The erstwhile Planning Commission (Present NITI Aayog) taking into account several scientific studies, on regionalisation of the agricultural economy recommended developing agricultural planning based on agro-climatic regions.
For resource development, the country has been broadly divided into fifteen agricultural regions based on agro-climatic features, particularly soil type, climate including temperature and rainfall and its variation and water resources availability.
To put it in otherwise, it is an extension of the climate classification keeping in view the suitability to agriculture.
Why is the Agro-climatic zone in News?
Cropping patterns of major crops and issues of agriculture have been in news owing to the impacts of climate change and increasing frequencies of adverse weather events affecting agriculture. Further, the recent demands of prioritising crops and giving certain incentives have the potential to skew the distribution of agriculture, suitability for different regions and resource-rich areas. Further, UPSC has in recent years asked more questions, conceptually in the Preliminary and Main examination.
In this article, we are going to discuss the important aspects of the topic along with its features. Moreover, this article covers other important aspects, keeping in mind the demands of the preliminary as well as a Main examination of the UPSC IAS Exam.
What are the Primary Objectives of Agro Climatic Zone Classification?
- To optimise agricultural production.
- To increase farm income.
- To generate more rural employment.
- To make judicious use of the available irrigation water.
- To reduce the regional inequalities in the development of agriculture.
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What are the Climatic Zones?
The geographical area of India is divided into 15 agro-climatic regions. These are further divided into more homogeneous 72 sub-zones. The 15 agro-climatic zones are:
- Zone 1 – Western Himalayan Region: Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh
- Zone 2 – Eastern Himalayan Region: Assam, Sikkim, West Bengal and all North-Eastern states
- Zone 3 – Lower Gangetic Plains Region: West Bengal
- Zone 4 – Middle Gangetic Plains Region: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar
- Zone 5 – Upper Gangetic Plains Region: Uttar Pradesh
- Zone 6 – Trans-Gangetic Plains Region: Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan
- Zone 7 – Eastern Plateau and Hills Region: Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal
- Zone 8 – Central Plateau and Hills Region: MP, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh
- Zone 9 – Western Plateau and Hills Region: Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan
- Zone 10 – Southern Plateau and Hills Region: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu
- Zone 11 – East Coast Plains and Hills Region: Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry
- Zone 12 – West Coast Plains and Ghat Region: Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra
- Zone 13 – Gujarat Plains and Hills Region: Gujarat
- Zone 14 – Western Dry Region: Rajasthan
- Zone 15 – The Islands Region: Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep
What are the Distinct Features of Climatic Zones?
Zone 1 – Western Himalayan Region
- It includes Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Kumaun-Garhwal areas of Uttarakhand.
- It shows great variation in relief. The summer season is mild (July average temperature 5°C-30°C) but the winter season experiences severe cold conditions (January temperature 0°C to -4°C).
- The amount of average annual rainfall is 150 cm. Zonal arrangement in vegetation is found with varying heights along the hill slopes.
- Valleys and duns have thick layers of alluvium while hill slopes have thin brown hilly soils.
- The region has perennial streams due to high rainfall and snow-covered mountain peaks of Ganga, Yamuna, Jhelum, Chenab, Satluj and Beas.
- They provide irrigation water to canals and cheap hydel power for agriculture and industries.
- Maize, wheat, potato, barley are important crops.
- Temperate fruits like apples and pears are produced in some parts of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
Zone 2 – Eastern Himalayan Region
- The Eastern Himalayan region consists of Sikkim, Darjeeling area (West Bengal), Arunachal Pradesh, Assam hills, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura.
- It is characterised by rugged topography, thick forest cover and sub-humid climate (rainfall over 200 cm; temperature July 25°C-33°C, January 11°C-24°C).
- The soil is brownish, thick layered and less fertile.
- Shifting cultivation (Jhum) is practised in nearly 1/ 3 of the cultivated area and food crops are raised mainly for sustenance.
- Rice, potato, maize, tea and fruits (orange, pineapple, lime, litchi etc.) are the main crops.
Zone 3 – Lower Gangetic Plains Region
- This region spreads over eastern Bihar, West Bengal and Assam valley. Here the average amount of annual rainfall lies between 100 cm-200 cm. Temperature for July month varies from 26°C-41°C and for January month 9°C-240C.
- The region has adequate storage of groundwater with a high water table. Wells and canals are the main sources of irrigation.
- The problem of waterlogging and marshy lands is acute in some parts of the region.
- Rice is the main crop that at times yields three successive crops (Aman, Aus and Boro) in a year.
- Jute, maize, potato, and pulses are other important crops. Planning strategies include improvement in rice farming, horticulture (banana, mango and citrus fruits), pisciculture, poultry, livestock, forage production and seed supply.
Zone 4 – Middle Gangetic Plains Region
- It incorporates eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar (except the Chotanagpur plateau). It is a fertile alluvial plain drained by the Ganga River and its tributaries.
- The average temperature of July month varies from 26°C- 41°C and that of January month 9°C-24°C.
- The amount of annual rainfall lies between 100 cm and 200 cm. The region has vast potential of groundwater and surface runoff in the form of perennial rivers which is utilised for irrigation through tube wells, canals and wells.
- Rice, maize, millets in Kharif season; wheat, gram, barley, peas, mustard and potato in Rabi season are important crops.
Zone 5 – Upper Gangetic Plains Region
- This region encompasses the central and western parts of Uttar Pradesh.
- The climate is sub-humid continental with July month’s temperature between 26°-41°C, January month’s temperature between 7°- 23°C and average annual rainfall between 75 cm- 150 cm.
- The soil is sandy loam. It has 131 per cent irrigation intensity and 144 per cent cropping intensity.
- Canal, tube wells and wells are the main source of irrigation. This is an intensive agricultural region where wheat, rice, sugarcane, millets, maize, gram, barley, oilseeds, pulses and cotton are the main crops.
Zone 6 – Trans-Gangetic Plains Region
- The Trans Ganga Plain consists of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Chandigarh and Ganganagar district of Rajasthan.
- The climate has semi-arid characteristics with July month’s temperature between 26°C and 42°C, January temperature ranging from 7°C to 22°C and average annual rainfall between 70 cm and 125 cm.
- Private tube wells and canals provide principal means of irrigation.
- Important crops include wheat, sugarcane, cotton, rice, gram, maize, millets, pulses and oilseeds etc.
Zone 7 – Eastern Plateau and Hills Region
- It comprises the Chotanagpur plateau, Rajmahal Hills, Chhattisgarh plains and Dandakaranya.
- The region enjoys 26°C-34°C of temperature in July, 10°C-27° C in January and 80 cm-150 cm of annual rainfall.
- Soils are red and yellow with occasional patches of laterites and alluviums.
- The region is deficient in water resources due to plateau structure and non-perennial streams.
- Rainfed agriculture is practised growing crops like rice, millets, maize, oilseeds, ragi, gram and potato.
Zone 8 – Central Plateau and Hills Region
- This region spreads over Bundelkhand, Baghelkhand, Bhander plateau, Malwa plateau and Vindhyachal hills.
- The climate is semi-arid in the western part to sub-humid in the eastern part with temperature in July month 26°C-40°C, in January month 7°C-24°C and average annual rainfall from 50 cm- 100 cm.
- Soils are mixed red, yellow and black growing crops like millets, gram, barley, wheat, cotton, sunflower, etc.
- The region has a dearth of water resources.
Zone 9 – Western Plateau and Hills Region
- This comprises the southern part of the Malwa plateau and Deccan plateau (Maharashtra).
- This is a region of the respective soil with July temperature between 24°C-41 °C, January temperature between 6°C- 23°C and average annual rainfall of 25 cm-75 cm.
- Net sown areas are 65 per cent and forests occupy only 11 per cent.
- Only 12.4 per cent of the area is irrigated.
- Jowar, cotton, sugarcane, rice, bajra, wheat, gram, pulses, potato, groundnut and oilseeds are the principal crops.
- The area is known for its oranges, grapes and bananas.
Zone 10 – Southern Plateau and Hills Region
- It incorporates southern Maharashtra, Karnataka, western Andhra Pradesh and northern Tamil Nadu.
- The temperature of July month lies between 26°C to 42°C, that of January month between 13°C-21°C with annual rainfall between 50 cm-100 cm.
- The climate is semi-arid with only 50 per cent of the area cultivated, 81 percent of dryland farming, and low cropping intensity of 111 per cent. Low-value cereals and minor millets predominate.
- Coffee, tea, cardamom and spices are grown along the hilly slopes of the Karnataka plateau.
Zone 11 – East Coast Plains and Hills Region
- This region includes the Coromandel and Northern Circar – the important Coastal plains of India.
- Here the climate is sub-humid maritime with May and January’s temperatures ranging from 26°C-32°C and 20°C-29°C respectively and annual rainfall of 75 cm-150 cm.
- The soils are alluvial, loam and clay facing the menacing problem of alkalinity.
- The region accounts for 20.33 per cent of rice and 17.05 per cent of groundnut production of the country.
- Main crops include rice, jute, tobacco, sugarcane, maize, millets, groundnut and oilseeds.
Zone 12 – West Coast Plains and Ghats Region
- This region extends over the Malabar and Konkan coasts and the Sahyadris and is covered by laterite and coastal alluvials.
- This is a humid region with annual rainfall above 200 cm and average temperatures of 26°C-32°C in July and 19°C-28°C in January.
- Rice, coconut, oilseeds, sugarcane, millets, pulses and cotton are the main crops.
- The region is also famous for plantation crops and spices which are raised along the hill slopes of the Ghats.
Zone 13 – Gujarat Plains and Hills Region
- This region includes Kathiawar and fertile valleys of the Mahi and Sabarmati rivers.
- It is an arid and semi-arid region with average annual rainfall between 50 cm-100 cm, and monthly temperature between 26°C-42°C in July and 13°C-29°C in January.
- Soils are regur in the plateau region, alluvium in the coastal plains and red and yellow soils in Jamnagar
- Groundnut, cotton, rice, millets, oilseeds, wheat and tobacco are the main crops.
- It is an important oilseed producing region.
Zone 14 – Western Dry Region
- It comprises western Rajasthan west of the Aravallis.
- It is characterised by hot sandy desert, erratic rainfall (annual average less than 25 cm), high evaporation, contrasting temperature (June 28°C- 45°C, and January 5°C-22°C), absence of perennial rivers, and scanty vegetation.
- Groundwater is very deep and often brackish.
- Famine and drought are common features.
- The land-man ratio is high. Forest area is only 1.2 per cent. Land under pastures is also low at 4.3 per cent.
- Cultivable waste and fallow lands account for nearly 42 per cent of the geographical area.
- Net irrigated area is only 6.3 percent of the net sown area which is 44.4 percent of the geographical area.
- Bajra, jowar, and moth are the main crops of Kharif and wheat and gram of Rabi.
- Livestock contributes greatly to desert ecology.
Zone 15 – The Islands Region
- The island region includes Andaman-Nicobar and Lakshadweep which have typically equatorial climates.
- The annual rainfall is less than 300 cm, the mean July and January temperatures of Port Blair being 30°C and 25°C respectively.
- The soils vary from sandy along the coast to clayey loam in valleys and lower slopes.
- The main crops are rice, maize, millets, pulses, areca nut, turmeric and cassava.
- Nearly half of the area is under coconut.
- The area is covered with thick forests and agriculture is in a backward stage.
The Agro Climatic zone strategy is meant for adequate economic and agricultural development. Not only agriculture but allied activities such as poultry, animal husbandry, the practice of crop diversification, rotation are to be given adequate priority. Similarly, area-specific agro-processing clusters and Agro-based industries must be promoted to augment the farmer’s income and socio-economic development.
Agro-climatic classification is based on various scientific principles taking into consideration several constituent variables. Therefore, it is necessary that agriculture and farming should be tuned to the needs and available resources. Integrated farming, agroforestry, sustainable agriculture, hydroponics are the emerging revolutionary practices that must be prompted along with policy directives.
This article is relevant for the Geography section of the syllabus for UPSC prescribed for the Preliminary and Main Examination of Civil Services Exam.