Several scholars have attempted to delineate the agricultural regions of India, the prominent being Tomer (1956), M.S. Randhawa (1958), Rama Chandran (1963), Miss P. Sengupta (1968) R.L. Singh (1971) and Jasbir Singh (1975).
Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) Zones:
The scheme suggested by ICAR is simple and comprehensive and is based on predominance of crops and crop association. India can be divided into following regions:
1. Rice-Jute-Tea Region:
This vast region includes lowlands, valleys and river deltas in the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Orissa, Northern and Eastern Bihar and Tarai region of U.P. Jute is mainly grown in the Hugli basin of West Bengal and same areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Orissa and Tarai regions of U.P. Tea is mainly grown in Assam, Darjeeling, and Jalpaiguri areas of West Bengal and Tripura. Sugarcane and Tobacco are grown in Bihar.
2. Wheat and Sugarcane Region:
This region comprises northern Bihar, U.P., Punjab, Haryana, Western M.P. and north-eastern Rajasthan. Sugarcane is mainly grown in U.P. and contiguous parts of Bihar. The main wheat belt extends over Punjab, Haryana, Ganga, Yamuna, Doab of U.P. and north-eastern Rajasthan.
3. Cotton Region:
It spreads on the regur or black-cotton soil area of the Deccan piateau.
4. Maize and Coarse Crop Region:
Western Rajasthan and northern Gujarat are included in this region. Maize is mainly grown in the Mewar plateau where wheat and ragi are also produced. In the southern parts, rice, cotton and sugarcane are grown. Bajra is grown throughout the region.
5. Millets and Oilseeds Region:
This region includes areas of poor soils and broken topography in Karnataka plateau, parts of Tamil Nadu, southern Andhra Pradesh and Eastern Kerala. The millets includes bajra, ragi and jowar while the oilseeds grown are groundnut and castor.
6. Fruits and Vegetable Region:
This region extends from Kashmir valley in the West to Assam in the east. Apple, peach, cherries, plum, apricot are grown in the west while oranges are important in the east.
NRSA and Planning Commission’s Major Agro-Climatic Regions:
In order to plan agricultural activities more accurately each region (15 Resource Development Regions proposed by planning commission) into sub-regions based on soil, climate, temperature, Rainfall and other aerometerlogical characteristics. A total.127 agro- climatic zones have been identified in India under NARP based on a comprehensive research review of each state.
1. The North-Western Mountainous Region:
It covers the Himalayan region embracing Jammu- Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Garhwal-Kumaun of U.P. In the highly dissected and variegated relief exhibiting low altitude valleys to high altitude ridge flats, this region experiences wide variety of weather conditions at short vertical as well as horizontal distances.
The overall temperate and cool climatic condition with adequate moisture, supplemented by ‘Guls’ or hill canals that irrigate the terraces along the rivers even during summer, when the rest of India is scorched by the summer heat, make this region suitable for horticultural crops. Potato, tomato, cauliflower, cabbages, other green vegetables, may be profitably grown in these areas besides temperate fruits like apples.
The vast market for these products in the million cities and densely settled plains make this agriculture quite lucrative. However, the inaccessibility of cultivated areas excepting those with road side location and frost susceptibility during winter are major constraints compelling the majority of small peasants to grow only subsistence crops.
2. The North-Eastern Region:
The north-eastern region of the country makes another distinct agroclimatic region because, basically, of it’s per humid climate and although-the year growing season. It’s undulating terrain with gentle slopes, particularly on both sides of the Brahmputra, makes this region an ideal zone for growing tea.
Other crops like jute, pineapple and banana and a host of horticultural crops may also be grown. However, apart from tea hardly any cash crop is grown here because much of the area under cultivation is devoted to rice, the staple crop as the region is practically isolated from the rest of the country because of transportation difficulties. ‘
3. Lower Ganga Plain:
It covers the lower portion of West Bengal. The humid climate with high temperature althrough the year makes it suitable for growing rice and jute. This is virtually the jute belt of India. Along with these two major crops a wide variety of tropical fruits, namely, coconut, arecanut, jack fruit, etc. are grown mainly in an around the settlements. This region is quite suitable for pisciculture and aquaculture.
4. The Middle Ganga Plain:
This forms a transitional belt, between the upper and lower Ganga plain. The hot humid climate during the summer is eminently suitable for growing rice and wide array of Kharif crops: pulses (Arhar etc.) and vegetables as well as sugarcane as the annual cash crop.
The generally dry winter with occasional showers from western disturbances as well as adequate temprature allows the cultivation of wheat and several other pulses like Gram and oilseeds such as mustard and sun flower. A number of oxbow lakes on both sides of major tributaries of the Ganga provide ample opportunities for aquaculture.
A wide variety of fruits including mango, litchi, guava, banana, Amla maybe grown without much effort in this region endowed with fertile and thick alluvial soil of different structure and texture depending on location with reference to the rivers. This zone thus comprises a number of distinct subzones namely, the Terai, the Bangar, the Khadar, the Bhat and alkaline (usar) soil belts which account for the diversity of cropping patterns.
5. The Upper Ganga Plain:
This zone, lying to the west of the preceding one is distinguished by sub-humid climate with warmer summer and colder winter. The soil texture is generally coarser. It is therefore, pre-eminently suited for growing wheat and a host of other Rabi crops oil seeds, and pulses.
The Kharif crops mainly comprise the coarser variety viz. millets. Rice and sugar-cane cannot be grown without supplementary irrigation; excepting in the northern wetter Terai zone extending from Saharanpur- Bijnore to Lakhimpur-Kheri. It is also eminently suitable for growing fruits especially mango.
6. The Punjab Plain:
This zone is distinguished from the preceding one by greater aridity. In winter, there is comparatively more precipitation of western disturbance origin while the susceptibility to frost is also greater.
The summer crops in areas without supplementary irrigation are maize and Bajra while the winter crop mix is dominated by wheat and oilseeds especially mustard. Cotton may be profitably grown as a cash crop during Kharif season. All subtropical fruits may be grown without any difficulty. The easily growing fodder crops make this zone eminently suitable for dairy farms.
7. The South-Eastern Plateau:
This region extends from Bastar (Chhattisgarh) in the south to Dumka and Sahibganj (Jharkhand) in the north and Balaghat-Bhandara districts. (M.P.) in the west to Mayurbhanj (Orissa) in the east. It thus covers the whole of Chotanagpur plateau. Baghelkhand, Mahanadi basin and the Orissa plateau lying astride the tropic of Cancer, climatically; it is hot and humid receiving over 100 cms of rain annually.
However, the soil excepting the Mahanadi basin is generally leached red and poor in fertility. This region, thus, does not, by and large, constitute a prosperous agricultural belt. As the rainfall is seasonal confined to four monsoon months and the water drains away swiftly, this zone faces water scarcity through winter and summer months.
The scarce ground water in this zone of undulating plateau with hard rock substratitum is not easily exploitable, thus limiting severely the possibilities of irrigation excepting on very favourable valleys floors and constricted areas around tanks.
Thus, this zone is suitable for rice growing during the rainy season in favourable valleys and basins called ‘Dons’ in Chotanagpur while the uplands have to be left barren or may yield poor crops of pulses like Arhar’. During winter, Gram may be successfully grown wherever sufficient soil moisture is available during the sowing season viz. October.
8. Aravalli-Malwa Upland:
This region covers western MP and eastern Rajasthan east of the Aravallis. This is an area of moderate rain (50 to 100 cm.) occurring during the rainy season and covered for the most part by thin black soil. It is eminently suited for growing pulses, oilseeds and cotton besides millets and wheat among cereals.
Being subjected to high degree of rainfall variability which is extremely seasonal (July-Sept.) dry farming practices become essential if no facility for supplementary irrigation is available as is the case in the greater part of this region; Chambal canals now provide irrigation only in the north- central portion in the districts of Kota. Sawai Madhopur, Morena, Gwalior and Bhind. Ground water exploitation is limited due to hard rock formation underneath.
9. Maharashtra Plateau:
It covers whole of Maharashtra from the apex of Western Ghats eastward. It also extends northward into MP covering the hinterlands of Ujjain and Indore. This region resembles the proceeding one. The difference lies in the fact that, in this region, the black soil layer is very thick and the amount of rainfall decreases from west to east. Temperature is high (above 20°C) althrough the year and there is no possibility of frost.
The irrigation possibilities are quite limited. This region is eminently suited for the cultivation of cotton, pulses, and oilseeds. Sugarcane and fruit orchards (banana, grapes, oranges) flourish where irrigation facilities are available. Millets are grown as a staple crop on the uplands with dry farming.
10. The Deccan Interior:
This region covers a big area over Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu uplands from Adilabad district in the north to Madurai in the south, constitutes the heart of Deccan. It is generally a water scarce and drought prone region with hard granite-gneiss basement on which poor red soils have developed in favourable localities.
Only the north-western fringes are covered by thin veneer of black soil. Naturally this region is suitable intrinsically for growing Ragi and millets. Cotton, Groundnut, or other oilseeds may be grown in localities favoured with good soil and water conditions by practicing dry farming.
11. The East Coast:
The entire east coast extending from Balasore in the north-east to Kanyakumari in the south is included in this region. It is a humid region receiving over 100 cms. Of average annual rain with coastal alluvial soil of varying texture; from sandy to clayey. Rice is naturally the predominant crop; grown twice a year in favourable soil-rich localities such as coastal Orissa or Tamilnadu.
Banana coconut, arecanut grow profusely. Jute may grow as a cash crop in Orissa coast while sugar cane is grown extensively in Tamilnadu and coastal Andhra; the latter also grows tobacco in winter.
As a matter of fact this extensive region may be subdivided into three distinct sub regions of Circar coast, Andhra coast and Tamilnadu coast as each has different precipitation characteristics as well as soil texture. Aquaculture may be successfully developed all along the east coast which has ample water bodies available althrough the year.
12. The West Coast:
This perhumid region with high precipitation received from May through October is a zone of abundant water. It covers Konkan and Malabar coasts. It has the dominance of rice and coconut, besides a variety of spices, and cashew nuts are grown on the lower slopes of the Western Ghats while the higher reaches in Coorg are devoted to plantation crops of coffee and tea.
The state of Gujarat is recognised as distinct agro-climatic region although it has distinct wet coastal and dry interior areas. The soil texture is also quite variable. The light soil of this region is suited to the growing of groundnut. Cotton and millets also find favourable conditions in this meteorological unit with 83 cms. of average annual rain received primarily (96.2%) during rainy season (June to September).
14. Western Rajasthan:
It covers the driest part of the country receiving meagre sporadic rain (33 cm). It has sandy soil fit only for growing millets (Bajra) .Oilseeds and pulses like Gran may be grown in highly favourable locales. The water made available from the Indira Gandhi Canal in Bikaner distt. has opened up the possibility of wheat and Orchard farming.
15. The Andaman-Nicobar Islands:
These Islands receiving copious rain and having hardly any winter season are highly suited for raising tropical crops like those grown in Malabar. However, the agricultural possibilities here are limited to the favourable littorals of the main Islands. The conditions here are more favourable to silviculture and aquaculture.
From the methodological view point these regions suffer from several limitations viz, use of unspecified parameters and hence several paradoxes especially in the inclusion of contrasting features in VIII through XIIIth regions.