Cropping System in India- Evolution, Varieties & Categories


Cropping System in India


The cropping system of a region is a cumulative result of long term agricultural practices, social customs and traditions, physical conditions, Government policies, monetary considerations and historical factors. In India, over last 50 years, the trend in the land use pattern and cropping pattern has shown increasing use of land for the purpose of cultivation with slight variations.


The change in land use pattern and cropping pattern is vastly affected by irrigation expansion, infrastructure development, penetration of rural markets, development and spread of short duration and drought resistant crop technologies, rapid urbanization. The higher cultivable area has been achieved by bringing large acreage of uncultivable land into cultivation.

1. Dominance of food crops over non-food crops

At the time of Independence, over 80% of the gross cropped area in the country was devoted to the production of food crops.
Reason: Gradually with commercialization of agriculture, farmers in India have started shifting area to non-food crops mainly due to relatively better price realization.


2. Variety of Crops

Almost every kind of crops are grown in India as it is endowed with a variety of soils. Cash crops have gradually cached up with the production of food crops and more and more farmers are moving from subsistence to commercial farming. Horticulture crop production (305.4 MT in 2017-18) has recently overtaken the total foodgrain (279.5 MT in 2017-18) production in India. Besides, medicinal plants, fruits, flowers and vegetables are gradually getting special attention due to their demand in food processing and export potential.



Plantation crops are highly profitable but require huge capital and large tracts of land. Thus it is confined to limited parts of country. Emphasis is placed now on production of oilseeds through various initiatives like Integrated Scheme of Oilseeds, Pulses, Maize and Oilpalm (ISOPOM).
Reason: After ensuring the food security, now the policy emphasis is on increasing farmers income, boost exports, save foreign exchange spent on import of edible oils.


3. Dominance of cereals among food crops

Within broad group of food crops, cereals like wheat and rice dominate. About 82 per cent of the area under food crops has been put to cultivation of cereals.
Reason: This is due to better prices, less risk in production and the availability of better seeds.

4. Decline in coarse cereals

Jowar, Bajra, Maize, Millets, Barley etc. are called coarse or inferior cereals. The area under these crops to the total area under cereal crops has declined significantly from 48 per cent in 1950-51 to about 25 per cent in 2016.
Reason: This is due to spread of irrigation facilities, improved inputs and a shift in
consumption patterns of the people.

5. Declining importance of Kharif crop

The share of Kharif has declined from 71 per cent in the 1970’s to 49 percent in 2015-16. The share of Rabi food grain production in total food grain production of the country has increased from 36.4% in 1970-71 to 50.83% in 2015-16.
Reason: The Kharif crops are not reliable because they are mostly dependent on monsoon rainfall which in itself is unreliable. Contrary to this, mostly Rabi crops in India are raised on irrigation which offers a degree of reliability.

Categories of Crops in India

1.  Based on End Usage

Food Crops Cash Crops Plantation Crops Horticulture Crops
These are the
crops which are
grown as food
for the producer’s family or for the
producer’s own
Example wheat,
rice, jowar etc.
The scale of operations is
quite small so as
to fulfil the basic
needs of a family.
Cash Crops are crops that are especially used
for profit rather than
consumption by a family. They can be consumed directly or processed
into other products, such as sugar and biofuel. They consist of foods like tobacco, tea, coffee,
cardamom, fruits and vegetables, grains, etc. They are sold, but some are not edible. Cotton
and tobacco are
examples of non-edible cash crops.
A plantation is a large-scale farm that specializes in
cash crops.
The term Plantation crops refers to those crops which are usually cultivated as a single crop on an extensive scale in a
large contiguous area, owned and managed by an Individual or a company.
These plantation crops are high value commercial crops
of greater economic
The crops include tea, coffee, rubber, cocoa, coconut,
arecanut, oil palm, cashew, cinchona etc.
Horticulture is the
science and art of
growing and caring
for plants, especially
flowers, fruits, and
The word horticulture comes from Latin and
means “garden
cultivation.” Whereas agronomy (a branch of agriculture) refers to the growing of field crops, horticulture refers to
small-scale gardening.


2. Based on Seasons

There are three distinct crop seasons namely Kharif, Rabi, and Zaid.
Kharif season largely coincides with Southwest Monsoon and corresponds to the rainy
(i) Rabi season begins with the onset of winter in October-November and ends in March-April. The low temperature conditions during this season facilitate the cultivation of temperate and subtropical crops such as wheat, gram and mustard.
(ii) Zaid is a short duration summer cropping season beginning after harvesting of rabi crops and the sowing of the Kharif crops. The cultivation of watermelons, cucumbers, vegetables and fodder crops during this season is done on irrigated lands.

Cropping season Major crops cultivated
Northern States Southern States
Rice, Cotton, Bajra, Maize, Jowar, Tur Rice, Maize, Ragi, Jowar, Groundnut
Wheat, Gram, Rapeseeds and Mustard, Barley Rice, Maize, Ragi Groundnut, Jowar
Vegetables, Fruits, Fodder Rice, Vegetables, Fodder


Cropping Patterns in India

Different parts in India follow different cropping patterns during a year. It is largely due to variations in physical factors, size of land holdings, market facilities, government policies, infrastructure facilities etc. These factors are discussed below:
Crop diversification and intensification depends on various factors related to:

1. Soil and climatic parameters: It determines overall agro-ecological setting
2. Resource: It covers irrigation, rainfall and soil fertility
3. Technology: Varieties of seeds, cultural requirements, mechanization, plant protection, and access to information etc.
4. Infrastructure facilities: Irrigation, transport, storage, trade and marketing, post-harvest handling and processing etc.
5. Condition of Household: Food and fodder self-sufficiency requirement as well as
investment capacity.
6. Socio-economic conditions: Financial resource base, land ownership, size and type of land holding, household needs of food, fodder, fuel, fibre and finance, labour availability etc.
7. Pricing Structure: It includes output and input prices as well as trade policies and other economic policies that affect these prices either directly or indirectly.
8. Institutions: It covers farm size and tenancy arrangements, research, extension and marketing systems and government regulatory policies.

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