Extensive Farming Case Study

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Farming Case studies

Ganges Valley – Subsistence farming

The people who live in the valley are subsistence farmers on an intensive scale. The main crop is rice but generally they can only produce enough food to feed their families.

Physical conditions needed: -

  • Silt deposited annually by the Ganges – needed for Wet Padi Rice
  • High temperatures >21C all year – continuous growing season so 2 crops per year.
  • During the dry season when there is insufficient water, vegetable & cereal crops are grown.

The rice farming needs lots of manual labour to build embankments & irrigation. Small farms & poverty means that there is no machinery & very limited technology. Water buffalo provide manure instead of using artificial fertiliser.

Brazil – Shifting Cultivation

This is also a form of subsistence agriculture.

Often known as “Slash & Burn Agriculture” as they clear the forests to create small farms in the North of Brazil. The wood is then burnt to provide nutrients for the soil.

The crop Manioc is grown for flour, sugar & beer. They also grow yams, beans, pumpkins etc. and the men hunt for meat.

However the farming causes problems with the balance of the soil. Heavy rain leads to soil erosion and leaching so the soil loses its fertility. Therefore every 4 or 5 years they have to shift to another part of the forest. Shifting cultivation requires large areas of land & lots of labour for very little yield. This is wasteful but actually does less damage to the environment than commercial agriculture.

In recent years there has been a decline in the population due to diseases from the west & they are forced further into the forest. Farms fail due to lack of money, limited markets and no machinery. Therefore many have been forced to favelas.

Japan – Commercial farming

Very little flat land & lack of space therefore farms are very small and need to be intensive.

The main crop is rice as it gives very high yields and can give 3 crops per year if the conditions are right. During the winter wheat, Soya & barley can be grown.

Conditions needed: -

  • Flat land – the hillsides are terraced to maximise space.
  • Hot, wet summers & mild winters
  • Fertile soils – Japan has rich volcanic soils

There has been increased mechanisation in Japan to improve the efficiency and help the ageing workforce. The workforce is old as no one wants to work in farming – no prospects.

There was once a surplus of rice produced but now rice has to be imported from Thailand due to the growing population and the declining number of farms.

The shortage of space has led to land reclamation in Northern Honshu to provide more farmland. There are pumping stations to prevent flooding & irrigation to prevent drought.

Rice in Japan is grown on a huge commercial scale.

Brazil – Plantations

This is commercial farming which was developed by European & N American merchants. The natural forest is cleared and a single “cash crop” is grown for export. Lots of capital is needed to clear & irrigate the land so most plantations are owned by TNCs. A lot of labour is needed and so companies take advantage of the cheap wages but with European managers. There is a continuous growing season and so the crops can be harvested all year.

Coffee Plantations (Fazendas)

Conditions needed: -

  • Gently rolling valley so not waterlogged or frosty.
  • Deep red soil – Terra Rossa

The main growing areas are Parana, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais in SE Brazil. There are problems of overproduction and monoculture leading to deterioration of the soil. Therefore the plantations have to migrate west inland.

The government now offers incentives to grow other crops to prevent the country being too reliant on one crop. Recently disease & frosts has killed trees leading to a fall in production. Brazil now supplies only 20% of the world total of coffee.

Sugar Plantations – Sao Joao Estate

Sugar the most important crop in Brazil. Grown on large estates W of Sao Paulo over an area up to 50km squared.

Estate is self contained employing 2000 people.


  • Lots of moisture
  • High temperatures
  • Fertile, well-drained soil

Much of the sugar cane is cut by machine & so there is only temporary employment – seasonal workers otherwise unemployed.

During the harvest trucks with 60 tonnes of sugar cane arrive at the mill per day. Used for sugar or alcohol (for petrol).

Waste is returned to field as fertiliser or burnt for power.

Also See


These notes were originally written by F1_fanatic and posted here on TSR Forums. They are suitable for people studying for geography at A Level.

Categories: Urban and Rural Areas Revision Notes | A Level Geography Revision Notes | Geography Revision Notes

Why Rice Farming in India?

1. CLIMATE - the Monsoon climate stays above 21oC with a long wet season, plenty of moisture available for growth, followed by dry, sunny weather which is ideal for ripening and the harvest

2. HUGE DEMAND - Rice is the staple food of 65% of the population of India and forms 90% of the total diet. India is indeed the world's second largest rice producer, producing 20% of the world's total)

3. FLAT LAND - ideal for paddy fields as it stops water draining away, allowing rice to grow in it

4. FERTILE SOILS - increases productivity and good crops are grown

5. WATER SUPPLY - plentiful water usually available due to the monsoon climate

6. LARGE LABOUR FORCE - rice farming is labour intensive and provides direct employment to about 70% of the working people in India where large numbers of workers are available.

What are the characteristics of the rice farms in India?

- many farms are very small (may only be one hectare - size of a football pitch)

- consequently rice farming is intensive, with large amounts of inputs compared to the size of the actual farm

- due to the small farm size and the poverty, often there is little no mechanisation and the farms are labour intensive (e.g. preparation of fields, planting, weeding etc.)

- the farmers are subsistence farmers - although they may sell what little surplus they might have and many poor farmers are only tenants as opposed to land owners.

Changes to the Rice Farming System:

- Natural disasters may severely affect farms - e.g. Typhoon Damage in October 1998 damaged yields
- Use of hybrid rice requires fertilisers and pesticides – expensive and can lead to health problems
- the characteristics of rice farms have also changed dramatically due to the Green Revolution

Photo Credit: treesftf http://www.flickr.com/photos/plant-trees/2805586701/

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