Agriculture Types

By: EconomyWatch   Date: 29 April 2010

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There are 12 predominant types of agriculture which can also be classified in two ways.

12 Main Types of Agriculture

1) Shifting Cultivation (rotating crops)

2) Intensive Pastoral Farming (focused on grazing animals)

3) Subsistence Cultivation (eeking out a living, often on inhospitable land)

4) Commercial Cultivation (usually focused on cash crops, such as cotton, palm oil - and poppy for heroine)

5) Mixed crop Cultivation

6) Dairy Farming (primarily cows for milk and chickens for eggs)

7) Dry Farming (a growing area is modern Genetically Modified seeds that require less water than normal crops)

8) Intensive Arable Farming (crop growing, often staples such as maize, wheat or corn)

9) Market Gardening (growing fruit and salad vegetables).

10) Silk Farming (cultivating silk worms)

11) Plantation or Tree Farming (long term development of timber)

12) Extensive Pastoral Farming (eg Hill Sheep Farming)

You could argue that fish farming should be in the list, but that is generally considered to be a separate category.

The two categories of agriculture, that have come about as our understanding of man's impact on the environment grows, are:

i. Conventional Agriculture

Conventional agriculture most commonly practiced in the United States, and  usually involves the following criteria:

  • altering or changing the natural environment (removing trees, tilling the soil, installing an irrigation system, etc.
  • mono-cropping, or planting one crop (ex: only corn is grown in a plot).
  • the crops grown are nonrenewable- after harvesting, the plot is bare again and requires cultivation (tilling and plowing of the soil), fertilization, planting, irrigation (watering), and harvesting all over again.
  • diversity is eliminated in order to maintain uniformity
  • using insecticides and pesticides to keep insects and animals from eating the crops; these chemicals are not only poisonous to insects, animals and humans, they also pollute ground water, streams, rivers, and oceans. 
  • using inorganic fertilizers to provide nutrients to the soil
  • a lot of energy and work for the farmer to maintain this unnatural farming system; nature is more aligned with diversity (it wants to be wild), rather than controlled and uniform.

ii. Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Agriculture uses ecological principles to farm, and involves:

  • maintaining the natural environment and using ecological principles for sustained farming practices
  • poly-cropping, or planting many crops together (ex: planting rows of corn, bean, and squash together rather than in separate plots, like in mono-cropping)
  • since many plants are planted together, and each one has a different harvesting period, the plot is never bare.  This reduces soil erosion.
  • diversity is maintained and even increased over time
  • a diverse system of plants may attract several species of herbivores.  Some of these herbivores like to eat specific kinds of plants.  Predator species usually do not have a preference for which herbivores to eat.  This predation keeps the herbivore population in check, thus reducing predation of any one crop.
  • Plants- such as citrosa, are natural insect repellents.  This eliminates the need to use insecticides.
  • nutrients from each intercrop plant provide different nutrients to the soil, thus increasing its fertility (ability to sustain life).
  • less energy is required from the farmer because the agriculture system sustains itself
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