Rice in India : A Status Paper


In India rice is grown under widely varying conditions of altitude and climate . Therefore, the rice growing seasons vary in different parts of the country, depending upon temperature, rainfall, soil types, water availability and other climatic conditions. In eastern and southern regions of the country, the mean temperature is found favourable for rice cultivation through out the year. Hence, two or three crops of rice are grown in a year in eastern and southern states. In northern and western parts of the country, where rainfall is high and winter temperature is fairly low, only one crop of rice is grown during the month from May to November. There are three seasons for growing rice in India viz.- autumn, winter and summer. These three seasons are named according to the season of harvest of the crop. Autumn rice is known as pre-kharif rice. The sowing of pre-kharif rice is taken up during May to August. However, the time of sowing slightly differs from state to state according to weather condition and rainfall pattern. It is harvested in September-October. Autumn rice crop is know as 'Aus' in West Bengal, 'Ahu' in Assam, 'Beali' in Orissa, 'Bhadai' in Bihar, 'Virippu' in Kerala and 'Kuruvai/kar/ Sornavari' in Tamil Nadu. About 7% crop is grown in this season. The varieties grown during this season are mostly varieties of short duration ranging from 90 to 110 days.

The main rice growing season in the country is the 'Kharif'. It is known as winter rice as per the harvesting time. The sowing time of winter (kharif) rice is June-July and it is harvested in November-December. Winter rice is know as 'Aman' in West Bengal, 'Sali' in Assam, 'Sarrad' in Orissa, 'Agahani' in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, 'Sarava' in Andhra Pradesh, 'Mundakan' in Kerala and 'Samba/Thaladi' in Tamil Nadu. About 84% of the country's rice crop is grown in this season and generally, medium to long duration varieties are grown in this season.

Summer rice is called as Rabi rice. It is known as 'Boro' in Assam and West Bengal, 'Dalua'in Orissa, 'Dalwa' in Andhra Pradesh, 'Punja' in Kerala and 'Navarai' in Tamil Nadu and 'Garma' in Bihar. The sowing time of summer rice is November to February and harvesting time is March to June. The area under summer rice is only 9% and early maturing varieties are mostly grown in this season.

The sowing/harvesting period of autumn, winter and summer rice, region/state-wise are shown below -

Table-2 : Sowing and Harvesting Periods    
1.Northern Region
West U.P.      
Himachal PradeshJune-JulySep-Nov----
Jammu & Kashmir--Apr-JulySep-Dec--
2.Western region
3.North-East Region
AssamMid Feb-AprJune-JulyJune-AugNov-DecDec-FebMay-June
4.Eastern Region
East M.P.June-AugMid Sep - Mid Dec----
East U.P.May-JulySep-NovJuly-AugNov-DecJan-FebApr-June
West BengalMar-June
5.Southern Region
Andhra PradeshMar-AprilJuly-AugMay-JuneNov-DecDec-JanApril-May
Tamil NaduEarly SambaLate Samba


Rice is grown under so diverse soil and climatic conditions that it is said that there is hardly any type of soil in which it can not be grown including alkaline and acidic soils. Rice crop has also got wide physical adaptability. Therefore, it is grown from below sea-level (Kuttanad area of Kerala) upto an elevation of 2000 metres in Jammu & Kashmir, hills of Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh and North-Eastern Hills (NEH) areas. The rice growing areas in the country can be broadly grouped into five regions as discussed below :

North-Eastern Region

This region comprises of Assam and North eastern states. In Assam rice is grown in the basin of Brahmnaputra river. This region receives very heavy rainfall and rice is grown under rain fed condition.

Eastern Region

This region comprises of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Eastern Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. In this region rice is grown in the basins of Ganga and Mahanadi rivers and has the highest intensity of rice cultivation in the country. This region receives heavy rainfall and rice is grown mainly under rain fed conditions.

Northern Region

This region comprises of Haryana, Punjab, Western Uttar Pradesh, Uttranchal, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. The region experiences low winter temperature and single crop of rice from May-July to September-December is grown.

Western Region

This region comprises of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. Rice is largely grown under rain fed condition during June-August to October - December.

Southern Region

This region comprises of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Rice is mainly grown in deltaic tracts of Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery rivers and the non-deltaic rain fed area of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Rice is grown under irrigated condition in deltaic tracts.



Rice is grown under varying Eco-systems on a variety of soils under varying climatic and hydrological conditions ranging from waterlogged and poorly drained to well drained situations. Rice is also grown under rain fed as well as irrigated conditions. These different Eco-systems are discussed below :



Irrigated Rice

The total area under irrigated rice is about 22.00 million hectares, which accounts about 49.5 per cent of the total area under rice crop in the country. Rice is grown under irrigated conditions in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. In these states rice is grown under irrigated conditions more than 50-90%.

Rainfed Rice

The rainfed eco-system may be broadly classified into two categories :

1. Upland

upland rice areas lies in eastern zone comprising of Assam, Bihar, Eastern M.P., Orissa, Eastern U.P., West Bengal and North-Eastern Hill region. In the rain fed upland rice, there is no standing water in the field after few hours of cessation of rain. The total areas under upland rain fed rice in the country is about 6.00 million ha., which accounts13.5 per cent of the total area under rice crop in the country. The productivity of upland rice is very poor. As against the present national average productivity of about 1.9 tonnes per ha., the average yield of rice in upland areas in the country is only 0.90 tonnes per ha.

2. Low land

Low land rice area is mostly located in the eastern region comprising of Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa , Eastern Madhya Pradesh and Eastern Uttar Pradesh. Low land rice area is about 14.4 million ha., which accounts 32.4 per cent of the total area under rice crop in the country. The average productivity of rice in low land areas ranges from 1.0 to 1.2 tonnes per ha. as against the national average productivity of 1.9 tonnes per ha.

The low land rice may be further classified into three categories depending upon the standing depth of water in the field as discussed below :-

Shallow water

The standing depth of water in the field is generally below 50 cm. The shallow rice area is located in the eastern states viz.- Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

Semi-deep water

The standing depth of water in the field varies between 50-100 cm. These areas are lying in the eastern states viz. Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

Deep water

The standing depth of water is more than 100 cm in the field. Such deep water rice areas are mostly situated in the eastern states, viz.-Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. These areas are subjected to flood occurrence and duration of flooding varies from year to year.

Coastal Saline

The coastal area is always subjected with salinity problem and these areas are situated in West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The total area under coastal saline rice in the country is estimated about 1 million hectares which accounts for 2.3% each of total area under rice in the country. The yield in coastal saline soil is very poor. Average yield in costal saline area is about 1 tonnes per ha as against the average National yield of 1.9 tonnes per ha. The coastal Saline soils are often affected with deficiency of ferrous and zinc which causes chlorosis and reduced tillering.


Such rice areas lies in the hill regions comprising of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttranchal and North-Eastern hill states. The total area under rice in cold/ hill region is estimated about 1 million ha which accounts for 2.3% of total area under rice in the country. The productivity in cold/hill areas is very poor. The average yield is about 1.1 tonnes per ha as against the average National yield of 1.9 tonnes/hectare. The major problems of these areas are cold injuries, blast, drought spell and very short span of cropping seasons. Because of the rolling topography in these areas bench terracing is being followed which limits the use of fertilizers and improved agronomical practices. In these areas the crop is sometimes affected due to low temperature in the early stage and sometimes at the flowering times which leads to sterility problems.


India has a wide range of soil and climatic conditions and cropping pattern vary widely from region to region and to a lesser extent from one year to another year. In fact for devising cropping patterns, it is necessary to divide the country into homogeneous regions based on physical, climatological or agronomic. While making division, the climatic index and the soil group may be taken into consideration. The soil and the climate are the important factors for adoption of cropping patterns, hence they constitute a better criterion for crop-zoning.

During the first decade of planning i.e., from 1950-51 to 1960-61, there was not much change in the cropping patterns in spite of significant increase of about 22 million ha. in cropped area. The proportion of area under rice and wheat together remained around 30% of the total cropped area in the country during 1950-51 to 1960-61. Adoption of high yielding varieties on a large scale, increased use of fertilizers, plant protection chemicals and expansion in irrigated areas led to shifting in areas towards crops in which the impact of improved production technology on yield was apparent. Area under rice as proportion of total cropped area remained unchanged at around 23% during 1950-51 to 2000-01. Percentage of area under each crop to total cropped area are given in Table-3.

The cropping pattern in different Agro-climatic zones has been adopted by the farmers after long experience based on suitability of soil, profitability, availability of market and industrial infrastructure and quantum of water available. Techniques such as relay cropping, inter cropping, mixed cropping, minimum tillage, weed control and use of fertilizers and pesticides have helped not only in reducing the cost of cultivation but also in sustaining high level of production over a period of time. Scientific cropping patterns can actually result in increased soil productivity by improving the physical, chemical and micro-biological properties of soils and increasing the fertility status.

Some of the rice based cropping patterns being followed in the country are discussed below :-


This crop rotation is most suitable for areas having high rainfall and assured irrigation facilities in summer months, particularly, in soils which have high water holding capacity and low rate of infiltration. In some canal irrigated areas of Tamil Nadu, a cropping pattern of 300% intensity is followed. In such areas three crops of rice are grown in a year.

Rice-Rice-Cereals (other than rice)

This cropping pattern is being followed in the areas where the water is not adequate for taking rice crop in summer. The alternate cereal crops to rice being grown are Ragi, Maize and Jowar.


In the areas where, there is a water scarcity to take up cereal crops other than rice in summer, the short duration pulse crops are being raised.


This cropping pattern is being followed by the farmers of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. After harvesting of rice crop, groundnut is grown in summer.


This crop rotation has become dominant cropping pattern in the Northern parts of the country.


In this sequence of cropping pattern, after harvesting of wheat green gram and cowpea as fodder are grown in the alluvial soil belt of Northern states. Besides, cowpea is grown in red and yellow soils of Orissa and black gram is grown in the black soils.


This crop sequence is commonly followed in Northern parts of the country.

Among the above mentioned cropping patterns followed in the country, Rice-wheat cropping pattern is the largest one. The Rice-wheat cropping pattern is being practiced in the Indo-Gangetic plains of India since long time.

Rice-Fish farming system

The field with sufficient water retaining capacity for a long period and free from heavy flooding are suitable for rice-fish farming system. This system is being followed by the small and marginal poor farmers in rain fed lowland rice areas. These farmers are not able to invest much in agricultural development. They raise a modest crop of traditional low yielding rice varieties. In order to improve the economic condition of these farmers, the Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack has developed the production technology for rice and fish farming system. Steps have already been taken to popularize rice-fish farming system in low land areas to increase the production and productivity of crops and thereby improving the economic conditions of the resource poor farmers of these areas.


Table-3 : Percentage of Area under each Crop to Total Cropped Area   


SL CropYears
 1950-51  1960-61  1970-71  1980-81  1990-91  2000-01 
1. Rice23.6 22.30 22.60 23.30 23.00 23.30 
2. Wheat7.60 8.50 11.00 12.80 13.00 13.10 
3. Coarse Cereal29.90 29.40 27.80 24.60 19.60 15.90 
4. Pulses15.60 15.50 14.00 13.20 13.40 10.50 
5. Total Food-Grains76.70 75.70 75.40 73.90 69.00 62.80 
6. Oil-Seeds8.30 8.30 8.90 9.20 13.50 13.20 
7. Cotton4.30 5.00 4.70 4.50 4.00 4.50 
8. Jute and Mesta0.50 0.60 0.60 0.70 0.50 0.50 
9. Sugarcane1.30 1.60 1.60 1.60 2.00 2.10 
10. Others8.90 8.80 8.80 10.10 13.00 16.90 
  Total100.00 100.00100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00