• Different crops grown in an area at a particular point of time is called cropping pattern.
  • Cropping pattern depends on climate (temperature, rainfall, wind etc.), soil, support price, value, demand – market, labor availability, historical setting, etc.
  • Climate: Rice is cultivated extensively when the monsoons are good. But when monsoons are weak, millets are grown instead of rice.
  • Cotton in Maharashtra, tea in Assam and jute in West Bengal remain the dominant crops due to highly favorable conditions for cultivation.
  • Soil: Regur soils are ideal for cotton cultivation. Cotton is the obvious choice in such soils when the climate is favorable.
  • Minimum Support Price (MSP): Rice and wheat which are offered MSP are preferred by farmers.
  • Value: Millets in the hilly areas of HP and Uttarakhand are replaced by high value horticulture crops like apple.
  • Demand: Rice is the preferred crop in the densely populated regions as there is a ready market.
  • Historical setting: Sugarcane is grown more extensively in North India even though the conditions are most favorable in South India.
  • This is because the sugarcane cultivation was encouraged by British as an alternative to indigo which lost its significance and market in states like Uttar Pradesh due to introduction of artificial dyes.
  • Diversification of crops due to surplus food grain production post Green Revolution has led to significant changes in cropping pattern.
  • Other than rice and wheat, oilseeds and pulses also became more prominent.
  • Crop diversification in certain regions has been negligible. E.g.
    1. Rice dominates in well irrigated parts of south India.
    2. Wheat dominates north-western part of the country.
  • Coarse grains like jowar, bajra, maize, barley, ragi etc. are given comparatively less importance in these regions.



  • A cropping system is a broader term than cropping pattern and includes the sum total of all crops and the practices used to grow those crops on a field. It comprises of all components, such as water, soil, technology etc. required for the production of a particular crop and the interrelationships between them and the surrounding environment.
  • In a Simple Cropping System only one variety of crop is grown each year in the same field with regular fertilizer application to replenish the soil nutrients. While in a Complex Cropping System multiple crops like fruits, vegetables, tree crops, grain, fodder crops and livestock are all grown on a farm during a year with multiple harvests along with managed recycling of nutrients within the system.

Difference between Cropping Pattern and Cropping System





  • All around the world, different variations are adopted in agriculture. These combination has some unique associated benefits with them. However, these variations have some common associated benefits, like:
  • Maintain and enhance soil fertility: Growing of different crops such as nitrogen fixing leguminous crops enhance the nitrogen content of soil. Growing of perennial forages and millets help to enhance soil organic content.
  • Minimize spread of diseases: It encourages biodiversity by providing a habitat for a variety of insects and soil organisms. Some of them may act as predator for the certain diseases, thus limiting the outbreaks of diseases.
  • Inhibit pest and insect growth: It reduces the homogeneity of farm. This heterogeneity increases the barriers against biological dispersal of pests in the field.
  • Control weed: It reduces the likelihood that specific weed species will become adapted to the system and become problematic. For example rotation of crops is the most effective means yet devised for keeping land free of weeds.
  • Use resources more effectively: Multiple activities, if scientifically planned, lead to better usage of resources, For example, fodder crops can be used for livestock feed, animal dung can be used as organic manure and dairy products helps to enhance farmers income.
  • Reduce risk for crop failure: Different crops have different response to the climate vagaries and varied degree of susceptibility to disease attack. Due to such heterogeneity, the risk of total crop failure is reduced.
  • Improved food and financial security: By reducing the risk of crop failure & diversifying the income opportunities for the famers, scientifically designed cropping system improves food and financial security.



A) Mono-Cropping

  • Mono-cropping or monoculture refers to growing of only one crop on a piece of land year after year.
  • It may be due to climatic and socio-economic conditions or due to specialization of a farmer in growing a particular crop. For example, groundnut or cotton or sorghum are grown year after year due to limitation of rainfall, while in canal irrigated areas, under a waterlogged condition, rice crop is grown as it is not possible to grow any other crop.



B) Multiple Cropping

  • It is the practice of growing two or more crops in the same field within a given year.
  • It is the intensification of cropping in time and space dimensions, i.e., more number of crops within year and more number of crops on same piece of land in any given period.
  • Double-cropping is a case where the land is occupied by two crops, which are grown in a year in sequence. It includes mixed-cropping, inter- cropping and sequence cropping.



1) Mixed Cropping:

  • Two or more crops grown in the same field within a given year without a definite row arrangement. It is a common practice in most of dry land tracts of India. Seeds of different crops are mixed in certain proportion and are sown.
  • The objective is to meet the family requirement of cereals, pulses and vegetables. Ex: sorghum, pearl millet and cowpea are mixed and broadcasted in rain-fed conditions.

2) Inter-cropping:

  • It includes growing two or more crops simultaneously with definite row arrangement on the same field with an objective of higher productivity per unit area in addition to stability in production.
  • It was earlier practiced as an insurance against crop failure under poor rainfall conditions. If done unscientifically, it might lead to intercrop competition for available resources.



Requirements for successful Inter-cropping:

  • The timing of peak nutrient demands of component crops should not overlap.
  • Competition for light should be minimum among the component crops.
  • The difference in maturity of component crops should be at least 30 days.

Advantages of inter-cropping

  • It leads to better use of growth resources including light, nutrients and water.
  • Intercropping of compatible plants also encourages biodiversity by providing a habitat for a variety of insects and soil organisms that would not be present in a single-crop environment. This in turn can help limit outbreaks of crop pests by increasing predator biodiversity.
  • Along with suppression of weeds it causes yield stability – even if one crop fails due to unforeseen situations, another crop will yield and gives income.
  • Successful intercropping gives higher equivalent yields (yield of base crop + yield of intercrop), higher cropping intensity.
  • It reduces pest and disease incidences and improves soil health and agro-ecological system.
  • Reducing the homogeneity of the crop increases the barriers against biological dispersal of pest organisms through the crop.



3) Other Types of Multiple Cropping

Alley cropping: It is planting rows of trees at wide spacing with a companion crop grown in the alleyways between the rows.

  • It diversifies the sources of farm income, improves crop production and provide protection and conservation benefits to crops.
  • Common examples of alley cropping plantings include wheat, corn, soybeans or hay planted in between rows of black walnut or pecan (a type of walnut) trees.



Relay Cropping: Growing two or more crops simultaneously during the part of the life cycle of each.

  • The second crop is planted after the first crop has reached its reproductive stage of growth, but, before it is ready for harvest. Ex: rice fallow pulses i.e pulses gown on land where rice is nearing its harvest season.
  • This allows farmers to grow two crops in one season in places where the growing season is not long enough to accommodate two crops.


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Ratoon cropping: Ratooning is a method of harvesting a crop which leaves the roots and the lower parts of the plant uncut to give the ratoon or the stubble crop. Crop regrows out of roots or stalks after harvest of crops.

  • The main benefit of ratooning is that the crop matures earlier in the season. Ratooning can also decrease the cost of preparing the field and planting.
  • However, this method cannot be used endlessly as the yield of the ratoon crop decreases after each cycle.
  • Ratooning is most often used with crops which are known to give a steady yield for three years under most conditions eg sugarcane, banana, pineapple.





A) Relief

  • Rice is the main crop on the irrigated hill terraces (terraced cultivation).
  • Crops like tea and coffee can be grown only on well drained slopes that receive good amount of rainfall.
  • Rice (tropical crop) and sugarcane dominates well irrigated regions with fairly warm climate.
  • Wheat (temperate crop) grows well in plain regions with moderate temperature and rainfall.

B) Temperature

  • Most crops require lower temperature at the time of sowing and higher temperature at the time of ripening.
  • Some crops require higher temperature and are sown in the summer season. Most of the growth period falls under the rainy season. These are known as kharif crops (rice, cotton, etc.). [They are sown just before the burst of south-west monsoons]
  • There are other crops which require lower temperature and moisture and are sown in the winter season (wheat). These are known as rabi crops.
  • Sugarcane gives good yield in south India than in northern plains. They need warm climates.

C) Rainfall

Areas of Heavy Rainfall

  • More than 150 cm of annual rainfall.
  • East India and the west coastal plains.
  • Animal population is fairly high due to availability of fodder and grazing area.
  • Rice, tea, coffee, sugarcane, jute etc.

Areas of Medium Rainfall

  • 75 to 150 cm.
  • 150 cm annual rainfall isohyets are suitable for the cultivation of rice.
  • 75 cm annual rainfall isohyets are suitable for maize, cotton and soyabean.
  • These areas are rich in natural resources. E.g. Eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, eastern parts of Madhya Pradesh and Vidarbha region of Maharashtra.
  • Wheat is the principal Rabi crop.
  • Millets are the natural priority.
  • Wheat, maize, cotton, soya bean, millets, etc.

Areas of Low Rainfall/ semi-arid regions

  • 25 to 75 cm (Semi-arid stretches of India).
  • Major crops in this belt are
    1. millets, jowar, and bajra in the northern
    2. jowar in central and
    3. Ragi in the southern part.
  • Wheat is the main rabi crop which is grown in irrigated areas.
  • Mixed cropping is very common in which pulses are mixed with cereals.
  • Cropping has been developed in such a way that no one crop dominates.
  • Millets, oilseeds (Groundnut, sunflower, rapeseed and mustard etc.), pulses etc.

D) Soil

  • Rice is mainly grown in clayey soils while loamy soils are best for wheat.
  • The Regur soil of the Deccan Plateau is ideal for cultivation of cotton.
  • Coarse grains such as jowar, bajra, maize, ragi, barley etc. are grown in inferior soils (light sandy soils, light black soils, red and laterite soils etc.)
  • Delta soils of West Bengal are renewed by floods every year and are very fertile. They are ideal for jute cultivation. The farmers grow 2-3 crops in a year.
  • Soils of the Darjeeling hills contain sufficient quantities of humus, iron, potash and phosphorus which are necessary for tea bush to grow.

E) Irrigation

  • Rice is a dominant crop in regions with reliable irrigation and warm climate (coastal plains and irrigated belts of south India).
  • North Indian plain regions are well irrigated and support 2-3 crops of rice a year.

F) Size of Land Holdings

  • In case of small holdings, the priority of the farmers would be to grow food grains for his family members (subsistence farming).
  • Farmers with large holdings can opt for cash crops and help in crop diversification, leading to changes in the cropping pattern (commercial farming).
  • But in spite of crop diversification potential, large holdings are used mostly for monoculture of rice, wheat etc.


A) Dominance of food crops over non-food crops

  • At the time of Independence, more than 75 per cent of the total area sown in the country was devoted to the production of food crops. Now, relative share of area under food crops has declined from 76.7% during 1950-51 to 65.8% during 1999-2000.
  • Reason: Gradually with commercialization of agriculture, farmers in India have started shifting area to non-food crops mainly due to relatively better price realization.

B) Variety of Crops

  • Almost every kind of crops are grown in India as it is endowed with a variety of soils. Cash crops have gradually cached up with the production of food crops and more and more farmers are moving from subsistence to commercial farming.
  • Horticulture crop production (305.4 MT in 2017-18) has recently overtaken the total foodgrain (279.5 MT in 2017-18) production in India. Besides, medicinal plants, fruits, flowers and vegetables are gradually getting special attention due to their demand in food processing and export potential.
  • Plantation crops are highly profitable but require huge capital and large tracts of land. Thus it is confined to limited parts of country. Emphasis is placed now on production of oilseeds through various initiatives like Integrated Scheme of Oilseeds, Pulses, Maize and Oilpalm (ISOPOM).
  • Reason: After ensuring the food security, now the policy emphasis is on increasing farmers income, boost exports, save foreign exchange spent on import of edible oils.

C) Dominance of cereals among food crops

  • Within broad group of food crops, cereals like wheat and rice dominate. About 82 per cent of the area under food crops has been put to cultivation of cereals.
  • Reason: This is due to better prices, less risk in production and the availability of better seeds.

D) Decline in coarse cereals

  • Jowar, Bajra, Maize, Millets, Barley etc. are called coarse or inferior cereals. The area under these crops to the total area under cereal crops has declined significantly from 48 per cent in 1950-51 to about 25 per cent in 2016.
  • Reason: This is due to spread of irrigation facilities, improved inputs and a shift in consumption patterns of the people.

E) Declining importance of Kharif crops

  • The share of Kharif has declined from 71 per cent in the 1970’s to 49 percent in 2015-16.
  • The share of Rabi foodgrain production in total foodgrain production of the country has increased from 36.4% in 1970-71 to 50.83% in 2015-16.
  • Reason: The Kharif crops are not reliable because they are mostly dependent on monsoon rainfall which in itself is unreliable Contrary to this, mostly Rabi crops in India are raised on irrigation which offers a degree of reliability.



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