There are three distinct crop seasons in the northern and interior parts of country, namely kharif, rabi, and zaid. The kharif season largely coincides with Southwest Monsoon under which the cultivation of tropical crops such as rice, cotton, jute, jowar, bajra and tur is possible. The rabi season begins with the onset of winter in October-November and ends in March-April. The low temperature conditions during this season facilitate the cultivation of temperate and subtropical crops such as wheat, gram and mustard. Zaid is a short duration summer cropping season beginning after harvesting of rabi crops, the cultivation of watermelons, cucumbers, vegetables and fodder crops during this season is done on irrigated lands. However, this type of distinction in the cropping season does not exist in southern parts of the country. Here, the temperature is high enough to grow tropical crops during any period in the year provided the soil moisture is available. Therefore, in this region same crops can be grown thrice in an agricultural year provided there is sufficient soil moisture.

Cropping season

Major crops cultivated

Northern States

Southern States



Rice, Cotton, Bajra, Maize, Jowar, Tur

Rice, Maize, Ragi, Jowar, Groundnut



Wheat, Gram, Rapeseeds and Mustard, Barley

Rice, Maize, Ragi Groundnut, Jowar



Vegetables, Fruits, Fodder

Rice, Vegetables, Fodder

These crops are grown sole or mixed (mixed-cropping), or in a definite sequence (rotational cropping). The land may be occupied by one crop during one season (mono-cropping), or by two crops (double-cropping) which may be grown in a year in sequence. Of late, the trend is even more than two crops (multiple-cropping) in a year. These intensive cropping may be done either in sequence or even there may be relay-cropping - one crop under-sown in a standing crop. With wide-rowed slow growing cropping patterns, companion crops may be grown.


Cropping pattern means the proportion of area under various crops at a point of time. This is, however, a dynamic concept as it changes over space and time.

A broad picture of the major cropping patterns in India can be presented by taking the major crops into consideration. With such an approach, the crop occupying the highest percentage of the sown area of the region is taken as the base crop and all other possible alternative crops which are sown in the region either as substitutes of the base crop in the same season or as the crops which fit in the rotation in the subsequent season, are considered in the pattern.

Also these crops have been identified as associating themselves with a particular type of agro-climate, and certain other minor crops with similar requirements are grouped in one category. For example, wheat, barley and oats, are taken as one category.

Certain other crops, such as the plantation crops and other industrial crops are discussed separately. Among the kharif crops, rice, jowar, bajra, maize, groundnut and cotton are the prominent crops to be considered the base crops for describing the kharif cropping patterns. Among the rabi crops, wheat, gram and sorghum or jowar are considered the base crops for explaining the rabi cropping pattern.


Crops under this category include sugarcane, tobacco, potato, jute, tea, coffee, coconut, rubber and other crops, such as spices and condiments. Some of them are seasonal, some annual and some perennial. Generally, the areas occupied by them are very limited as compared with food and other crops. Nevertheless, they are important commercially. Most of them require specific environmental conditions and from the point of view of cropping patterns, they are concentrated in some particular regions. Besides, certain horticultural crops, such as apple, mango and citrus, are important.

In several sugarcane-growing areas, mono-cropping is practised, and during the interval between the crops, short duration seasonal crops are grown. In U.P., Bihar, Punjab and Haryana, wheat and maize are the rotation crops, rice is also grown in some areas. In the southern states, namely Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, ragi, rice and pulses are grown along with sugarcane. In Maharashtra, pulses, jowar and cotton are grown.

In the potato-growing region, maize, pulses, wheat are the alternative crops. In the tobacco growing areas, depending on the season and the type of tobacco, jowar, oilseeds and maize are grown in rotation. In the jute-growing areas, rice is the usual alternative crop.

In the case of plantation-crops, intercropping with pulses and fodder crops is common. Spices and condiments are generally grown on fertile soils. Chillies are rotated with jowar, whereas onion, coriander, turmeric and ginger are grown as mixed crops with other seasonal crops.


Crops mixtures are widely grown, especially during the kharif season. Pulses and some oilseeds are grown with maize, jowar and bajra. Lowland rice is invariably grown unmixed, but in the case of upland rice, several mixtures are prevalent in eastern Uttar Pradesh, with Chotanagpur division of Bihar and in the Chhatisgarh division of Madhya Pradesh. During the rabi season, especially in the unirrigated area of the north, wheat and barley and wheat and gram or wheat + barley + gram are the mixtures of grain crops. Brassica and safflower are grown mixed with gram or even with wheat. Mixed cropping was considered by researchers a primitive practice, but now many researchers regard mixed cropping as the most efficient way of using land. Several new mixtures have recently been suggested. They ensure an efficient utilization of sunshine and land. Breeders are developing plant types in pulses and oilseeds, with good compatibility with row crops.


The study of crop combinations constitutes an important aspect of agricultural geography. In fact, it provides a good basis for agricultural regionalization and helps in the formulation of strategy for agricultural development. Crops are generally grown in combinations and it is rarely that a particular crop occupies a position of total isolation. The distribution maps of and their concentration are interesting and helps in knowing the density and concentration of individual crops, but it is even more important to view the integrated assemblage of the various crops in a region.

On the basis of some homogeneity and commonness, major crop regions in India may be divides as follows:

  1. Rice Region
  2. Wheat Region
  3. Jowar-Bajra Region
  4. Cotton Region
  5. Millet and Maize Region
  6. Fruit and Spice Region


Rice is considered as the first-ranking crop in the vast region stretching from lower Gangetic Plain to Brahmaputra Valley in the east and the circum-coastal alluvial tracts of the peninsula region. Rice cultivation is done around Bay of Bengal, barring isolated pockets bordering the Arabian Sea. The isohyets line (a line on a map connecting points having the same amount of rainfall in a given period) 150 cm demarcates the lower boundary of rice, except in some edges where rice grows even in 100 cm of annual rainfall. Though rice displays overall dominance, considering the secondary importance of other crops, this region may be subdivides into following zones:

  1. Rice-Jute-Tea: This association of crops occurs in farthest east, near Assam Valley northern West Bengal and lower Gangetic plains.
  2. Rice-Pulses-Millets-: This association occurs in the western section of the former zone, covering central Bihar, eastern Madhya Pradesh and eastern Uttar Pradesh.
  3. Rice-Millets: This zone comprises the entire Andhra Pradesh, south Orissa and some parts of Tamil Nadu.
  4. Rice-Coffee-Spices: This zone is found in the southern extremity of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.


This crop combination occurs relatively in less rainfall region of 50-100 cm in red soil region. As the region is drought prone, Jowar-Bajra is more popular.

  1. Jowar-Cotton in Maharashtra.
  2. Jowar-Cotton-Oilseeds-Millets in Karnataka and Maharashtra.
  3. Jowar-Wheat in entire Rajasthan, Haryana and some parts of Uttar Pradesh.
  4. Bajra-Jowar-Pulses in Rajasthan desert and semi-desert areas.


This region covers the entire north-western India including the state of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. The major sub-regions are:

  1. Wheat-Maize-Sugar Cane: This region comprises a great part of wheat regions, covering West Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu.
  2. Wheat-Jowar-Bajra in Indus Plain covering Punjab and Haryana.
  3. Wheat-Jowar-Bajra in Vindhyan scarp land and Malwa Bundelkhand plateau.


In the black cotton soil as regur region in the North West India, cotton cultivation predominates. The cotton cultivation covers the Deccan trap region and Gujarat Plain. The Narmada, Tapti, Purna, Sabarmati River Valleys are basically heartlands of cotton cultivation. As a cash-crop, cotton cultivation is always associated with one food grain cultivation, preferably Jowar, Bajra or oil seeds. The different sub-regions are:

  1. Cotton-Jowar-Bajra grows in close association with one another in the Maharashtra and Western Madhya Pradesh.
  2. Cotton-Oilseeds-Combination developed in Gujarat.
  3. Cotton-Pulses-Rice-Region developed in Narmada banks and eastern Gujarat.


The cultivation of millet, maize and ragi are found in close association with other major cereals like bajra, wheat, rice etc. Maize cultivation dominates in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh. In Himachal Pradesh, Maize-Barley-wheat combination has developed, particularly in the foothills of the Himalayas. Some parts of the Aravalli have the peculiar crop combination of Maize-Cotton-Oilseeds-Millets-Wheat. Ragi cultivation predominates in South of Karnataka.


This is the smallest region among the different crop regions. High-altitude hilly areas come under the territory of this region. The ‘Duns’ and valleys in Himalayas, foothills of Nilgiri, Annamalai, Palni and Cardamom hills in Tamil Nadu and Kerala may be classified as fruit and spice region. Here, the dominant agricultural activity is fruit orchards and plantations.


The Cropping Patterns in India underwent several changes with the advent of modern agricultural technology, especially during the period of the Green Revolution in the late sixties and early seventies. There is a continuous surge for diversified agriculture in terms of crops, primarily on economic considerations. The crop pattern changes, however, are the outcome of the interactive effect of many factors which can be broadly categorized into the following 5 groups:

  1. Resource related factors covering irrigation, rainfall and soil fertility
  2. Technology related factors covering not only seed, fertilizer, and water technologies but also those related to marketing, storage and processing.
  3. Household related factors covering food and fodder self-sufficiency requirement as well as investment capacity.
  4. Price related factors covering output and input prices as well as trade policies and other economic policies that affect these prices either directly or indirectly.
  5. Institutional and infrastructural related factors covering farm size and tenancy arrangements, research, extension and marketing systems and government regulatory policies.

These factors are not watertight but inter-related. For instance, the adoption of crop technologies is influenced not only by resource related factors but also by institutional and infrastructure factors. Similarly, government policies- both supportive and regulatory in nature- affect both the input and output prices. Likewise, special government programmes also affect area allocation and crop composition. More important both the economic liberalization policies as well as the globalization process are also exerting strong pressure on the area allocation decision of farmers, essentially through the impact on the relative prices of input and outputs.

Although the factors that influence the area allocation decision of farmers are all important they obviously differ in terms of the relative importance both across farm groups and resource regions. While factors such as food and fodder self-sufficiency, farm size, and investment constraints are important in influencing the area allocation pattern among smaller farms, larger farmers with an ability to circumvent resources constraints usually go more by economic considerations based on relative crop prices than by other non-economic consideration. Similarly economic factors play a relative stronger role in influencing the crop pattern in areas with a better irrigation and infrastructure potential. In such areas, commercialization and market networks co-evolve to make the farmers more dynamic and highly responsive to economic impulses.

What is most notable is the change in the relative importance of these factors over time. From a much generalized perspective, Indian agriculture is increasingly getting influenced more and more by economic factors. This need not be surprising because irrigation expansion, infrastructure development, penetration of rural markets, development and spread of short duration and drought resistant crop technologies have all contributed to minimizing the role of non-economic factors in crop choice of even small farmers.

What is more, the reform initiatives undertaken in the context of the ongoing agricultural liberalization and globalization policies are also going to further strengthen the role of price related economic incentives in determining crop composition both at the micro and macro levels. Obviously, such a changing economic environment will also ensure that government price and trade policies will become still more powerful instruments for directing area allocation decisions of farmers, aligning thereby the crop pattern changes in the line with the changing demand-supply conditions.

In a condition where agricultural growth results more from productivity improvement than from area expansion, the increasing role that price related economic incentives play in crop choice can also pave the way for the next stage of agricultural evolution where growth originates more and more from value-added production.

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