Types of Agriculture
Agriculture is one of the most widespread activities in the world, but its character is not uniform throughout. There are a number of ways to classify agriculture and some of the major criteria which can be adopted include the scale of farming, crop and livestock combinations, intensity of farming, means and ways of disposal of the farm produce and the level of farm mechanization etc. A number of scholars have attempted to identify various types of agriculture. The following are the major types of agriculture in the world.
This type is based upon the rearing of animals on natural pastures. This practice is followed by the people of the semi arid and arid regions. They keep moving with their animals in search of natural pastures and lead a nomadic life. The type of the animals reared differ from one region to the other. Northern Africa, parts of Arabia and parts of northern Eurasia are the typical regions of this type of farming. This is a subsistence type of activity.
Under this system of farming also the major emphasis is laid on rearing of animals but the farmers live a settled life. This type of farming has developed on a commercial basis in those areas of the world where large areas are available for animal grazing, such as the low rainfall areas of North America, South America and Australia. Animals are reared mainly for meat and wool and they are kept on large scale farms called the ranches.
This is the type of farming adopted generally in the rainy tropics. Under this system the land for cultivation is obtained by cleared off the forests with the help of slashing and burning technique and it is cultivated for a few years till the fertility declines or the land is overtaken by the weeds etc. Then the land is abandoned and a new plot is cleared for farming. This is a subsistence type of farming done manually without much use of animal power or other types of power. This is the subsistence type of activity adopted by the people living in the tropical forest regions of southeast Asia. Major emphasis is on the grain crops. This type of farming is now on a decline as due to its land spoiling nature it is being discouraged by the government agencies.
Rudimentary Sedentary Tillage
This is also a subsistence type of activity and it differs from the foregoing type in terms of the fact that the same plot of land is cultivated continuously year after year. Fallowing of land is commonly adopted to maintain the soil fertility and it is also a farming type of the tropical regions. Besides the grain crops, some tree crops such rubber are also grown under this system.
Intensive Subsistence Farming with Rice Dominant
This type of farming is practiced in the areas of tropical regions having a high density of population and receiving a large amount of precipitation. Rice is the dominant crop as it can employ and feed a large number of people per unit of area. Southeast Asian region is the major area of this type of farming. Use of manual and animal power is dominant and effort is made to enhance the productivity per unit of area with the use of manures etc.
Intensive Subsistence Farming Without Rice Dominant
This is a slightly dry climatic variant of the foregoing type and as the amount of rainfall is not very high these regions grow grain crops other than rice, such as wheat and millets. Besides the comparatively less wet areas of Asia, northern Africa and the parts of Middle East this type of farming is commonly practiced in parts of southern Africa and Central America also.
Though practiced over a rather small area, this type of farming is quite important in terms of its commercial value. The major products of this type of farming are the tropical crops such as tea, coffee, rubber and oil palm etc. This type of farming has developed in parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America where the influence of the Europeans has been important during the colonial period. Most of the plantations were developed to provide the tropical crops to the European markets. This is a highly capital intensive farming and most of the crops are tree crops.
The typical rugged relief of the Mediterranean region has resulted in typical livestock and crop combinations in this region. Wheat and vineyards and citrus fruits are the major crops and the small animals the major livestock reared in the region. Horticulture is a major activity of this region and most of the crops other than these plantations are grown in winter with the help of winter rains.
Commercial Grain Farming
This type of farming is a response to farm mechanization and it is the major type of activity in the areas of low rainfall and low density of population where extensive farming is practiced. Crops are prone to the vagaries of weather and droughts and monoculture of wheat is the general practice. Prairies, steppes and the temperate grasslands of South America and Australia are the main areas of this type of farming.
Livestock and Grain Farming
This type is commonly known as mixed farming and this practice has originated in the humid areas of the middle latitudes, except in Asia. Its development is closely related to the market facilities, and it is a typically European type of farming where an effort is made to get the best out of crop farming and animal rearing. Great Britain and New-Zealand are the examples of areas where it is the common practice.
Subsistence Crop and Stock Farming
This type resembles the foregoing type in terms of the crops and type of livestock but differs. In that practically nothing is sold off the farm. This type of farming has been common in areas of middle latitudes with lower fertility of soils or the areas of rough terrain and has declined significantly after the collectivization of farming in Russia which has been one of the major regions where this has been practiced.
This type also had its origin in Europe from where it spread to other areas. Close proximity to the market and a temperate climate are the two favorable factors which have been responsible for the development of this type of farming. Countries like Denmark and Sweden have witnessed the maximum development of this type of farming.
This type of farming has also developed to take advantage of a large demand for the products of horticulture and the areas of large scale urbanisation and high density of population in Europe have been favorable for its development. This type of farming has best developed in the vineyard cultivation areas of France, northern Hungary and the Swiss Lakes regions.
Although Whittlesey's agricultural classification is quite elaborate, the regionalisation on the basis of this classification is not something permanent. Due to changing market demands and the developing agricultural technology, a number of changes have come in the agricultural pattern of the world since Whittlesey's study. Large demands for fruits and vegetables in the urban areas have resulted in modified landuse in many parts of the world and such factors impart a dynamic character to the agricultural activity.