Definition, Importance, Scope and Problems of Vegetable Production
Horticulture is gaining importance as it gives more returns per unit area and also gives nutritious food to human beings thereby improving quality of life and enhancing the aesthetic beauty of nature. Vegetable growing is one of the major branches of horticulture and from the point of view of the value of the products; it is the most important branch.
“Vegetables are defined as edible herbaceous plants/plant parts consumed as raw or after cooking and rich in vitamins and minerals low in calorific value”.
In a technical sense, all parts are vegetables used for consumption. The term, however, is usually applied to the edible plants which store up reserve food in roots, tubers, bulbs, stems, petioles, leaves, buds, flowers, fruits, and seeds which are eaten either cooked or raw.
1. Rich source of basic and protective elements
Vegetables are rich in carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, vitamins, and other protective substances. They are important for neutralizing the acidic effect produced during the digestion of meat, cheese, and other fatty foods and roughages promote digestion and help to prevent constipation. The vitamins which are available in almost all kinds of vegetables produce profound and specific physiological effects in the human body.
Ten mineral elements are required apart from carbohydrates and proteins for proper growth and development of human health. Out of this calcium, iron and phosphorous are required in larger quantities but they are not present in sufficient amounts in other foodstuff except vegetables. Iodine and sodium elements are also supplied by vegetables. The nutrients, source, and deficiency symptoms are presented in Table 1.
Table 1: Nutrient, source, and deficiency symptoms of vegetables.
Type of mineral/vitamin & their role
Name of the vegetables
Carbohydrates: Provide energy
Tuber vegetables i.e., potato, sweet potato, tapioca, and yams.
Proteins: Made up of amino acids, growth, and repair of the body
Immature seeds of lima bean, broad bean, peas, garlic, onion, etc.
Retarded growth, retarded mental development, discoloration of the skin, swelling of leg and feet, fatty liver (kwashiorkor)
Calcium: Important for bones, teeth, blood clotting, resistance against infection
Amaranthus, cauliflower, drumstick leaves, lettuce, methi, carrot, onion, turnip, green peas, tomato, coriander, spinach, cabbage.
Irritability, retarded growth and bone weakness.
Iron: Essential part of red blood corpuscles.
Moringa-leaves, amaranthus, methi, mint, coriander, drumstick, spinach.
Anemia, pale smooth tongue, pale lips.
Phosphorus: Cell multiplication, proper maintenance of liquid content in the tissue, role in the oxidation of carbohydrates
Potato, carrot, tomato, cucumber, spinach, cauliflower, lettuce, and onion.
Vitamin A: Provides general health
Carrot, spinach, palak, leafy vegetables, sweet potato (yellow), pumpkin (yellow).
Night blindness, respiratory infections, formation of stones in kidney, rough skin, and growth in children retarded.
Vitamin B complex:
Peas, broad bean, lima bean, garlic, asparagus, corn, tomatoes
a) Beriberi: loss of appetite
Vitamin C: Essential for growth and resistance against diseases.
Turnip, green chilli, brussels sprout, mustard, green leafy vegetables, cole crops, bitter gourd, radish
Scurvy, bleeding gums, and mucous membrane, cold, loss of energy, delay in wound healing
Vitamin D: Essential for bone and teeth
Green leafy vegetables
Bone and teeth weakness.
Vitamin E: antisterility and essential for reproduction
Cabbage, lettuce, methi, Spinach, and vegetable oils
Fertility is affected
Roughage: (Cellulose and fiber) Add digestion and prevent constipation
Leafy vegetables (Cabbage, Spinach, Lettuce), most root crops
Indigestion and constipation
2. More yield per unit area
Vegetables are not only good in taste and rich in vitamins but also give higher yields per unit area than cereals and other crops. The following Table 2 compares the yield per hectare of various crops.
Table 2: Comparison of yield for cereals vs vegetables.
Average yield/ha in quintals
3. More net returns per unit area per day
Vegetables are an important source of farm income. Most of the vegetables are quick growing and ready for harvest within a short time enabling the grower to practice succession cropping and intercropping and thus providing the grower, with more profit compared to cereals.
4. Role in Agroforestry
A number of vegetables are found to be most suitable for growing as intercrop along with trees. During the early stage (up to 5 years) crops like potato, bhendi, tomato, brinjal, onion, peas, etc., can be grown successfully while during the later stage (from 5-10 years) crops like chilli, palak, and ginger can be grown effectively.
5. Employment of a great number of manpower per unit area
Vegetables are usually grown with intensive cultivation practices. The vegetable industry requires more labourers for one or the other operations continuously throughout the year starting from soil preparation to marketing.
6. Suitability for succession and intercropping resulting in greater intensity of cropping:
Vegetables can be grown throughout the year In the perennial crop orchard vegetables can very much grown as an intercrop. Few vegetables can be grown twice or even thrice in a year.
7. Flexibility in the production Programme:
The production program can be adjusted and changed for better profits according to the need compared to fruit crops. In fruit crops it is difficult, time consuming and also expensive to change the production program if it turns out to be unprofitable.
8. Aesthetic value of vegetables
Immense joy and pleasure are derived from producing vegetables in kitchen gardens.
Scope of Vegetable production
- China is the largest producer of vegetables in the world followed by India.
- According to NHB (2021-22), India has witnessed an increase in horticulture production over the last few years. Significant progress has been made in area expansion resulting in higher production. During 2021-22, the production of horticulture crops was 342.33 Million Tonnes from an area of 28.75 million Hectares. The production of vegetables has increased from 101.2 Million Tonnes to 204.84 Million Tonnes from 2004-05 to 2021-22. The area under vegetables cultivation was 11.35 million hectares (NHB 2021-22)
- According to FAO (2021), India is the largest producer of ginger and okra among vegetables and second in the production of potato, onion, cauliflower, brinjal, cabbage, etc.
- This huge production base provides tremendous opportunities for exports to India. During 2022-23, India exports fresh fruits and vegetables worth INR 13185.30 Crore / US$ 1635.95 Million. Which included fresh vegetables worth Rs. 6,965.83 Crore/ US$ 865.24 Million.
- Onions, mixed vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes, and green chilies contribute largely to the vegetable export basket.
- India shares 13.38 percent of the world’s production of vegetables.
- Vegetable crops, occupy only 2.8 per cent of the total cultivated land.
- The area and production wise largest vegetable-growing states are West Bengal, Orissa, and Uttar Pradesh.
- A large number of vegetable crops are being cultivated in India in temperate, tropical and subtropical regions. Most of the vegetables are quick growing, high yielding, and give very high remuneration. India is the world’s second-largest producer of vegetables next only to China. India shares 12 percent of the world’s production of vegetables with a productivity of about 15 t/ha which is quite low as compared to many countries.
- The present production is not sufficient to meet the requirement of 300 g of vegetables on an average per capita per day. At present our per capita availability is around 145 g / day. By the end of 2030 according to an estimate, we need 151-193 million tonnes of vegetables to meet our requirements. The area, production, and productivity of leading vegetable-producing states are given in Table 3.
Table 3: Production of vegetables in leading states of India (2018- 19)
Area ( 000’ ha)
Production (000’ tonnes)
All India Total
Source: Indian Horticulture database, (2018-19)
- The vegetable industry contributes heavily to the national economy. Millions of farmers, business people (marketing), and industries (seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, machinery manufacturers, etc.) are directly or indirectly dependent on vegetable cultivation.
- Vegetables have great potential to contribute directly to income, employment, and nutrition. Due to varied geographical situations and favourable climatic conditions, India can develop into one of the leading countries exporting fresh vegetables and their seeds. During 2006-07, India exported fresh vegetables worth of Rs. 430.2 crores. Of all the fresh vegetables exported the share of onion is around 75 %. Other traditional vegetables which are presently exported are potato, gherkins, okra, bitter gourd, chilli, cauliflower, and some root vegetables.
- In addition to these traditional vegetables, non-traditional vegetables which have export potential are asparagus, celery, sweet pepper, sweet corn, green pea, french bean, and tomato. Cole crops and root vegetables are in much more demand in temperate countries during winter. In India, these vegetables are grown in the open during winter and thus the cost of production is less as compared to those grown under protective cover. There is a lot of opportunity for exporting these vegetables to European and North American countries from India.
Problems and prospects of vegetable production in India
Indian vegetable industry is developing at a faster rate. Many aspects of vegetable improvement and the production practices are developed still the following are limitations of vegetable farming in India.
1. Vegetables are highly perishable:
Fresh vegetables are like living organisms and as such undergo normal life processes even after harvest. They respire, loss of water occurs through transpiration and undergo chemical changes if not sold immediately after harvest. The deterioration of vegetables is also influenced considerably by temperature, atmospheric humidity, and other factors. The losses in leafy vegetables and fruit vegetables are much more than in root and tuber vegetable crops. Thus, a considerable quantity of vegetables produced in our country is wasted every year.
2. Ignorance of the nutritive value of vegetables:
A majority of the community is quite unaware of the nutritive value of different vegetable crops. Hence, in spite of available facilities for cultivation, they are not giving much attention to vegetable gardening. In our country, most of the population residing in villages are not educated and do not realize the importance of vegetable crops which are an important source of vitamins and minerals.
3. Illiteracy and lack of technical knowledge of scientific cultivation:
Authentic literature on vegetable cultivation is still not available to farmers. Literature is very essential for the selection of suitable varieties for different regions for different purposes, economic methods of cultivation including doses of nutrients, methods of controlling insect pests and diseases, and the ways to get maximum return from these crops. At present ICAR-New Delhi, CFTRI-Mysore, and State Agricultural Universities are publishing literature on vegetable crops but yet there is an inadequate supply of the same to growers.
4. Lack of transportation facility:
Timely and speedy delivery of vegetables with minimum damage and deterioration en route at the lowest cost are important aspects of transportation. Most of Indian villages though there are proper facilities for growing vegetables, yet organized cultivation has not taken place due to a lack of proper transportation facilities.
5. Lack of enough refrigeration and storage facilities:
The losses during the storage may be lesser if vegetables are stored properly under regulated conditions of temperature and humidity. In India this type of storage facility is available only in cities at higher rent. Hence a small grower cannot use it for harvested vegetables. Therefore, it could be advantageous if cold storage houses are constructed near production regions for storing the produce.
6. Non availability of sufficient quantity of quality seed in time:
There should be proper arrangements for supplying good vegetable seeds for both early and late crops. The vegetable seed industry is largely in the hands of private agencies and few of them have adequate facilities for scientific production. As a result, the seeds available in the market are often of doubtful origin and usually give an indifferent performance. National Seed Corporation, New Delhi started supply of improved and hybrid seeds of many vegetables directly and through its branches to cultivators and vegetable growers. However, still, there is a great scope for evolving and standardizing new varieties of the best quality vegetables in India.
7. Malpractice in marketing:
Marketing includes all the steps from the time the produce is ready for harvest till it is in the hands of the consumers. The main aim of marketing is that the producers should get a suitable price for their produce. At present due to more middlemen and the price meant for the produce is not received by the producer.
8. The problem of Insect pests, diseases, and weeds:
Due to the tenderness of vegetables, insect pest, disease, and weed attack is more in vegetable crops than in cereals/ fruit crops/forest trees.
9. Lack of irrigation facilities:
Light and frequent irrigation are very essential for vegetable growing. During summer it is not possible to grow vegetables if irrigation facilities are not available. Perennial and large-season vegetables are grown if better irrigation facilities are available.
10. Lack of research, technical guidance, and sufficient capital:
Before 1970, there was no coordinated scheme in the country but at present, the All India Co-ordinated Improvement Project on potato, vegetables, and tuber crops is running at the country level and conducting research work on important vegetable crops. Generally, vegetable growers in our country have not well developed as yet and cannot afford heavy expenditure in vegetable growing. Due to a lack of capital, they are not using better chemicals, fertilizers, and labour-saving equipment. Due to these facts, they are not getting better yields and quality.