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1.   Where did agriculture originate?
2.   Where are agricultural regions in less
     developed countries?
3.   Where are agricultural regions in more
     developed countries?
4.   Why does agriculture vary among regions?
5.    Why do farmers face economic difficulties?
     History of Agriculture
• Hunter-Gatherers
• Neolithic Revolution
  – Domestication of Plants and Animals
  – Diffusion of Agriculture
• Agricultural Industrialization
• The “Green Revolution”
  – Hybrids, scientific application of fertilizer,
    pesticide, and water
• Modern Agribusiness
• Genetic Engineering of Crops
        Key Issue 1: Where did
         agriculture originate?
• Agriculture- the deliberate modification of Earth’s
  surface through cultivation of plants and rearing of
  animals to obtain sustenance or economic gain.
• Before ag, humans existed through hunting and
  gathering, meaning the collection of food on a daily
  basis. About 250,000 people still engage in hunting
  and gathering; these people live in isolated areas of
  the Arctic, Africa, Australia, and S. America.
• The first form of agriculture
   – vegetative planting- the reproduction of plants by direct
     cloning from existing plants, i.e. cutting roots/stems.
   – seed agriculture- the reproduction of plants through annual
     planting of seeds that result from sexual fertilization.
     Neolithic Revolution
Primary effects:
   Urbanization
   Social stratification
   Occupational specialization
   Increased population densities

Secondary effects:
 Endemic diseases
 Famine
 Expansionism
• Vegetative planting originated in three
  primary hearths: S.E. Asia, West Africa, and
  northwest South America.
• Seed ag also originated in several primary
  hearths: west India, north China, Ethiopia,
  south Mexico, and north Peru.
• Subsistence ag- the production of food
  primarily for consumption by the farmer’s
• Commercial ag- the production of food
  primarily for sale off the farm.
Origins of Agriculture

Which of these areas are considered cultural
•   Five features distinguish commercial ag from
    1. Purpose of farming: subsistence ag is to produce food for
       own consumption. Commercial ag is produced for sale to
    2. Percentage of farmers: in MDC’s less than 5% of workers
       are farmers, compared to 55% in LDC’s. The farmers in
       MDC’s are typically commercial, whereas the LDC farmers
       are subsistence.
    3. Use of machinery: Commercial ag makes heavy use of
       machinery where subsistence ag uses mainly hand tools and
    4. Farm size: Commercial farms are much larger than
       subsistence farms. The commercial farms have to be larger
       in order to pay for their heavy machinery, and to make a
    5. Relationship of farming to other business: Commercial
       farms are commonly part of an
       –   agribusiness- the many facets of food production, not just
           isolated family farming.
Subsistence Agriculture Regions
Key Issue 2: Where are agricultural
regions in less developed countries?
• The three primary types of ag in LDC’s are:
  – Shifting cultivation- characterized by slash-and-
    burn ag- the clearing of land by slashing
    vegetation and burning debris, and using a select
    field (swidden) for only a few years before
    leaving it fallow for many years to recover the
     • Shifting cultivation is practiced most commonly in the
       tropics and other regions where soil quality is relatively
       poor for supporting ag.
     • grows inefficient as the number of people increases and
       more fields must be left fallow longer.
        – Shifting cultivation has been looked down upon in recent
          years as the importance of the rain forests to the Earth’s
          ecosystem becomes more apparent.
  Shifting Cultivation
Vegetation “slashed” and then
 burned. Soil remains fertile for
 2-3 years. Then people move
      where: tropical rainforests.
       Amazon, Central and West
       Africa, Southeast Asia
      Crops: upland rice (S.E. Asia),
       maize and manioc (S. America),
       millet and sorghum (Africa)‫‏‬
Declining at hands of ranching and
• Pastoral nomadism- a form of subsistence ag based
  on the herding of domesticated animals. Primarily
  practiced in the large belt of arid and semiarid land
  that includes north Africa, the Middle East, and
  parts of Central Asia.
   – About 15 million people are pastoral nomads; they sparsely
     occupy 20% of Earth’s land surface.
   – The animal that the nomad chooses to herd depends on the
     climate, and on cultural preferences.
   – transhumance- the seasonal migration of livestock betwixt
     mountains and lowland pasture areas.
      • The future of pastoral nomadism is grim, as govt.
        increasingly confine the nomads to areas that cannot be
        irrigated or that lack valuable raw materials.
          Pastoral Nomadism
                        The breeding and herding
                         of domesticated animals
                         for subsistence.
                         where: arid and semi-arid areas of
                          N. Africa, Middle East, Central
   Bedouin Shepherd
                         animals: Camel, Goats, Sheep,
                         transhumance: seasonal migrations
                          from highlands to lowlands
                        Most nomads are being pressured
                          into sedentary life as land is used
Somali Nomad and Tent     for agriculture or mining.
• Intensive subsistence ag- the form of ag
  used in areas of high density such as East,
  South, and Southeast Asia. It is
  characterized by high efficiency farming
  practices that yield a large number of crops
  per small amount of land.
  – The intensive ag in Asia is subdivided into “wet
    rice dominant” and “wet rice not dominant”.
  – Aside from the obvious difference in what is
    grown, the two classifications are quite similar.
     • They each use the land intensively, primarily using
       human power with some animal and hand tool
     • crop rotation may be practiced, as well as
        – double cropping- obtaining two harvests from one field in
          one year.
            Intensive Subsistence
                  • Wet Rice Dominant
                         where: S.E. Asia, E. India,
                          S.E. China
                         very labor intensive
                          production of rice, including
The Fields of Bali        transfer to sawah, or
                         most important source of
                          food in Asia
                               grown on flat, or
                                terraced land
                              Double cropping is used
                                in warm winter areas
    Thai Rice Farmers           of S. China and
Key Issue 3: Where are agricultural
regions in more developed countries
•   The methods of farming typically found in
    MDC’s are: 7 Methods
    1. Mixed crop and livestock farming is common in
       the U.S. west of the Appalachians and in much
       of Europe from France to Russia.
      – integration of crops and livestock. Most of the crops
        are fed to animals rather than humans.
      – nearly all of the land is used for crop growing, but
        more than 75% the profits come from the sale of
        animal products
      – Crop rotation is actively used in mixed farming
      – two of the most frequent are corn and soybeans
 Mixed Crop and Livestock Farming

Mixed Crop and Livestock Farming
    Where: Ohio to Dakotas, centered on Iowa;
     much of Europe from France to Russia
     crops: corn (most common), soybeans
     In U.S. 80% of grain production is fed to pigs and

     Highly inefficient use of natural resources
        Pounds of grain to make 1 lb. beef: 10
        Gallons of water to make 1 1b wheat: 25
        Gallons of water to make 1 1b. beef: 2500
2. Dairy farming is the most important type of
  commercial ag practiced on farms near the
  northeast U.S., southeast Canada, and
  northwest Europe.
  – Dairy farms must be nearer their market areas
    than other products because their product spoils
  – milkshed- the ring surrounding a city from which
    milk can be supplied without spoiling.
     • Improvements in transportation have increased the
       range of dairy farms, but they are mainly still located
       near large urban areas. Those dairy farms that are
       farther from the cities tend to sell their product to
       processors who make butter, cheese, etc, because
       these products keep longer than milk.
 Dairy Farming
Where: near urban areas
 in N.E. United States,
 Southeast Canada,
 N.W. Europe
  - Over 90% of cow’s milk is
  produced in developed
  countries. Value is added as               Dairy Farm, Wisconsin
  cheese, yogurt, etc.           Von Thunen’s theories are the beginning
                                 of location economics and analysis (1826)
                                 Locational Theory : butter and cheese
                                 more common than milk with increasing
                                 distance from cities and in West.

                                     Milkshed : historically defined by
                                     spoilage threat; refrigerated trucks
                                     changed this.
3. Grain farming is typically done in the Great
   Plains states of the U.S.
  • The U.S. is by far the world’s largest producer
    of grain.
     • the winter wheat area (the crop is planted in the
       autumn and develops a strong root system before
       growth stops for the winter, and is harvested in the
       early summer) like Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado;
     • the spring wheat belt (the crop is planted in spring and
       harvested in the late summer) in the Dakotas, Montana;
     • third important area is in the Palouse region of
       Washington state. Wheat is an important crop because
       it is highly exportable and is a source of economic and
       political strength for its largest producers, like the U.S.
       and Canada.
  Prairie Cereal Farming

Where: worldwide in semi-arid midlatitudes,
 but U.S. and Russia predominant
Crops: wheat
   winter wheat: Kansas, Colorado,
   spring wheat: Dakotas, Montana, southern
Highly mechanized: combines, worth hundreds
 of thousands of dollars, migrate northward in
 U.S., following the harvest.
4. Livestock ranching is the commercial grazing of
   livestock over an extensive area.
   •  In MDC’s it is practiced in lands where the vegetation is
     too sparse and the soil too poor to support crops.
   • The cattle were taken to market via cattle trails and
     railways in the 19th century, but more recently by semi-
     trucks and interstate highways.
   • Cattle ranching is done in other parts of the world where
     wide open lands are available, and are better suited to
     supporting cows than crops.
       •    Regardless of the region, ranching has followed a similar
           pattern across the globe. Initially it is the herding of cattle
           over open ranges, then ranching transforms into fixed
           farming by dividing the open land into ranches. Some
           ranches are converted into farms as the countryside develops
           and irrigation is more available. The remaining farms must
           experiment with new breeding and feeding processes to
           enhance the value of their cows.
            Livestock Ranching
Where: arid or semi-arid areas of western
  U.S., Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Spain and
History: initially open range, now sedentary
  with transportation changes. Environmental effects:
                                  1) overgrazing has
                                  damaged much of the
                                  world’s arid grasslands
                                  (< 1% of U.S. remain!)‫‏‬

                                  2) destruction of the
                                  rainforest is motivated
                                  by Brazilian desires for
                                  fashionable cattle
5. Mediterranean ag exists mainly in the lands
   that border the Mediterranean Sea in S.
   Europe, N. Africa, and W. Asia. It has
   spread to parts of California, Chile, South
   Africa, and Australia as well.
  – Most of the food grown in this style of farming
    is for human consumption and is typically of
    high value.
  – Horticulture- the growing of fruits, vegetables,
    and flowers forms the base of Med. ag.
       Mediterranean Agriculture
Where: areas surrounding the
  Mediterranean, California, Oregon,
  Chile, South Africa, Australia
Climate has summer dry season.
  Landscape is mountainous.
• Highly valuable crops: olives, grapes,
  nuts, fruits and vegetables; winter
• California: high quality land is being
  lost to suburbanization; initially offset
  by irrigation
6. Commercial Gardening and Fruit
  Farming is the main farming found in
  the U.S. southeast.
  – truck farming- growing many of the fruits
    and vegetables demanded in more
    developed societies.
  – These farms are highly efficient and make
    use of machinery and cheap labor in every
    facet of the process.
              Commercial Gardening
                 and Fruit Farming
Where: U.S. Southeast, New England,
 near cities around the world

• crops: high profit vegetables and
  fruits demanded by wealthy urban
  populations: apples, asparagus,
  cherries, lettuce, tomatoes, etc.
• mechanization: such truck farming is
  highly mechanized and labor costs
  are further reduced by the use of
  cheap immigrant (and illegal) labor.
• distribution: situated near urban markets.
Developed Countries Undercut Free
      Markets in Agriculture
•   Farmers in the developed
    world are paid an average of
    2/3 more than the free market
    would provide.
•   These subsidies to the world’s
    richest farmers directly damage
    the agricultural economies of
    the poorest nations.
•   Despite this, the U.S. Congress
    and President Bush actually
    increased farm subsidies in
7. Plantation farming is found in the
  tropics and subtropics.
  – Plantation- a large farm that specializes in
    one or two crops, typically cash crops.
  – These types are farms are isolated in
    sparsely settled locations and are thus
    quite self-sufficient.
    • After the outlawing of slavery in the U.S.,
      many of the plantations were sold or
      subdivided as the ample source of cheap labor
      was no longer an option
      Plantation Farming
• large scale mono-cropping of
  profitable products not able to be
  grown in Europe or U.S.
• where: tropical lowland Periphery
• crops: cotton, sugar cane, coffee,
  rubber, cocoa, bananas, tea,
  coconuts, palm oil.
What are potential problems with this
 type of agriculture? Environmental?
    Key Issue #4: Why does
agriculture vary among regions?
• Environmental Factors-
  – Climate dictates what can be grown
    •   Middle East- pastoral nomads
    •   Africa- Shifting Cultivation
    •   China- Differences within the country
    •   U.S.- differences among growing and Cattle
  – Religious and other environmental factors
    • Pork in Muslim countries
    • Wine in non Christian states
Making Sense
of the Map of
• Economic Issues
  – Ester Boserup- population growth encourages
    substance farmers to consider new farming
    techniques to feed the people
  – Said this could be achieved in two ways
    • 1- Land is left Fallow for shorter periods
       – Forest Fallow- Land is farmed for 2 years and left for 20
       – Bush Fallow- field is cleard and used for 7 and left for 10
       – Short Fallow- used for 2 and left for 2
       – Annual Cropping- used for a couple of months and then
         left for a couple; planting of roots and legumes
       – Multi-cropping- fields are used several times a year and
         never left fallow
        2. Adopting new farm methods
          – Plows, manure, terracing, labor, machinery

•   Drug crops- Usually distributed by
    LDC, Why?
    –   Coca leaf- predominantly found in south
        America; Columbia, Peru and Bolivia
    –   Marijuana- Mexico
    –   Opium- Asia; Afghanistan, India,
        Myanmar Laos
in Agriculture
       The Green Revolution in
The term green revolution refers to the development and
adoption of high yielding cereal grains in the less developed
world during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Very large short
term gains in grain output have allowed food supplies to
grow faster than populations, until very recently.

   •   Green Revolution History
   •   Acreage and Yield Trends
   •   Technical Problems
   •   Ethical Issues
History of Green Revolution
1943 Rockefeller Foundation begins work on
  short stature hybrid corn in Mexico
1960s Hybrid strains of rice, wheat, and corn
  show great success in S.E. Asia, and Latin
1970 Head of Mexican corn program, Borlaug,
  wins Nobel Peace Prize
1990s Growth in food supply continues, but
  slows to below the rate of population
  growth, as the results of unsustainable
  farming practices take effect.
Acreage and Yield Trends
Acreage and Yield Trends
Acreage and Yield Trends
Gains were made by:
• Dwarf varieties: plants are bred to
allocate more of their photosynthetic
output to grain and less to vegetative
• Planting in closer rows, allowed by
herbicides, increases yields.
• Bred to be less sensitive to day length,
thus double-cropping is more plausible.
• Very sensitive to inputs of fertilizer and
Contemporary Food Production
  Key Issue 5: Why do farmers
   face economic difficulties?
• Issues for commercial farmers
  – Access to markets
• The von Thünen model was introduced
  by Johann Heinrich von Thünen in
  1826 to help explain the importance of
  proximity to market in the choice of
  crops on commercial farms. A rough
  schematic is reproduced below:
• The basic premise of von Thünen’s model is
  that the more perishable and difficult to ship
  something, the closer it will be to the
• Overproduction
  – Farming efficiency has increased at a remarkable pace in
• The U.S. government attacks the excess food
  supply problem in three ways.
  1. The farmers are asked not to grow crops that are in
     excess supply already.
  2. Second, farming is substantially subsidized in order to
     keep farmers in business.
  3. Lastly, the govt. buys tremendous amounts of excess from
     the farmers and then sells it or donates it to other govts.
     throughout the world. Ironically, farmers in MDC’s are
     encouraged to grow less food, while farmers in LDC’s
     struggle to produce more.
• “Gleening”
• Some farmers are turning to
  sustainable ag- the ag practice that
  preserves and enhances environmental
• Two methods are used: more sensitive
  land management
  – ridge tillage- the system of planting crops
    on ridge tops to lower production costs
    and conserve soil quality
  – better integration of crops and livestock.
• Issues for subsistence farmers
  – Farmers must feed an increasing number of
    people. Thus they leave fields fallow for shorter
    periods of time, effectively turning the land into a
    desert (desertification).
  – Because many govt. are trying to develop along
    the international trade model, they are
    encouraging farmers to grow crops for export
    rather than food for direct consumption.
• The export crop of choice for many LDC
  farmers is drug crops.
      Agricultural Revolutions

Technology allows much greater
 production (surplus) with less human
 labor, but often has high social and
 environmental costs.
   Metal plows, Reapers, Cotton Gin
   Tractors (Internal Combustion Engine)‫‏‬
   Combines
   Chemical Pesticides/Fertilizers
   Hybrid Crops
   Genetically-modified Crops
• Strategies for increasing food supply
  – Expand the land area used for agriculture
  – Increase the productivity of land now used
    (i.e. green revolution)
  – Identify new food sources
• Increase exports from other countries
Contemporary Food Consumption

Is there a spatial relationship to the original hearths?
  Technical and Resource
   Limitation Problems
• Heavy Use of Fresh Water
• High Dependence on Technology and
  Machinery Provided/Sold by Core
• Heavy Use of Pesticides and Fertilizer (and
  associated pollution and waste)
• Reduced Genetic Diversity / Increased
  Blight Vulnerability
• Questionable Overall Sustainability
Technical and Resource
 Limitation Problems
                  Ethical Issues
• Starvation of many prevented, but extra food may
  lead to higher birth rates.
• Life expectancy in less developed countries
  increased by 10 years in less than two decades (43 in
  1950’s to 53 in 1970’s).
• Dependency on core countries increased; rich-poor
  gap increased.
• Wealthy farmers and multinational companies do well,
  small farmers become wage laborers or unemployed –
• More at risk? More people malnourished/starving
  today than in 1950 (but lower as a percentage).
• U.S. spends $10,000,000,000 year on farm subsidies,
  damaging farmers and markets in LDCs.
           Agricultural ‘Success’?
“Our incredible successes as a species are largely derived
  from this choice, but the biggest threats to our existence
  stem from the same decision.”            Jared Diamond,
       Emergence of new human diseases from animal
        diseases (i.e. smallpox, measles)‫‏‬
         • Dense urban populations allow spread/persistence of
       Lower standard of living for many people.
         • Archaeological evidence of serious mal-nourishment
           among early farmers.
         • Many modern impoverished and malnourished farmers.
         • Famine virtually non-existent in hunter-gatherer
       Increased susceptibility to plant blights and
        increased dependence on complex economic
       Biotechnology in
• Cloning
• Recombinant DNA
        Biotechnology in
• Potential Benefits of Genetic
  Engineering of Crops
  – Increased Yields
  – Increased Nutritional Value in Some
    Staple Crops (e.g., Vitamin A added to
• Strong Political Resistance in Europe
  and Among Environmentalists
• Concerns about Long Term Safety and
       Future Challenges
• World Population Expected to
  Increase to 10-12 Billion Before
• Food Production Already Exerting
  Extreme Environmental Pressures
  – 25% of All Greenhouse Gas Release in
    U.S. is from Agriculture. That’s more
    than all transport.
  – Much Soil is Already Badly Damaged
• Developed Countries Still
  Undermining 3rd World Agriculture
  with Subsidies and Taxes
• Why do people starve
  – Drought/desertification
  – Warfare
     • The army marches on its stomach
  – Food preferences/ cultural practices
     • India
  – Delivery systems
  – Issue of credit
  – Politics
     • North korea
• Ways to increase food production
  – More land into production
    • 30% of land is arable and we use 10%
  – Green revolution technologies
  – New food sources
    • Seas, vegetation,
  – Increasing trade
    • Less restrictive trade among agriculture
    • “Life‫‏‬in‫‏‬Debt”‫‏‬Jamaican‫‏‬Bananas‫‏‬
• Rubenstein, James- Cultural Landscape;
  An Introduction to Human Geography
• Google