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Agriculture of Meghalaya

Meghalaya is basically an agricultural state with about 80% of its population depending entirely on agriculture for their livelihood. Nearly 10% of the geographical area of Meghalaya is under cultivation. Agriculture in the state is characterised by limited use of modern techniques, low yields, and low productivity. As a result, despite the vast majority of the population being engaged in agriculture, the contribution of agricultural production to the state's GDP is low, and most of the population engaged in agriculture remain poor. A portion of the cultivated area is under the traditional shifting agriculture known locally as Jhum cultivation.

Meghalaya produced 230,000 tonnes of food grains in 2001. Rice is the dominant food grain crop accounting for over 80% of the food grain production in the state. Other important food grain crops are maize, wheat, and a few other cereals and pulses. Besides these, potato, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, areca nut, Bay leaf (Cinnamomum tamala), betel, short-staple cotton, jute, mesta, mustard and rapeseed etc. are some of the important cash crops. Besides the major food crops of rice and maize, the state is renowned for its horticultural crops like orange, lemon, pineapple, guava, litchi, banana, jack fruits and fruits such as plum, pear, and peach.

Grains and staples production covers about 60% of the land area dedicated to crops. With the introduction of different crops of high yielding varieties in the mid-1970s, a remarkable increase in food grain production has been made. A major breakthrough was achieved when high yielding varieties of paddy such as Masuri, Pankaj IR 8, RCPL and other improved varieties series – especially IR 36 which is suitable for Rabi season – allowing three crops to be grown every year. Another milestone was reached when Megha I and Megha II, which are cold tolerant rice varieties developed by the ICAR North East Region at Umroi near Shillong, was released in 1991–92 for the higher altitude regions where there was no high yielding rice varieties earlier. Today the state can claim that about 42% area under paddy has been covered with high yielding varieties with the average productivity of 2,300 kg/ha (2,100 lb/acre). As is the case with maize and wheat where the productivity have increased tremendously with the introduction of HYV from 534 kg/ha (476 lb/acre) during 1971–72 to 1,218 kg/ha (1,087 lb/acre) of maize and from 611 kg/ha (545 lb/acre) to 1,490 kg/ha (1,330 lb/acre) of wheat.

Oilseeds such as rapeseed, mustard, linseed, soybean, castor, and sesame are grown on nearly 100 km2 (39 sq mi). Rape and mustard are the most important oilseeds accounting for well over two-thirds of the oilseed production of nearly 6.5 thousand tonnes. Fiber crops such as cotton, jute, and mesta are among the only cash crops in Meghalaya, grown in Garo Hills. These have been losing popularity in recent years as indicated by their declining yield and area under cultivation.

Climatic conditions in Meghalaya permit a large variety of horticulture crops including fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices, mushrooms, and medicinal plants. These are considered to be higher value crops, but home food security concerns have prevented farmers at large from embracing them. The important fruits grown include citrus fruits, pineapples, papayas, and bananas. In addition to this, a large variety of vegetables are grown in the state, including cauliflower, cabbages, and radishes.

Areca nut plantations can be seen all over the state, especially around the road from Guwahati to Shillong. Other plantation crops like tea, coffee and cashews have been introduced lately and are becoming common. A large variety of spices, flowers, medicinal plants and mushrooms are grown in the state.

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