(India, People and Economy) 5- LAND RESOURCES AND AGRICULTURE – (NCERT Class-XII)

Land Use Categories

  • Land-use records are maintained by land revenue department as:-
  1. Forests: area under actual forest cover is different from area classified as forest. The latter is the area which the Government has identified and demarcated for forest growth. The land revenue records are consistent with the latter definition.
  2. Land put to Non-agricultural Uses: Land under settlements (rural and urban), infrastructure (roads, canals, etc.), industries, shops, etc. are included in this category.
  3. Barren and Waste lands : The land which may be classified as a wasteland such as barren hilly terrains, desert lands, ravines, etc. normally cannot be brought under cultivation with the available technology.
  4. Area under Permanent Pastures and Grazing Lands : Most of this type land is owned by the village „ Panchayat‟or the Government. Only a small proportion of this land is privately owned. The land owned by the village panchayat comes under „Common Property Resources‟.
  5. Area under Miscellaneous Tree Crops and Groves(Not included is Net sown Area) : The land under orchards and fruit trees are included in this category. Much of this land is privately owned.
  6. Culturable Waste-Land: Any land which is left fallow (uncultivated) for more than five years is included in this category. It can be brought under cultivation after improving it through reclamation practices.
  7. Current Fallow: This is the land which is left without cultivation for one or less than one agricultural year. Following is a cultural practice adopted for giving the land rest. The land recoups the lost fertility through natural processes.
  8. Fallow other than Current Fallow: This is also a cultivable land which is left uncultivated for more than a year but less than five years. If the land is left uncultivated for more than five years, it would be categorised as culturable wasteland.
  9. Net Area Sown: The physical extent of land on which crops are sown and harvested is known as net sown area.

Land-use Changes in India 

  • three types of changes that an economy undergoes, which affect land-use.
  1. The size of the economy
  2. the composition of the economy
  3. though the contribution of the agricultural activities reduces over time, the pressure on land for agricultural activities does not decline. The reasons for continued pressure on agricultural land are:

a. In developing countries, the share of population dependent on agriculture usually declines much more slowly compared to the decline in the sector‟s share in GDP.

b. The number of people that the agricultural sector has to feed is increasing day by day.

  • The rate of increase is the highest in case of area under non-agricultural uses. This is due to the changing structure of Indian economy. The area under non-agricultural uses is increasing at the expense of wastelands and agricultural land. 
  • The increase in the share under forest, as explained before, can be accounted for by increase in the demarcated area under forest rather than an actual increase in the forest cover in the country.
  • The increase in the current fallow cannot be explained from information pertaining to only two points. The trend of current fallow fluctuates a great deal over years, depending on the variability of rainfall and cropping cycles. 
  • the wastelands and culturable wastelands have witnessed decline over time due to the pressure on land increased, both from the agricultural and non- agricultural sectors. 
  • The decline in net area sown is a recent phenomenon that started in the late nineties, before which it was registering a slow increase. There are indications that most of the decline has occurred due to the increases in area under non- agricultural use.
  • The decline in land under pastures and grazing lands can be explained by pressure from agricultural land. Illegal encroachment due to expansion of cultivation on common pasture lands is largely responsible for this decline.

Common Property Resources

  • according to its ownership can broadly be classified under two broad heads – private land and common property resources (CPRs)
  • CPRs provide fodder for the livestock and fuel for the households along with other minor forest products like fruits, nuts, fibre, medicinal plants, etc.
  • CPRs also are important for women as most of the fodder and fuel collection is done by them in rural areas
  • CPRs can be defined as community‟s natural resource, where every member has the right of access and usage with specified obligations, without anybody having property rights over them. Community forests, pasture lands, village water bodies and other public spaces where a group larger than a household or family unit exercises rights of use and carries responsibility of management are examples of CPRs.

Agricultural Land Use in India

(i) lack of access to land is directly correlated with incidence of poverty in rural areas.

(ii) Quality of land has a direct bearing on the productivity of agriculture, which is not true for other activities.

(iii) In rural areas, aside from its value as a productive factor, land ownership has a social value and serves as a security for credit, natural hazards or life contingencies, and also adds to the social Status.

(iv) the total stock of agricultural land resources (i.e. total cultivable land can be arrived at by adding up net sown area, all fallow lands and culturable wasteland.

  • the scope for bringing in additional land under net sown area in India is limited. There is, thus, an urgent need to evolve and adopt land-saving technologies.
  • Such technologies can be classified under two heads – those which raise the yield of any particular crop per unit area of land and those which increase the total output per unit area of land from all crops grown over one agricultural year by increasing land-use intensity.
  • The advantage of the latter kind of technology is that along with increasing output from limited land, it also increases the demand for labour significantly. 
  • For a land scarce but labour abundant country like India, a high cropping intensity is desirable not only for fuller utilisation of land resource, but also for reducing unemployment in the rural economy. 
  • The cropping intensity (CI)

Cropping Seasons in India

Three crop seasons in the northern and interior parts of country, namely kharif, rabi and zaid

Types of Farming

  • On the basis of main source of moisture for crops, the farming can be classified as irrigated and rainfed (barani). 
  • The objective of protective irrigation is to protect the crops from adverse effects of soil moisture deficiency which often means that irrigation acts as a supplementary source of water over and above the rainfall
  • Productive irrigation is meant to provide sufficient soil moisture in the cropping season to achieve high productivity. In such irrigation the water input per unit area of cultivated land is higher than protective irrigation.
  • Rainfed farming is further classified on the basis of adequacy of soil moisture during cropping season into dry land and wetland farming. In India, the
  • Dry land farming is largely confined to the regions having annual rainfall less than 75 cm. These regions grow hardy and drought resistant crops such as ragi, bajra, moong, gram and guar (fodder crops) and practice various measures of soil moisture conservation and rain water harvesting.
  • In wetland farming , the rainfall is in excess of soil moisture requirement of plants during rainy season. Such regions may face flood and soil erosion hazards. These areas grow various water intensive crops such as rice, jute and sugarcane and practise aquaculture in the fresh water bodies.

Food grains

  • The importance of foodgrains in Indian agricultural economy may be gauged from the fact these crops occupy about two-third of total cropped area in the country. On the basis of the structure of grain the foodgrains are classified as cereals and pulses.

1. Cereals

  • The cereals occupy about 54 per cent of total cropped area in India.
  • The country produces about 11 per cent cereals of the world and ranks third in production after China and U.S.A.
  • India produces a variety of cereals, which are classified as fine grains (rice, wheat) and coarse grains (jowar, bajra, maize, ragi), etc.


  • Rice is a staple food for the overwhelming majority of population in India.
  • Though, it is considered to be a crop of tropical humid areas,
  • These are successfully grown from sea level to about 2,000 m altitude and from humid areas in eastern India to dry 
  • but irrigated areas of Punjab, Haryana, western U.P. and northern Rajasthan.
  • In southern states and West Bengal the climatic conditions allow the cultivation of two or three crops of rice in an agricultural year. In West Bengal farmers grow three crops of rice called „ aus ‟, „aman ‟ and „boro ‟.
  • But in Himalayas and northwestern parts of the country, it is grown as a kharif crop during southwest Monsoon season.
  • India contributes 22 per cent of rice production in the world and ranks second after China.
  • About one-fourth of the total cropped area in the country is under rice cultivation.
  • West Bengal, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were five leading rice producing states in the country in 2002-03.
  • They yield level of rice is high in Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Kerala.
  • Punjab and Haryana are not traditional rice growing areas. Rice cultivation in the irrigated areas of Punjab and Haryana was introduced in 1970s following the Green Revolution.
  • Genetically improved varieties of seed, relatively high usage of fertilisers and pesticides and lower levels of susceptibility of the crop to pests due to dry climatic conditions are responsible for higher yield of rice in this region. The yield of this crop is very low in rainfed areas of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa.


  • Wheat is the second most important cereal crop in India after rice. India produces about 12 per cent of total wheat production of world. It is primarily a crop of temperate zone. Hence, its cultivation in India is done during winter i.e. rabi season.
  • About 85 per cent of total area under this crop is concentrated in north and central regions of the country i.e. Indo-Gangetic Plain, Malwa Plateau and Himalayas up to 2,700 m altitude. Being a rabi crop, it is mostly grown under irrigated conditions.
  • But it is a rain fed crop in Himalayan highlands and parts of Malwa plateau in Madhya Pradesh. 
  • About 14 per cent of the total cropped area in the country is under wheat cultivation. Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are five leading wheat producing states. The yield level of wheat is very high (above 4,000 k.g. per ha) in Punjab and Haryana whereas, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar have moderate yields.


  • The coarse cereals together occupy about 16.50 per cent of total cropped area in the country.
  • Among these, jowar or sorghum alone accounts for about 5.3 per cent of total cropped area. It is main food crop in semi-arid areas of central and southern India.
  • Maharashtra alone produces more than half of the total jowar production of the country. Other leading producer states of jowar are Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. It is sown in both kharif and rabi seasons in southern states. But it is a kharif crop in northern India where it is mostly grown as a fodder crop.


  • Bajra is sown in hot and dry climatic conditions in northwestern and western parts of the country.
  • It is a hardy crop which resists frequent dry spells and drought in this region. It is cultivated alone as well as part of mixed cropping. 
  • Leading producers of bajra are the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana.
  • Being a rainfed crop, the yield level of this crop is low in Rajasthan and fluctuates a lot from year to year. Yield of this crop has increased during recent years in Haryana and Gujarat due to introduction of drought resistant varieties and expansion of irrigation under it.


  • Maize is a food as well as fodder crop grown under semi-arid climatic conditions and over inferior soils. 
  • This crop occupies only about 3.6 per cent of total cropped area.
  • Maize cultivation is not concentrated in any specific region. It is sown all over India except eastern and north-eastern regions.
  • The leading producers of maize are the states of Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Yield level of maize is higher than other coarse cereals. It is high in southern states and declines towards central parts.


  • Pulses are a very important ingredient of vegetarian food as these are rich sources of proteins.
  • These are legume crops which increase the natural fertility of soils through nitrogen fixation.
  • India is a leading producer of pulses and accounts for about one-fifth of the total production of pulses in the world.
  • The cultivation of pulses in the country is largely concentrated in the drylands of Deccan and central plateaus and northwestern parts of the country.
  • Pulses occupy about 11 per cent of the total cropped area in the country.
  • Being the rainfed crops of drylands, the yields of pulses are low and fluctuate from year to year.
  • Gram and tur are the main pulses cultivated in India.


  • Gram is cultivated in subtropical areas. It is mostly a rainfed crop cultivated during rabi season in central, western and northwestern parts of the country.
  • Just one or two light showers or irrigations are required to grow this crop successfully.
  • It has been displaced from the cropping pattern by wheat in Haryana, Punjab and northern Rajasthan following the green revolution.
  • Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan are the main producers of this pulse crop. The yield of this crop continues to be low and fluctuates from year to year even in irrigated areas.

Tur (Arhar)

  • Tur is the second important pulse crop in the country. It is also known as red gram or pigeon pea.
  • It is cultivated over marginal lands and under rainfed conditions in the dry areas of central and southern states of the country.
  • Maharashtra alone contributes about one-third of the total production of tur
  • Per hectare output of this crop is very low and its performance is inconsistent.


  • Groundnut, rapeseed and mustard, soyabean and sunflower are the main oilseed crops grown in India.

1. Groundnut 

  • India produces about 17 per cent the total of groundnut production in the world.
  • It is largely a rainfed kharif crop of drylands. But in southern India, it is cultivated during rabi season as well. 
  • Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra are the leading producers. 
  • Yield of groundnut is comparatively high in Tamil Nadu where it is partly irrigated. But its yield is low in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

2. Rapeseed and Mustard

  • Rapeseed and mustard comprise several oilseeds as rai, sarson, toria and taramira.
  • These are subtropical crops cultivated during rabi season in north-western and central parts of India.
  • These are frost sensitive crops and their yields fluctuate from year to year. But with the expansion of irrigation and improvement in seed technology, their yields have improved and stabilized to some extent. About two-third of the cultivated area under these crops is irrigated.
  • Rajasthan contributes about one-third production while other leading producers are Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.
  • Yields of these crops are comparatively high in Haryana and Rajasthan.

3. Other Oilseeds 

  • Soyabean and sunflower are other important oilseeds grown in India. Soyabean is mostly grown in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra
  • It is a minor crop in northern parts of the country where its yield is high due to irrigation.

Fibre Crops

  • These crops provide us fibre for preparing cloth, bags, sacks and a number of other items. Cotton and jute are two main fibre crops grown in India.

1. Cotton

  • Cotton is a tropical crop grown in kharif season in semi-arid areas of the country. India lost a large proportion of cotton growing area to Pakistan during partition. However, its acreage has increased considerably during the last 50 years.
  • India grows both short staple (Indian) cotton as well as long staple (American) cotton called „narma‟ in north-wester n parts of the country. Cotton requires
  • clear sky during flowering stage.
  • India ranks fourth in the world in the production of cotton after China, U.S.A. and Pakistan. 
  • cotton growing areas, i.e. parts of Punjab, Haryana and northern Rajasthan in north-west, Gujarat and Maharashtra in the west and plateaus of in south. Leading producers of this crop are Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana.
  • Per hectare output of cotton is high under irrigated conditions in north-western region of the country. Its yield is very low in Maharashtra where it is grown under rainfed conditions.

2. Jute

  • Jute is used for making coarse cloth, bags, sacks and decorative items. 
  • It is a cash crop in West Bengal and adjoining eastern parts of the country. India lost large jute growing areas to East Pakistan (Bangladesh) during partition.
  • At present, India produces about three-fifth of jute production of the world. West Bengal accounts for about three-fourth of the production in the country. Bihar and Assam are other jute growing areas

Other Crops

  • Sugarcane, tea and coffee are other important crops grown in India.

1. Sugarcane 

  • Sugarcane is a crop of tropical areas. Under rainfed conditions, it is cultivated in sub-humid and humid climates. But it is largely an irrigated crop in India.
  • India is the second largest producer of sugarcane after Brazil.
  • Uttar Pradesh produces about two-fifth of sugarcane of the country.
  • Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are other leading producers of this crop where yield level of sugarcane is high.
  • Its yield is low in northern India.


  • Tea is a plantation crop used as beverage. Black tea leaves are fermented whereas green tea leaves are unfermented.
  •  Tea leaves have rich content of caffeine and tannin. 
  • It is an indigenous crop of hills in northern China. It is grown over undulating topography of hilly areas and well- drained soils in humid and sub-humid tropics and sub-tropics.
  • In India, tea plantation started in 1840s in Brahmaputra valley of Assam which still is a major tea growing area in the country.
  • Later on, its plantation was introduced in the sub-Himalayan region of West Bengal (Darjiling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Bihar districts). Tea is also cultivated on the lower slopes of Nilgiri and Cardamom hills in Western Ghats.
  • India is a leading producer of tea . 
  • India‟s share in the international market of tea has declined substantially. At present, it ranks third among tea exporting countries in the world after Sri Lanka and China.
  • Assam accounts for about 53.2 per cent of the total cropped area and contributes more than half of total production of tea in the country. West Bengal and Tamil Nadu are the other leading producers of tea.


  • Coffee is a tropical plantation crop. Its seeds are roasted, ground and are used for preparing a beverage.
  • There are three varieties of coffee arabica, robusta and liberica.
  • India mostly grows superior quality coffee, arabica, which is in great demand in International market.
  • But India produces only about 4.3 per cent coffee of the world and ranks sixth after Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and Mexico.
  • Coffee is cultivated in the highlands of Western Ghats in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Karnataka alone accounts for more than two- third of total production of coffee in the country

Agricultural Development in India

Strategy of Development

  • During partition about one-third of the irrigated land in undivided India went to Pakistan. This reduced the proportion of irrigated area in Independent.
  • After Independence, the immediate goal of the Government was to increase foodgrains production by

(i) switching over from cash crops to food crops;

(ii) intensification of cropping over already cultivated land; and

(iii) increasing cultivated area by bringing cultivable and fallow land under plough.

  • agricultural production stagnated during late 1950s.
  • To overcome this problem, Intensive Agricultural District Programme (IADP) and Intensive Agricultural Area Programme (IAAP) were launched.
  • New seed varieties of wheat (Mexico) and rice (Philippines) known as high yielding varieties (HYVs) were available for cultivation by mid-1960s.
  • India took advantage of this and introduced package technology comprising HYVs, along with chemical fertilizers in irrigated areas of Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.
  • Assured supply of soil moisture through irrigation was a basic pre-requisite for the success of this new agricultural technology.
  • This strategy of
    agricultural development paid dividends instantly and increased the food grains production at very fast rate. This spurt of agricultural growth came to be known as „Green Revolution‟.
  • But green revolution was initially confined to irrigated areas only. This led to regional disparities in agricultural development in the country till the seventies, after which the technology spread to the Eastern and Central parts of the country.
  • The Planning Commission of India initiated agro-climatic planning in 1988 to induce regionally balanced agricultural development in the country.
  • It also emphasized the need for diversification of agriculture and harnessing of resources for development of dairy farming, poultry, horticulture, livestock rearing and aquaculture.
  • Initiation of the policy of liberalisation and free market economy in 1990s is likely to influence the course of development of Indian agriculture. 
  • Lack of development of rural infrastructure, withdrawal of subsidies and price support, and impediments in availing of the rural credits may lead to interregional and inter -personal disparities in rural areas. 

Growth of Agricultural Output and Technology

  • India ranks first in the production of pulses, tea, jute, cattle and milk. It is the second largest producer of rice, wheat, groundnut, sugarcane and vegetables. 
  • Expansion of irrigation has played a very crucial role in enhancing agricultural output in the country. It provided basis for introduction of modern agricultural technology such as high yielding varieties of seeds, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and farm machinery.
  • The net irrigated area in the country has increased from 20.85 to 54.66 million ha over the period 1950-51 to 2000-01. 
  • consumption of chemical fertilizers in India was 91 kg which was equal to its average consumption in the world (90 kg).
  • But in the irrigated areas of Punjab and Haryana the consumption of chemical fertilizers per unit area is three to four times higher than that of the national average. 
  • Since the high yielding varieties are highly susceptible to pests and diseases, the use of pesticides has increased significantly since 1960s.

Problems of Indian Agriculture

1. Dependence on Erratic Monsoon

  • Irrigation covers only about 33 per cent of the cultivated area in India. Poor performance of south-west Monsoon also adversely affects the supply of canal water for irrigation. 
  • Even the areas receiving high annual rainfall experience considerable fluctuations.
  • This makes them vulnerable to both droughts and floods. 
  • Drought is a common phenomenon in the low rainfall areas which may also experience occasional floods.

2. Low productivity 

  • The yield of the crops in the country is low in comparison to the international level.
  • Per hectare output of most of the crops such as rice, wheat, cotton and oilseeds in India is much lower than that of U.S.A., Russia and Japan. 
  • Because of the very high pressure on the land resources, the labour productivity in Indian agriculture is also very low in comparison to international level. The vast rainfed areas of the country, particularly drylands which mostly grow coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds have very low yields.

3. Constraints of Financial Resources and Indebtedness

4. Lack of Land Reforms

  • Indian peasantry had been exploited for a long time as there had been unequal distribution of land.
  • Among the three revenue systems operational during British period i.e. Mahalwari, Ryotwari and Zamindari, the last one was most exploitative for the peasants.
  • Lack of implementation of land reforms has resulted in continuation of inequitous distribution of cultivable land which is detrimental to agricultural development.

5. Small Farm Size and Fragmentation of Landholdings

  • More than 60 per cent of the ownership holdings have a size smaller than one (ha).
  • average size of land holding is shrinking further under increasing population pressure. 
  • the land holdings are mostly fragmented. There are some states where consolidation of holding has not been carried out even once.
  • The small size fragmented landholdings are uneconomic

6. Lack of Commercialization

  • A large number of farmers produce crops for self-consumption. 
  • Most of the small and marginal farmers grow foodgrains, which are meant for their own family consumption. Modernisation and commercialisation of agriculture have however, taken place in the irrigated areas.

7. Vast Under-employment

  • There is a massive under-employment in the agricultural sector in India, particularly in the un-irrigated tracts. 
  • there is a seasonal unemployment ranging from 4 to 8 months. Even in the cropping season work is not available throughout, as agricultural operations are not labour intensive.

8. Degradation of Cultivable Land

  • One of the serious problems that arises out of faulty strategy of irrigation and agricultural development is degradation of land resources.
  • This is serious because it may lead to depletion of soil fertility. The situation is particularly alarming in irrigated areas. A large tract of agricultural land has lost its fertility due to alkalisation and salinisation of soils and waterlogging. 
  • Excessive use of chemicals such as insecticides and pesticides has led to their concentration in toxic amounts in the soil profile.
  • Leguminous crops have been displaced from the cropping pattern in the irrigated areas and duration of fallow has substantially reduced owing to multiple cropping. This has obliterated the process of natural fertilization such as nitrogen fixation.
  • Rainfed areas in humid and semi-arid tropics also experience degradation of several types like soil erosion by water and wind erosion which are often induced by human activities.

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