Agriculture is a primary occupation for the majority of the Indian population. As the technology in this sector advances over the years, it has become a stream of education that interests many students. Agriculture as a subject helps us to understand the necessity of cultivation and farming and the various technologies that can be used to maximize production. All this knowledge helps the scholars of these subjects to bring new ideas into this sector and have a positive impact on the farming sector altogether. For Indian Forest Service, Agriculture is one of the optional subjects, as the work of IFoS officers is closely associated with certain aspects of this sector.
The IFoS Mains exams are scheduled from February 28, 2021, which means, you have more than enough time to thoroughly prepare the optional papers, including revision. This is only possible when you have a thorough preparation strategy and utilize the available time completely.
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Who can choose Agriculture as Optional in IFoS Mains?
Usually, aspirants who have agriculture as background or its allied subjects choose it for optional. Also, many candidates consider the subject scoring and easy and this is another reason behind its popularity. People from science backgrounds like botany, biochemistry, food science, horticulture, and microbiology also choose agriculture as an option. Without prior knowledge of science, agriculture can be difficult to prepare.
Advantages of Agriculture optional in IFoS Mains
Agriculture is a popular subject as optional in IFoS Mains. This is mainly because of the several advantages that are associated with the subject. The following are a few important factors which you must consider while choosing the optional papers and determining whether agriculture is the right choice for you:
- Compared to other optional subjects, the syllabus of agriculture is significantly smaller which means less time is required for the preparation.
- The questions in paper II are mostly related to botany which means, this subject is especially convenient for botany students.
- Few topics and sections of agriculture overlap with general studies which means the overall preparation requires less effort. This is another reason why many candidates opt for this subject.
- Agriculture is a concept based and strategic subject that gives flexibility and scope for incorporating personal views and opinions in the answer. If your views are well-constructed and backed up with sufficient evidence, the subject is very scoring too.
- The basic topics included in paper-I of agriculture are relevant to general studies and hence, by revising the sections from the prelims syllabus which overlaps with paper-I, you can prepare the subject effortlessly. Concepts of agricultural customs and cell structure is incorporated in the general studies papers.
Agriculture Optional Syllabus for IFoS Mains
The syllabus is not very huge and five months is more than enough to complete it entirely and have ample time for revision too. When you are familiar with the syllabus, strategizing the preparation and determining the topics to emphasize becomes easier.
Agriculture Optional Paper-I Syllabus
- Ecology- its conservation and relevance to humans.
- Physical and social environment that affects crop distribution and production. Also, cropping patterns as an indicator of the environmental conditions.
- Pollution- the impact and hazard it poses on crops, people, wildlife, etc.
- Climate change- international and national initiatives against global warming, greenhouse effect and its impact, tools for ecosystem analysis and how they work.
- Cropping pattern in the various parts of the country based on the regional climatic condition.
- A shift in the cropping pattern and knowledge of different cropping and farming systems.
- Packaging practices in production of cereals, oilseeds, sugar, fiber, and commercial and fodder crops.
- Concepts of social-forestry, agroforestry, natural forests, different ways of propagating forests, and forest products.
- Conservation methods and techniques for flora and fauna.
- Soil types- their biological, physical and chemical properties- the different types of soils available in India- concept of how soil productivity is maintained- all about soil testing, fertility, and nutrition management.
- Bio-fertilizers- efficient use of phosphorus and potassium in farming-efficient use of nitrogen and managing problematic soils and increasing their productivity.
- Efficient use of water in relation to production of crops- different ways to reduce water run-off and various means of harvesting water.
- Application of economics in different types of farming system-market intelligence, price fluctuation of crops, different systems of farming and how they are affected by the economy, crop insurance, agricultural price policy.
- Important and role of agricultural extension, socio-economic surveys of small, large, marginal and landless farmers.
- Different types of training programs for extension workers. Importance of Krishi Vigyan Kendra with respect to agricultural technologies, and NGOs and their approach to rural development.
Agriculture Optional Paper-II Syllabus
- Cell-structure, synthesis, structure and functions of different genetic materials.
- Chromosome structure, and its aberration, cross-over, linkage and the laws of heredity.
- Mutation and its role in the improvement of different crop species.
- Application of heritability, sterility, and incompatibility, in crop improvement.
- History of plant breeding and different modes of reproductions including selfing and crossing techniques.
- The different laws of homologous series, crop genetics and resource conservation and utilization.
- Somatic hybridization and breeding methods for disease and pest resistance. Role of genetic engineering and biotechnology in improving the crop species.
- Principles of plant physiology
- Enzymes and plant pigments and photosynthesis
- Major fruits, plantation crops, vegetables, spices and flower crops in India.
- Diagnosis of pests and any kind of disease for field crops.
- Trends of food production and consumption in India.
- PEM and PCM, PDS, HRD and micronutrient deficiency management.
Best Reference Books for Agriculture Optional
It is important to choose at least 2-3 books which cover all the topics of paper-I and Paper-II. There are several good reference books and you can choose any of these to start your preparation. Also make sure the books you are choosing have ample questions and compilation of previous year question and solved examples for better references:
- Agricultural Extension Education in India
- Agriculture Statistics
- Agronomy – Yellamanda Reddy
- Entomology – Vasantha Raj & David
- Soil Science – D.K Das Or Brady
- Introduction To Horticulture – Kumar
- Handbook Of Agriculture -ICAR
- Physiology – Pandey & Singha
- Plant Breeding -B.D. Singh
- Special Issue of Agriculture by The Hindu
- The Hindu – Survey Of Indian Agriculture
- Genetics By B.D. Singh
- Agricultural Economics and Farm Management Agricultural Extension Education in India
- Agricultural Extension Education in India Pathology – Singh
Preparation Strategy for Agriculture Optional
It is very important to smartly study the subject by understanding the question patterns and the topics which are more important. By dedicating 10 hours a week and studying for 4-5 months, you can complete the entire syllabus and still have enough time for multiple revisions. However, this is only possible when you keep a few tricks in mind and implement them dedicatedly while strategizing the preparation-
- Be thoroughly familiar with the syllabus and also refer to old question papers from previous years to recognize patterns. This will help you answer the questions better.
- Understand the question pattern for optional papers and recognize the topics which are your strengths and weaknesses. Since the candidate has to answer 5 out of the 8 questions in the papers, you can strategize your study plan accordingly.
- Prepare your own notes from a few good books. This is going to be time consuming and the part where you will require most of the time. Hence, do not postpone beginning the preparation till the last moment. It is better not to rely on ready-made notes available as there are hardly few quality notes available for this subject particularly.
- Agriculture is a dynamic subject which means, relevant current-affairs based questions will also be asked. So, you must simultaneously stay updated with any news relevant to the subject that comes up. Following a national newspaper with dedicated columns for agriculture is a good way to keep yourself updated on the same.
- Often questions are repeated in agriculture optional so practice at least 5-6 years’ question papers thoroughly. Especially lay emphasis on questions which have been repeated frequently every 2-3 years.
- Practice substantiating your answer with relevant diagrams while preparing notes or writing answers at home. This is a good way to make your answer script stand out and draw the attention of the examiner. Also, agriculture as a subject offers many scope to depict your answer through diagrams which means you have the option to make your scripts as unique as possible. However, do remember to label the diagrams accurately so that it is valuable in reference to your answers.
- While studying previous years’ question papers, make note of the following-
- Subjects and topics that are recurrent every year
- Topics which are asked about every few years
- Topics that rarely come in the exam
- Topics which witness multiple questions being asked from them.
- Even if you start studying from various different sources, as you progress a bit with the syllabus, start sorting out the sources with respect to ease of reading, information-rich and understandable so that you do not get confused in the long run.
- Rather than memorizing, understand the concepts behind the different topics and prepare the notes accordingly. This practice will help you attempt unprepared questions as well in the exam hall.
- Specifically emphasis on the latest agricultural policies taken up by the government and their details. Check the Agricultural Ministry website to find the most authentic information on these topics.
Answer writing tips for Agriculture optional
Many aspirants who are well prepared still fail to secure marks that are above average. This is primarily because of the answer writing pattern. UPSC IFoS exam calls for administrative as well as academic understanding of the job. This should also be reflected through the answers that you are writing. This is where many candidates fail as their answers lack the bureaucratic approach and insight of the department’s importance in the Indian economy as well as society. Here are some tips on how to structure the answers for agriculture optional in IFoS to fetch the maximum marks-
- Time management is crucial during the exam. Even though there are only 5 questions to be answered in 3 hours, it is more difficult than how it sounds. Fine tuning your time management involves improving your writing speed, as well as enhancing your ability to frame answers impromptu. All these will be improved as a whole from regularly practising writing answers and making notes.
- At least spend 10 minutes to read the question paper thoroughly and determine the five questions that you are going to answer. Once you have finalised the questions, strike out the rest to avoid any distraction.
- Understand the questions first and deliver answers which are straightforward and address the key points of the question. Structure your answers systematically with a crisp introduction, a body with all the analytical points in relevance to the question and the conclusion should convey an insightful understanding of the question and discuss the topic in reference to the impact it can have on Indian society and economy.
- Use agriculture based terms as and whenever required. Scientific names and technical terms should be used properly in context. To improve your ability to recognize sections where these terms are essential, read materials like economic surveys on agriculture, PIB etc.
- Substantiate answers wherever possible with case studies that are relevant. This means, while preparing a specific topic, you should simultaneously look up case studies relevant to it and prepare notes accordingly.
- While substantiating the answers with diagrams, flow charts and similar graphical representation, it is best to use pencil or a different coloured pen. However, if you do not have the time, a neat and precise diagram which is properly labelled using the same pen as your writing will still fetch good marks as long as it’s relevant. It is entirely upon the candidates’ discretion to decide whether they have the time for these things.
- Do not drag your answers till 3-4 pages when you can cover all the points in simple language and precisely in two pages. Dragging and elaborating the answer without any basis will not fetch extra marks but can definitely leave potential spaces for marks deduction.
- Develop the ability to shorten or expand an answer as required. For example, often a question that is generally asked for 10 marks can be asked in the 20 marks section which means its word count has to be accordingly expanded. This is where the practice will be useful.
- In the past couple of years, there has always been at least one trick question in the UPSC optional papers. It is best to avoid it unless you are absolutely sure about the answer. While attempting it can fetch you extra marks, but incorrect attempts will lose you 10-20 marks at one go.
- It is compulsory to attend at last one question apart from the compulsory question from each set. Apart from that you can choose another from any of the two sets. Candidates often get confused with which is the wisest choice. Choose questions which have ample options for diagrams and flow charts and case studies as they are likely to fetch better marks.
IFoS 2020 is scheduled for October 4, 2020 and the Mains are going to be held for ten days from February 28, 2021 onwards. This is a great scope for the aspirants as now you have much more time to prepare for the exam. Keeping in mind the tips we have shared above, you can easily ace the exam through dedicated and regular studies.