The western hilly country about 64 km wide lying close to the western Ghat is called Malnad and large eastern plain is called the Maidan or Bailshime. In the south west of this region there is the meeting of Eastern and Western Ghat at Nilgiri plateau.
The height of Karnataka plateau is about 915 metre and a ridge runs in the east- west direction. This central rise of land divides the region into two drainage basins. The Tungabhadra and its tributaries drain the area lying to the south of this divide. There is one more east West ridge which separates the Krishna from Tungabhadra.
The Baba Budan hills, the highest of the Western Ghats, attain a maximum height of 1923 metres at Mullainagiri. The Sharavati is a well-known westward flowing stream of this region. It makes the famous Gersoppa Falls, 289 metres in height at a place where it plunges over the steep edge of the Western Ghats serving water power to this region.
The altitude factor has introduced a mildness to the climate of this region being near to the equator and the sea, this region has a small annual range of temperature. At Bangalore (921 metres above sea-level), mean temperature of the hottest month (April) is 27.3°C, mean temperature of the coldest month (December) is 20.5°C. The south-west monsoon sets in the first week of June and continues for four months.
The region receives maximum rainfall during these months. The rainfall decreases from west to east. The Malnad receives about 152 cm. of rainfall a year; the Maidan being situated under the lee of the Western Ghats receives half or less than half of this amount.
There is dense evergreen forest in the Sahyadri Mountain covering about 14 percent of the region. Bamboo, sandal wood, and charcoal are valuable products of these forests.
Sandal-wood yields oil which being delicately fragran finds a ready market. The match and plywood factories are also dependent on these forests for the supply of wood. Tropical moist forests yield timber, particularly teak and rosewood, tropical deciduous forests produce teak, bamboo and sandal-wood in the region.
This region contains variety of soil like deep black regur in the Valley of the Krishna and its tributaries and medium red soil in the Maidan. Laterite is common in Malnad area due to heavy rainfall.
The Cauvery has been dammed at many places to form storage reservoirs and Krishnarajasagara is the largest. At Krishnaraja Dam site, not only electric power is generated but also a big canal called the Visveswaraiya Canal has been taken off. This canal irrigates large tracts of southern Karnataka State.
Tungabhadra is the major projects of this region and is jointly executed by Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
It comprises (I) 2441-metre long and 49.30 metre high straight gravity dam across the Tungabhadra near Hospet in Bellary district of Karnataka State. (2) three Canals- (a) the High level canal 195 km. long on the right bank, (b) the Low level canal 347 km. long also on the right bank of the river and (c) the Left bank canal 203 km. long and (3) power houses on the dam site and the canals with ultimate installed capacity of 122 mw.
This region has 52 percent of the surface area under cultivation. Rice is important crop in irrigated areas and jowar, ragi, pulses and bajra in other area.
The cropping pattern of Malnad differs from the eastern dry region. Coffee, Cardamom, arecanut and oranges are produced in Malnad
The soil and climatic conditions are suitable for the production of coffee which accounts for 70 percent of coffee production in the country. Chikmagalur, Hassan, Coorg and the Nilgiri districts form the important coffee producing areas.
Nilgiris districts are the leading coffee producing area of India. The region produces mainly coffee arabica which is one of the best quality coffees. It is raised on the well-drained loamy soil rich in humus and oxides of iron. Slopes which are protected from heavy rainfall, strong winds and sun are selected for coffee cultivation.
Areas with rainfall generally less than 150 cm. a year are preferred, for heavy rains would accelerate the leaching of the soil. Coffee arabica prefers high altitude within the tropics its plantations are found mainly at elevations ranging from 760 metres to 1520 metres above sea-level.
As virgin soils are rich in plant food, coffee plantations are generally established in the freshly cleared jungles. The coffee plant starts yielding berries from the third year of its growth. The berries ripen after the summer monsoon is over.
They are picked in October and November. Dry and sunny weather which prevails after the summer monsoon is over is significant for it is essential for drying the cherries.
The husk of the dried cherries is removed mechanically by pounding them in a mortar leaving the beans inside intact. The coffee produced in India is sufficient but less is left for export and it is only one percent of world total. A large quantity of Cardamom and arecanut are also produced in Malnad.