Agriculture in India

Agriculture in India

Indian agriculture began by 9000 BCE as a result of early cultivation of plants, and domestication of crops and animals. Settled life soon followed with implements and techniques being developed for agriculture. Double monsoons led to two harvests being reaped in one year. Indian products soon reached the world via existing trading networks and foreign crops were introduced to India. Plants and animals—considered essential to their survival by the Indians—came to be worshiped and venerated.

The middle ages saw irrigation channels reach a new level of sophistication in India and Indian crops affecting the economies of other regions of the world under Islamic patronage. Land and water management systems were developed with an aim of providing uniform growth. Despite some stagnation during the later modern era the independent Republic of India was able to develop a comprehensive agricultural program.Roy 2006] Kumar 2006]

Early history

Wheat, barley and jujube were domesticated in the Indian subcontinent by 9000 BCE; Domestication of sheep and goat soon followed.Gupta, page 54] This period also saw the first domestication of the elephant. Barley and wheat cultivation—along with the domestication of cattle, primarily sheep and goat—was visible in Mehrgarh by 8000-6000 BCE.Baber, page 19] Harris & Gosden, page 385] Agro pastoralism in India included threshing, planting crops in rows—either of two or of six—and storing grain in granaries.Possehl, Gregory L. (1996)] By the 5th millennium BCE agricultural communities became widespread in Kashmir. Zaheer Baber (1996) states that 'the first evidence of cultivation of cotton had already developed'. Cotton was cultivated by the 5th millennium BCE-4th millennium BCE. [Stein, page 47] The Indus cotton industry was well developed and some methods used in cotton spinning and fabrication continued to be practiced till the modern Industrialization of India. [Wisseman & Williams, page 127]

A variety of tropical fruit such as mango and muskmelon are native to the Indian subcontinent."agriculture, history of". Encyclopedia Britannica 2008.] The Indians also domesticated hemp, which they used for a number of applications including making narcotics, fiber, and oil.Kerbs & Kerbs, pages 4-5] The farmers of the Indus Valley grew peas, sesame, and dates. Sugarcane was originally from tropical South Asia and Southeast Asia. Different species likely originated in different locations with "S. barberi" originating in India and "S. edule" and "S. officinarum" coming from New Guinea. cite web|url= |title=Sugar Cane: Past and Present|author=Peter Sharpe |publisher=Southern Illinois University |date=26 October 1998|access date=February 4, 2006]

Archaeological evidence indicates that rice was a part of the Indian diet by 8000 BCE.Nene, Y. L., "Rice Research in South Asia through Ages", Asian Agri-History Vol. 9, No. 2, 2005 (85–106)] Wild Oryza rice appeared in the Belan and Ganges valley regions of northern India as early as 4530 BCE and 5440 BCE respectively. The Encyclopedia Britannica—on the subject of the first certain cultivated rice—holds that: ["rice". Encyclopaedia Britannica 2008.]

The origin of rice culture has been traced to India in about 3000 BC. Rice culture gradually spread westward and was introduced to southern Europe in medieval times. With the exception of the type called upland rice, the plant is grown on submerged land in the coastal plains, tidal deltas, and river basins of tropical, semitropical, and temperate regions. The seeds are sown in prepared beds, and when the seedlings are 25 to 50 days old, they are transplanted to a field, or paddy, that has been enclosed by levees and submerged under 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches) of water, remaining submerged during the growing season.

Denis J. Murphy (2007) further details the spread of cultivated rice from India into South-east Asia:Murphy, page 178]

Several wild cereals, including rice, grew in the Vindhyan Hills, and rice cultivation, at sites such as Chopani-Mando and Mahagara, may have been underway as early as 7000 BP. The relative isolation of this area and the early development of rice farming imply that it was developed indigenously.

Chopani-Mando and Mahagara are located on the upper reaches of the Ganges drainage system and it is likely that migrants from this area spread rice farming down the Ganges valley into the fertile plains of Bengal, and beyond into south-east Asia.

Rice was cultivated in the Indus Valley Civilization.Kahn, page 92] Agricultural activity during the second millennium BC included rice cultivation in the Kashmir and Harrappan regions.Smith, C. Wayne (2000)] Mixed farming was the basis of the Indus valley economy.

Irrigation was developed in the Indus Valley Civilization by around 4500 BCE. The size and prosperity of the Indus civilization grew as a result of this innovation, which eventually led to more planned settlements making use of drainage and sewers.Rodda & Ubertini, page 279] Sophisticated irrigation and water storage systems were developed by the Indus Valley Civilization, including artificial reservoirs at Girnar dated to 3000 BCE, and an early canal irrigation system from circa 2600 BCE. [Rodda & Ubertini, page 161]

Archeological evidence of an animal-drawn plough dates back to 2500 BC in the Indus Valley Civilization.citation|title=Thematic evolution of ISTRO: transition in scientific issues and research focus from 1955 to 2000|first=R.|last=Lal|journal=Soil and Tillage Research|volume=61|issue=1-2|date=August 2001|pages=3-12 [3] ]

Vedic period – Post Maha Janapadas period (1500 BCE – 200 CE)

Jute was first cultivated in India, where it was used to make ropes and cordage.Encyclopedia Britannica (2008). "jute".] Some animals—thought by the Indians as being vital to their survival—came to be worshiped.Gupta, page 57] Trees were also domesticated, worshiped, and venerated—"Pipal" and "Banyan" in particular. Others came to be known for their medicinal uses and found mention in the holistic medical system "Ayurveda".

Gupta (2004) finds it likely that summer monsoons may have been longer and may have contained moisture in excess than required for normal food production.Gupta, page 58] One effect of this excessive moisture would have been to aid the winter monsoon rainfall required for winter crops. In India, both wheat and barley are held to be "Rabi" (winter) crops and—like other parts of the world—would have largely depended on winter monsoons before the irrigation became widespread. The growth of the "Kharif" crops would have probably suffered as a result of excessive moisture.

The Encyclopedia Britannica—on the subject of agriculture of the later Vedic period—holds that:

In the later Vedic texts (c. 1000–500 BC), there are repeated references to iron. Cultivation of a wide range of cereals, vegetables, and fruits is described. Meat and milk products were part of the diet; animal husbandry was important. The soil was plowed several times. Seeds were broadcast. Fallowing and a certain sequence of cropping were recommended. Cow dung provided the manure. Irrigation was practiced.

The Mauryan Empire (322–185 BCE) categorized soils and made meteorological observations for agricultural use.Other sources reveal that the soils and seasons had been classified and meteorological observations of rainfall charted for the different regions of the Mauryan Empire, which comprised nearly the whole subcontinent and territory to the northwest.—"agriculture, history of". Encyclopedia Britannica 2008. ] Other Mauryan facilitation included construction and maintenance of dams, and provision of horse-drawn chariots—quicker than traditional bullock carts.

The Greek diplomat Megasthenes (c. 300 BC)—in his book "Indika"— provides a secular eyewitness account of Indian agriculture:

India has many huge mountains which abound in fruit-trees of every kind, and many vast plains of great fertility. . . . The greater part of the soil, moreover, is under irrigation, and consequently bears two crops in the course of the year. . . . In addition to cereals, there grows throughout India much millet . . . and much pulse of different sorts, and rice also, and what is called bosporum [Indian millet] .

Since there is a double rainfall [i.e., the two monsoons] in the course of each year . . . the inhabitants of India almost always gather in two harvests annually.

Early Common Era – High Middle Ages (200–1200 CE)

Spice trade involving spices native to India—including cinnamon and black pepper—gained momentum as India starts shipping spices to the Mediterranean.Shaffer, pages 310-311] Roman trade with India followed as detailed by the archaeological record and the "Periplus of the Erythraean Sea". Chinese sericulture attracted Indian sailors during the early centuries of the common era.

The Tamil people cultivated a wide range of crops such as rice, sugarcane, millets, black pepper, various grams, coconuts, beans, cotton, plantain, tamarind and sandalwood.Venkata Subramanian, page 7] Jackfruit, coconut, palm, areca and plantain trees were also known. Systematic ploughing, manuring, weeding, irrigation and crop protection was practiced for sustained agriculture.Pillay, pages 50-51] Water storage systems—some of the earliest in the world—were designed during this period. Kallanai (1st-2nd Century CE), a dam built on river Kaveri during this period, is considered the oldest water-regulation structure in the world still in use.Singh and Yadava, page 508]

Crystallized sugar was discovered by the time of the Imperial Guptas (320-550 CE), Shaffer, page 311] and the earliest reference of candied sugar come from India.Kieschnick (2003)] The process was soon transmitted to China with traveling Buddhist monks. Chinese documents confirm at least two missions to India, initiated in 647 CE, for obtaining technology for sugar-refining.Kieschnick, page 258] Each mission returned with results on refining sugar. Indian spice exports find mention in the works of Ibn Khurdadhbeh (850), al-Ghafiqi (1150), Ishak bin Imaran (907) and Al Kalkashandi (fourteenth century).Donkin, page 92]

Noboru Karashima's research of the agrarian society in South India during the Chola Empire (875-1279) reveals that during the Chola rule land was transferred and collective holding of land by a group of people slowly gave way to individual plots of land, each with their own irrigation system. [Karashima 1984, 3-35 is cited by Palat on page 63 of "Food and Agrarian Orders in the World-Economy"] The growth of individual disposition of farming property may have led to a decrease in areas of dry cultivation.Palat, page 63] The Cholas also had bureaucrats which oversaw the distribution of water—-particularly the distribution of water by tank-and-channel networks to the drier areas.

Late Middle Ages – Early Modern Era (1200–1757 CE)

The construction of water works and aspects of water technology in India is described in Arabic and Persian works. The diffusion of Indian and Persian irrigation technologies gave rise to an advanced irrigation system which bought about economic growth and growth of material culture.Iqtidar Husain Siddiqui, "Water Works and Irrigation System in India during Pre-Mughal Times", "Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient", Vol. 29, No. 1 (Feb., 1986), pp. 52–77.]

Agricultural 'zones' were broadly divided into those producing rice, wheat or millets. Rice production continued to dominate Gujarat and wheat dominated north and central India.

The Encyclopedia Britannica further details the many crops introduced to India during this period of extensive global discourse:

Introduced by the Portuguese, cultivation of tobacco spread rapidly. The Malabār Coast was the home of spices, especially black pepper, that had stimulated the first European adventures in the East. Coffee had been imported from Abyssinia and became a popular beverage in aristocratic circles by the end of the century. Tea, which was to become the common man's drink and a major export, was yet undiscovered, though it was growing wild in the hills of Assam. Vegetables were cultivated mainly in the vicinity of towns. New species of fruit, such as the pineapple, papaya, and cashew nut, also were introduced by the Portuguese. The quality of mango and citrus fruits was greatly improved.

Land management was particularly strong during the regime of Akbar the Great (reign: 1556-1605), under whom scholar-bureaucrat Todarmal formulated and implemented elaborated methods for agricultural management on a rational basis.Kumar, page 182] Indian crops—such as cotton, sugar, and citric fruits—spread visibly throughout North Africa, Islamic Spain, and the Middle East.Shaffer, page 315] Though they may have been in cultivation prior to the solidification of Islam in India, their production was further improved as a result of this recent wave, which led to far-reaching economic outcomes for the regions involved.

Colonial British Era (1757–1947 CE)

Few Indian commercial crops made it to the global market under the British Raj in In India. Cotton, indigo, opium, and rice were known in particular. The second half of the 19th century saw some increase in land under cultivation, and agricultural production expanded at an average rate of about 1 percent per year by the later 19th century.Roy, page 20] Due to extensive irrigation by canal networks Punjab, Narmada valley, and Andhra Pradesh became centers of agrarian reforms.

Roy (2006) comments on the Influence of the world wars on the Indian agricultural system:

Agricultural performance in the interwar period (1918–1939) was dismal. From 1891 to 1946, the annual growth rate of all crop output was 0.4 percent, and food-grain output was practically stagnant. There were significant regional and intercrop differences, however, nonfood crops doing better than food crops. Among food crops, by far the most important source of stagnation was rice. Bengal had below-average growth rates in both food and nonfood crop output, whereas Punjab and Madras were the least stagnant regions. In the interwar period, population growth accelerated while food output decelerated, leading to declining availability of food per head. The crisis was most acute in Bengal, where food output declined at an annual rate of about 0.7 percent from 1921 to 1946, when population grew at an annual rate of about 1 percent.

The British regime in India did supply the irrigation works but rarely on the scale required. Community effort and private investment soared as market for irrigation developed. Agricultural prices of some commodities rose to about three times between 1870-1920.Roy, page 21]

Republic of India (1947 CE onwards)

Special programs were undertaken to improve food and cash crops supply. The Grow More Food Campaign (1940s) and the IntegratedProduction Programme (1950s) focused on food and cash crops supply respectively. Five-year plans of India—oriented towards agricultural development—soon followed.Kumar, page 143] Land reclamation, land development, mechanization, electrification, use of chemicals—fertilizers in particular, and development of agriculture oriented 'package approach' of taking a set of actions instead of promoting single aspect soon followed under government supervision.Kumar, pages 144-145] The many 'production revolutions' initiated from 1960s onwards included Green Revolution in India, Yellow Revolution (oilseed: 1986-1990), Operation Flood (dairy: 1970-1996), Blue Revolution (fishing: 1973-2002),.Kumar, pages 145-148] Following the economic reforms of 1991, significant growth was registered in the agricultural sector, which was by now benefiting from the earlier reforms and the newer innovations of Agro-processing and Biotechnology.Kumar, page 148]

Due to the growth and prosperity that followed India's economic reforms a strong middle class has emerged as the main consumer of fruits, dairy, fish, meat and vegetables—a marked shift from the earlier staple based consumption.Gulati, page 14] Since 1991, changing consumption patterns have led to a 'revolution' in 'high value' agriculture while the need for cereals is experiencing a decline. In fact, the per capita consumption of cereals declined from 192 to 152 kilograms from 1977 to 1999 while the consumption of fruits increased by 553%, vegetables by 167%, dairy products by 105%, and non-vegetarian products by 85% in India's rural areas alone.Gulati, pages 14-15] Urban areas experienced a similar increase.

Agricultural exports continued to grow at well over *% annually through the 1990s.Gulati, page 15] Contract farming—which requires the farmers to produce crops for a company under contract—and high value agricultural product increased.Gulati, pages 15-16] Contract farming led to a decrease in transaction costs while the contract farmers made more profit compared to the non-contract workforce.Gulati, page 16] However, small landholding continued to create problems for India's farmers as the limited land resulted in limited produce and limited profits.

Since independence, India has become one of the largest producers of wheat, edible oil, potato, spices, rubber, tea, fishing, fruits, and vegetables in the world. [ "Indian agriculture". Indian Embassy to Armenia.] ] The Ministry of Agriculture oversees activities relating to agriculture in India. Various institutions for agriculture related research in India were organized under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (est. 1929). Other organizations such as the National Dairy Development Board (est. 1965), and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (est. 1982) aided the formation of cooperatives and improved financing.

The contribution of agriculture in employing India's male workforce declined from 75.9% in 1961 to 60% in 1999–2000.Dev, page 17] Dev (2006) holds that 'there were about 45 million agricultural labor households in the country in 1999–2000.'Dev, page 18] These households recorded the highest incidence of poverty in India from 1993 to 2000.Dev, page 19]

During 2003-04, agriculture accounted for 22 % of India's GDP and employed 58 per cent of the country's workforce. [ "Indian agriculture] . Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry.] India is the world's largest producer of milk, fruits, cashew nuts, coconuts, ginger, turmeric, banana, sapota, pulses, and black pepper. India is the second largest producer of groundnut, wheat, vegetables, sugar and fish in the world. India is also the third largest producer of third largest producer of tobacco and rice, the fourth largest producer of coarse grains, the fifth largest producer of eggs, and the seventh largest producer of meat.

The green revolution introduced high yielding varieties of crops which also increased the usage of fertilizers and pesticides. [cite journal|title=Comment: Adverse Environmental Consequences of the Green Revolution|author=Pimentel, D. & Marcia Pimentel|journal=Population and Development Review|volume=16|year=1990|pages=329-332] About 90% of the pesticide usage in India is accounted for by DDT and Lindane (BHC/HCH). [cite journal|author=Ray, P. K., Prasad, A. K. and Nandan, R.|year=1985|title=Pesticides – environmental problem|journal=Science and Culture|volume=57|pages=363–371] There has been a shift to organic agriculture particularly for exported commodities. [cite journal|author=Bhattacharyya, P. & G. Chakraborty|year=2005|title=Current status of organic farming in India and other countries|journal=Indian Journal of Fertilizers|volume=1|issue=9|pages=111-123|url=|format=PDF]

ee also

* Forestry in India
* Fishing in India




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* Balambal, V. (1998). "Studies in the History of the Sangam Age". Delhi: Kalinga Publications.
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* Gulati, A. (2006). "Agricultural Growth and Diversification since 1991" in "Encyclopedia of India (vol. 1)", edited by Stanley Wolpert. 14-17. Thomson Gale: ISBN 0-684-31350-2.
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* Harris, David R. and Gosden, C. (1996). "The origins and spread of agriculture and pastoralism in Eurasia: Crops, Fields, Flocks And Herds". Routledge. ISBN 1857285387.
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* Lynda Shaffer in "Southernization". Adas, Michael (2000), "Agricultural and Pastoral Societies in Ancient and Classical History". Temple University Press. ISBN 1566398320.
* Murphy, Denis J. (2007). "People, Plants and Genes: The Story of Crops and Humanity". Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199207135.
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* Possehl, Gregory L. (1996). "Mehrgarh" in "Oxford Companion to Archaeology", edited by Brian Fagan. Oxford University Press.
* Pillay, J.K. (1972). "Educational system of the ancient Tamils". Madras.
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* Shaffer, Lynda N. in "Southernization". Adas, Michael "Agricultural and Pastoral Societies in Ancient and Classical History". Temple University Press (2001). ISBN 1566398320.
* Singh, Vijay P. & Yadava, R. N. (2003). "Water Resources System Operation: Proceedings of the International Conference on Water and Environment". Allied Publishers. ISBN 817764548X.
* Smith, C. Wayne (2000). "Sorghum: Origin, History, Technology, and Production". John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 0471242373.
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* Venkata Subramanian, T.K. (1988). "Environment and urbanisation in early Tamilakam." Thanjavur: Tamil University.
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External links

* [ "Indian Agriculture". U.S. Library of Congress.]
* [ Indian Council for Agricultural Research Home Page.]

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