1. UPSC Prelim-2020 Answerkey: Agriculture section
  2. How to prepare Agriculture for UPSC Prelims-2021?
  3. How to prepare Agriculture for UPSC Mains-2021 (GSM3)?
  4. Excessive BHAKTI of Kurukshetra?
  5. Utility of theHindu?
  6. Agri: Fertilizer related (2 MCQ)
  7. Agri: Crop Types/Production MCQs (2 MCQ)
  8. Cropping methods & Practices (3 MCQs)
  9. Counterview-Third statement wrong answer should be “A”
  10. Epilogue

UPSC Prelim-2020 Answerkey: Agriculture section

UPSC Prelims 2020 agriculture answer key and analysis by Mrunal

Ever since the merger of Indian Forest Service (IFoS) prelims with the Civil services (IAS/IPS) prelim exam, there has been a peculiar trend of questions from environment and Agriculture

Agriculture in Prelim 2015 to 2019 Prelim-2020: Continuity and Change
From 2015 to 2019 around 4-5 MCQs came from Agriculture. In 2018 hardly two questions came 7 MCQ asked, Which is highest in the last 5 years
2017: past the nature of question had been quite easy for example soil health card scheme, National Agriculture Market’ (e-NAM)

But ever since then 2018, 2019 – It had been medium to difficult level questions.

Examiner has gone deeper into the known topics for example: 1) Ammonia is used in making urea, 2) fertigation method, 3) sugarcane – Every serious UPSC aspirant is familiar with these things, but examiner has asked more detailed and Technical questions from it. Making the overall feeling of “medium to tough difficulty”.
Yearbook organizations like APEDA asked

International organisations / treaties such as GACSA asked

Nothing from such Agro related organisations / Summits or treaties.
Low profile schemes on millet promotion, seed villages, asked Nothing from government schemes and initiative even though many high profile topics had occurred,  such as:

  • APMC ordinance/Act,
  • Agriculture infrastructure fund,
  • Pradhanmantri Matsya Sampada Yojana,
  • Atma Nirbhar Bharat etc.
2019: Quantitative data interpretation question about area under cultivation for Rice, Jowar, Cotton, Sugarcane Similar question about the pulses and black/green gram production.
Zero /minimum tillage had been a favourite subject matter for the examiner. In 2017 and 2018 He had used this term in at least one options each year again asked from zero tillage.
2018 and before: Agricultural biotechnology related question such as Mycorrhizal biotech, Somatic cell transfer for animal cloning etc Nothing of that sort from agriculture this time however some Biotech related questions have been asked under traditional science-tech portion
Nature of MCQs: one liner, 2 statement true/ false, 3 statement true/false Only 1 MCQ  was “one liner” i.e. Direct 4 options given

3 MCQs were “Three statement find true or false” (3TF)

3 MCQs were “Four statement find true or false” (4TF)

It makes the paper lengthy, and mentally exhaustive,  because just to tick one answer you need to be familiar with multiple factoids.

2018: asked about “Conservation Agriculture” techniques asked about “Eco friendly” agriculture techniques

How to prepare Agriculture for UPSC Prelims-2021?

  • First of all, there is a need to get out of this “cynical and negative attitude” that
    • Agriculture was very difficult, and it is only for recruitment of the Indian Agriculture Service exam and not IAS exam.
    • This type of paper is more helpful to the science stream students and English medium students
  • Yes, it is a relatively tougher paper, but then the cutoff never 200 out of 200 marks, and the marks secured in the Prelims exam are not counted in the final rank.
  • It is also true that routine preparation sources such as NCERT, Shankar IAS, Majid Husain geography etc have given very limited utility in these agriculture questions. But that also does not mean that we drop everything and buy some B.Sc/M.Sc. Agriculture type of book. You should continue with sources that are available to you.

The agro MCQs in UPSC Prelims can be classified into three categories:

  1. Government Schemes, Policies, Acts from Current Affairs
  2. Cultivation & Irrigation Practice:
  3. R&D, Genetic engineering related:

Start with NCERT Class 7 to 12 textbooks on science, biology, social science, economy and geography

  • You don’t have to read them from the first page to the last page. Do only selective study of the chapters related to agriculture.
  • For example,
  • Economy Class11 has content on green revolution.
  • Biology Class12 has chapters on flora-fauna, biotechnology.
  • You’ll find irrigation, soil, crops related factoids from social science textbooks of 7 to 10. And so forth.
  • Even if no direct questions are asked, these basic concepts may you arrive at 50:50 elimination stage in an MCQ.
  • Then, Majid Hussain’s Indian Geography 4 (climate), 5 (vegetation), 6 (soil) and 9 (Agriculture).
  • ✅Some of the chapters / topics from ShankarIAS book, related to agriculture
  • Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s India 2020 Yearbook Chapter 4 on agriculture is useless, no direct questions are coming from it (based on the trend so far) So no need to waste time in it.
  • ✋ Some of these answers could be solved using NCERT vocational course booklets, ICAR manuals – But chasing that type of material as a source of preparation give the diminishing rate of return.
  • Government’s Yojana and Kurukshetra magazines of at least the last two calendar years may be read.
    • You don’t have to read from first to last page but read the chief editor’s PREFACE then go through the article’s index and if you find some important topics related to agriculture → read those articles fully. While many e-learning websites are providing mind maps and Bullet point content from the Yojana and Kurukshetra magazine.
    • But often the tables / graphs from the original article are not shown in such ‘summaries’.
    • This year, the nature of questions had been such that it required you to have awareness about quantitative aspects e.g. pulses cultivation (2020), In one of the previous year is there was question about area under cultivation for rice, sugarcane etc..
  • In 2018, UPSC asked about a low profile scheme “National Programme for Organic Production’ (NPOP)”- therefore, some over-enthusiastic candidates will go through governments OUTPUT OUTCOME BUDGET Document, to make a ‘half-blood-prince’ note for “all the low-profile government schemes”. But, this will give a poor cost: benefit.
  • For current events use {IndianExpress or theHindu} + . And whichever PDF compilation catches your fancy. e.g. Atma-Nirbhar Bharat, APMC Act, etc. However, My suggestions about how NOT TO WASTE 2 hours reading newspaper, and HOW NOT to make notes etc. etc. are Covered in the following article.
  • Since PDF compilation makers donot have any cost of printing- They will go on to copy paste 50 dozen crop hybrid varieties mentioned in the Hindu newspaper and monthly updates on MSP /food-inflation ups and downs. But do consider the cost:benefit of investing excessive amount of time in it. यानी कि किसी भी चीज में एक हद से ज्यादा मजदूरी करी तो वह बहुत लाभकारी नहीं है

How to prepare Agriculture for UPSC Mains-2021 (GSM3)?

  • Mains General Studies Paper 3 (GSM3): Topic wise past questions & strategy for agriculture has already been given in the following article: Click Me.

Excessive BHAKTI of Kurukshetra?

  • Some of the candidates are claiming that Kurukshetra has been greatly useful. Upon cross referencing, I noticed that
    • 1) In some MCQ, Kurukshetra only helps validating / eliminating a few of the given statement(s). But not the full answer.
    • 2) In some MCQ the full answer could be solved from Kurukshetra but from 2016′ monthly issues which is not humanly possible for everyone to read and memorize last 4 years’ Kurukshetras. यह ऐसी बेतुकी बात है कि आज से 10 साल पहले जो इंडिया ईयर बुक से तैयारी करते थे और उधर से 20 प्रश्न निकल कर आते थे तो आज की तारीख में भी वही पट्टी पढ़ाते रहते हैं कि तुम पूरा दिन इंडिया ईयर बुक लेकर बैठे रहो.
  • At the same time it does not mean that we should throw Kurukshetra out of the window. It is useful in eliminating some options, as well as, in the mains answer writing related to agriculture and rural development in GSM3. So it should be read accordingly. यानी कि कुरूक्षेत्र मैगजीन उपयोगी है लेकिन कोई रामबाण इलाज नहीं है.
  • लेकिन आजकल के कई विद्यार्थी जो एक सामान्य गलती करते हैं कि, “बाकी सब subjects & resources गया भाड़ में और यही main चीज है (Kurukshetra, IDSA, PIB etc.), And all the 100 MCQs are going to be asked from this thing only” → should be avoided.

Utility of theHindu?

  • Similar to Kurukshetra, theHindu also helped eliminate some options in some agri MCQs.
  • But, I don’t subscribe to this whole “UPSC-apologist-Sapnaa Theory’ charade by E-learning thugs, That “Just because something had appeared in the Hindu newspaper 2-3-5-7 years ago, so you were supposed to get a divine manifestation about solving it in real exam in 2020.“. के परीक्षा खत्म होने के बाद वह हमेशा डबल जोर से चिकनी चुपड़ी बातें शुरू कर देते हैं कि, “क्योंकि आज से 2-3-5 साल पहले के theHindu newspaper में कोई खबर आई थी, जिस को पढ़कर कि फला फला MCQ solve हो सकता था, तो आपको “सपना आ जाना चाहिए था” कि UPSC exact same thing पूछेगा और आपको वह सब अपने आप ब्रह्म ज्ञान से पता चल जाना चाहिए था.”
  • Afterall, there is limitation to how much you can prepare, memorize and recollect all those things in real exam. Yes, you may read the Hindu or some of its CA-PDF summary, if not the full-paper.
  • And ultimately it is the competition to find a “less bad candidate” among the “worst candidates”, So unnecessary idealism of “reading the Hindu newspaper for 3 hours daily” = कहता भी दीवाना और सुनता भी दीवाना

Anyways, let’s solve The agriculture questions that were asked in 2020’s UPSC Prelims!

Agri: Fertilizer related (2 MCQ)

(Pre’20-SetB) Q.51. What are the advantages of fertigation in agriculture?

  1. Controlling the alkalinity of irrigation water is possible.
  2. Efficient application of Rock Phosphate and all other phosphatic fertilizers is possible.
  3. Increased availability of nutrients to plants is possible.
  4. Reduction in the leaching of chemical nutrients is possible.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

[a) 1, 2 and 3 only

[b) 1, 2 and 4 only

[c) 1, 3 and 4 only

[d) 2, 3 and 4 only

Difficulty : Tough ? While every serious aspirant knows that fertigation involves mixing the water soluble fertilizers and delivering it through drip irrigation but technical / scientific knowledge is required to solve this answer, esp for statement#2.

Type: Contemporary ?


  • NCERT vocational class 11 floriculturist book page 84: When an element forms precipitate with another substance commonly found in the irrigation water, it is not advisable to use this method. Phosphorus and anhydrous ammonia may form a precipitate in water with high calcium and magnesium content. So they are not used in fertigation.
  • So 2nd statement is wrong by elimination we arrived at the answer “C”.

? GuessMaster-GiriTM: ?Fully Possible. If you believe in the rule#1 that extreme worded statements are always wrong, then Statement#2 contains Extreme word “all other”, so It should be wrong and by elimination we arrived at answer “C” without studying anythin.g

UPSC Prelims 2020 agriculture question on fertigation

(Pre’20-SetB) Q.54. With reference to chemical fertilizers in India, consider the following statements :

  1. At present, the retail price of chemical fertilizers is market-driven and not administered by the Government.
  2. Ammonia, which is an input of urea, is produced from natural gas.
  3. Sulphur, which is a raw material for phosphoric acid fertilizer is a by-product of oil refineries.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

[a) 1 only

[b) 2 and 3 only

[c) 2 only

[d) 1, 2 und 3

Difficulty : Tough ? Because ultimate answer boils down to the statement#3 which requires class 11-12 level chemistry knowledge.

Type: Contemporary ?


  • NCERT Class12 Chemistry: Ammonia is used to produce various nitrogenous fertilisers(ammonium nitrate, urea, ammonium phosphate and ammonium sulphate). Ammonia is obtained using Haber’s process. (wherein Nitrogen and hydrogen are mixed in the ratio of 1:3, this Hydrogen is provided by breaking methane (CH4) from natural gas). So, #2 is right. But this is not helpful in arriving at ? 50:50 elimination stage.
  • 2019: Government replied in Rajya Sabha, “As far as market-linking of urea prices is concerned, the MRP of urea is statutorily fixed by the Government. Whereas, MRP of Phosphatic and Potassic (P&K) Fertilizers the  manufacturers/marketers are allowed to fix the MRP at reasonable rates as per market dynamics.” Therefore first statement is not fully correct.  (REF: PIB) → #1 is wrong. We are ? 50:50 between B  or C. Everything boils down to the validity of the statement#3.
  • Indian Bureau of mines booklet: The sulphur is obtained as a by-product from oil refineries. Most of the sulphur is converted to sulphuric acid (H2SO4) which is used in the manufacture of phosphatic fertilizer. So #3 should be correct. Hence the answer is “B”.

UPSC Prelims 2020 question about sulphur production and urea Fertilizer

Agri: Crop Types/Production MCQs (2 MCQ)

(Pre’20-SetB) Q.66. With reference to pulse production in India, consider the following sentences:

  1. Black gram (Urad) can be cultivated as both Kharif and rabi crop.
  2. Green gram (Moong) alone accounts for nearly half of pulse production.
  3. In the last three decades, while the production of kharif pulses has increased, the production of rabi pulses has decreased.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

[a) 1 only

[b) 2 and 3 only

[c) 2 only

[d) 1, 2 and 3

Difficulty : Easy ? by elimination

Type:Contemporary ?


  • India produces a variety of pulses so it is difficult to believe that green gram alone accounts for nearly 50% of production. #2 should be wrong, And by elimination the answer should be “A”. But just to be sure let’s cross check with the data
  • Looking at the PIB production data of 2016, 2017 and 2018: Gram (Chanaa) and Tur production seem to be higher than Green gram (Moong), so, #2 is wrong. So, B, C and D were eliminated.
  • Further in the same data set we can also see that There is no clear cut increase or decrease as described in the statement 3. So #3 is wrong. And, Black gram (urad) Production detail for both Rabi and kharif seasons are given so #1 is right.

? GuessMaster-GiriTM: ?Fully Possible. If you believe in the rule#1 that extreme worded statements are always wrong, then Statement#2 contains Extreme word “alone accounts for”, so It should be wrong and by elimination we arrived at answer “A” without studying anything.

(Pre’20-SetB) Q.67. “The crop is subtropical in nature. A hard frost is injurious to it. It requires at least 210 frost-free days and 50 to 100 centimeters of rainfall for its growth. A light well-drained soil capable of retaining moisture is ideally suited for the cultivation of the crop.” Which one of the following is the crop?

[a) Cotton

[b) Jute

[c) Sugarcane

[d) Tea

Difficulty : Easy ? Available in the NCERT Class8 and 10:

Type: Theory ?


  • NCERT Class10 Page 40-42:
    • Sugarcane requires an annual rainfall between 75cm.and 100cm. Irrigation is required in the regions of low rainfall. So, #C eliminated.
    • Cotton requires high temperature, light rainfall or irrigation, 210 frost-free days.
  • Further, upon checking the Class8 NCERT page 45:
    • Jute: requires high temperature, heavy rainfall and humid climate
    • Tea: requires cool climate and well distributed high rainfall throughout the year
    • Cotton: Cotton requires high temperature, light rainfall, 210 frost-free days.
  • Considering these descriptions, cotton seems to be the better choice among the given options.

(Pre’20-SetB) Q.69. With reference to the current  trends in the cultivation of sugarcane in India, consider the following statements:

  1. A substantial saving in seed material is when ‘bud chip settings’ are raised in a nursery and transplanted in the main field.
  2. When direct planting of setts is done, the germination percentage is better with single-budded setts as compared to setts with many buds.
  3. If bad weather conditions prevail when setts are directly planted, single-budded setts have better survival as compared to large setts.
  4. Sugarcane can be cultivated using settings prepared from tissue culture.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

[a) 1 and 2 only

[b) 3 only

[c) 1 and 4

[d) 2, 3 and 4 only

Difficulty : Tough ? These many technical details are unavailable in routine preparation sources.

Type: Contemporary ? (If only temperature and rainfall was asked I would have classified it under “theory” just like the previous question, but this one requires knowledge of more contemporary techniques of cultivation, so I put it under contemporary.)


  • Class 12 NCERT Biology : Chapter 9- Strategies for enhancement in food production- Page 177: What does tissue culture mean? Any part of a plant taken out and grown in a test tube. Scientists have succeeded in culturing meristems of banana, sugarcane, potato, etc So, #4 is right. We are ? 50:50 between C or D. Further, ICAR handbook, too, confirms #4 is right.
  • From an agriculture research paper: page 187 under adverse climatic conditions, single-budded setts were likely to suffer more than three-budded setts. So, #3 is wrong. So, Answer should be “C”.

Cropping methods & Practices (4 MCQs)

(Pre’20-SetB) Q.100. What is the use of biochar in farming ?

  1. Biochar can be used as a part of the growing medium in vertical farming.
  2. When biochar is a part of the growing medium, it promotes the growth of nitrogen-fixing microorganisms.
  3. When biochar is a part of the growing medium, it enables the growing medium to retain water for a longer time.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct ?

[a) 1 and 2 only

[b) 2 only

[c) 1 and 3 only

[d) 1, 2 and 3

Difficulty :  Tough ? because on Information not available on routine sources.

Type:  Contemporary ?

Explanation : 

  • Biochar is a stable, carbon–rich form of charcoal that is applied to soil.
  • biochars from manures and food wastes recorded higher nitrogen and phosphorus levels. → #2 is right.
  • Some biochars can increase soil fertility, water holding capacity and crop productivity. → #3 is right
  • There is only one option where #2 and #3 are together so answer is “d”.

Answer Sources:-

  • Kurukshetra and Economic Survey 2019-20 Volume 2 mentioned the word ‘biochar’, but the information which is sought in this question is not available.
  • Australian government’s official agriculture dept website

(Pre’20-SetB) Q.63. What is/are the advantage/advantages of zero tillage in agriculture?

  1. Sowing of what is possible without burning the residue of the previous crop.
  2. Without the need for nursery of rice saplings, direct planting of paddy seeds in the wet soil is possible.
  3. Carbon sequestration in the soil is possible.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

[a) 1 and 2 only

[b) 2 and 3 only

[c) 3 only

[d) 1, 2 and 3

Difficulty : Medium ? to tough, Third statement is subject to multiple interpretations

Type: Contemporary ? It had been used for quite some time because of the crop Residue burning in Punjab & Rajasthan and its impact on air pollution in Delhi


  • Open burning of crop residues in the agricultural fields has become an environmental concern in India, particularly during paddy harvesting season. ….The Union government is providing subsidy for Happy Seeders, Zero Till Seed Drill etc. which can help planting the seeds for next crop without burning the previous crop. So, #1 is correct. Ref: Economic Survey 2019-20 Volume 2 page 186-189.
  • ShankarIAS Chapter 24: Zero tillage (No tillage): In this, new crop is planted in the residues of the previous crop without any prior  soil tillage or seed bed preparation. So, #1 is correct. Now, we are ? 50:50 between  A or D. In both these options the statement#2 is common so we have to accept it as correct without cross checking.  Everything boils down to the validity of statement#3 about carbon sequestration.
  • ShankarIAS Chapter 21: Carbon sequestration describes long-term storage of carbon dioxide or other forms of carbon to either mitigate or defer global warming. One of the methods is Terrestrial Sequestration: A large amount of carbon is stored in soils and vegetation, which are our natural carbon sinks. Increasing carbon fixation through changing land use practices can enhance carbon uptake in these natural sinks.
  • In the zero tillage, We are not disturbing the soil and we are not burning the previous crop Residue so that way, it could help in Carbon sequestration. So, #3 should be correct.

Counterview-Third statement wrong answer should be “A”

  • According to some of the research papers: Adopting no-tillage in agro-ecosystems has been widely recommended as a means of enhancing carbon (C) sequestration in soils. However, study results are inconsistent and varying from significant increase to significant decrease.
  • Another research paper says, “However, there is a growing body of research with evidence that no-till systems may not be increasing soil organic carbon stocks at the published rates.”
  • Ultimate judge will be the official UPSC answer key. I have kept “D”, because the question seems to be from a general perspective.

(Pre’20-SetB) Q.70. In the context of India, which of the following is/are considered to be practice(s) of eco-friendly agriculture?

  1. Crop diversification
  2. Legume intensification
  3. Tensiometer use
  4. Vertical farming

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

[a) 1, 2 and 3 only

[b) 3 only

[c) 4 only

[d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Difficulty : Medium ? because it is easy to arrive at ? 50:50  elimination stage, Even with basic understanding of first or second statement but everything was down to the validity of for statement.

Type:  Contemporary ?


  • Kurukshetra October 2019: Page 22 Crop diversification proved to be of paramount importance in mitigating the environmental problems arising on account of monoculture. Inclusion of certain crops has been found to reduce some obnoxious weeds to considerable extent, thereby reducing the need of herbicides. So, #1 is correct. We are ? 50:50 between A or D. In both these options statement number 2 and 3 are common (Legume intensification and Tensiometer use) so, We have to assume them to be correct even without cross checking.
  • However, Some candidates have expressed doubt about the validity of #3 (Tensiometer) so just to cross check- Kurukshetra July 2016 Page 33: Understanding of Soil Moisture – One could save huge quantity of water and energy by knowing when and how much water is required by a crop. Use of tensiometers (typically a sealed, water-filled tube with a ceramic porous cup and a vacuum gauge at the top) could be really helpful in providing estimates of soil moisture. So, #3 is correct.
  • Kurukshetra July 2016 Page 36-37: Vertical Farming is an adoptable solution where land resource is very scarce and rampant urbanization puts a threat to land availability for agriculture. In this technique critical elements of farming. This technique can also be utilised for urban agriculture and rooftop cultivation. But this is not helping in interpretation of “how it is eco friendly?” So, let’s check on internet..
  • 2020-January: TheHindu- “Vertical farming uses significantly less water and pesticides than traditional agricultural methods.” So, yes, #4 is correct. Therefore the answer should be “D”.

? GuessMaster-GiriTM: ?Fully Possible. If you believe in the  rule#4: 3TF/> with 1-2 words = all correct, then Answer should be “D”= so, we arrive at the correct answer “D” without studying anything.


  • If you are thinking, “I will invest 300 hours next year on agriculture so that I can solve 7 questions more than other students! Well in that case, you also need to see that, in chasing those 7 MCQs, you’re not left behind in preparing the other 93 questions from history, polity, environment, geography economy etc!” कौवा चला हंस की चाल, और खुद की चाल ही भूल गया है ऐसा सीन ना हो जाए ध्यान रखिएगा!
  • Same as what I said in the economy Prelims-2020 Answerkey.
  • Next we will see the Science Tech Questions asked in Prelims-2020.
  • Also my thanks to Shri Brijesh Patel (Faculty, SPIPA, Ahmedabad) for his assistance in preparation of this answer key.
  • Any errors? let me know in the comment section!

Stay Tuned for the Detailed Answerkeys with Explanations at Mrunal.org/prelims