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Agriculture Definition, origins, classification Agriculture in LDCs Agriculture in MDCs I. Definition, origins, classification Agriculture: Deliberate modification of a portion of earth’s surface through cultivation of plants or raising animals

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  • Definition, origins, classification
  • Agriculture in LDCs
  • Agriculture in MDCs
i definition origins classification
I. Definition, origins, classification
  • Agriculture:
    • Deliberate modification of a portion of earth’s surface through cultivation of plants or raising animals
    • To obtain sustenance (LDCs) or for economic gain (MDCs)

Hunting and gathering:

    • Small groups, fewer than 50 people
    • Today, only ¼ million people still survive by hunting and gathering

Invention of agriculture
    • Accident and deliberate experiment
    • Two types of cultivation:
      • Vegetative planting: cloning from existing plants
      • Seed agriculture: came later, planting of seeds, practiced by most farmers today
Hearths: agriculture began in multiple, independent hearths (points of origin) (Carl Sauer)
    • Vegetative planting
      • Southeast Asia
      • West Africa
      • NW South America

Seed agriculture

    • 3 hearths in the Eastern Hemisphere
      • Western India
      • Northern China
      • Ethiopia
    • 2 hearths in Western Hemisphere
      • Southern Mexico/Mesoamerica (squash and corn)
      • Northern Peru

the fertile crescent
The Fertile Crescent
  • Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers


Advantages of the Fertile Crescent

    • 1. Mediterranean climate
    • 2. Numerous edible and productive plants
    • 3. Self pollinate, cross pollinate
    • 4. Wide range of elevations
    • 5. Numerous large animals
    • 6. East-west axis
classifying agricultural regions
Classifying agricultural regions
  • Difference between LDCs (subsistence) and MDCs (commercial)
  • 1. Subsistence agriculture: growing food for consumption by farmer’s family
  • 2. Commercial agriculture: growing food for sale off the farm (machinery and technology)




urban expansion

  • Commercial farming in the US and other MDCs is called agribusiness
    • Agribusiness includes processing, packaging, storing, distributing, and retailing; tractor manufacturing, fertilizer production, seed distribution…
    • Farmers are less than 2% of the US labor force
    • But 20% of US labor works in food production and service
    • Many aspects of agribusiness are controlled by large corporations

ii agriculture in ldcs
II. Agriculture in LDCs
  • Shifting cultivation
    • Humid low-latitude/tropical zones (high temp and rainfall), low population density
    • 2 types
      • Slash-and-burn: clearing land by cutting vegetation and burning debris (tropical zones)
      • Rotation: using a field for a few years, then leaving it fallow for many years
Pastoral nomadism
    • A form of subsistence agriculture based on herding domesticated animals
    • Dry climates, where crops can’t grow, low population density
    • Most in arid and semi-arid land in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia (Eastern Hemisphere)
    • Transhumance: seasonal migration of livestock between mountains (summer) and lowland pastures (winter)
    • Pasture: land used for grazing, and grass or other plants grown for feeding grazing animals

Intensive subsistence agriculture
    • Farmers must work more intensively to subsist on a parcel of land
    • Farms are smaller, so more pressure for productivity
    • Practiced in densely populated areas (East, South, and Southeast Asia)
    • Wet rice dominant: mostly in river valleys and deltas, or in flat or terraced fields
    • Wet rice not dominant: climate prevents farmers from growing wet rice in parts of Asia, where summer precipitation is low and winters are harsh

Plantation farming
    • A form of commercial agriculture in tropics and subtropics (Latin America, Africa, Asia)
    • Mostly in LDCs, but many owned by people in MDCs, and most products for sale in MDCs
    • Plantation: a large farm that specializes in one or two crops

iii agriculture in mdcs
III. Agriculture in MDCs
  • Mixed crop and livestock
    • Most crops fed to animals
Crop rotation systems
    • Farm split into fields, and each field planted on a planned cycle, often several years (1 year fallow and cycle is repeated)
    • Different from shifting agriculture in LDCs because LDCs leave fields fallow for many years and productivity is lower
    • 2-field crop rotation system (Northern Europe, 5th century)
      • Cereal grain planted in Field A for one year, Field B fallow
    • 3-field system (8th century)
      • Field 1 planted with a winter cereal, Field 2 a spring cereal, Field 3 left fallow
    • 4-field system (NW Europe, 18th century)
      • First year: root crop in Field 1, cereal in Field 2, rest crop in Field 3, and cereal in Field 4
      • Second year: cereal in Field 1, rest crop in 2, cereal in 3, and root in 4
Dairy farming
    • Dairy used to be consumed on farms or in rural villages, but in the 19th century demand from urban residents increased
    • Dairy farms locate near urban areas: the ring surrounding a city from which milk can be supplied without spoiling is known as the milkshed
      • Before the 1840s, milksheds had a radius of less than 30 miles
      • Today milk can be transported more than 300 miles

Von Thunen Model

Grain farming
    • Grain: the seed from various grasses, like wheat, corn, oats, barley, rice, millet, and others
    • Grain is the major crop on most farms
    • Different from mixed crop and livestock farming because crops on a grain farm are grown primarily for consumption by humans
    • Benefits:
      • Can be sold for a higher price
      • Has more uses than other grains
      • Can be stored easily
      • Can be transported a long distance
    • Grown extensively for international trade and the world’s leading export crop
    • The US and Canada account for half the world’s wheat exports
In North America, large-scale grain production is concentrated in 3 areas:
    • 1. Winter-wheat belt (Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma): planted in fall, harvested in summer
    • 2. Spring-wheat belt (Dakotas, Montana, southern Saskatchewan): planted in spring, harvested in summer
    • 3. Palouse region in Washington state
    • The result in the US is a staggered harvest, starting in the south and progressing north

Livestock ranching
    • Ranching: the commercial grazing of livestock over an extensive area (semiarid and arid land in MDCs)
    • The only European countries involved in cattle ranching are Spain and Portugal
    • Outside the US: Spain and Portugal, Argentina and Brazil, and Australia
    • Ranching has gone through stages
      • Herding of animals over open ranges (seminomadic)
      • Fixed farming by dividing land into ranches
      • Farms converted to growing crops and ranching confined to drier lands
Mediterranean agriculture
    • Where?
      • Lands that border the Mediterranean Sea in southern Europe, North Africa, and western Asia
      • Also in CA, Chile, South Africa, and Australia
      • Every area borders a sea
      • Sea winds provide moisture and moderate the winter, summers are hot and dry
      • Land is hilly and mountainous
    • Tree crops and horticulture (the growing of fruits, vegetables, and flowers)
      • Olives, grapes, fruit, vegetables, citrus, tree nuts
    • Half the land devoted to growing cereals (wheat for pasta and bread)