It is found that a majority of Indians (about 70% at least) earn their living through agriculture. India is an agriculturally favorable nation and we have many types of climates and land areas across the country. This provides a diverse form of agriculture giving rise to a variety of crops for own use as well as for exporting. There is diversity in almost everything in India, even the food varies across the country.
The terms farming and agriculture are used as synonyms here, as they are not very different.
The main idea is to learn about agriculture as a broader term and understand the types of agriculture practiced in India. Agriculture is a process of cultivation of crops, animal husbandry, pisciculture, agro-forestry, etc.
Sl No Type of Farming
1 Subsistence and Commercial Farming
2 Organic Farming
3 Shifting Agriculture
4 Plantation Agriculture
5 Intensive and Extensive Farming
6 Dry and Wetland Farming
7 Mixed Agriculture
8 Dairy Farming
9 Terrace Farming
⦁ Subsistence and Commercial farming –
Subsistence Farming is one of the first types of farming systems ever developed where farming is done on a small-scale for direct consumption by individuals, families or small communities. This is the commonest kind of farming as farmers earn a livelihood by farming and providing for themselves and their families. There is little or none of the produce left for sales to other areas or markets, as it is all consumed by the farmers. Subsistence farming is a type of farming where land holdings are small and fragmented. Since farmers are farming on their own, the methods and tools used for farming are primitive. Subsistence Farming was practiced because land holdings are small and scattered, scarcity of resources, poverty, large families to feed, lack of knowledge and infrastructure to scale to commercial levels. The farmers usually cultivate cereals, rice, oil -seeds, pulses, vegetables and sugarcane through this mode of farming. Subsistence Farming is still practiced in rural areas in India. Subsistence Farming is still practiced in Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, North-eastern states and Madhya Pradesh.
Commercial Farming is the exact opposite of Subsistence Farming and more lucrative. In this case, most of the produce is sold in the markets to earn money. In this method, the farmers are better equipped with systems like irrigation, chemical fertilizers, insecticide, pesticides and high yielding varieties of seeds to cultivate. For example, rice grown in Haryana is mainly for commercial purposes. Crops grown for Commercial farming are rice, cotton, jute, groundnut, sugarcane, etc. Commercial Farming unlike Subsistence Farming is large scale farming and forms the backbone of the agriculture industry. Advanced technology has played a big hand in the success and implementation of Commercial Farming and now we can get genetically modified crops that are resistant to pests, molds and bacteria. Other advancements are medications, supplements, feed additives for livestock to encourage crop health as well as animal health and well being. Since the population is rapidly rising, a major concern is a sustenance and this is where commercial farming techniques are also constantly being upgraded to suit the demands of the nation and exports. Measures such as reducing pollution, managing water consumption, maintaining the health of crops and livestock and encouraging bio-diversity are critical for sustenance. One of the common problems faced by Commercial farmers is drought which directly affects production and sales of crops. Another troubling factor is the wise use of water. Water is needed for household usage, factories, industries and urban living as well and lesser water resources are available to farmers for agriculture. Even the water that is available is wrongly used sometimes due to lack of knowledge or apathy. This is of prime concern and farmers must be educated on the wise usage and consumption of water resources for irrigation.
The rate of production of crops needs to be maintained at the demand levels and for this technology is constantly being used and upgraded. Technology can be effectively used for farming equipment, reducing pollutants, increase the productivity of crops and livestock improve safety, conserve resources, provide software for feed processing, farm management and production, development of pesticides and genetic modification techniques. Another innovative idea recently developed was using bacteria and worms to feed on waste products such as thermocol and other wastes to reduce pollution to the environment. Drones and sensors are also being used to improve and monitor farming.
⦁ Organic farming –
Organic farming is an innovative and popular sort of farming where the use of synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, additives, etc. are avoided or rarely used. Organic Farming relies on Crop Rotation, which is a method of farming where different crops are grown in the same area in sequenced seasons. This helps maintain the soil fertility as compared to one crop being grown for many years in the same place causing soil erosion over time. Organic farming also relies on the use of crop residues, animal manures, legumes, organic wastes, bio-fertilizers, etc. to tackle pests. This kind of farming is gaining immense popularity worldwide and consumers prefer organic fruits and vegetables, for instance, instead pesticide laden ones. The health aspect is main attraction toward organic farming and organic products obtained from this mode of farming. Another benefit of organic farming is that the natural resources such as water and soil are better preserved due to lack of chemical usage, which is environmentally beneficial too. In a way, it is said to promote an agro-ecosystem and maybe even better yields than conventional methods. Not only is the environment benefiting from this mode of farming, but human and animal health hazards are also greatly reduced. It is possible to sustain agriculture production as well and reduces the cost of production as well. Other benefits include optimum utilization of resources, save energy, improve soil quality and so on. In Organic Farming, it is harder on the farmers to maintain healthy crops, as a lot of work is required to keep weeds away.
To maintain soil fertility and boost nutrients in the soil, organic farmers use green manures (Sesbania, cowpea and green gram). This helps prevents soil erosion and holds water in a better, more efficient manner. Other ingredients added by farmers are natural minerals, lime, compost and so on. Usage of compost requires heating and aging it for a few months. Recent trends have switched over to inorganic sources such as rock phosphate, slag, rock potash, etc.
Bacterial and fungal bio-fertilizers such as Rhizobium, Azotobacter, Azospirillium, blue, green algae, Azolla, etc. are used by organic farmers. Weeding is mostly done manually or by tillage, flooding or mulching. In some cases, farmers use drip irrigation to control weeds. The limitations of organic farming are lack of abundance of organic manure, a decline of organic farming after a few years of cultivation and the marketing of it which needs to be more streamlined.
The Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI) was formed to promote organic farming and shift focus towards Organic Farming. Through this organization, organic farmers are being provided assistance and support. Many NGOs have come up to promote and encourage Organic Farming and Organic Farmers. Organic Farming has been classified as Pure Organic Farming, Integrated Green Revolution Farming and Integrated Farming System. Only organic fertilizers and bio-pesticides are used in the Pure Organic Farming method. The Integrated Green Revolution Farming method employs hybrid seeds, mechanized field operation and usage of skilled labor. The last method uses natural resources such as food waste, crop residue, agricultural wastes, etc.
One of the main reasons for the popularity of Organic Farming has been ending the land degradation issue which has been an environmental hazard for some time now. Thanks to the Green Revolution, better efficient systems are being developed now for farming and agriculture. The Green Revolution is a technological breakthrough that uses high yielding varieties of seeds, adequate supply of water for irrigation and appropriate application of chemical fertilizers for increasing agricultural production. Some of the organically grown crops in our country are cereals, soybeans, corn, fruits, vegetables, livestock and so on.
Organic gardens can also be grown in your backyard or terraces. To know more about organic farming at home, read our related articles on this topic. <Link>
⦁ Shifting Cultivation –
This method of agriculture is one where a land is cultivated for a few years and after the crop production declines, the land is cleared up by slash and burn methods and the farmers move elsewhere to cultivate other lands. This is a primitive and unproductive method of farming but is still practiced in the North-eastern parts of India, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra. This is practiced mostly in hilly areas. Farmers sometimes return to the land that they cleared to re-cultivate at a later period. The number of years between two consecutive Jhum operations is called a Jhum cycle. Some of the crops grown by the Jhummias are vegetables, food grains and cash crops. Shifting cultivation causes heavy soil erosion and deforestation and hence is not the ideal method of agriculture to be followed.
⦁ Plantation agriculture –
In Plantation farming, a single cash crop is grown for sale and production. Examples of Plantation agriculture are tea, coffee, rubber, cotton, coconut, cashew, fruits, hemp, sugarcane, jute, spices, etc. Huge plantations situated in tropical or subtropical regions are cultivated by farmers and is found to be one of the oldest forms of cultivation. The crops are grown on large estates usually around 100 acres. The farming in these estates is scientifically managed for large-scale production of crops. Most of the plantation agriculture produce is exported internationally. The plantations are well-planned and provide facilities such as housing, transport etc to the farmers who work on them. India is a leading producer of Tea in the world with Tea being majorly grown in Assam, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. The ideal temperature to grow tea is 20 – 30 degrees Celsius.
⦁ Intensive and Extensive agriculture –
Intensive Agriculture uses large amounts of capital and labor compared to the land area being cultivated. Hence resources need to be optimally used to produce greater yields. The yield per unit area is high in Intensive farming systems. Crops grown are rice, wheat and sugarcane. Extensive farming uses small amounts of labor and capital compared to the land size. In this case, the crop yield depends on the natural fertility of the soil, terrain, climate and availability of water. Extensive farming produces a lower yield per unit of land and hence large areas of land need to be used to be commercially profitable. The yield per unit area is higher in Intensive farming and seems more viable. Sometimes a combination of the two types of farming and the land close to markets is cultivated. Crops grown in this method are rice, wheat and sugarcane.
⦁ Dry and wetland farming –
Dryland farming is done in areas where the rainfall is less than 9 inches in a year. Crops grown in this method are wheat, ragi, bajra, moong, gram, corn, beans, sunflower and watermelon. Wetland farming is done in the land that is saturated with water. They provide flood protection, enhanced water quality, food chain support and carbon sequestration. Sometimes the wetlands are drained to convert them into agricultural land. The Ramsar Convention, which is a Convention on Wetlands, was formed to design framework for wise use of wetlands and their resources. To know more about conservation of wetlands, please visit – www.ramsar.org. Some wetland crops grown in India are rice, jute and sugarcane.
⦁ Mixed agriculture –
It is a system of raising crops and rearing animals simultaneously. Farmers engaged in mixed farming are economically better off than others. Crops such as millet and cowpea, millet and sorghum, etc. are a form of mixed farming. Mixing has both advantages and disadvantages. For example, farmers in mixed systems divide their resources leading to reduced economies of scale. Advantages include spreading labor and re-utilizing resources. Mixed farming exists in many forms depending on external and internal factors. External factors are weather patterns, market prices, political stability, technological developments, etc. Internal factors are soil characteristics, the composition of the family and farmers’ ingenuity. Farmers opt for mixed enterprises when they want to save resources as these permit wider crop rotations and reduce dependence on chemicals.
As milk production requires relatively less land and more labor to generate a given level of income compared to crop production, mixed farming system suits the small and marginal farmers with less land and therefore is an effective method of farming in India. Mixed Farming is also suitable for Indian conditions because of a small size of holdings and unstable economy. Agricultural economists consider a farm as a mixed farm where 10% – 15% of its gross income is contributed by livestock. The National Commission on Agriculture stated that crop cultivation alone is an insufficient means of income for farmers considering factors like drought, floods, etc. are predominant. They further stated that in order to make annual usage of resources, subsidiary occupations should be organized amongst the farmers.
Dairying is an enterprise that can supplement the income and reduce underemployment of laborers and farmers. The farmer raises his livestock on the by-products of crops grown. He utilizes the existing manpower and equipment and does not incur additional expenses. Similarly, by raising livestock, he draws a number of benefits from it for crop cultivation. The two enterprises, therefore, sustain each other with no additional cost. It augments the income of the farmer and provides him more economic stability. A well adjusted and diversified farming is highly conducive to improving the labor efficiency in the Indian farms.
Addition of dairy cattle to crop farming can absorb surplus labor in the slack season. If lactation periods are adjusted so that maximum milk flow is in the slack season, labor utilization can be better rationalized through the year. Mixed farming involves the integration of crops and animals on the same farm and hence waste products of one enterprise (crop residues) are used by the other enterprise.
Other benefits include, but are not limited to –
Animals provide manure for the maintenance and improvement of soil fertility.
The sale of animals and animal products can provide cash income.
Livestock act as a storehouse of capital and an insurance against crop production risks.
Animals grazing vegetation under trees crops can control weeds and help to increase the yield of the plantation crops.
Development of livestock sector promotes gender equity since women play an important role in livestock production.
⦁ Dairy farming –
Dairy farming is a relatively easier form of livestock farming used to produce milk. India produces tons of milk for sales and is a livelihood for many across India, especially Haryana. To be a successful dairy farmer, one must be aware of the scientific management of dairy animals and the dairy business. In India, although the dairy farm is still a big means of earning a livelihood, the animals as such as ill-maintained and face poor health and living conditions. Cows have to be bred, fed and have a healthy lifestyle to generate good quality milk for mass production. Animals perform better under better living conditions. Hence it is mandatory to maintain their housing and provide adequate environmental conditions required by them for a healthy living. Animals must also be protected from heavy rainfall, strong sunlight, high humidity, frost and other climatic conditions. Cattles breed in temperatures of 15 – 27 degrees. High humidity, rainfall in cold climate, etc. can provide stress to the animals. In tropical and sub-tropical climates, well-ventilated sheds must be provided especially to lactating dairy cows.
Some of the feed contents in dairy farming are maize, jowar, bajra, cowpea and so on. Farm management includes disposing of the farm wastes such as dung, urine, etc. to improve farm hygiene. The area must be tick free as they tend to spread parasitic infections in humans and animals. Ticks are one of the biggest challenges faced by dairy farmers, as they are resistant to most weather conditions and spread drastically making it impossible to control at times. Hence farmers need to constantly clean sheds, seal cracks, remove weeds, spray insecticides, control ticks and so on. Chemical insecticides can be used to treat ticks effectively, but cleanliness also needs to be maintained at all times. Common salt is also found to control ticks to some extent. Breeding is also important and farmers must be aware of the best time for breeding of cattle and buffaloes and know the reproductive cycles of dairy animals. Calves need greater especially after they are just born. All these are some of the factors and many more such factors that go into maintaining an running a dairy farm successfully.
Feeding calves is another important factor as well as a vaccination that need to be catered to by farmers. Milking process involves manual or machine milking. Farmers must be trained for this and must be aware of both. The Central Government provides financial aid to farmers to set up dairy farms in rural areas as this is a major livelihood of most farmers in India.
⦁ Terrace agriculture –
In this method of agriculture, hills or mountains are cut out like terraces along the slopes and land is cultivated. The hills look like steps and the crops grown in this method are pulses, paddy, potatoes, quinoa, oilseeds, millets, vegetables, fruits, saffron, buckwheat, black cumin, maize, wheat, etc. This method of farming is labor-intensive but has been found to be effective. Rice is best suited for terrace farming. Terraces are created to prevent soil erosion and soil runoff. Terraces make a hillside more productive as long as you care well for the soil. Tea is also grown beautifully using terrace farming. Terrace farming is popular in north-eastern India and parts of the Himalayas and other hilly regions. Terrace farming is beneficial in preventing floods as water goes down the slopes gradually. Soil degradation is also prevented as the natural nutrients of soil are restored. Machinery cannot be used on mountain and hill slopes, so this could be a setback.