‘Agriculture involves the cultivation of crops and rearing of livestock.’ e following are the main agricultural systems.

Subsistence Agriculture

Subsistence agriculture is one in which the farming areas consume all, or nearly so, of the products locally grown. It can be grouped in two categories’Primitive Subsistence Agriculture and Intensive Subsistence Agriculture.

Primitive Subsistence Agriculture

This is popularly known as shifting agriculture. This is the most primitive form of agriculture which is still practised in some parts of the world, especially in the tropical forests. It represents man’s st attempt to grow food for his subsistence. A small piece of forest land is cleared by felling the trees and cutting the bushes and grasses. These are then burnt as a result of which it is also known as ‘slash and burn’ agriculture. The ash obtained by burning is mixed with soil which increases its fertility. The crops are grown for a few years and the cultivator shift to a new site when the fertility of soil is drastically reduced due to leaching, lack of organic matter and adverse effects of burning the vegetation. That is why it is known as shifting agriculture. It is practised in a two to three years cycle. Sometimes the farmers come back to the abandoned piece of land after 10’1 5 years and grow crops. This is known as ‘bush fallow’ agriculture.

Areas of Shifting Agriculture

Shifting agriculture is mainly practised in three areas:

  • The largest areas of shifting agriculture is in central Africa on both sides of EquatorNorth-eastern part of India comprising the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Nagaland and Mizoram and South-East Asia
  • Central America and South America

Shifting agriculture is known by different names in different areas.

Name of the area Name’ of’ shifting
1. North-East India Jhuming/Bewar
2. Malaysia Ladang
3. Philippines Chengin/Kaingin
4. Central America and Mexico Milpa
5. Venezuela Konuko
6. Brazil Roka Roca
7. Congo Masole Masole
8. Vietnam Ray
9. Indonesia Humah
10. Myanmar Taungya
11. Sri Lanka Chen

There are two main drawbacks of this agriculture-

  • It is responsible for deforestation and environmental degradation
  • It leads to soil erosion and soil loss

Intensive Subsistence Agriculture

This agriculture is mainly practised in the densely populated regions of monsoon Asia. These areas include China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Countries of South East Asia and Japan. It is of following two types:

Intensive Subsistence agriculture dominated by wet paddy cultivation. In this type of agriculture, rice is the most dominant crop. Its chief characteristics are as under:

  • Land holdings are very small due to high density of population.
  • Land is intensively used.
  • Labour is supplied by the farmer and his family members.
  • Most of the agricultural operations are done manually by man and very little machinery is used.
  • Fertility of soil is maintained by using farm manure.
  • Yield per unit area is high but per labour productivity is low.

Intensive subsistence agriculture dominated by crops other than paddy. In this type of agriculture rice is not the dominant crop and in its place other crops like wheat, soyabean, barley and sorghum are grown. This agriculture is practised in those areas where rainfall is not sufficient to encourage the cultivation of rice. Other factors like relief and soil are also not suitable for rice crop. Northern China, northern and western parts of India, Manchuria, North Korea, North Japan etc. are the main areas of this cultivation. Most of the characteristics of this type of agriculture are similar to those dominated by wet paddy except that irrigation is often used.

Plantation Agriculture

The main areas of plantation agriculture are tropical and sub-tropical parts of Asia, Africa, South America and Central America. It is a commercial agriculture in which crops like tea, coffee, cocoa, rubber, cotton, oil palm, sugarcane, bananas and pine apples are grown to be sold in the market. Following are the chief characteristic features of this agriculture.

It was introduced in the tropical lands by Europeans and North Americans primarily in the colonies ruled by them. Estates or plantations are of very large size, sometimes running into thousands of hectares. It requires large capital investment, managerial and technical support and scientific methods of cultivation.

Cheap unskilled labour is supplied by the local people while technical and skilled assistance comes from temperate lands.

Cheap transport is required to link the estates with factories and markets for export of products.

Contribution of Europeans and Americans for the development of plantation agriculture can be judged by the following facts:

  • The French set up cocoa and coffee plantations in West Africa.
  • The British established large tea gardens in India and Sri Lanka, rubber plantations in Malaysia and sugarcane and banana plantations in West Indies.
  • Spanish and Americans set up coconut and sugarcane plantations in Philippines.
  • The Dutch established sugarcane plantation 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 the nationals of the countries concerned.

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