Agriculture in India: Its Characteristics and Types

Updated on 09th February, 2024, By Neesha Rathod
Agriculture in India: Its Characteristics and Types
India is a diverse country with a rich agricultural heritage. Many types of agriculture are practiced in the country depending upon the climate, topography, soil quality, and the culture and customs of each region.

Table of Content


Due to varying cultures, climates and geographies across the country, India features a range of agricultural practices. Also, a significant portion of our population takes up agriculture as the main source of livelihood.

Mainly, agriculture involves the cultivation of land to produce food. There are different types of agriculture that Indian farmers practise depending on factors such as land size, crop type and geographic location.

It is imperative for farmers to check different types of agriculture practiced in India and the classification of agriculture that suits them the best.

Agriculture in India

India is primarily an agricultural economy as 58% population derive their livelihood from agriculture. Also, in terms of contribution to the national income, agriculture contributes around 20% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Today, India is the second largest producer of crops in the world. Also, India is second largest producer of major food staples like rice and wheat. Besides, the country also produces large quantity of jute, pulses, and milk.

Thus, new farmers need to know how many types of agriculture are practised in the country. It would help them choose an agricultural or crop type based on their regions, land size and farm needs.

Types of Agriculture in India

The key different types of agriculture practiced in India includes commercial, subsistence, plantation, and shifting agriculture, among others. We have given a brief about each agriculture type and their characteristics in the section below.

Commercial Agriculture

Commercial agriculture is one of the most essential types of agriculture in India. This farming is mainly carried out to make profits. Commercial agriculture is done on a vast scale to benefit from economies of scale. The primary commercial crops in India include cotton, sugarcane, wheat and maize. Also, such types of farming in agriculture are widely preferred in states like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana.

Key characteristics

  • High-yielding crop types.
  • Heavy use of fertilisers and irrigation facilities.
  • Modern technology for commercial agriculture
  • Use of pesticides, chemical fertilisers, and heavy equipment.
  • Need to choose a crop with high demand in the market.

Subsistence Agriculture

If farming is done solely for personal consumption instead of commercial gains, it is known as subsistence agriculture. Generally, it involves a family cultivating crops to fulfil their living needs. Traditionally, it is one of the most common types of agriculture in the rural regions of India. However, such types of farming in agriculture are prevalent in Odisha, Jharkhand, and Bihar.

Key characteristics

  • Small land holdings.
  • Household labour
  • Low technology level
  • Lack of surplus yield.

In addition, subsistence agriculture makes use of traditional farming methods like using organic fertilisers and draft animals for ploughing. A few examples of crops grown in this classification of agriculture are pulses, wheat, and rice. You can also raise livestock like poultry, goats, buffaloes, and cows.

Plantation Agriculture

Plantation agriculture is a type of farming where a single crop is cultivated on a large scale. This commercial agriculture type is done for profit maximisation by means of selling crops in the market. Plantation agriculture is a type of farming that mostly grows cash crops such as rubber, coffee, and tea. You will find such types of culture in agriculture in states like Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. You must have proper agriculture information about this farming as it is highly labour-intensive and demands heavy capital.

Key characteristics

  • A single company, government entity or a person is the owner of a large farm.
  • It is not suitable for all farmers as it entails huge capital and an enormous workforce.
  • Need modern machinery for crucial agricultural tasks like plantation and harvesting.

If you lack investment in these resources, it is best to avoid indulging in plantation agriculture.

Shifting Agriculture

This traditional agricultural practice clears a patch of land to cultivate it for a small period. Usually, the clearing is done by cutting down and burning forests. Farmers farm on this land until it loses its fertility. Then, they move on to the next patch and repeat the process. It is not a sustainable form of agriculture, resulting in loss of biodiversity, soil erosion and deforestation.

Shifting agriculture is widely practised in the north-eastern region, including states like Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Assam.

Key characteristics

  • Manual labour
  • Field rotation
  • Lack of draft animals and fertilisation.
  • The ash left behind by burning the vegetation is the primary fertiliser for the field.

Shifting agriculture is not promoted because of its adverse environmental impact, which includes soil degradation and deforestation.

Dryland and Wetland Agriculture

Dryland agriculture is practised in arid and semi-arid regions of the country where low rainfall is received. Crops are grown in areas that lack irrigation facilities. They experience an annual rainfall of less than 20 inches. Thus, you need to ensure that only those crops are selected that demand less water. Examples include bajra, jowar and gram. Dryland agriculture is mainly observed in states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Chhattisgarh.

On the contrary, wetland agriculture is common in areas with more than 200 cm of average rainfall. Also, there could be a water body near the field. The natural water flow floods the fields for most of the year. A wetland is suitable for crops like sugarcane, jute, and rice. States famous for their wetlands are Mizoram, Nagaland, and Assam.

Organic Agriculture

Organic agriculture uses ecological processes to sustain the health of ecosystems and soils. One of the most basic practices is to apply natural resources like compost and manure rather than pesticides and chemical fertilisers. If you care about producing crops and food devoid of harmful chemicals, you must adopt organic agriculture. It has become more important than ever to restore the ecological balance and facilitate sustainable agriculture.

Key characteristics

  • Sustainable farming practice.
  • It is economical.
  • No need of high yielding variety (HYV) seeds.
  • No need of pesticides and fertilisers.
  • Return on investment is high due to use of local and cheaper inputs.

The trend of moving towards organic products has also boosted organic agriculture and generated income.

Intensive Agriculture

Intensive agriculture involves using capital and labour extensively to maximise production on relatively smaller farm sizes. Thus, modern agricultural tools are used to get the highest crop yield. The known characteristics of agriculture include the use of pesticides and fertilisers to produce quality crops.

In addition, you can grow multiple crops on the same land. Some key crops for intensive farming are wheat and rice. The main advantages of intensive farming include high yield, affordable food prices and variety of food.

Extensive Agriculture

In extensive agriculture, large farms are cultivated using lower resources like labour and capital compared to the land size. Also, you must have the agriculture information that the crop yield relies on the types of soil for agriculture and their natural fertility. Other factors impacting produce are water availability, climate, and terrain.

Such types of agriculture practices generate a lower crop yield per unit of land than intensive agriculture. Extensive farming exploits large sizes of farms to be profitable. It is usually practised in an area where population density is low. Popular crops ideal for such types of agriculture include maize, wheat, and sugarcane.


The given agriculture types are the comprehensive list of farming practices done in India. But other farming types are also practiced in different parts of India like terrace cultivation in hilly states and alley farming, among others. For other such interesting blogs visit Tractorkarvan.

Neesha Rathod
Published By
Neesha Rathod
Neesha holds a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and a postgraduate degree in Rural Management. With over 10 years of experience in agriculture and the rural sector, she is a quick problem solver. She is inquisitive and has a deep analytics insight into any issues related to agriculture. She loves to travel and explore new places.
Read More

Popular Blogs

Other Web Stories By Category


Call Us At

whatsapp icon