S-Cool Revision Summary

S-Cool Revision Summary

Classification

Term

Definition

Intensive

High input or yields for given area of land

Extensive

Low inputs or yields for given area of land

Commercial

Crops are cultivated and animals reared to be sold.

Subsistence

Cultivating crops or rearing animals for consumption by the farmer and his family.

Arable

The cultivating of crops

Pastoral

The rearing of animals

Mixed

A combination of arable and pastoral

Subsistence farming

The aim of subsistence farming is to cultivate crops or rear animals for consumption by the farmer and his family.

It is typical of agriculture in less economically developed countries.

Agribusiness

Agribusiness uses modern technologies to increase crop yields. Farmers produce cash crops for food or as a raw material in manufacturing.

Farms are generally very large with high capital investment. This means that farms can benefit from economies of scale.

Collectives

Collectives refer to the situation where a farm is run by several people or whole communities who share in the management, work and profits. The farms are usually government owned but the collective is given a permanent lease.

These are a feature of agriculture in communist states such as China and North Korea.

You will need to be able to discuss factors that affect the global distribution of agricultural systems. The reasons are outlined below:

Physical

Climate

Climatic factors include...

Temperature - extremes prevent agricultural use.

Rainfall - reliability and distribution throughout the year are more significant that annual amount

Wind - can physically destroy a crop

Soil - certain soils favour certain plants

Slope - steep slopes encourage run-off and soil erosion rather than infiltration. They will only be used if absolutely necessary

Human

Human factors include...

Land tenure - owner occupiers have the greatest incentives to increase yields

Market - farmers will grow crops that are profitable

Transport - see Von Thunen

Capital - will determine the level of technology a farmer can utilise

Technology - new technology can increase yields and affect the landscape

Government - policies will influence what systems a farmer uses or crops he grows

Von Thunen - provides us with an explanation of land-use. He uses locational rent to explain how land use will change as you move away from an urban area. As you move away so intensity will decrease as a consequence of inhibitive transport costs.

Changes in Farming

One significant change in recent years has been the movement to organic farming.

We can define organic farming, as:

"Farming that does not use industrially produced chemicals as pesticide, herbicide, fertiliser. Nor does it use drugs to increase the size/ yield of its livestock."

Organic farming has increased for two reasons:

  1. It has been led by farmers with smallholdings who feel a deep commitment to the environment.

  2. It is also consumer led as people are concerned about the chemical content and safety of many foods. The BSE crisis has furthered the demand for organically grown food.

Impact of agriculture on the physical environment

Loss of natural habitat

Farming can lead to the loss of natural habitats.

The total amount of hedgerow removed or damaged is 6 x the circumference of the globe.

Reasons for loss of hedgerow?

Increased mechanisation in agriculture encourages farmers to increase the size of their fields. This they do by removing hedgerows.

The following table outlines the arguments for and against hedgerows:

For hedgerow preservation

Against hedgerow preservation

They are a unique and balanced ecosystem. They may harbour pests but they also harbour the predator of that pest

They can provide homes for pests and weeds which damage crops

They contain a vast array of wildlife including many endangered species and they increase bio-diversity

They are a hindrance to the large machinery that makes farming efficient and reduces food prices to the consumer

Evidence to suggest that they act as a natural barrier to the spread of disease. They also act as wind breaks that protect crops and reduce soil erosion

They need to be maintained which is costly

They are a part of our rural heritage

They were planted by farmers in the first place so are not traditional

Ps. 39 out of 42 hedgerow birds are beneficial to farmers.

Farmers to increase the available land and reduce the potential disease from stagnant water have drained ponds. This removes another habitat for birds, fish, insects and plants.

The soil itself is an ecosystem and inappropriate farming techniques can lead to soil erosion. Overgrazing, over cultivation and deforestation all damage the soil making it more prone to the effect of erosion.

In the developing world the pressure growing populations and foreign debt repayments has seen the removal of natural vegetation cover to make way for cash cropping.

Use of chemicals

As farmers attempt to increase yields so they can increase their use of fertiliser, pesticides or slurry. Each of these can have potentially damaging effects on the environment.

Eutrophication

Fertiliser and slurry are used to increase the nitrogen content of the soil so encouraging healthy plant growth. If too much is used then it can be leached into underground water supplies and rivers. This is called eutrophication. It then encourages algal and plant growth in the river or lake. These multiply rapidly then die off as oxygen is used up. Bacteria then multiply as the plants decompose. These bacteria use up any remaining oxygen and produce toxic bi-products. The lack of oxygen and increased toxicity kill fish life. This can encourage even more harmful bacteria.

Pesticides

Another problem. In the developing world there are countless examples of pesticide poisoning. In the UK the "Mammal Society" claim there are 24 species in danger of extinction as a consequence of pesticide use.