The Himalayan region, with some 520,000 square kilometers of land, ranks well behind the other two regions in agricultural importance. Despite generally adequate rainfall, the rugged topography allows less than 10 percent of the land to be used for agriculture. The sandy, loamy soils on the hillsides and the alluvial clays in the region's premier agricultural subregion, the Vale of Kashmir--located in the northwestern part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir--provide fertile land for agricultural use. The main crops are rice, corn, wheat, barley, millet, and potatoes. Most of India's temperate-zone fruits (apples, apricots, cherries, and peaches) and walnuts are grown in the vale. Sericulture and sheepherding also are being undertaken. In the eastern Himalayan subregion, the soils are moderately rich in organic matter and are acidic. Although much of the farming is done on terraced hillsides, there is a significant amount of shifting cultivation, which has resulted in deforestation and soil erosion. Rice, corn, millet, potatoes, and oilseeds were the main crops in the early 1990s. The region also is well known for the tea plantations of the mountainous Darjiling (Darjeeling) area in the northern tip of West Bengal.
The vast Indo-Gangetic Plain, extending from Punjab to Assam, is the most intensively farmed zone of the country and one of the most intensively farmed in the world. Rainfall, most of which comes with the southwest monsoon, is generally adequate for summer-grown crops, but in some years vast areas are seared by drought. Fortunately, much of the land has access, or potential access, to irrigation waters from wells and rivers, ensuring crops even in years of drought and making possible a winter crop as well as a summer harvest. Wheat is the main crop in the west, rice in the east. Pulses, sorghum, oilseeds, and sugarcane are among other important crops. Mango orchards are common. Other fruits of the subregion include guavas, jackfruit, plums, lemons, oranges, and pomegranates.
In the Great Indian Desert, rainfall is scanty and erratic. About 20 percent of the total area is under cultivation, mostly in Haryana and Gujarat states, and comparatively little in Rajasthan. The Indira Gandhi Canal--begun in 1958 as the Rajasthan Canal--was designed to bring water from the north. Progress was slow, and only the first stage was close to completion by the end of the Seventh Five-Year Plan (FY 1985-89). By then, the canal had substantially increased the area under cultivation in Rajasthan, and a new completion date of 1999 is anticipated (see Development Programs, this ch; Development Planning, ch. 6). The cultivable area is expected to expand further with the development of the canal's second stage during the 1990s. The leading crops of the subregion are millet, sorghum, wheat, and peanuts. Vast expanses of sparse vegetation provide sustenance for sheep and goats. In the late 1980s, dairy farming became important in locations that had sufficient pastureland.
Data as of September 1995