Farming systems in India range from subsistence farming to organic farming, to industrial or commercial farming. This variation in types of farming in India is largely due to the fact that the climate varies significantly according to the different regions in India. The state of Rajasthan has a very desert-like, arid climate where water is often scarce, compared to the eastern Himalayan regions which record the highest volume of rainfall in the world. Dependence on the periodic monsoon makes irrigation a problem in many areas of the country.
There are seven main types of farming in India, each having its own unique system:
1. Irrigation Farming
An irrigation farming system relies on help from an irrigation system supplying water from a river, reservoir, tank, or well. As India grows and there is an increasing demand for food, water is becoming more and more crucial. Farming methods should be focused on sustaining or recycling water.
2. Shifting Cultivation
Shifting cultivation systems cultivate one plot of land for a period of years until the soil becomes infertile. As crop yield decreases, the plot is deserted and the ground is re-fertilized using the slash and burn technique. This method is popular in the northeast and the east coast of the country, and is used to cultivate rain-fed rice, corn, buckwheat, millet, root crops, and vegetables. However, as the population increases, more land is being used up without enough time to regenerate the natural condition of the soil. This has led to severe soil degradation in many areas.
3. Commercial Agriculture
Commercial agriculture systems involve large-scale plantations, such as those used for wheat, cotton, sugarcane, tea, rubber, and corn. The yields are exported to other countries for a profit. There are three types of commercial agriculture systems:
- Intensive commercial farming: With small landholdings and a high population, many farms use a lot of manpower on a relatively small piece of land.
- Extensive commercial farming: This is the opposite of intensive commercial farming. A small workforce is applied to a large piece of land. Cultivation depends on mechanical methods.
- Plantation agriculture: A plantation is a large piece of land with an estate (typically in sub-tropical or tropical countries) where crops are cultivated and then sold internationally as opposed to locally.
4. Ley Farming
This type of farming is used to restore soil fertility in India’s drylands. A plot of land is used for grain or other crops and when the soil starts to degrade, the land is left uncultivated. It is used to grow hay or as a pasture for grazing animals. After a number of years, it can be used for crops again as the nutrients are restored by ploughing. Land erosion during the ley period is also prevented by the roots of the grass.
5. Plantation Farming
As mentioned before, this is the large-scale cultivation of one crop on an estate or vast property. This system is designed to make a profit and as such requires that all technology and techniques be efficient. Tea, coffee, and rubber are all commonly-grown on plantation farms. Teak wood, bamboo, and timber are also occasionally farmed using this method.
6. Crop Rotation
This system is a type of subsistence farming. Usually, there are one or more farmers responsible for the labour and the produce is for their own consumption. A crop rotation schedule includes different varieties of crops such as wheat, barley, mustard, or millet being grown during alternating seasons. The benefits are that weeds, pests, and diseases are controlled, while soil fertility is maintained.
7. Co-Operative Farming
Cooperative farming systems in India have only recently appeared. The aim of these systems is to combine land resources and farmers so that everyone benefits. There is huge potential to build on this method in India; unfortunately funding has been slow to make it possible. Families are attached to their land and unwilling to give it up to be shared in a cooperative system, farmers fear they will lose their jobs, and there is an immense amount of propaganda related to “new” lines of thinking.