India is predominantly agriculture-based economy. The art and science of agriculture are widely practised and perfected since ancient times. Agriculture is the most crucial sector for ensuring food, nutritional security, sustainable development and for the alleviation of poverty. It is the key sector in India for generating employment opportunities for the vast majority of the population, particularly in rural areas. The agriculture sector in India has occupied almost 43% of the geographical area and provides 52% of the total number of jobs available out of which more than 80% are from rural India. The Indian agriculture sector contributes around 18.1 per cent to the GDP and exporting $49 billion worth of agricultural products, making it the seventh largest agricultural exporter worldwide.
In the early years of the 20th century, the British introduced formal education in agriculture primarily to produce revenue workers and landlords and not professional farmers. By 1947 India had 17 colleges of agriculture with an annual enrollment of about 1500 students. These included the colleges at Coimbatore, Nagpur, Kanpur, and Pusa. Considering the importance of Agricultural, the first State Agricultural University (SAU) was established in 1960 at Pantnagar (Nainital) on the pattern of the Land Grant Colleges of the United States by integrating education, research and extension education. The UGC accorded the status of Deemed-to-be-University (DU) to Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi in 1958 which became the first ICAR Institute as Deemed University conducting postgraduate teaching and research.
Today, India has a large ICAR-AU network with 66 Agricultural Universities (with 265 constituent colleges) out of which 56 are State Agricultural Universities (including 16 specialized Veterinary and Animal Sciences and Horticulture and Forestry Sciences Universities), 1 Central Agricultural University, Imphal, 5 deemed-to-be-universities (four of them are ICAR Institutes – IARI, IVRI, NDRI and CIFE, the fifth being Allahabad Agricultural Institute, Allahabad (also known as Sam Higginbottom Institute of Agriculture, Technology & Sciences (SHIATS)), 4 Central Universities having agricultural faculty (Varanasi; AMU, Aligarh; Vishwa Bharti, Shantiniketan and Nagaland University, Medziphema) awarding various kinds of degrees in different disciplines of agricultural, veterinary and allied sciences. Agricultural education in some traditional universities of the country where about 50 agricultural colleges affiliated to 16 general universities, and 7 Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) are also imparting education and research in agriculture science and technology.
The Agriculture education is imparted at the level of diploma, degree (11 major disciplines at undergraduate), masters (95 subjects at post-graduate level) and doctoral level with a total intake capacity of 35,000 students per year. As of now, it is estimated that there are 3,15,000 professionally qualified persons in agricultural sciences to which about 15000 graduates, 11,000 Masters and 2,500 Ph.D.s in agriculture are added every year. The degrees awarded by the Universities associated with the ICAR are well recognized and accepted for higher education globally and prepares them even to start their own business units including the Agri. Clinics and Agro Service Centers.
The main aim of agricultural education is to prepare human resources for the agriculture sector. Global food demand is expected to be doubled by 2050 and at the same time natural resources are gradually reducing and deteriorating. Knowledge-based, input efficient, Eco-friendly, and high tech precision agriculture is the next stage for which efforts have been directed by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Agricultural Universities in planning, designing and executing the national agricultural educational programmes. In order to face the challenges like an increased requirement of food quantities, demand for quality food, the threat from natural disasters, dwindling rainfall, decreasing soil fertility, ever-rising pollution, there is a need for more and more agriculture professionals. Humans can live without roads, buildings, highways, but no human can ever live without food. So be proud for aspiring to become agriculture professional. However, caution must be exercised while selecting the college by choosing a college which is well established, equipped with good teaching faculty, having good infrastructure, well recognised by local, regional and national bodies as well also a member of the Indian Agricultural Universities Association (IAUA), established to promote agriculture research and education in India.