Tamil Nadu Agriculture Notes

Tamil Nadu Agriculture Notes

Tamilnadu Notes in English Part 5

5. Tamil Nadu – Agriculture

Agriculture is the prime and traditional occupation for the people of Tamil Nadu. The practice of growing plants on a large scale for food and other purposes is known as agriculture. Agriculture includes not only cultivation of crops, but also rearing of animals, birds, forestry, fisheries, and other related activities.

About 56% of the people of Tamil Nadu are farmers. Agricultural sector supplies food and fodder to the people and cattle, respectively. It is the source of raw material for many of the industries.

Types of Farming

The methods of growing crops vary from region to region and can be classified as follows:

Subsistence intensive farming

Types of farming

  1. Subsistence intensive farming
  2. Plantation farming
  3. Mixed farming

Farming that is carried on small land holdings that produce food crops forlocal consumption and not for external trade is known as subsistence intensive farming. Most farmers in Tamil Nadu practice subsistence intensive farming. With the availability of water for cultivation, farming methods are classified into three types, namely:

1. Wet farming;

2. Dry farming (maanavari); and

3. Irrigation farming.

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Wet farming Dry farming
  • Farming where water supply is available throughout the year both rainfall and irrigation is known as wet farming
  • Crops cultivated are rice and sugarcane.
  • Most river basins of Tamil Nadu practice this type of farming.
  • Farming carried out only during rainy season without irrigation is known as dry farming.
  • Crops cultivated are ragi and other millets.
  • Drier regions of Vellore, Thiruvannamalai, Ramanathappuram and Thirunelveli practice this type of farming.

Irrigation farming

Irrigation farming is the practice of growing crops with supply of water through various sources of irrigation like wells, lakes, and canals. Rice, cotton and sugarcane are grown with irrigation farming in most part of Tamil Nadu.

Most of the farmers in Tamil Nadu practice subsistence intensive and irrigation farming. As the water requirement for each crop varies, irrigation plays a major role in the agricultural development of Tamil Nadu.

Plantation farming

Plantation farming is yet another type of farming where crops are grown on large farms or estates. Plants like Tea, coffee, rubber and pepper are grown as plantation crops on the hill slopes of Tamil Nadu.

Mixed farming

Mixed farming is one wherein land is allotted for more than one activity along with agriculture. The farmer grows two or three varieties of crops along with cattle rearing, poultry and fishing on a large land holding. This method is profitable to the farmer as it provides regular and continuous income. This type of farming is prevalent in the Kaveri delta.

Market gardening

Market gardening includes horticulture and floriculture, (growing fruits, vegetables and flowers) in large scale for supply to the urban markets and also for export purposes. Districts such as Madurai, Nilgiris, Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram practice this type of farming.

Cropping seasons of Tamil Nadu

Farmers select particular crops to be cultivated in a season, to suit soil and availability of water in that season. Thus most farmers in Tamil Nadu cultivate crops in three different seasons as given below:

Sornavari(Kharif season) (Chitthirai pattam)

Sornavarai is otherwise known as Kharif season. The seeds are sown during May and harvested in October. As the month of May coincides with the Tamil month, Chitthirai it is also known as Chitthiraipattam.

Samba (Summer season) ( Adipattam)

Samba is otherwise known as summer season. The seeds are sown in the month of July which coincides with the month Tamil month Aadi and harvested in January. This season is referred to as Adipattam in Tamil Nadu.

Navarai (Winter Season-Rabi) (Karthigai pattam)

The seeds are sown in the month of November and harvested in March. This season is known as Karthigai pattam in Tamil Nadu as the Tamil month Karthikgai coincides with the month of November.

Factors influencing agriculture

The factors influencing agriculture may be classified as physical, social and economic factors.

  • Physical factors include soils, temperature, rainfall, humidity, climate and slope of land.
  • The Social factors include traditional knowledge, belief and myths of farmers, farm size and holdings and farmer’s acceptance towards innovation.
  • Economic factors are market, loan assistance, Government subsidy and incentives.

Sources of Irrigation in Tamil Nadu

The main sources of irrigation are canals, tanks and wells.

Canals are man-made channels of water taken from a perennial river, dam or lake to supply water to the agricultural fields. Canal irrigation is the most prominent type in the basins of Kaveri and Tamiravaruni. 27% of irrigated land in Tamil Nadu cultivates crops using canal irrigation.

Important canals of Tamil Nadu

Arrakankottai canal, Thadapalli canal and Kalingarayan canal are some of the noteworthy canals on river Bhavani a tributary of River Kaveri. Canals taken from Mettur dam provide irrigation for about 2.7 lakh hectares. The Grand Anicut built across the river Kaveri near Trichirappalli, diverts the water to the entire delta region through canals.

Grand Anicut on River Kaveri

River Thamiravaruni and its tributaries serve Thirunelveli district withmany canal. River Tamiravaruni has nine anicuts from which the following channels, named as north and south Kodaimel Alagain canal; Nathiyunni canal, Kannadian canal, Kodagan canal, Palayan canal, Tirunelveli canal and Marudhur canal. Apart from this, Pachaiyar has nine anaicuts and Chittar has seventeen anaicuts.

Canals used for irrigation have the oldest records of two millennia in Tamil Nadu. Kallanai, built around First century, by Karikalan is still in use and considered to be the oldest water-regulatory structure in the world.

The state of Tamil Nadu is pioneer in linking rivers of the state as recommended by Ministry of Water Resources.


Lakes are natural water bodies. Lakes are converted into tanks by strengthening their bunds to store water for irrigation. Tank maintenance and management is a common practice associated with temples. There are about 40,319 tanks in Tamil Nadu which accounts for 19% of the irrigated area. Tanks are concentrated in the districts of Kancheepuram, Vellore, Thiruvannamalai, Pudukottai, Ramanathapuram and Thirunelveli. At present, Ramanathapuram has the maximum number of tanks. Tanks have to be desilted regularly for better storage and supply of water. In Tamil Nadu, tanks are classified as follows; They are system tanks and non-system tanks. System tanks are linked to river/canal system of the state, with water filled through supply channels. The non-system tanks, on the other hand, are dependent on rainfall of that region. Tanks are maintained by either PWD or Panchayat.

Kancheepuram is known as the land of ‘thousand lakes’.

Some important lakes of Tamil Nadu are found in Red Hills, Chembarambakkam, Veeranam, Madhurandhagam. Kolavai, Ambattur, Ooty and Kodaikanal.


Well irrigation is most predominant irrigation system in Tamil Nadu which utilizes groundwater. Well irrigation covers 52% of irrigated area in the state. Wells may be classified as surface wells and tube wells.

Surface wells are also known as open wells and are dug to reach the water table lying within a few metres from the surfaces. Tube wells explore the aquifers of great depth with the help of electric motors. There are 1,62,11,391 surface wells and 2,87,304 tube wells in Tamil Nadu that are used for the purpose of irrigation.

Aquifers are underground rock layers which store water and allow water to pass through them.

In Tamil Nadu a high potential artesian aquifer occurs in the Cuddalore, Chidambaram and Viruthachalam area. This aquifer named as Neyveli aquifer, pumps out water regularly from lignite mining area for irrigation and domestic supply.

There is considerable amount of spring irrigation in the Kaveri and Vaigai beds. Irrigation from these springs is practised in a few places of Erode district.

Aquifers at different depth

Major Crops of Tamil Nadu


Non-food crops

Food crops




Plantation crop

Commercial crops

Fibre crops

Sources of Irrigation

Tamil Nadu Major Crops

Distribution of crops in Tamil Nadu

Each crop requires specific climatic conditions for its growth. Tamil Nadu lies entirely in the tropical zone and therefore almost all tropical crops are grown here.

Food crops

Food crops include cereals, pulses, and millets. Among the food crops(cereals), paddy is the prime crop cultivated in all the districts of Tamil Nadu. Rice (Paddy) requires level land, high temperature and continuous supply of water for its growth. Ponni, and Kichadi Samba, are major varieties of paddy grown in Tamil Nadu. Jaya, IR 50 are high yielding varieties grown in Tamil Nadu. Amng the districts. Thanjavur, Thiruvarur and Nagapattinam have maximum acreage as well as production of rice.

Thus Kaveri delta (especially the undivided Thanjavur district) is known as the Granary of South India. Normally Paddy is grown in Thanjavur district in four seasons during one agricultural year.

Tamil Nadu Rice research institute is in Aduthurai. TNRH 174, developed by the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University’s Tiruvarur Rice Research Institute has recorded the highest yield of 4500 kg per acre.

Pulses that are grown in Tamil Nadu include Bengal gram, red gram, green gram, black gram and horse gram.

Coimbatore leads in the production of Bengal gram, whereas Vellore and

Table: Millets of Tamil Nadu

Name of the millet Leading districts





Coimbatore, Dindigul and Thiruchirappalli

Villupuram and Thuthukudi

Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Salem

Salem, Perambalur and Dindigul

Salam and Namakkal

Table: Tamil Nadu-Principal food crops-area and production 2007-2008(in percentage)

Crops Percentage of area Percentage of Production

Other food crops











Krishnagiri produce red gram. The districts of Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam and Thuthukudi stand first in production of green gram. Nagapatinam, Thiruvarur and Cuddalore are noted for black gram production. Horse gram cultivation is widely seen in Kirshnagiri and Dharmapuri districts.

Millets are dry crops cultivated in areas having high temperature and less rainfall.

Non-food crops

Fibre crops

Fibre crops include cotton and jute. Cotton thrives well in black soil and it is the major fibre crop of Tamil Nadu cultivated on large scale in the districts of Coimbatore, Thirunelveli Cuddalore and Villupuram. Mcu4, Mcu5, LRA5166 are major varieties of cotton cultivated in the state.

Commercial crops

Commercial crops include all those crops that are cultivated by the farmers to sell and not for their own consumption. Sugarcane, tobacco, oilseeds and spices like chillies, turmeric and coriander are examples of commercial crops.

Sugarcane is the dominant commercial crop cultivated in Tamil Nadu. It is a nine-month crop which requires fertile soil, high temperature, and stagnant water till the time of flowering. Coimbatore, Karur, Villupuram, Thiruvallur and Cuddalore district show predominance of this crop. Tobacco is yet another commercial crop of Tamil Nadu which is widely grown in Dindigul, Theni and Madurai district. Groundnuts, sunflower, safflower(Kusumbavrai), castor and linseed are the major oilseeds cultivated in Tamil Nadu.

Plantation crops

Tea, coffee, rubber, pepper and cashew are the main plantation crops of Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu ranks second in area and production of tea next to Assam. Tea estates are seen to be concentrated on the hill slopes of the Nilgris and Coimbatore districts. Tamil Nadu stands second in area and production of coffee next to Karnataka. Coffee is grown in the Western Ghats as well as Eastern Ghats. Hill slopes of the Nilgris, Theni, Madurai and Salem are the major regions of coffee cultivation. Andipatti, Sirumalai and Shervaroy hills also grown coffee. Rubber is grown in Kanyakumari district. Pepper is confined to the warm and wet slopes ofKanyakumari and Thirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. Cashew are extensively cultivated in Cuddalore district.


Cultivating fruits and vegetables on large scale is a recent trend in Tamil Nadu. Fruits like mangoes, jackfruits, banana, guava and grapes are widely grown in groves. Krishnagiri leads in mango production, Coimbatore and Erode are known for banana production and Theni for grapes. Dharmapuri leads the other districts in acreage for horticulture. It also specializes in floriculture.

Animal husbandry

Rearing animals for the production of milk, meat and hide is known as Animal husbandry. Tamil Nadu Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation (Aavin) produces milk and dairy products for the state. The federation handles million litres of milk per day, processes and supplies milk for the whole state through 7662 societies. The milk production was 55.86 million tons during 2007-08. Percapita milk consumption is 233g/day.

The poultry hub of Tamil Nadu is Namakkal, Erode, Coimbatore and Salem. Tamil Nadu produced 8394 million eggs during the year 2007-08. Per capita availability is 128 eggs/year.


Tamil Nadu ranks fourth in fishing among the states of India. Long coastline of 1076km the broad continental shelf favour coastal fishing in Tamil Nadu.

The coastline has 591 fishing villages which are spread over thirteen districts of the state. Pearl fishing is predominant in Gulf of Mannar region. Thuthukudi is the leading port in fish export. Two more major fishing harbours are Chennai, and Chinnamutthom in Kanyakumari district and four minor harbours are at Pazhayar, Valinokkam, Colachael and Nagapattinam. Thiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Thanjavur and Ramanathapuram districts together contribute 40% of marine fish production in the state.

Marine Fishing Inland Fishing
Fishing carried out in the Oceans and Seas.

Large Mechanized boats are used for fish catching.

Fish varieties are Sharks, Flying Fish, Counch, Cat, fish, Silver bellies and Carbs.

Fishing carried out in Lakes, rivers, Ponds, estuaries, backwaters and swamps.

Catamaran (small wooden boats) Diesel Boats and floating net cages are used.

Fish varieties are Catla, Rogue, mirkal, eel and calabaashu.

The estimated marine fish production for the year 2007-08 was 393,266 tonnes (Source: Commissioner of fisheries, Chennai-6)

The state has 370 hectares of inland water, 63,000 hectares of estuaries, backwaters and swamps. Oysters and prawns are cultured in organized nurseries at Ennore and Pulicat lake for export. The estimated inland fish production for the year 2007-08 was 164,504 tonnes. Vellore district ranks first among the districts with 10% of inland fish production of the state. Cuddalore, Sivagangai and virudhunagar stands second with 9% of inland fish catch.

Tamil Nadu Fisheries Department has introduced several programmes for the betterment of fishing.

1. Aqua culture in farm ponds and irrigation tanks.

2. Fish seed bank

3. Fish seed rearing in cages

4. Ornamental fish culture and

5. Fish Farmers Development Agecy

at Karaikal encourages farmers with a slogan “to grow fish and grow with fish”.

Agricultural Development

Before Independence, agriculture in Tamil Nadu followed traditional method of cultivation. After independence, there has been a steady development in all aspects of agriculture. Irrigation facilities were improved with the proper implementation of five year Plans in the state. Green revolution in terms of hybrid varieties and application of chemical fertilizers increased the production to a greater extent. Abolition of zamindari system, land tenuring, consolidation of farms, introduction of the land ceiling act and co-operative farming were the new agricultural reforms were the new agricultural reforms introduced after independence. Recently, globalization has influenced the agricultural production positively in Tamil Nadu.

Changing trends in agriculture

The traditional methods of agriculture is slowly being replaced by scientific and technical methods . As a result of this the merits of the traditional methods have vanished.

The Agriculture University in Coimbatore and the M.S. Swaminathan Research foundation are trying to fuse the traditional with the modern methods so as obtain maximum produce in the long run.

Some of the measures adopted are

  • Micro- irrigation
  • Integrated past control management(IPM)
  • Growing blue Algae and Azolla
  • Precision forming through Remote sensing, geographical Information system and Global positioning system.
Increase in organic matter will increase the water holding capacity of the soil. This will support the microbial activity and hasten the nutrient absorption capacity of roots.

Efforts Taken by Government to Improve Agriculture

  • The Government supplies quality and certified seeds to the farmers.
  • Organic matter and micro nutrients are supplied at subsidised rate.
  • Free electricity is provided to small and marginal farmers for about 6 to 8 hours a day.
  • Government fixes the prices for agricultural products to safeguard farmers from financial crisis.
  • Farmer’s Market (uzhavarsanthai) enhances the farmers ability to get better share of prices and at the same time consumers to get agricultural produce at affordable prices.
  • Crop insurance scheme has been introduced.
  • Government has set up Agricultural Export Zones in Nilgris and Krishnagiri.

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