The term ‘Green Revolution’ refers to a sus­tained and continuous increase in agricultural pro­ductivity or a yield per acre take-off in traditional agriculture.

The stress is on intensive rather than extensive cultivation so as to raise productivity per hectare. It signifies a shift to the agricultural production function and the consequent increase in land productivity, i.e., yield per hectare.

The new strategy has two broad components the mechanical (or technological) package and the biological package. The former refers to the use of tractors, combines and other forms of machinery primarily as substitutes for labour. The latter refers to the raising of yields through the use of improved plant varieties such as hybrid corn or the new vari­eties of rice developed at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

Because of the dramatic effects on yields of some of those new varieties the phenomenon is often referred to as the Green Revolution. But these new varieties raise productivity (yield) if they are combined with adequate and timely supply of water and addi­tional usage of chemical fertilisers. The main im­pact of biological package is to raise yields.


The stress is on using improved plant varieties in com­bination with fertilisers and pesticides to raise yields of rice or wheat. The founding of the Inter­national Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CINMYT) in Mexico and IRRI in the Philippines marked the beginning of a truly international ef­fort to develop high-yielding varieties (HYV) of grains suitable to the tropical conditions found in most of the LDCs.

The result has been a steady stream of new, high-yielding and other improved varieties of wheat and rice that have found growing accept­ance in most Asian countries.

This was supported by a rapid increase in the use of chemical fertilisers. By the 1970s, chemical fertilisers were in widespread use in India, Brazil and other countries. Unlike machinery, chemical fertilisers are highly divisible because they can be purchased in any quantity. Moreover, the applica­tion of a small dose of fertiliser is likely to raise productivity appreciably.

A key component of the biological package is water. Improved plant varieties using more chemical fertiliser lead to dramatically higher yields only when there is an adequate and timely water supply. In India, rainfall is often inadequate or comes at the wrong time. As a result efforts to raise yields have focused on measures to extend irrigation systems so that crops are not dependent on the vagaries of the weather.


The increased inputs from the biological packages has made possible steady expansion of agricultural output. By contrast the main function of the mechanical packages is to release surplus labour and food for transferring the same to more productive activities.

The Indian Experience:

In the mid-1960s, the Government of India adopted a new agricul­tural strategy which goes by different names seed-fertiliser-water technology, modern agricul­tural technology, or Green Revolution. In fact, the ‘Green Revolution’ has been the most important single technical advance in agriculture in India during the plan period.

It refers to the breeding of high-yield varieties of wheat and rice and their introduction into traditional agriculture so as to achieve a sustained or continuous breakthrough in agricultural production. This is really a yield per acre take-off in agriculture inasmuch as it seeks to raise productivity per acre by cultivating the same plot of land more intensively.

Thus, in India, traditional farm practices and technology are being gradually replaced by mod­ern practices and technology. Modern technology is based on the use of chemical fertilisers, pesti­cides, high-yielding varieties of seeds including hybrid seeds (such as IR-8, Tinen-3, TN-1, ADT-7, etc. in case of rice, and the new Mexican varieties such as Rajo, Sonara 64, Kalyan and P.V. 18 in case of wheat) and the extensive use of electric power, implements and machinery (such as trac­tors and threshers as also irrigation). Thus, mas­sive programmes of mechanisation and irrigation were undertaken in the mid-1960s.


The new technology is ‘highly divisible’— usable on small peasant plots as readily as on large ones. It is yield-increasing rather than an acreage- expanding (that is, labour-saving) change. To ob­tain the needed water, where water from large irri­gation projects has been unavailable, many In­dian farmers have installed tube-wells with institutional credit.

Those who did not get such wells locally, use bamboo tubes wrapped with wire rather than steel tubing. By contrast, traditional technol­ogy relies on a pair of bullocks, a plough, the use of farmyard manure and seeds of poor quality.

The new strategy, called Intensive Agricul­tural Development Programme, was initiated and adopted on an experimental basis. Later on this was supplemented by the high-yielding varieties programme, covering the whole country. And con­siderable success has been achieved from the be­ginning. Since the mid-1960s, the usage of tradi­tional inputs was increasing at the annual average rate of 10%.

The new agricultural strategy adopted in In­dia in the late 1960s laid emphasis on intensive rather than extensive cultivation. This was, no doubt, desirable in a country characterised by a falling land-man ratio. There was, therefore, shift from mono- to multiple-cropping, particularly in those areas which are endowed with an assured supply of water. The spread of irrigation facilities also accelerated the process.

Economies of scale is also associated with large-scale production in agriculture. By apply­ing modern technology, it would also be possible to avert the operation of the Law of Diminishing Returns.

The new agricultural strategy adopted in India (which brought about the Green Revolution) has conferred substantial benefits to the country. But it has failed in other respects. Here is the score- card:

Effect on Production and Productivity:

The most important achievement of the new strategy lies in raising the production of wheat and rice— the two major cereals. Perhaps the most spectacu­lar increase has been achieved in wheat produc­tion (from 11 m. tones in 1960-61 to 75.6 m. tones in 1999-00).

The production of rice has also shown satis­factory increase from 35 mn. tones to 89.5 m. tones. But the production of pulses has virtually stagnated or even fallen in some of the years. The yield per hectare has not increased much.

Commentary: Green Revolution

The yield of food-grains also increased from 872 kg. per hectare in 1970-71 to 1,382 kg. per hectare in 1980-81 and to 1,697 kg. per hectare in 1999-00. The yield of wheat increased from 1,307 kg. per hectare in 1970-71 to 1,630 kg. per hectare in 1980-81 and to 2,755 kg. per hectare in 1999- 00.


There has also occurred a considerable in­crease in areas under high-yield varieties of crops—from 15.38 m. hectares in 1970-71 to 43 m. hectares in 1980-81 and to 78.4 m. hectares in 1999-00.

The record food-grain production of 152.4 million tones 1983-84 was a notable achieve­ment, receiving world-wide acclaim. What is worth mentioning is that, while the First Green Revolu­tion of 1967-68 arose from introduction of new high-yielding varieties of Mexican wheat and dwarf rice varieties evolved by the International Rice Research Institute, the spectacular increase in production in 1983-84 was mainly owing to organised input management. Total production of food-grains in 1999-00 was 208.9 mn. tones.

The year 1983-84 marked the beginning of the Second Green Revolution showing a massive increase in production through expansion in sup­plies of inputs and services to the farms and better farm management. As compared to the previous years, the increase in 1983-84 in the distribution of seed, fertiliser and pesticides showed a marked increase. The expansion in the provision of insti­tutional credit for agriculture was also encourag­ing.


Whereas the First Green Revolution of 1967- 68 was confined mainly to a few progressive areas of Punjab, Haryana and western U.P., the Second Green Revolution of 1983-84 witnessed tremen­dous progress in eastern and central States includ­ing West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and U.P., where the growth rates have initially been relatively slow. And it led to increase in produc­tion of rice, which is the main staple crop in eastern India.

The Growth Rate of Production:

The impact of Green Revolution could be felt during the brief period 1967-68 and 1970-71. The gains were short-lived. These were years of normal crop—neither years of drought nor flood or any other natural calamity. The best possible response was observed in case of maize. The performance of rice was not at all satisfactory.

In case of commercial crops like jute, cotton and gram the rates of growth were vir­tually negative. The position, however, changed slightly between 1970-71 and 1985-86. Although the negative growth continued in case of grain, in cotton and jute the trend was reversed. However, there has been a decline in production of most items since 1986-87.

Thus, it seems that the favourable effects of GR are gradually disappearing. Although various seeds have been tried, success has been achieved only in case of IR-8.

Cropping Pattern:


The GR led to a distinct change in the cropping pattern in Indian agricul­ture. Firstly, as a result of the new strategy, pro­duction of cereals has increased at an annual aver­age rate of 3% to 4% per annum, while that of pulses has virtually stagnated. Thus, the impor­tance of pulses in food-grains output has declined.

Secondly, wheat production increased much faster than that of rice, leading to a fall in the im­portance of rice in total cereal production and a consequent rise in the importance of wheat. While production of rice increased from 42.2 mn. tones in 1970-71 to 8.95 mn. tones in 1999-00, that of wheat increased from 23.8 mn. tones to 75.6 mn. tones during the same period.

Concluding Comments:

Various lessons have been learnt from the experience of green revolution, which is embod­ied in the ‘seed-fertiliser-irrigation’ package. From these lessons it appears that the revolution has achieved only partial success in India. Critics even argue that it would be too premature to call it revo­lution in the true sense.

The following points may be mentioned in this context:

1. Flow of Information:

The spread of new technology depends on the flow of information which, it its turn, is conditioned by the level of literacy. In India, most farmers are illiterate. So a crash programme of educational expansion in ru­ral areas is vital for spreading the favourable ef­fects (actual and potential) of green revolution.

2. Differences in Interest Rates:

In the present rural set-up, only big farmers can obtain loans at a modest rate from co-operatives and com­mercial banks. The small farmers have to depend on indigenous bankers and private moneylenders for obtaining crop loans. In un-organised money markets, the rate of interest varies for 18% to 80% compared to 6% to 10% charged by co-operatives and rural banks.


Since official agencies meet only 40% of the credit needs of the farmers and the bulk of it is provided to large farmers, their smaller coun­terparts find it very difficult to purchase modern inputs. In fact, the present system of differential interest rate introduces a difference in the real price of inputs to the large (capitalist) fanners and small (marginal) farmers and thus discriminates against the latter.

3. Control Over Water Supply:

The adop­tion of new technology is largely conditioned by control over water supply and regulation of its timing by the farmers. This is possible if deep tube-wells or diesel pump-sets are installed. But this requires a large initial investment which is beyond the capacity of most farmers.

While the average size of landholding in India is 5 acres or 2 hectares, farmers with land of 4 hectares or more can usually afford it. In the context of accelerating the pace of new technology, development of rental market (to ensure an assured supply of water as and when needed) makes good sense.

A Final Word:

It is felt that the introduction of non-exploitative forms of tenancy and upward revision of farm wages may go a long way in mak­ing green revolution a success. This has to be sup­ported by the provision of certain non-farm serv­ices such as cheap credit to small farmers, provi­sion of security of tenure to cultivating tenants, and creation of organisational framework to take care of economic inequalities, so that the green revolution can bring maximum benefit to the larg­est number of rural people.