Agricultural system

Just as an industry, agriculture also has inputs, processes and outputs.


Physical inputs

  • Climate: temperatures, rainfall, sunshine
  • Land: relief, fertility, soil quality

Human inputsagriculture, tractor

  • Labour
  • Capital
  • Machinery and Tools
  • Seeds
  • Market influence
  • Fertilisers and pest control
  • Irrigation


  • Preparing the land: clearance of vegetation, providing terracing, drainage and irrigation
  • Ploughing
  • Sowingclouds, cloudy, agriculture
  • Weeding and applying pest control
  • Harvesting
  • Storage/transport to market


  • Crops
  • Meat
  • Milk
  • Industrial products such as cotton, leather, or rubber
  • Wastes
  • Profits (revenue)

Types of farming

1. Sedentary (farm settled in 1 location) vs. nomadic (farmer moves from place to place)

Nowadays, most farms a sedentary, but there are exceptions such as shifting cultivators in the Amazonas tribes (slash and burn agriculture).

animal, countryside, agriculture

2. Arable (crops) or pastoral (livestock)

Farms can either cultivate crops only, livestock only, or they can be mixed. Arable farms are often comparatively smaller than pastoral farms.

3. Subsistence (to provide for the family) or commercial (to sell for profit)

Subsistence farming generally uses a small area of land, family labour and basic tools. It is common in poorer areas, where lack of capital prevents increase in output. Commercial farming uses a large area of land, high capital input, skilled labour, developed machinery, improved seed varieties. Generally, pesticides and fertilisers are used and production is geared towards demand and possible profit (market prices). Commercial farming includes plantations (cultivating cash crops) and factory farming (rearing animals at high density in small units.

4. Intensive (high input) or extensive (low input)

Intensive farming uses a small area of land and few large machines, but lots of labour and fertiliser per hectare. Extensive farming uses a larger area of land and many machines, but little labour and fertiliser per hectare. Extensive farms often have a lower yield per hectare.

Sustainabal farming methods

Contour ploughing: Sloping land is ploughed across the slope, following the contour lines of the land. This allows rainwater runoff to collect in the furrows and contributes to soil and water conservation.

Furrowing: Creating long, narrow trenches in the ground for planting seeds or irrigation. This practise is common in row crops.

Terrace farming: Was developed by the Inca’s at Macchu Pichu to create small patches of flat land in hilly areas. This is achieved by building small steps into the side of a mountain to prevent mudflows, and reduce soil erosion, while conserving nutrients.

Crop rotation: Alternating crops that require lots of nutrients from the soil wiht those that add nutrients into the soil (legumes).

Food shortages


  • Climate such as drought (especially in tropical desert areas), floods, and tropical cyclones

    File:Map showing Global Physical and Economic Water Scarcity 2006.gif
    Worldwide water scarcity
  • Soil exhaustion and depletion of nutrients as a result of overcultivation, monoculture and lack of fertilisers (manure).
  • Pests and disease
  • Changing land use: increase in use of land for biofuels reduces food output.
  • Wars prevent import of food, and destroy agricultural land
  • Low capital investment prevents technological improvements, causing soil quality to decreas and lower yields, with less to sell, and no capital to reinvest.


  • Use of hybrid seed varieties or genetically modified (GM) crops that bring higher yields
  • Improve irrigation in desert or dry areas
  • Use a variety of different crops and crop rotation to reduce soil exhaustion
  • Education and training of farmers in new methods of cultivation
  • “Green revolution”: introducing western plant varieties (HYV or high yield varieties) and farming techniques to LEDC’s
  • Short term food aid

Successes and Failures of the Green Revolution


  • Farmers have higher yields, income and better standard of living.
  • New industries such as production of fertiliser and pesticides
  • Increase in technology such as irrigation
  • Improvements in transport systems
  • HYV allow for a more balanced diet


  • Many farmers can not afford machinery and fertilisers
  • Maintenance and fuel for machines are not always available
  • Increased yields could result in drop in prices
  • Machinery increases unemployment and rural-urban migration
  • Poorest farmers can not afford to take risks, so unlikely to try new techniques