Green Revolution

The Green Revolution, or the Third Agricultural Revolution, is the set of research technology transfer initiatives occurring between 1950 and the late 1960s, that increased agricultural production worldwide, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s. The initiatives resulted in the adoption of new technologies, including High-Yielding Varieties (HYVs) of cereals, especially dwarf wheat and rice. It was associated with chemical fertilizers, agrochemicals, and controlled water-supply (usually involving irrigation) and newer methods of cultivation, including mechanization. All of these together were seen as a ‘package of practices’ to supersede ‘traditional’ technology and to be adopted as a whole.

Both the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation were heavily involved in its initial development in Mexico. One key leader was Norman Borlaug, the “Father of the Green Revolution”, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. He is credited with saving over a billion people from starvation. The basic approach was the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers.

The term “Green Revolution” was first used by William S. Gaud, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in a speech on 8 March 1968.

In 1961, India was on the brink of mass famine.  Norman Borlaug was invited to India by the adviser to the Indian minister of agriculture Dr. M. S. Swaminathan. Despite bureaucratic hurdles imposed by India’s grain monopolies, the Ford Foundation and Indian government collaborated to import wheat seed from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Punjab was selected by the Indian government to be the first site to try the new crops because of its reliable water supply and a history of agricultural success. India began its own Green Revolution program of plant breeding, irrigation development, and financing of agrochemicals.

India soon adopted IR8: A semi-dwarf rice variety developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) that could produce more grains of rice per plant when grown with certain fertilizers and irrigation. In 1968, Indian agronomist S.K. De Datta published his findings that IR8 rice yielded about 5 tons per hectare with no fertilizer, and almost 10 tons per hectare under optimal conditions. This was 10 times the yield of traditional rice. IR8 was a success throughout Asia, and dubbed the “Miracle Rice”. IR8 was also developed into Semi-dwarf IR36.

Wheat yields in least developed countries since 1961, in kilograms per hectare.

In the 1960s, rice yields in India were about two tons per hectare; by the mid-1990s, they had risen to six tons per hectare. In the 1970s, rice cost about $550 a ton; in 2001, it cost under $200 a ton. India became one of the world’s most successful rice producers, and is now a major rice exporter, shipping nearly 4.5 million tons in 2006.


New varieties of wheat and other grains were instrumental to the green revolution.

The Green Revolution spread technologies that already existed, but had not been widely implemented outside industrialized nations. Two kinds of technologies were used in the Green Revolution and aim at cultivation and breeding area respectively. The technologies in cultivation are targeted at providing excellent growing conditions, which included modern irrigation projects, pesticides, and synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. The breeding technologies aimed at improving crop varieties developed through the conventional, science-based methods available at the time. These technologies included hybrids, combining modern genetics with selections.

Some of the important components of the green revolution in India are as follows:

  1. High Yielding Varieties (HYV) of seeds.

The development of HYV seeds of wheat in 1960s and those of rice in 1969-70 laid the foundation for Green Revolution in India. Bandhu Das Sen has rightly remarked that they play the role of modernisers of agriculture like engines of change, capable of transforming a traditional farmer into a commercial producer. They act as part of steam engine (for industrial revolution) to ignite an agrarian revolution in poor countries.

Thus, the HYV programme brought about a major change a transformation affecting almost every aspect of Indian agriculture. In words of Dantwala, “widespread adoption of HYVs has helped to step up cereal production, stimulated investment and substantially increased the use of modem inputs.”

  1. Irrigation (a) surface and (b) ground.

The success m use of HYV seeds lies in availability of water at the right time and in the right quantity tor which B.B. Vohra had laid more emphasis on ground water rather than on surface water. The ground water gives the advantage of push-button irrigation, made possible by a pump set or a tube well and is completely under farmer’s own control.

Appreciating the role of ground water in the success of Green Revolution, Vohra has preferred to call it the Ground Water Revolution. However, there is senous threat of depletion of ground water due to over-exploitation when the rate of drawal of ground water is higher than the rate at which it is replenished. In many districts of Haryana and Punjab the ground water exploitation is very high.

  1. Use of fertilizers (chemical).

Since the entire culturable land has already been brought under plough and there is practically no scope for ringing any new areas under cultivation, further increase in food-grains production can be achieved only by multiple-cropping which heavily leans on the trio of the basic inputs, viz. HYV seeds irrigation and chemical fertilizers.

Generally, the use of chemical fertilizers is made according to the soil properties. Soil testing is very essential to know the nutrient status of the soil. As a normal practice, it is suggested that NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potasium) should be used in the ratio of 4: 2: 1 but it depends upon the quality and requirement of the soil and differs from place to place.

  1. Use of Insecticides and Pesticides.

hough intensive use of irrigation and fertilizers under the Green Revolution technology has increased the farm production, it has also given birth to the problem of pests, insects, weeds, rodents, etc. The monoculture promoted by the Green Revolution technology is more vulnerable to the insects and pests.

These pets, weeds and diseases are to be checked by proper doses of insecticides, pesticides and weedicides surveillance should be an integral crop production. The first of Agriculture (1983-84), over million hectares of cropped area in the country is affected by various pests and diseases, taking an annual toll of 5 to 25 per cent of the agricultural production.

  1. Command Area Development (CAD).

The programme covers the following components:

(i) On-farm development (OFD) works which include soil surveys, land shaping, construction of field channels, field drains, farm roads, realignment of field boundaries (where possible consolidation of holdings should also be combined), introduction of warabandi to ensure equitable and assured supply of water to each and every farm holding, supply of all inputs and services including credit and strengthening of extension services.

(ii) Selection and introduction of suitable cropping pattern

(iii) Development of groundwater to supplement surface water.

(iv) Development and maintenance of the main and intermediate drainage system

(v) Modernisation, maintenance and efficient operation of the irrigation system upon the outlet of one cusec capacity

  1. Consolidation of holdings.

Small and fragmented land holdings have been one of the main obstacles in the progress of agriculture in India. Consolidation of holdings has been introduced to solve this problem.

  1. Land reforms.

In 1947 half of India was under Zamindari System in which 80 per cent of the land was in the hands of the absentee landlords. The Zamindar used to exploit the farmers who used to till the land. Soon after Independence, the slogan of land to the tiller was raised and steps were taken for the abolition of the Zamindari. Consequently, tenants became owners of land.

They started taking interest and pains to increase the farm production. Raitwari system prevailed in Madras, Bombay, Assam and Punjab. Under this system the peasant was the owner of land and paid rent directly to the Government. The rent was usually half of the net produce.

A fixed amount of rent was to be paid irrespective of the condition of the crops. In the event of crop failure the peasant was obliged to pay rent by incurring debt against mortgage. Ultimately the land passed into the hands of the money lender who had no real interest in cultivation.

Mahotwari was another system in which a chosen peasant (Lambardar) was responsible for depositing the rent varying from 40 to 70 per cent of the produce. These systems were to be abolished in the interest of better agricultural performance. Another measure taken by the government was the enforcement of land ceiling act.

  1. Supply of agricultural credit.

A large percentage of Indian farming community consists of small and marginal farmers who do not have their own resources to invest in agriculture. They depend upon agricultural credit to carry on most of their agricultural operations.

Earlier they used to get loan from the moneylender who used to charge very high rate of interest. Now Cooperatives, Commercial Banks and Regional Rural Banks extend loans to farmers on easy terms.

  1. Rural electrification.

Realising the importance of electricity for the proper growth and development of agriculture, a massive programme of rural electrification was taken up immediately after Independence. At the time of Independence only 1,300 villages had been electrified and only 6,400 energised pump sets were working in the entire country.

At the end of the Fourth Five year Plan about 1, 55,297 villages had been electrified and there were 24 lakh pumpsets. Up to the end of the Seventh Five Year Plan 4, 70,836 villages were electrified and 83, 58,363 pump-sets had been energised. As on 31 March, 2004,4,73,892 villages out of a total of 5, 87,556 villages (i.e. 86.25 per cent of the total villages) had been electrified and about 1, 40, 02,634 pump sets had been energised.

Haryana was the first state to electrify all its 6759 villages in 1970. Punjab, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, J and K, Maharashtra and Nagaland have 97 to 100 per cent villages electrified.

  1. Rural Roads and Marketing.

Rural roads are very essential for connecting the villages to the neighbouring markets and villages. Unfortunately, there is still a big gap between the requirement and availability of village roads. Road network upto town level is fairly satisfactory. The weakest point is that of rural roads.

Marketing is essential for progressive agriculture. Regulated markets enable the farmer to sell his agricultural produce and to purchase farm implements and tools, fertilizers, pesticides and other agricultural inputs as well as goods of everyday use. The farmer can go to the market with his produce, sell it and on his return journey he can bring the goods required for agriculture or in everyday life.

  1. Farm Mechanisation.

Mechanisation saves a lot of human labour and quickens the farm operations, thereby adding to the farm efficiency and productivity.

  1. Agricultural Universities.

Agricultural universities and other agricultural institutes are primarily engaged in agricultural research and passing on the research findings to the farmers. A good deal of research and extension work done by these universities has paid rich dividends in the agricultural field. Success of Green Revolution largely depends upon the work done by these universities. Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, are the best examples of such a progress.

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