Evidence of the presence of wheat and some legumes in the 6th millennium BC have been found in the Indus Valley. Oranges were cultivated in the same millennium. The crops grown in the valley around 4000 BC were typically wheat, peas, sesame seed, barley, dates and mangoes. By 3500 BC cotton growing and cotton textiles were quite advanced in the valley. By 3000 BC farming of rice had started. Other monsoon crops of importance of the time was cane sugar. By 2500 BC, rice was an important component of the staple diet in Mohenjodaro near the Arabian Sea.
The Indus Plain had rich alluvial deposits which came down the Indus River in annual floods. This helped sustain farming that formed basis of the Indus Valley Civilization at Harappa. The people built dams and drainage systems for the crops. By 2000 BC tea, bananas and apples were being cultivated in India. There was coconut trade with East Africa in 200 BC. By 500 AC, egg plants were being cultivated. After independence, considering India’s growing population, the government took steps to increase the food production. Yields per unit area of all crops have grown since 1950. The 1970s saw a huge increase in India’s wheat production.
This is known as the Green Revolution in the country. Reasons for the growth are the special emphasis placed on agriculture and steady improvements in irrigation, technology, application of modern agricultural practices and provision of agricultural credit and subsidies. Operation Flood was the name of a rural development programme started by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in 1970 with the objective of creating a nationwide milk grid. This movement followed the and helped in alleviating poverty and famine levels from dangerous proportions in India during the era.
It resulted in India becoming the largest producer of milk and milk products, so it is also called the White Revolution of India. India is the largest producer in the world of milk, cashew nuts, coconuts, tea, ginger, turmeric and black pepper. It also has the world’s largest cattle population (193 million). India ranks second worldwide in farm output. It is the second largest producer of wheat, rice, sugar, groundnut and inland fish. It is the third largest producer of tobacco. India accounts for 10 per cent of the world fruit production with first rank in the production of banana and sapota.
Despite high growth, international comparisons reveal that the average yield in India is generally 30% to 50% of the highest average yield in the world. The low productivity in India is a result of the following factors: Illiteracy, general socio-economic backwardness, reforms and inadequate or inefficient finance and marketing services for farm produce. The average size of land holdings is very small (less than 20,000 m? ) and are subject to fragmentation, due to land ceiling acts and in some cases, family disputes. Such small holdings are often over-manned, resulting in disguised unemployment and low productivity of labour.
Adoption of modern agricultural practices and use of technology is inadequate, hampered by ignorance of such practices, high costs and impracticality in the case of small land holdings. Irrigation facilities are inadequate, as revealed by the fact that only 53. 6% of the land was irrigated in 2000–01, which result in farmers still being dependent on rainfall, specifically the Monsoon season. A good monsoon results in a robust growth for the economy as a whole, while a poor monsoon leads to a sluggish growth.  Farm credit is regulated by NABARD, which is the statutory apex agent for rural development in the subcontinent.
In the last few decades several farmers have committed suicide especially in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Kerala. Combating this has become a major challenge for these governments. Some of the causes for the deaths include indebtedness of small and marginal farmers and repeated crop failures. Agriculture (about 55% of the land is arable) makes up some 25% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employs almost 70% of the Indian people. Vast quantities of rice are grown wherever the land is level and water plentiful; other crops are wheat, pulses, sugarcane, jowar (sorghum), bajra (a cereal), and corn.
Cotton, tobacco, oilseeds, and jute are the principal nonfood crops. There are large tea plantations in Assam, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. The opium poppy is also grown, both for the legal pharmaceutical market and the illegal drug trade; cannabis is produced as well. Fragmentation of holdings, outmoded methods of crop production, and delays in acceptance of newer, high-yielding grains were characteristic of Indian agriculture in the past, but since the Green Revolution of the 1970s, significant progress has been made in these areas.
Improved irrigation, the introduction of chemical fertilizers, and the use of high-yield strains of rice and wheat have led to record harvests, and India became an net exporter of grain in the early 1980s. The subsistence-level existence of village India, ever threatened by drought, flood, famine, and disease, has been somewhat alleviated by government agricultural modernization efforts, but although India’s gross food output has been generally sufficient for the the needs of its enormous population, government price supports and an inadequate distribution system still threaten many impoverished Indians with hunger and starvation.
An estimated 40% of the population is too poor to afford adequate nourishment regularly. India has perhaps more cattle per capita than any other country, but their economic value is severely limited by the Hindu prohibition against their slaughter. Goats and sheep are raised in the arid regions of the west and northwest. Water buffalo are raised and there is a large fish catch. India is predominantly an agrarian country with nearly three fourths of the people dependent on agriculture or rural economy.
The most outstanding achievement of Indian agriculture since independence is the phenomenal growth of foodgrains output. During the last three decades, Indian agriculture has experienced a revolutionary breakthrough in foodgrain production leading the country from deficit and import arena to the positive situation of self-sufficiency and buffer stocks. The foodgrain production in the country increased from 50. 8 million tonnes in 1950-51 to 152. 37 million tonnes in 1983-84, but the growth of Indian agriculture still continues to be linlked with the vagaries of nature.
Some of the states in the country have come across the unprecedented draught of the century for the fourth successive year which has caused tremendous hardship to the people as also loss of production of foodgrains in those states. Nearly seventy percent of the total production of foodgrains in India is retained at farm level where the unscientific and faulty storage conditions enhance the chances of fungal attack and thereby mycotoxin production. The decomposers of foodgrains i. e. fungi, bacteria etc. are always present on foodgrains in dormant conditions (usually as spores) and grow under favourable climatic and other conditions (1).
The fungal growth may cause decrease in germinability, discolouration of grain, heating and mustiness, loss in weight, biochemical changes and production of toxins. All these changes may occur before the responsible fungi could be detected on visual examination The fungi produce a large number of mycotoxins in foodgrains and their products. Mycotoxins are a group of highly toxic secondary metabolises of the fungi produced under certain favourable environmental conditions Because of their potent toxic nature and fairly common occurrence under natural conditions, mycotoxins have attracted world-wide attention in the recent years.
The diseases or physiological abnormalities resulting due to ingestion of mycotoxins are known as “mycotoxicosis” read article at www. fao. org/docrep/x5036e/x5036E17. htm Looking back into the history of Indian agriculture after independence, the first major challenge nation faced was to produce adequate food grains for its growing population. We had to depend on aid and grants of agriculturally developed nations and international organisations for our food requirements.
After a long and sustained effort, real independence from the hunger was achieved by the end of sixties when our grain production touched 108 million tonnes in 1970-71 after ‘Green revolution’, when compared to 50. 8 million tonnes of grain production in 1950-51. This was a real scientific breakthrough in plant genetic & breeding. The growth trend of production continued with 130 mt, 176 mt, 198 mt in the year 1980-81, 1990-91 and 1996-97 respectively(4). India has certainly emerged as a winner on the front of self-sufficiency of the food production.
While going through the history of Indian agriculture, the organized extension dates from 1940’s when the nation felt problem of feeding the growing population and faced problem of food supply. The first phase dates from year 1948-1960 as Extensive Extension Programmes, which included (i) Grow More Food Campaign – 1948, (ii) Community Development Programme – 1952. The second phase, Intensive Extension Programmes (1960-1974), included (i) Intensive Agricultural District Programme (IADP)-1960, (ii) Intensive Agricultural Area Programmes(IAAP)-1966, (iii) High Yielding Variety Programme (HYVP) -1966.
The third phase started with programmes for Research based Extension Methodology viz (i) National demonstration programme – 1965, (ii) Operational Research Project (ORP) – 1971, (iii) Lab to Land Programme (LLP) – 1979 and the fourth phase with introduction of World Bank aided Training & Visit (T&V) approach for extension, through following three projects: (i) State Agricultural Extension Projects (T & V), 1974-75 , (ii) National Agricultural Research Project (NARP), 1980-88, (iii) National Agricultural Extension Project (NAEP), 1985-88 and the latest National Agricultural Technology Project initiated in year 1998.
In fiscal year1950, agriculture, forestry, and fishing accounted for 58. 9 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP–see Glossary) and for a much larger proportion of employment. Manufacturing, which was dominated by the jute and cotton textile industries, accounted for only 10. 3 percent of GDP at that time. Source(s): The British colonial government of India did not pursue an active policy of agricultural development despite modest efforts to formulate a policy (see The British Raj, 1858-1947, ch. ). One such effort was the appointment in 1926 of the Royal Commission on Agriculture, which made some recommendations for improving agriculture and promoting the welfare of the rural population. Most of the commission’s recom-mendations were deferred because of the Great Depression of the 1930s. One outcome, however, was the establishment of the Imperial (later Indian) Council of Agricultural Research in 1929.
During World War II, disruptions in international trade also led the government to initiate the Grow More Food Campaign. The government adopted its first agricultural policy statement in the wake of famine in Bengal in 1943. The policy objectives included increased production of food grains, use of better methods of production, improved marketing, better prices for the producers, fair wages for agricultural labor, fair distribution of food, increased production of raw materials, and improvements in research and education.
This statement was the basis of many of the policies adopted soon after independence, especially in the First Five-Year Plan, when the central government was committed to giving priority to agricultural production to increase the food supply in the country. The prolonged neglect of agriculture in India meant that there was almost no growth in the agricultural sector. From 1891 to 1946, output of all crops grew at 0. 4 percent a year; the rate for food grains was only 0. 1 percent per year.
The land tenure system led to exploitative agrarian relations and stagnation (see Land Tenure, this ch. ). Farmers had little incentive to invest, and despite great strides in foreign agricultural technology, Indian agricultural technology stagnated. Specifically, there were few improvements in seeds, agricultural implements, machines, or chemical fertilizers. At the time of independence in 1947, agriculture and allied sectors provided well over 70 percent of the country’s employment and more than 50 percent of the gross national product.
Agricultural development was a key to a number of national goals, such as reducing rural poverty, providing an adequate diet for all citizens, supplying agricultural raw materials for the textile industry and other industries, and expanding exports. In the mid-1960s, the goal of self-reliance was added to this list. The central government has played a progressively more important role on the agricultural front by providing overall leadership and coordination, as well as by providing a significant part of the financing for agricultural programs.
However, the primary responsibility for the design and implementation of agricultural programs, in accordance with the constitution, remained with the states in the late twentieth century. India’s agricultural growth strategy after independence evolved over three distinct phases. In the first phase, roughly covering the period through the Second Five-Year Plan, agricultural growth rested on removing basic socioeconomic constraints through land reform, change in the village power structure, reorganization of the rural poor into cooperatives, and better citizen participation in planning.
The initial assumption was that changing the land tenure system by abolishing the zamindar system–a method of revenue collecting and landholding developed during the Mughal and British colonial periods–would stimulate agricultural output (see The Mughal Era; The British Empire in India, ch. 1). The second phase occurred during the Third Five-Year Plan (FY 1961-65). The continuing shortages of food in the 1960s and the consequent crises convinced planners that raising agricultural output, especially food grains, was essential for political stability and independence from foreign food aid.
Self-sufficiency in food-grain production and development of an adequate buffer stock through procurement became clearly defined goals in the mid-1960s. Keeping in mind the variety of socioeconomic and agroclimatic differences, the government adopted an area-specific approach, and emphasized programs such as the Intensive Area Agricultural Programme and the Intensive Agricultural District Programme. The third phase in India’s economic development is identified predominantly as the Green Revolution.
This phase relied on better seeds, more water via irrigation, and improved quantity and quality of fertilizer during the Fourth Five-Year Plan (FY 1969-73), the Fifth Five-Year Plan (FY 1974-78), and the Sixth Five-Year Plan (FY 1980-84). The Green Revolution was successful in meeting the goals of self-sufficiency in food-grain production and adequate buffer stocks by the end of the 1970s. Production was more than 100 million tons in 1978 and 1979.
Imports were negligible, and the year-end buffer stocks from 1976-79 averaged more than 17 million tons. After 1980 buffer stocks fell below 10 millions tons only once, in 1988. In the mid-1990s, the major goals of agricultural policy continued to be self-sufficiency in food staples and adequate food supplies at affordable prices for consumers. Expanding cereal production continued to be a major objective because of the population growth rate of almost 2 percent per year.
The budgetary share of agriculture, together with irrigation and flood control projects, remained almost constant in the first six plans, varying between 21 percent and 24 percent. The Eighth Five-Year Plan (FY 1992-96), as conceived in the early 1990s, not only aimed at continued self-sufficiency in food production, but also included plans to generate surpluses of some agricultural commodities for export. It also aimed at spreading the Green Revolution to more regions of the country with an emphasis on dryland farming