How to go ahead with agriculture optional for IAS Mains prep?

Hey aspirants,

This post is aimed to help you in forming your strategy for Agriculture optional for Civil Services and Forest Services Exam, considering its various aspects.

#1. Who should opt for Agriculture?

Anyone who has academic background in Agriculture, Life Sciences, Botany, Biomedical Sciences, Biotechnology, Zoology, Dairy and other related fields.

Any aspirant with no prior knowledge of Biology should not opt it. She may score good in Paper I which is like general studies but Paper II becomes the eliminating factor if it is not covered exhaustively.

#2. Why should one not opt for ‘Botany’ instead?

If you have Botany as your graduation or master’s subject then surely you should go with botany, but just in case if you don’t have interest in remembering all families characteristic features among others, then Agriculture is best optional for you.

Secondly, Paper II of Botany and Agriculture is quite similar if you see the syllabus but if you analyse last year question papers, if you will see that questions in Agriculture are easy in comparison to ‘Botany Paper II’.

#3. Can I change my optional from Botany to Agriculture?

Yes, surely you can switch if you are struggling with Botany. In fact, you will be having an edge against Agriculture fresher aspirant as your Paper II of Agriculture is already completed (almost) if you have covered Botany syllabus exhaustively.

#4. Is it scoring?

Of course it is. If you have similar background as mentioned above, you must go for it.

There is a myth that Agriculture is more scoring than Botany. Please don’t keep this in mind while preparing. Both are science subjects so if you know your concepts you can score equally in both.

Both subjects has equal percentage of topics that aspirant has to mug up (literally). Think of families (Cryptogams, Phanerogams) in Botany, and Horticulture and Pathology (Diseases and Measures) in Agriculture.

Agriculture got popular among Botany/ life sciences students after CSE 2013 in which Botany Paper was bit difficult and Agriculture was very easy. But in CSE 2015, both of these optionals were on equal footing. So, please do not hold opinions of one optional being easier than other, any optional demands right strategy and interest to excel.

#5. How much time it takes to prepare?

4-5 months, if you study Agriculture 12-15 hours per week. This should be enough. Also, it depends on how much can you recall your graduation concepts.

Plant Breeding is the most conceptual, time taking and scoring part of the syllabus, while horticulture and pathology needs your notes making and revising skill to retain the topic.

Recommended books for Agriculture:

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

Let us know if you find any problem in getting these books. Submit your comments below.

These books covers whole syllabus. Also, one need not to study each and every chapter, instead cover topics syllabus wise. Syllabus is designed in a chronological way which will help in building concepts if you go according to it.

No need to look out for other books. ICAR Handbook is not recommended at all instead cover relevant chapters of Economic Survey and Year Book related to Agriculture, it will help for both optional and GS.

Few topics like Food Production and Consumption trends, Extension Schemes, Protein Energy Malnutrition can be googled. Ecology part can be covered from any standard book which you study for GS.


Also, Quora helps in answering various general and specific questions related to the subject. Many senior scientists and academicians of Agriculture are there. You can follow Agriculture India topic there.

Problems in Agriculture Sector in India

Farmers and Climate Change

Few websites helps in keeping abreast with current happenings and govt. initiatives.

Dept. of Agriculture website


Hope this may helps!


Published with inputs from Vimal