Extensive Commercial Farming (arable)

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1 Extensive Commercial Farming (arable) Aims Exam Questions Describe the main characteristics of the landscape. Describe and explain the main features of the farming system. Describe the changes and the impacts on the people, landscape and environment. Case Study: The Great Plains of America Introduction Extensive commercial farming is a system of farming that is carried out on very large holdings with a high reliance on technologies. Decisions taken by the farmer, or the corporation, are of great importance. The main aim of this system is to produce outputs which are sold in the domestic and export markets making LARGE profits. Location 1

2 The Landscape Lots of available flat land Rich Soils Climate Warm Summer Adequate Rainfall Population is low The Landscape Extensive farming (American Plains) Farms growing cereal crops tend to have large, very regular field patterns. Farms have been amalgamated in large units often in excess of 400 hectares. Fields tend to be laid out in large rectangular blocks measuring sometimes between 100 and 300 acres. westwards Cattle Ranching on western prairies Rainfall decreases Winter temps decrease Length of growing season decreases Farm size increases Wheat farming on central + eastern prairies History (1) The Great Plains had been categorised as a desert by early explorers and then taken from the Indians to create vast open-range cattle ranches. In the 19 th century early settlers believed that the climate had changed for the better and that ploughing the Plains would literally increase the rainfall to the amount required to grow wheat. Another major incentive was that the settlers were given 64 ha of free land. History (2) Many of the early homesteads did not survive because of recurring, prolonged droughts. Surviving farmers were allowed to increase their holdings and improved agricultural technology allowed them to cope, initially, with the cycles of drought and wet years that followed. 2

3 A major problem in the 1920s and 1930s was accelerated erosion of soil and wind, which culminated in the Dust Bowl Great Plains - Dust Bowl 1930 s Effects on the people Population density low less than 4 people per sq km The Dust Bowl led to rural depopulation and as a result farms became larger, that is more extensive. Irrigation of the semi-arid western areas of the Great Plains began. Settlements few- Nucleated usually at transport links 3

4 Late 20th Century What changes have affected commercial arable farming and have they been effective? 1) The rate of rural depopulation continued to increase. 6) Irrigated farming expanded rapidly, resulting in the rapid depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer 5) More land was brought into production Capital input has increased led to increased use of mechanisation and is more cost-effective for farmers 2) Farms became extremely large. 3) The dependence on agricultural technologies expanded. 4) Output soared as new strains of wheat were developed. More machinery reduction in labour input = rural depopulation Increased use of fertilisers and pesticides and disease resistant seeds yields have increased However increased use of fertilisers can cause rivers to become polluted. Grain silos next to railway - for easy distribution of huge quantities of high value, perishable produce. 4

5 Tackling Soil Erosion Shelter Belts Wind Protection Contour ploughing Intercropping and strip cultivation Contour Ploughing As a result of ploughing up-and down the steep slope, runoff water has concentrated in the furrows and eroded the soil. Consequently runoff might take fertiliser and seed with it Ploughing and planting in rows across the steep slope, prevents as much runoff and consequently prevents soils erosion on the slope Afforestation Shelter Belts Trees planted to act as windbreaks to protect crops. Intercropping and strip cultivation Different crops often planted in strips - harvested at different times - helps protect the soil. Strip cultivation: limits soil erosion 5

6 Some land has been taken out of wheat production farms have diversified their produce by introducing new crops or livestock New crops have been introduced e.g.: sunflowers Hutterite community produces potatoes, eggs and rears pigs on 1600ha communal farm. Some farms have become organic, organic, while still operating on a large scale. scale. Part time farming and the dependence on farm cooperatives has increased labour is supplied Summary of Main Characteristic Extensive commercial farming is a system of farming that is carried out on very large areas of land. Deep and fertile soils required soil can be enhanced by use of fertilizers. Moderate temperatures and rainfall is required as the crops cannot withstand extremes of either. The crops are often grown in monoculture, meaning only one crop, and there is no need for fences to mark field boundaries. High reliance on technologies. Labour is a low priority input as machinery does the majority of work. Often labour is employed on seasonal contracts during harvesting, and this leads to out migration and rural depopulation. Decisions taken by the farmer, or the corporation, are of great importance. Many government grants and subsidies are provided to support farmers in difficult times and to guarantee a price for produce. Elsewhere a 640ha holding was reseeded with native grasses on which 500 bison now graze. Main Changes and Impacts The Dust Bowl was such a major event that the US Government set up The Soil Conservation Service in 1936 to promote better farming techniques. technique s. For example: Strip cultivation means a fallow field is protected from the prevailing wind by a cropped field. Contour ploughing (ploughing with the contour rather than across it) has reduced erosion on hillsides. Crop rotation rather than monoculture was introduced to allow soil to recover during fallow periods. This does however leave it susceptible to erosion. erosion. Irrigation was introduced only on a small scale and on valley floors. This is obtained from a vast underground aquifer, called the Ogallala Aquifer. Herbicides to kill weeds helped as they reduce the number of times soil needs nee ds tilled. This process kills weeds but increases erosion. Farmers are paid to take land out of production to reduce surplus surplu s and keep down the price of crops. Switching from cropping to grazing was necessary as the area is too dry for continuous cultivation. 6

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