India has a geographical area of about 329 million hectares but statistical information is available only for about 93 percent of the area (viz., for 305 million hectares). More than half of the area (51 percent) is under cultivation compared to 11 percent of world’s average. Our farmer is very hard-working and raises two crops in a year instead of one being the normal practice in the other countries.
According to state of forest Report, 2003, Forests cover about 20.6 percent of land area for which data is available. Another 30.3 percent of area is not available for cultivation because it either comprises fallow lands, residential or commercial areas or is otherwise not fit for cultivation. Consequently, cultivation is done only on about 50 percent of the total reporting area in the country.
Soil quality is an important factor in crop-yield. The soil provides nourishment and water to the plant life. It consists of minerals, organic matter, water, air, etc., all of which determine its characteristics, fertility, depth, texture and structure and, thus, govern the type and quality of plants and crops that can be grown in any region of the country. India, with its vast land surface and diverse relief features, possesses a large variety of soils, which, according to the National Council of Agricultural Research, are classified into the following eight categories.
(i) Alluvial Soil
Alluvial soil covers almost a quarter of India’s land surface and provides the base for the largest share of country’s agricultural production. This type of soil is composed of sediments deposited by the mighty rivers in the interior parts of the India and by the sea wave in the coastal areas of the country. The Great Plains of India running from Punjab to Assam possess rich alluvial soil which is also found in Narmada and Tapti valleys in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, Mahanadi Valley in Chhattisgarh and Orissa, Godavari Valley in Andhra Pradesh and Cauvery Valley in Tamil Nadu. It also occurs in the deltas of Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery rivers. Alluvial soils are generally deficient in nitrogen and humus and thus necessitate repeated fertilisation. Such soils are suitable for growing all types of cereals, pulses, sugarcane, vegetables, oilseeds, etc.
(ii) Black Soil
Black soil is found largely in the Deccan Plateau. It is eminently suitable for cotton cultivation and is, therefore, also called black cotton soil. In some areas, it is known as ‘regur’. The black color of the soil is attributed to the presence of compound of iron and aluminum. This soil is generally deficient in nitrogen, phosphates, and organic matter but is quite rich in potash, lime, aluminum, calcium and magnesium. The black soil exists in many areas of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Cotton, cereals, some oilseeds and a variety of vegetables are grown in areas of black soil.
(iii) Red Soil
The red soil occurs mostly in the southern peninsula and extends up to Jhansi (Uttar Pradesh) in the north, Kutch (Gujarat) in the west and Rajmahal Hills in the east. This soil is made up of crystalline and metamorphic rocks and is rich in ferromanganese minerals and soluble salts but is deficient in nitrogen and humus and thus needs fertilization. It has a light texture and a porous structure. Red soil is most suited to the growth of rice, ragi, tobacco and vegetables.
(iv) Laterite Soil
This type of soil is found in areas of high rainfall and temperature with alternate dry and wet periods. The soil contains high content of iron oxides. It is deficient in nitrogen, phosphorus, potash and magnesium. Such soil is found in the high reaches of Sahyadris, Western Ghats, Rajmahal Hills and the hilly tracts of the eastern region. It is also found in parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Orissa and West Bengal. This type of soil is suitable for rice, ragi and sugarcane cultivation.
(v) Forest Soil
Forest soil is rich in organic matter and humus. It is found in the Himalayas and other mountain regions of the north, higher summits of the Sahyadris, Eastern Ghats, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Manipur, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. Crops like tea, coffee, spices and tropical fruits are grown on this type of soil.
(vi) Arid and Desert Soils
The arid and semi-arid regions of north-west India have this type of soil which is generally deficient in nitrogen and humus. It is largely found in the areas west of Arvalli Ranges and covers Rajasthan, parts of Haryana and Punjab and extends up to the Rann of Kutch. Generally desert soil is infertile but its fertility improves with proper irrigation and fertilisation.
(vii) Saline and Alkaline Soils
Saline and alkaline soils are found in the arid and semi-arid parts of Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. These soils, variously called ‘reb’, ‘usar’ or ‘kallar’ are largely infertile. However, they can be improved through proper treatment and reclamation measures.
(viii) Peaty and other Organic Soils
Peaty soils contain large accumulations of humus, organic matter and soluble salts. These soils are highly saline and are deficient in phosphorus and potash. Marshy soils occur in regions of Orissa, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. They are also found in central and north Bihar and in Almora district of Uttarachal.
There are three major corp seasons in India, viz., Kharif, Rabi and Zaid. The Kharif crops are associated with the monsoons. They are sown in the months of June and July and are harvested in autumn months, viz., in September and October. Important among the Kharif corps are rice, jowar, bajra, ragi, maize, sugarcane, cotton and jute.
The Rabi crops are sown in the period between October and December and harvested in April and May. Important among the Rabi crops are wheat, barley, peas, rabi pulses, linseed, rapeseed and mustard.
The Zaid is the summer season crop. Rice, maize, vegetables, sunflower and groundnut are grown during this season. Again, areas, which are extensively irrigated, grow three to four crops per year and, thus, fall out of the purview of the distinction between the Kharif and Rabi crops. Similarly, in southern half of the Peninsular India where temperatures are sufficiently high and rainfall is extensive in winter months, rice, jowar, coffee, etc., are sown, thus again blurring this categorization under Kharif and Rabi crops. However, for most of India, Kharif and Rabi remain the distinct crop seasons with the specific variety of crops grown therein.
Agricultural crops can be broadly divided into two categories, viz., food crops and non-food crops. Food grains consist of cereals and pulses. Among the cereals are included rice, wheat, jowar, bajra, maize, etc. Pulses include gram, moong, masur, athar, etc. The non-food crops comprise a number of cash crops such as sugarcane, cotton, jute, tobacco, etc. Tea, coffee, rubber are included among the plantation crops. Besides these, we have the horticulture crops like fruits, vegetables , coconut, cashew, etc.
India is the largest producer and consumer of tea in the world and accounts for around 27 percent of world production and 13 percent of world trade in tea. In coffee, India contributes 4 percent of the global production. Rubber is primarily produced in the State of Kerala and adjoining Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.
India is the third largest producer of fish and second largest producer of inland fist in the world. As per Economic survey, fish production from marine and inland sources has been at 2.8 million tonnes and 3.5 million tonnes, respectively and marine products worth Rs. 6188 Crore were exported in the last year.