Agricultural systems in the world: A brief introduction of agricultural systems

definition of Agriculture: Farming or agriculture is the practice of cultivating plants and livestock. It played a very important role in the development of human civilization. The development of agriculture enabled the human population to grow many times larger than could be sustained by hunting and gathering.

A brief of the main agricultural systems in the world:

There are various agricultural systems in the world, practiced under multiple combinations of physical and socioeconomic conditions. On the basis of methods of farming, various types of crops are grown and livestock raised.

Agricultural systems in the world: A brief introduction

Agricultural systems in the world

The following are the main agricultural systems:

Nomadic herding: It is followed by people of semi-arid and arid regions. Nomadic herding is based on the rearing of animals on natural pastures.

This type of farming is mainly found in Northern Africa, Parts of Northern Eurasia, and parts of Arabia. These people keep moving with their animals in search of natural pastures and lead nomadic life.

Subsistence Agriculture:

Under subsistence agriculture, the farming area consumes all, or nearly so, of the products locally grown. It can be grouped into two categories:

  • Primitive subsistence agriculture
  • Intensive subsistence agriculture
Primitive subsistence agriculture or Shifting cultivation:

It is widely practiced by many tribes in the tropics, especially in Africa, South and Central America, and Southeast Asia.

  • The vegetation is usually cleared by fire, and ashes add to the fertility of the soil. Thus shifting cultivation is also called Slash and burn agriculture.
  • Very small cultivation patches and the cultivation is done with very primitive tools like sticks and hoes.
  • After some time (3-5 years) the soil loses its fertility and the farmer shifts to another part and clears other patches of the forest for cultivation. The farmer may return to the earlier patch after some time.
  • One of the major problems of shifting cultivation is that the cycle of jhum becomes less and less due to the loss of fertility in different parcels.
  • This type of cultivation is prevalent in tropical regions under different names, e.g. Jhuming in Northeastern states of India, Milpa in Central America and Mexico, and Ladang in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Intensive subsistence Agriculture:

In the densely populated regions of monsoon Asia, intensive subsistence agriculture is largely found. The basic types of intensive subsistence agriculture are:

  1. Intensive subsistence agriculture dominated by wet paddy cultivation: This type of agriculture is characterized by the dominance of the rice crop. The land holding is very small due to the high density of the population.
    • Farmers work with the help of family labour leading to intensive use of land.
    • The use of machinery is limited and most of the agricultural operations are done by manual labour.
    • To maintain the fertility of the soil, farm yard manure is used.
    • The yield per unit area is high and the per labour productivity is low in this type of agriculture
  2. Intensive subsistence agriculture dominated by crops other than paddy: In many parts of monsoon Asia, growing paddy is not practical due to differences in relief, climate, soil, and some other geographical factors.
    • Wheat, soya bean, barley, and sorghum are grown in northern China, Manchuria, North Korea, and North Japan.
    • In India, wheat is grown in western parts of the Indo-Gangetic plains, and millets are grown in dry parts of western and southern India.
Some other forms of agriculture/ Agricultural systems:

Plantation Agriculture:

This type of agriculture was introduced by Europeans in colonies situated in the tropics. Examples of some important plantation crops are tea, coffee, bananas, and pineapples.

Characteristic features of plantation farming: These are large estates or plantations, large capital investments, managerial and technical support, and scientific methods of cultivation that links the estate to the factories and markets for the export of the products.

  • In west Africa, the French established cocoa and coffee plantation.
  • The British set up large tea gardens in India and Sri Lanka, rubber plantations in Malaysia, and sugarcane and banana plantations in West Indies.
  • Spanish and Americans invested in coconut and sugarcane in the Philippines.
  • The Dutch once had a monopoly over sugarcane plantations in Indonesia.
  • Some coffee fazendas (large plantations) in Brazil are still managed by Europeans.
  • Today, ownership of the majority of plantations has passed into the hands of the government or nationals of the countries concerned.
Extensive commercial grain cultivation:

Commercial grain cultivation is practiced in the interior parts of the semi-arid lands of the mid-latitudes.

Features of extensive commercial grain cultivation:

The principal crop is wheat, though other crops like corn, barley, oats, and rye are also grown.

  • The size of the farm in this type of farming is very large, therefore the entire operation of cultivation from ploughing to harvesting is mechanized.
  • There is a low yield per acre but a high yield per person.

Areas of extensive commercial farming: This type of agriculture is best developed in Eurasian steppes, the Canadian and American prairies, the Pampas of Argentina, the Velds of South Africa, the Australian Downs, and the Canterbury plains of New Zealand.

Mixed Farming:

This form of agricultural system is found in highly developed parts of the world such as North-western Europe, Eastern North America, parts of Eurasia, and the temperate latitudes of Southern continents.

Important features of mixed farming:

  • Mixed farms are moderate in size.
  • The crops associated with mixed farming are wheat, barley, oats, rye, maize, fodder, and root crops.
  • Fodder crops are an important component of mixed farming.
  • To maintain soil fertility, crop rotation and intercropping play an important role.
  • Equal emphasis is laid on crop cultivation and animal husbandry. Animals like cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry provide the main income along with crops.
  • Mixed farming is characterized by high capital expenditure on farm machinery and building, extensive use of chemical fertilizers and green manures, and also the skill and expertise of farmers.
Dairy farming:

Dairy is the most advanced and efficient type of rearing of milch animals.

  • Dairy is highly capital intensive.
  • Animal sheds, storage facilities for fodder, and feeding, and milching machines add to the cost of dairy farming.
  • In it, special emphasis is laid on cattle breeding, health care, and veterinary services.
  • Dairy farming is highly labor-intensive as it involves rigorous care in feeding and milching.
  • It is practiced mainly near urban and industrial centers which provide a neighborhood market for fresh milk, and dairy products.
  • The development of transportation, refrigeration, pasteurization, and other preservation processes have increased the duration of storage of various dairy products.

Main regions of commercial dairy farming:

There are three main regions of commercial dairy farming:

  1. North Western Europe: the largest region of commercial dairy farming
  2. Canada: the second and
  3. South Eastern Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania: it is the third belt of commercial dairy farming.
Mediterranean Agriculture:

This type of agriculture is highly specialized commercial agriculture.

Regions of Mediterranean agriculture: this type of agriculture is practised in the countries on either side of the Mediterranean sea in Europe and in north Africa from Tunisia to the Atlantic coast, southern California, central Chile, southwestern parts of South Africa, and south and south-western parts of Australia.

Important features of Mediterranean agriculture:

  • The region of the Mediterranean is an important supplier of citrus fruits.
  • Viticulture or grape cultivation is a specialty of the Mediterranean region.
  • Best quality wines in the world with distinctive flavours are produced from high-quality grapes in various countries of the Mediterranean region.
  • The inferior grapes are dried into raisins and currants.
  • This region also produces olives and figs.
  • The advantage of Mediterranean agriculture is that more valuable crops such as fruits and vegetables are grown in winter when there is a great demand in European and North American markets.
Market Gardening and Horticulture:

It specialized in the cultivation of high-value crops such as vegetables, fruits, and flowers, solely for the urban markets.

Features of market gardening and horticulture:

  • These farms are small and are located where there are good transportation links with the urban center where the high-income group of consumers is located.
  • It is both labour and capital-intensive and lays emphasis on the use of irrigation, HYV seed fertilizers, insecticides, greenhouses, and artificial heating in colder regions.
  • This type of agriculture is well developed in densely populated industrial districts of northwest Europe, the northeastern United States of America, and the Mediterranean regions.
  • The Netherlands specializes in growing flowers and horticultural crops, especially tulips. Tulips are flown to all major cities of Europe.
Truck Farming:

Truck farming is practiced in regions where farmers specialized in growing vegetables only are known as truck farming. The distance of truck farms from the market is governed by the distance that a truck can cover overnight, hence the name truck farming.

  • In this type of farming, the practice to grow one or more vegetables on large scale for shipment to a distant market is involved.
  • Areas of the practice of truck farming: The major areas where truck farming is practiced are – California, Texas, Florida, along the Atlantic Coastal Plain, and in the Great Lakes area.
Factory Farming:

Factory farming is a modern development in the industrial regions of western Europe and North America. Livestock, particularly poultry and cattle rearing, is done in stalls and pens, fed on manufactured feedstuff, and carefully supervised against diseases.

  • This type of farming requires heavy capital investment in terms of building, machinery for various operations, veterinary services, and heating and lighting.
  • One of the important features of poultry farming and cattle rearing is breed selection and scientific breeding.
Co-operative farming:

In cooperative farming, a group of farmers forms a cooperative society by pooing in their resources voluntarily for more efficient and profitable farming.

  • Individual farms remain intact and farming is a matter of cooperative initiative.
  • Co-operative societies help farmers, to procure all important inputs of farming, sell the products at the most favourable terms and help in the processing of quality products at cheaper rates.
Collective farming:

Collective farming is based on social ownership of the means of production and collective labour.

The Agricultural systems such as Collective farming or the model of Kolkhoz was introduced in the erstwhile Soviet Union to improve upon the inefficiency of the previous methods of agriculture and to boost agriculture production for self–sufficiency.

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