All living organisms need food for survival, health, growth, and development. Food provides nutrients like carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Different crops require different climatic conditions, temperature, and photoperiods for their growth and completion of their life cycle. The growth of plants and flowers are dependent on sunlight.
Two major sources of food are plants and animals. Since ancient times humans have gathered plants and hunted animals for food. Later humans became dependent on agriculture to fulfill their needs for food. Agriculture is a composite term that includes all those activities which involve appropriate utilization of earth’s resources for fulfillment of human needs of food, fodder, fibre, and fuel, etc. Agriculture includes growing of crops, fruits, flowers, and vegetables, on one hand, and animal husbandry and fisheries, on the other.
Agricultural practices began around 1000 B.C. Early humans subsisted on raw fruit and roots and hunted animals for their meat. After the discovery of fire, humans learned to roast the prey to make it conveniently edible and easily digestible. Subsequently, rearing of sheep and goats as animal husbandry and farming of wheat and barley as agriculture was initiated.
India has a high population of more than one billion and is still growing. To feed this growing population we need about 250 million tonnes of grain per year. There is no much scope in increasing the area under cultivation. Hence the increase in crop production can be achieved by increasing the efficiency and productivity of production for both crops and livestock.
The branch of agricultural science which is concerned with crop production and the management of farms is called Agronomy.
Types of Crops:
Cereals: They include crops like wheat, rice, maize, barley etc. They provide us with carbohydrates.
Seeds: Not all seeds of plants are edible like seeds of apple or cherries. Edible seeds include cereals, pulses, oilseeds and nuts. They provide us with fats.
Pulses: They include legumes such as gram, pea, black gram, green gram, lentil. They provide us with proteins.
Vegetables, spices, and fruits: They provide us with vitamins & minerals. They include apple, mango, cherry, banana, water-melon etc. Vegetables like spinach, leafy vegetables, carrot etc. Spices like chilly, black pepper, fodder crops, oats etc.
The Classification of Crops:
The classification of crops in India has been done primarily on the basis of their family. Their life cycle, seasons, economic considerations, and specific use.
On the basis of the life cycle, the crops have been divided into annuals, biennials, and perennials.
On the basis of seasons, crops have been classified as ‘Kharif’ (Crops planted between October and December), ‘Rabi’ (Crops planted between April and July) and ‘Zaid Crops’ Zaid crops are planted mainly during the summer season or planted in a different season, in accordance with specific crops.
On the economic basis, crops are classified into grains, spices, fibrous crops, fodder, fruits, medicinal plants, roots, sesame and pulses, stimulants sugary crops.
On the basis of specific use crops are classified as intermediate crops, cash crops, soil protective crops and green fertilizers.
The Classification of Crop in India:
In India, the classification of crops is mainly based on seasons
Zaid: Pumpkin, water-melon, red-melon, gourd, ‘torai’, cucumber, green chillis, tomatoes, and sunflower.
Principles of Crop Production:
Maintenance of fertility and productivity of soil needs arrangement for the prevention of diseases, and removal of used pests and weeds.
Sowing healthy seeds in the field at the right time, at the right distance and up to the correct depth.
Proper arrangements for the availability of water and fertilizers.
Selection of right crop types in accordance with variation in the type of soil and climate.
Crop harvesting at a suitable time. • Scientific storage of harvest.
Use of multiple cropping and mixed farming.
Soil improvement and management.
Methods of Crop Production:
The growing of crops in a predetermined sequence, at a particular time, is called crop rotation.
Depending upon the need of water: In this method, those crops are grown first that require more water (e.g. rice). Subsequently, crops requiring less water (e.g. gram) are grown on the same field.
Depending upon the need of fertilizers: First, those crops are grown which require more fertilizers (e.g. potatoes). Subsequent to this, those crops are planted that require less fertilizer (moong pulses).
Depending upon the depth of roots in the soil: First deeps rooted crop (e.g. cotton) are grown and then those with smaller roots (e.g. methi).
Use of Leguminous Crops: The soil that lies fallow between two-grain crops is utilized by farmers to plant a leguminous crop. Peas, beans, and pulses. Leguminous plant shelter nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the nodules of their roots. These microbes convert the atmospheric free nitrogen into nitrate form. This fixed nitrogen is utilized by plants. Hence, after harvesting of these crops the soil remains fertile for other crops.
Benefits of Crop Rotation:
Maintains fertility of fields and affords soil nutrition due to abundance of nitrogen
Increases crop production
Prevents soil erosion
Economical crop production
Effective use of available resources
Control of insects and disease affecting crops
Regular income throughout the year
Mixed Cropping is the growing of two or more than two crops at the same time in the same field, For instance, mixed cropping of wheat with peas; or of wheat with Mustard; or groundnut with sunflowers.
The advantage of mixed cropping is that the farmer gets two crops simultaneously at one time or within a short interval of time from the same field. It also maintains soil fertility.
Multi cropping is the planting of two to four crops, during the same year, in the same field. Multicropping is only possible when the plant has a shorter life cycle.
Multicropping is an ideal solution for a country facing food problems. Several crops become available at the same time from a small area.
Organic farming works in conjunction with nature and is not opposed to it.
It targets high quality crop yields, through the use of various techniques, in such a way, that the natural environment is not adversely affected.