crops and their wild relatives at NBPGR, New Delhi, and 2517 microorganism cultures (394 bacterial, 2077 fungal, 36 Actinomycetes and 10 yeast accessions) at NBAIM, Mau; digitalized database of over 175,000 insect species at IARI, New Delhi.

Established a mechanism of registration and documentation of potentially valuable plant germplasm at NBPGR, New Delhi; registered 482 accessions belonging to 77 plant species.

Developed the bioinsecticide strain DOR Bt-l, registered and commercialized its formulation KNOCK W.P. along with a low-cost mass multiplication methodology for integrated management of semilooper caterpillar in a number of crops; developed endosulfan-tolerant strain of Trichogramma chilonis (Endograma); deployed Pest Management Information System including Interactive Kiosks for Basmati rice, cotton, mustard, chickpea and groundnut.

Digitalized extant-notified varieties database using Indian Information System (INDUS) software; developed DUS test parameters for 35 crops for Indian conditions.
Doubled the seed production of improved varieties in a year amounting to 606,000 quintals during 2006-07 through a mega seed project; thus enhanced the transfer of released varieties for cultivation.

Research Centres
The Central Research Institutes have been established to meet agricultural research and education needs of the country in terms of pursuit of basic and strategic research in the concerned disciplines in a focussed area. They develop, evaluate and refine technologies for packaging them in a form ready to be transferred from Lab to Land. They also help in human resource development for agricultural sector. The Institutes/Directorates/Bureaux have a mandate for working on single or selected group of crops, animals or commodities with each major discipline having status of the division/section. Some of the Institutes have regional stations to cover diverse agro-ecological areas for developing area-specific technologies.The National Research Centres (NRCs) have been established for concentrated attention with a mission approach by a team of scientists under a single leader on selected topics with relevance to resolving national problems in a particular animal, crop or commodity. There is no divisional set up and rarely any regional station for the NRCs.The creation of All India Co-ordinated Research Project (AICRP) under the ICAR system is a landmark in the history of agricultural research in India. The AICRP is a mechanism in building nation-wide co-operative, inter-disciplinary research network linking ICAR Institutes with the SAUs to focus attention on commodities and species of national importance. The AICRPs have succeeded in mobilizing country's scarce resources through inter-institutional and inter-disciplinary interaction and joint evaluation of new technologies to arrive at collective recommendation. The AICRPs also strengthen research base in each agricultural university. A few projects are elevated to the level of Project Directorates with additional research responsibilities for important areas e.g. wheat, rice, oilseed, pulses and vegetables.In addition, the ICAR supports a number of short-term ad-hoc research schemes, implemented by scientists in various colleges, universities and institutes. The programmes of ad-hoc research schemes are need-based and are formulated and executed in accordance with the recommendations of the scientific panels related to different disciplines.

A total of 29 agricultural universities have been established in the different parts of the country, including a Central Agricultural University for the north-eastern hills. In addition the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar (Bareilly), the National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal and the Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Bombay have the status of deemed universities.The agricultural education system in the country offers degree programmes in 11 specific disciplines viz. agriculture, veterinary science, agricultural engineering, forestry, home science, dairy technology, fisheries, sericulture, marketing, banking and co-operation, horticulture and food science with a total intake of about 11,000 students. It also offers post graduate programmes in more than 55 fields of specialization with a total intake capacity of about 5,000 students. Under the human resource development programme the council offers about 1200 scholarships and fellowships from the undergraduate to post-doctoral levels. Special fellowships are also offered for socially and economically weaker groups.A World Bank assisted project on the Agricultural Human Resource Development (AHRD) has been launched to improve the educational system in agriculture and meet its future challenges. In its initial stage the participating states are Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Tamil Nadu involving the agricultural universities of these states. During the 5 years of the project period steps will be taken for establishment of accreditation board, syllabus reform, faculty quality improvement, upgrading and modernization of the laboratory facilities, farms, libraries, hostels, communication systems and other ancillary facilities. A National Agricultural Technology Project (NATP) is also contemplated to bridge critical gaps of technology generation, assessment, refinement and transfer and to enhance ICAR's institutional capability to meet future challenges on research and development fronts.

The Technology Intervention system of the ICAR is devoted to the first-line extension activities. During the eighth five year plan these activities have been integrated mainly into the 261 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs). The KVKs are responsible for vocational training, on-farm research and demonstration of the improved technologies. In majority of the cases, the technologies developed were found appropriate only in the area where they were generated. Even slight variations in conditions turn the technology irrelevant. Keeping this in view a new approach is being experimented for technology assessment and refinement through Institute-Village Linkage Programme (IVLP). The IVLP has been started initially at 42 centres through various ICAR institutes and state agricultural universities.In addition to the new initiative of the IVLP, the technology intervention programmes are going on in eight zones through out the country. Zone I has 36 KVKs and one TTC serving the farming communities of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Delhi. During 1995-96, 1,750 frontline demonstrations were organized on oilseeds and pulses showing production increase of 30 to 50% over the local varieties and techniques. The Zone II is constituted to serve the farming communities of Bihar, West Bengal and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.. The 26 KVKs of this zone conducted 176 training programmes to train 3,348 inservice extension workers. Oilseed and Pulse production technologies were demonstrated on 320 hectares. There are 12 KVKs and one TTC in the Zone III comprising Assam, Sikkim and North Eastern Hills. They organised 114 training programmes for 4,462 inservice extension workers during 1995-96.Zone IV has 29 KVKs serving the whole of Uttar Pradesh where 520 training camps trained 3,942 inservice officers in addition to 5454 farmers who were benefitted through frontline oilseeds demonstrations on 800 hectares. The better technologies of Pulses were demonstrated in 740 hectares involving 2030 farmers. Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra are being served by 26 KVKs and one TTC of the Zone V. During 1995-96 7,834 inservice employees participated in 350 training camps. The frontline demonstrations on oilseeds and pulses were organized on 569 hectares benefitting 1265 farm-families.The State of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Dadar Nagar-Haveli have been included in Zone VI functioning through 42 KVKs. During 1995-96 the frontline demonstrations on oilseeds and pulses were organized covering 700 hectares. Zone VII consists of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh being served by 3 KVKs and two TTC. Here 44 inservice training camps were organised for 384 middle level workers. A highest yield of 30.4 quintals was obtained in frontline demonstrations of soybean which were organised on about 174 hectares. Technology of Pulses was demonstrated on 113 hectares benefitting 253 families. The states of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Goa are being served by 22 KVKs and 3 Trainers Training Centres in Zone VIII. The frontline demonstrations on Oilseeds and Pulses were organised on 996 hectares benefitting 1067 farm families.The farmers' fairs, farmers' days, Kisan-Goshthies (farmers' meetings) and farmers' visits were organised in all the zones. In all, more than 270,000 farmers were benefitted through nearly 16,600 training programmes in the eight zones.