Agriculture Optional

How to prepare Agriculture optional for UPSC?

Agriculture is one of the most scoring subjects of the IAS main exam. Candidates from zoology, botany and agriculture and other related field can opt it as UPSC optional subject.  It is tough for other aspirants who do not belong to botany or agriculture to clear the exam with this optional subject. With right approach and proper preparation, the exam can be easily cracked.

  • First know the syllabus well and understand it thoroughly,
  • Choose right reference books for the preparation.
  • Make a study plan according to the known syllabus.
  • Prepare notes of all the topics so as to get clarity and clear understanding of topics.
  • Practice the previous year question papers.
  • Practice through as many mock test series as much you can.

Why agriculture optional?

  • First of all the syllabus of agriculture optional for UPSC optional is short and it can be prepared easily. Also it can be easily managed with other subjects.
  • Paper II of Agriculture optional is similar to that of Botany paper II. So this makes the task of preparation must easier as one can prepare for both of them simultaneously. This is an added advantage for the aspirants.
  • Many topics of agriculture are helpful in preparing for general studies paper. Most of the topics directly help in preparing for geography and economy.

 Tips for preparation

Candidates should follow the tips to write the exam and attempt it in a proper way. One of the obvious factor is preparation tips are needed for any exam. to ace the exam  perseverance and persistency along with planning are required.

Paper I of agriculture optional basically focuses on farm practices and other basic foundations of agriculture. But paper II of agriculture optional deals basically deals with cell theory and cell structure etc. These topics are elimination factor if not covered thoroughly. Thus a proper understanding is much needed.

   Below are given tips to prepare well

  Step 1: know the syllabus

Before preparing for any competitive exam, it is advisable to know the syllabus of the exam. if you are well versed with the syllabus, you know what to study. Also through this a candidate also gets to know which all are the the topics at which he is good and which one are the topics at which he is not so good. So a basic understanding of syllabus will be advantageous.

Step 2 : select appropriate study material

After knowing what to study it is useful to know from where to study. Select the best study material which includes reference books and different coaching materials. One of the most famous coaching is Ramanasri Coaching whose study material for UPSC is best and is very concise. It will help to prepare for the exam well.

 Recommended books for Agriculture:

  • Plant Breeding Principles and Methods- B.D. Singh
  • Fundamentals of Genetics- B.D. Singh
  • Plant Physiology- V.K. Jain
  • Introductory Soil Science- D.K. Das
  • Economics of Farm Production and Management- Raju and Rao
  • Principles of Agronomy-T.Y. Reddy and G.H.S. Reddi
  • Plant pathology- P.D. Sharma
  • Introduction to Horticulture- N Kumar

Step 3: Prepare your study schedule

After knowing what to study and from where to study lets come to the point how to study. It is better to make s study plan for yourself. This will help in time management and to study in a better way. Through this you can allocate different time to different topics and decide at what time you will study what. It will save a lot of time and avoid unnecessary time wastage.

A candidate can do following:

  • Allocate one hour daily to paper A Indian language.
  • Allocate one hour daily to paper B English.
  • Allocate one hour daily to paper 2 general studies 1.
  • Allocate one hour daily to paper 3 general studies 2.
  • Allocate one hour daily to paper 4 general studies 3.
  • Allocate one hour daily to paper 5 general studies 4.
  • Allocate one hour daily paper 6 agriculture optional 1.
  • Allocate one hour daily paper 7 agriculture optional 2.

Step 4: Prepare UPSC agriculture optional important topics

Paper 1 of agriculture optional basically focuses on basic farm practices and foundation of agriculture. While writing paper a candidate should focus on writing simple and application oriented answer. Also to fetch more marks a candidate should use drawing flowcharts and diagrams when required in paper. In addition to this questions should be answered in relation to Indian farm practices.

Also cite various examples while writing answers in the exam. the answer should be correlated to present situation.  Data mentioned in answers should be the latest one from different government sites and reports.

Students who have opted for agriculture with botany must focus on preparing about cell structure and bio technology, physiology and bio chemistry. There are questions related to agricultural applications. Students should focus on giving examples of Indian agriculture.

Step 5: solve past year question papers multiple times.

It is always better to solve past year question paper as many times as possible. This gives a clear picture as what can be asked in the final exam. Also a student can make a pattern as what kind of questions is coming from last so many years. This helps to differentiate as  what all topics are important from the exam point of view.

After doing an analysis of past year papers, it becomes easier to prepare for final exam. this act as an added advantage for the candidates. As while studying and doing preparation for the final exam, a candidate is able to prepare well.

Therefore agriculture optional is a good choice for UPSC. If preparation is done at right time then this paper can be easily aced and a candidate can score really good marks by following the right approach. This subject can boost your score for the final exam and helps to increase your score in the final main exam.

About Agriculture Optional



Ecology and its relevance to man, natural resources, their sustainable management and conservation. Physical and social environment as factors of crop distribution and production. Agroecology; cropping pattern as indicators of environments. Environmental pollution and associated hazards to crops, animals and humans. Climate change—international conventions and global initiatives. Greenhouse effect and global warming. Advance tools for ecosystem analysis— Remote Sensing (RS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Cropping patterns in different agro-climatic zones of the country. Impact of high-yielding and short-duration varieties on shifts in cropping patterns. Concepts of various cropping, and farming systems. Organic and Precision farming. Package of practices for production of important cereals, pulses, oilseeds, fibres, sugar, commercial and fodder crops. Important features, and scope of various types of forestry plantations such as social forestry, agro-forestry, and natural forests: Propagation of forest plants. Forest products. Agro-forestry and value addition. Conservation of forest flora and fauna. Weeds, their characteristics, dissemination and association with various crops; their multiplications; cultural, biological, and chemical control of weeds. Soil—physical, chemical and biological properties. Processes and factors of soil formation. Soils of India. Mineral and organic constituents of soils and their role in maintaining soil productivity. Essential plant nutrients and other beneficial elements in soils and plants. Principles of soil fertility, soil testing and fertiliser recommendations, integrated nutrient management Biofertilizers. Losses of nitrogen in the soil, nitrogen-use efficiency in submerged rice soils, nitrogen fixation in soils. Efficient phosphorus and potassium use. Problem soils and their reclamation. Soil factors affecting greenhouse gas emission. Soil conservation, integrated watershed management. Soil erosion and its management. Dryland agriculture and its problems. Technology for stabilising agriculture production in rainfed areas. Water-use efficiency concerning crop production, criteria for scheduling irrigations, ways and means of reducing run-off losses of irrigation water. Rainwater harvesting. Drip and sprinkler irrigation. Drainage of water-logged soils, quality of irrigation water, the effect of industrial effluents on soil and water pollution. Irrigation projects in India. Farm management, scope, importance and characteristics, farm planning. Optimum resource use and budgeting. Economics of different types of farming systems. Marketing management strategies for development, market intelligence. Price fluctuations and their cost; the role of co-operatives in agricultural economy; types and systems of farming and factors affecting them. Agricultural price policy. Crop Insurance. Agricultural extension, its importance and role, methods of evaluation of extension programmes, socio-economic survey and status of big, small and marginal farmers and landless agricultural labourers; Training programmes for extension workers. Role of Krishi Vigyan Kendra’s (KVK) in the dissemination of Agricultural technologies. Non-Government Organisation (NGO) and self-help group approach for rural development.


Cell structure, function and cell cycle. Synthesis, structure and function of genetic material. Laws of heredity. Chromosome structure, chromosomal aberrations, linkage and cross-over, and their significance in recombination breeding. Polyploidy, euploids and aneuploids. Mutation—and their role in crop improvement. Heritability, sterility and incompatibility, classification and their application in crop improvement. Cytoplasmic inheritance, sex-linked, sex-influenced and sex-limited characters. History of plant breeding. Modes of reproduction, selfing and crossing techniques. Origin, evolution and domestication of crop plants, a centre of origin, the law of homologous series, crop genetic resources—conservation and utilization. Application of principles of plant breeding, improvement of crop plants. Molecular markers and their application in plant improvement. Pure-line selection, pedigree, mass and recurrent selections, combining ability, its significance in plant breeding. Heterosis and its exploitation. Somatic hybridization. Breeding for disease and pest resistance. Role of interspecific and intergeneric hybridization. Role of genetic engineering and biotechnology in crop improvement Genetically modified crop plants. Seed production and processing technologies. Seed certification, seed testing and storage. DNA fingerprinting and seed registration. Role of public and private sectors in seed production, and marketing. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues, WTO issues and its impact on Agriculture. Principles of Plant Physiology concerning plant nutrition, absorption, translocation and metabolism of nutrients. Soil-water-plant relationship. Enzymes and plant pigments; photosynthesis—modern concepts and factors affecting the process, aerobic and anaerobic respiration; C3, C4 and CAM mechanisms. Carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism. Growth and development; photoperiodism and vernalization. Plant growth substances and their role in crop production. Physiology of seed development and germination; dormancy. Stress physiology—draught, salt and water stress. Major fruits, plantation crops, vegetables, spices and flower crops. Package practices of major horticultural crops. Protected cultivation and high tech horticulture. Post-harvest technology and value addition of fruits and vegetables. Landscaping and commercial floriculture. Medicinal and aromatic plants. Role of fruits and vegetables in human nutrition. Diagnosis of pests and diseases of field crops, vegetables, orchard and plantation crops and their economic importance. Classification of pests and diseases and their management. Integrated pest and diseases management. Storage pests and their management. Biological control of pests and diseases. Epidemiology and forecasting of major crop pests and diseases. Plant quarantine measures. Pesticides, their formulation and modes of action. Food production and consumption trends in India. Food security and growing population—vision 2020. Reasons for grain surplus. National and International food policies. Production, procurement, distribution constraints. Availability of food grains, per capita expenditure on food. Trends in poverty, Public Distribution System and Below Poverty Line population, Targeted Public Distribution System (PDS), policy implementation in context to globalization. Processing constraints. Relation of food production to National Dietary Guidelines and food consumption pattern. Food-based dietary approaches to eliminate hunger. Nutrient deficiency—Micronutrient deficiency: Protein Energy Malnutrition or Protein Calorie Malnutrition (PEM or PCM), Micro nutrient deficiency and HRD in context of work capacity of women and children. Food grain productivity and food security.