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Agricultural Practices

In order to raise a crop (cultivate crop), a farmer performs certain tasks for successful and good yield. These tasks are performed to produce a good crop and, hence, are called agricultural practices. Such practices are as follows:

Preparation of Soil

This is the first activity in the agricultural practices. Most of the nutrients are present in the top layer of the soil. This top layer is called ‘feeding zone of plants’. Soil is prepared by the following two stages:

 The process of loosening and tilling the soil is called ploughing. It is done with the help of ploughs. Ploughs are made up of wood or iron and driven by a pair of bullocks or by a tractor.

Advantages of ploughing

  • Soil becomes loose, allowing roots to penetrate deep into the soil.
  • Soil becomes airy, so that roots can breathe easily.
  • Weeds can be easily removed.
  • Harmful insects come to the surface and are picked by birds.
  • Loosened soil will enable the growth of nitrogen fixing bacteria.

Levelling: Ploughed field is levelled by pressing soil with wooden or iron plank.

Advantages of levelling

  • Prevents soil erosion by wind and water.
  • Larger chunks of soil are broken down into smaller pieces.
  • Water will be uniformly distributed.
  • Soil fertility is maintained.
  • Reduces the loss of moisture from the field.

Selection of Seed and Sowing

  • Seeds selected should be clean, healthy and free from infections.
  • Before sowing, seeds should be treated with suitable fungicides.
  • Moisture of the soil should be maintained. Seeds should not be sown in either too dry soil or too wet soil.
  • Sowing of seeds manually is called broadcasting. In this method, seeds are scattered manually throughout the field. As a result of this there may not be proper spacing between the seeds.
  • Sowing of seeds with the help of ‘Seed Drills’ will ensure proper spacing of seeds throughout the field. Seeds are sown at proper depth. Seed drill is usually a funnel-like instrument (wood or iron) with a long tube. Seed drill is usually tied to the back of the plough.
  • Seeds of rice and many vegetables are not directly sown in the soil. They are first sown in small areas of land or nursery and allowed to grow into baby plants or seedlings. Healthy ones are then picked up and transferred to the main field. This is called transplantation.

Application of Manures and Fertilisers


Manures supply both nutrients and humus to the soil. But manures may not provide all the nutrients in the required quantity. To overcome the shortage, chemical fertilisers are used.

Integrated use of manures, fertilisers and biofertilisers helps in protecting the soil quality and making the land more useful for agriculture.


Irrigation is a process by which sufficient quantity of water is supplied to the crop plants through canals, wells, tube wells and reservoirs. All plants do not need the same quantity of water throughout the year. The need of water depends upon water requirements of the crop and also on the nature of the soil.

There are three methods of irrigation as follows:

  • Surface irrigation: For crops such as paddy, wheat, maize, sugarcane, sunflower and cotton.
  • Sprinkle system: For crops such as coffee and tea.
  • Drip irrigation: For orchards, mango, guava, citrus fruits.

Advantages of irrigation:

  • Provides sufficient water and moisture to the growing seedlings or the germinating seeds.
  • Helps in absorption of nutrients from the soil.
  • Provides lot of scope for the increase in the number of aerial branches of crop plants and helps in the increase of the yield.

Disadvantage of excessive irrigation:

  • Water logging due to excessive irrigation will not allow healthy growth of crop plants as the roots do not develop properly.
  • Too much of water in the soil will affect the germination of seeds, as the seeds do not get sufficient oxygen for respiration.
  • Water logging for a longer duration affects the fertility of the soil.

However, these damages can be reduced by providing suitable drainage in the field.

Crop Protection

  1. Usually insect pests attack the plants in three ways:
  • They cut the root, stem and leaf.
  • They suck the cell sap from various parts of the plant.
  • They bore into stem and fruits.
    { Root-cutting types of insects are controlled by mixing insecticide in soil, e.g. chloropyriphos.
    { Dusting or spraying the contact insecticides, e.g. malathionlindane and thiodan, controls stem and leaf cutting and boring type of insects.
    { All sap sucking insects can be controlled by spraying insecticides such as dimethoate and metasystose.
  1. Many unwanted plants grow along with cultivated crops. These plants are called weeds. The growth of weeds in the field is very harmful as they compete with the useful plants for minerals, water, light and space. They thus decrease the crop yield and lower the quality of food grains.Weeds multiply and spread very fast because they produce a large number of seeds. Though most weeds get uprooted during ploughing, they reappear when the crop grows. The removal of weeds is called weeding.

Weeds can be removed by following methods:

Mechanical method:
 Removal of weeds by hand, with the help of harrow, rake or hoe.

Chemical method:
 Chemicals used to destroy weeds are called weedicides. The use of weedicides is easy, cheap and less time-consuming. Weedicides are either sprayed or sprinkled. Common weedicides are 2, 4-dichlorophenoxy acetic acid (2, 4-D), 4-chloro-2-methyl-1-phenoxyacetic acid.

Biological method:
 In this method, a natural enemy of the weed is used. Some appropriate insects or other organisms are purposely put into the crop field. These insects or organisms destroy the weeds selectively but do not harm the crop. For example, in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, cochineal insects are used to eradicate the weed prickly pear (Opuntia). Carps (a type of fish) can control submerged waterweeds like Hydrilla, Ceratophyllum and Lemna.

  1. Many disease-causing organisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and insects infect crops. Collectively they are called pathogens.
  2. Diseases that are transferred through seeds are called seed-borne diseases. Ergot of bajra and leaf spot of rice are examples of seed-borne diseases. Fungi cause both these diseases.
  3. Diseases that spread through the soil are called soil-borne diseases. Examples of soil-borne diseases are smut of bajra and tikka disease of groundnut.
  • Diseases that spread through air are called air-borne diseases. A common example of such disease is rust of wheat. This is caused by fungi.

Prevention of diseases

  • Soil-borne diseases can be prevented by using suitable soil disinfectant and by crop rotation.
  • Air-borne diseases can be controlled by spraying of fungicides.
  • Seed-borne diseases can be prevented by sowing healthy seeds and treating the seeds with chemicals that kill pathogens.

Harvesting, Thrashing and Winnowing

  • The cutting and gathering of food crop after its maturation is called harvesting. Both wheat and rice crop, when ripe, are cut with hand cutting tools (sickle) on the ground. Harvesting is also done with machine in large fields.
  • The process of beating out the grains from the harvested crop plants is called thrashing.
  • Winnowing is the process of separating the grains from chaff and hay with the help of wind. Chaff and hay are much lighter, and hence wind blows away the lighter chaff. When grains are made to fall from a height, it falls straight on the ground being heavy.

Storage of Food Grains

  • A scientific method of food storage has to take into account all those factors which cause food to perish (spoil), and to apply measures to stem the damage. Over 10% of the food grains produced in our country are lost due to improper storage. Fifteen million tonnes of food can feed seventy-five million people. It is, therefore, very significant for us to understand the factors responsible for the spoilage of food.
  • The moisture content of stored grain should be adequately low, i.e. around 14% by weight. Mature grains contain about 16–18% water by weight, which has to be brought down to 14%. Grains lose their germinating power if the moisture content is reduced beyond a certain limit.
  • The temperature at which food grains are stored is an important factor because a certain temperature range is ideal for the growth of insects and microorganisms. While insects find 30–32°C to be optimum for their growth, enzymes and microorganisms are fairly active in the range 30–40°C. If the storage compartment is kept cool and dry, much of the damage to food grains can be averted.
  • Spraying pesticides are sprayed in the storage structure before storing food grain. This kills the pests before the arrival of stocks and also eliminates chances of contamination of food grain with pesticides.
  • Fumigation is a method by which insect pests are exposed to fumes or vapours of chemicals, without contaminating the stored food grain. Fumigation is, therefore, a convenient and effective method for destroying insect pests in stored grain.

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