Class VIII - Geography

Chapter 4 - Agriculture

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  • Agriculture word comes from Latin word ‘ager’ or ‘agri’ meaning field and ‘culture’ meaning, cultivation.
  • Agriculture, also known as farming, is the art and science of cultivating the soil, raising crops and rearing livestock.
  • The transformation from a plant to a finished product involves three types of economic activities
    • Primary Activities
      1. are those activities which are connected with extraction and production of natural resources, for example – agriculture and fishing
    • Secondary Activities
      1. are concerned with the processing of natural resources to manufacturing products like baking of bread, weaving of cloth and steel manufacturing
    • Tertiary Activities
      1. provide services like transport, trade, banking, insurance and advertising
  • Agriculture is a primary activity which includes growing crops, fruits, vegetables, flowers and rearing livestock.
    • 50% of persons in the world are engaged in agricultural activity.
    • 2/3 of India’s population is dependent on agriculture as India has the land and climatic conditions favourable for carrying out agricultural activities.
    • The land which can be used for cultivation and on which the crops are grown is known as arable land.
    • Apart from soil conditions, different climatic factors that affect the cultivation of crops in an area are rainfall or precipitation, temperature, and light. Different crops require different climatic conditions for a healthy growth.
  • Other forms of cultivation are
    • Sericulture
      1. is the art and science of rearing silk worms to produce raw silk and involves the cultivation of food-plants to feed the silk worms, and the extraction of raw silk yarn from the cocoons of the silk worms for processing and weaving
      2. comes from the Greek word ‘sericos’ meaning silk and ‘culture’ meaning rearing
    • Pisciculture
      1. is the science of breeding fish in specially designed ponds, tanks or lakes
      2. is done purely for commercial purposes
      3. comes from the Latin word ‘pisci’ meaning fish and ‘culture’ meaning cultivation
    • Viticulture
      1. is the science of study and production of grapes
      2. come from the Latin word ‘vitis’ meaning vine and ‘culture’ meaning cultivation
    • Horticulture
      1. is the science or art of cultivating fruits, vegetables, flowers or ornamental plants
      2. comes from the Latin word ‘hortus’ meaning garden and ‘culture’ meaning cultivation
      3. involves all the activities carried out to improve the crop yield, quality and nutritional value and resistance to insects and diseases


Farm System

The farming system has three components:

  • Input includes seeds, fertilisers, machinery and labour.
  • Process is the processing activities, like tilling, ploughing, sowing, irrigating, weeding and harvesting or breeding in case of an animal farm, by which the output is obtained.
  • Output is the end product including crops, wool, dairy and poultry products.


Type of Farming

  • Farming depends upon the geographical conditions, demand of produce, labour and level of technology.
  • There are two types of farming
    • Subsistence farming
      1. is carried out at a low scale for a small output
      2. is practiced to meet the needs of the farmer’s family
      3. uses very low-end technology and most of the labour is manual
      4. can be further classified as
        • Intensive Subsistence Agriculture
          1. farmers use simple tools such as spades and ploughs and manual labour to cultivate a small plot of land
          2. is practiced in areas having fertile soil and receiving plenty of sunshine throughout the year
          3. is more common in the thickly populated areas in monsoon regions of south, southeast and east Asia
          4. is practiced in the tropical and sub-tropical areas of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh
          5. Rice is the main crop grown through intensive farming in addition to wheat, maize, pulses and oilseeds on the same plot of land.
          6. This type of cultivation produces very little and is mainly to fulfil farmer’s personal needs.
        • Primitive Subsistence Agriculture
          • includes
            1. Shifting Cultivation
              • is also known as ‘slash and burn’ agriculture
              • is where after cultivation the land is abandoned and the cultivator moves to a new plot
              • is common in areas where the rainfall is heavy
              • is practiced in the dense forest areas of north-east India, parts of south-east Asia, tropical Africa and the Amazon basin
              • The crops grown here are maize, yam, potatoes and cassava.
            2. Nomadic Herding
              • is where herdsmen move from place to place with their animals for fodder and water along defined routes
              • is practiced in semi-arid and arid areas like Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Sahara and Central Asia
              • Sheep, goats, camels and yaks are reared and provide milk, meat, wool and hide to the herdsmen.


    • Commercial farming
      1. involves activities on a larger scale and yield a much larger produce
      2. is where minimal manual labour is involved and machines do most of the work
      3. The crops grown and the animals reared are sold in the market.
      4. Developed nation mostly perform this farming extensively.
      5. includes
        1. Commercial Grain Farming
          1. is the cultivation of crops for commercial purposes where crops are grown for sale in the market
          2. is practiced in the sparsely populated areas of the temperate grasslands of North America, Europe and Asia
          3. The main crops grown are wheat and maize.

        3. Mixed Farming
          1. is where the land is used for growing food, fodder crops and rearing livestock
          2. is common in Europe, parts of eastern USA, Argentina, southeast Australia, New Zealand and South Africa
          3. Farmers cultivate food crops like rice, wheat and fodder crops like barley and grass.


        4. Plantation
          1. is where large farms or estates grow a single crop, of tea, coffee, sugarcane, cashew, rubber, banana or cotton, for commercial use
          2. requires a large amount of labour and capital investment in building an extensive transportation network
          3. needs specific climatic conditions
          4. The produce from these plantations, like tea leaves and rubber latex, are processed to produce market-ready output, i.e. tea and rubber sheets.
          5. is common in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world like India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Brazil


Major Crops

  • Crops are plants that are grown and harvested for eating or selling.
  • A variety of crops are grown to meet the requirement of the growing population
  • On the basis of usage, crops are classified into three types
    • Crops grown for food - like rice, wheat, millets and maize
      1. need a specific environment and geographical conditions to grow
      2. different crops are produced at different places
        1. Rice
          1. is the main food crop
          2. is a staple diet in the tropical and subtropical regions
          3. crops show best yield with high temperature, high humidity and rainfall
          4. Alluvial clayey soil is the best for growing rice as it can retain water.
          5. China is the leading producer of rice followed by India which together account for half of the world’s total rice production.
          6. Japan, Sri Lanka, Egypt and Bangladesh are the other major producers of rice.
          7. In West Bengal and Bangladesh, due to the favourable climatic conditions, two to three crops are grown in a year.
        2. Wheat
          1. requires a well-drained loamy soil
          2. grows best in moderate rainfall and moderate temperature and requires loads of sunshine in the harvest season
          3. Bangladesh, West Bengal, the Prairies of the USA, Canada, Russia, Argentina, Australia, Ukraine and Pakistan are major producers of wheat.
          4. In India, wheat is sown in the winter season and harvested in the summer.
        3. Millets
          1. are also known as coarse grains
          2. grow well on soils of relatively low fertility or sandy soil
          3. require low to adequate rainfall and temperatures ranging from high to moderate
          4. In India Jowar, bajra and ragi are grown.
          5. Other major producers of millets in the world are China, Niger and Nigeria.
        4. Maize
          1. is commonly referred to as corn
          2. needs well drained and fertile soil to grow
          3. requires moderate temperature, moderate rainfall and abundance of sunshine
          4. The major producers of maize in the world are North America, Brazil, China, Russia, Mexico, India, Canada and South Africa.
    • Beverage Crops – like tea and coffee
      1. Tea
        1. is grown in plantations
        2. requires cool and humid climate to grow with well-distributed high rainfall throughout the year and well-drained loamy soil
        3. is grown on slopes to ensures that water does not clog.
        4. China, India, Kenya and Sri Lanka are known to produce the finest tea in the world.
        5. Darjeeling tea is recognized by consumers all over the world for its unique flavour and quality.
      2. Coffee
        1. grows well in well-drained loamy soil and hilly slopes
        2. needs warm and wet climate like in subtropical regions
        3. Brazil is the world leader in the production of coffee, followed by Columbia and India.
    • Crops grown for agro-based industries – like Jute and cotton (fibre crops)
      1. Cotton
        1. is the main raw material for the cotton textile industry
        2. requires high temperatures light rainfall and plenty of sunlight with 210 frost-free days
        3. grows best on black soil and alluvial soil
        4. In India, cotton is mostly grown in parts of the Deccan Plateau.
        5. Apart from Indian the leading producers of cotton in the world are China, The USA, Pakistan, Brazil and Egypt.
      2. Jute
        1. is also known as the Golden Fibre
        2. is grown in the tropical areas
        3. requires high temperature, plain alluvial soil, plenty of rainfall and a humid climate to grow
        4. India and Bangladesh are the leading producers of jute.


Agriculture Development

  • refers to efforts made to increase and improve farm production in order to meet the growing demand of increasing population
  • includes better farming practises, better crops variety and awareness of farmers
  • Farm production can be increased by
    • improving irrigation facilities
    • promoting the use of high quality fertilizers and High Yield Value (HYV) seeds
    • increasing the farming area
    • increasing the number of crops grown on the farm in a year
    • mechanization - use of machinery and equipment to perform various agricultural operations, like ploughing, irrigating, spraying pesticides, and harvesting.
  • Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical as well as economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for a healthy and active life.


A Farm in India

  1. Intensive subsistence agriculture is practiced on small farms in developing countries like India that have large populations
  2. A typical Indian farmer
    • has a farmland of about 1.5 hectares
    • buys high yielding seeds from the market to grow at least two crops a year which are usually food crops like rice, wheat and pulses
    • operates on a low scale, using traditional methods for agricultural operations and rely on indefinite and temporary sources for the supply of essentials
    • takes advice of elders as well as government agricultural officers regarding farming practices
    • Intensive farming practices are easy to use as the size of the farms are small and labour is easily available.
    • The new farming practices include using tractors for ploughing the fields which they can either purchase or take on rent.
    • The main source of irrigation is a tube well near the field.
    • Family members of the farmer help him in carrying out farming activities.
    • Some farmers also rear livestock like buffaloes and hens and sell milk and eggs produced by these animals at the nearest available cooperative stores.
    • A cooperative society is a business owned and controlled equally by the people who use its services or who work at it. The cooperative society guides these member farmers in taking care of their livestock.
    • The agricultural co-operative society, along with banks, serves in lending funds to the farmers to buy HYV seeds and farming implements.
    • The farmers in India have to sell the produce themselves and since there is a shortage of storage facilities they sometimes have to sell their produce at low price.


A Farm in the USA

  1. Farmers in developed countries like the USA, Canada and Australia practice commercial agriculture on large farms.
  2. The farms are big, ranging from 250 to 300 hectares in size with their house on the farm.
  3. Crops are grown at commercial level and include wheat, maize or corn, soybean, cotton and sugar beet.
  4. A typical farmer in the USA
    • operates on a much larger scale and is more like a businessman
    • regularly analyses the type of soil and the water resources available and decides which crop to grow
    • takes adequate steps to protect their crop from pests by taking help of the fertilizer plant that enables him to choose the best pesticides
    • has a computer linked to a satellite providing a complete picture of the field and as a result, there is no need for supplementing farming income
    • relies heavily on machines, like tractor, seed driller, leveller, combined harvester and thresher
    • has the advantage of automated grain storage facilities and dispatch facilities to marketing agencies and so can wait for a good price for their farm produce
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