types of agriculture
Written by Waseem Raza


The activity of farming is so varied and complex in nature that, it is by no means an easy task to classify the agricultural types of the world. Despite increased knowledge of alternatives, farmers still practice forms of agriculture unique to their area of the world. Characteristics of the physical environment continue to influence the type of agriculture. D. Whitlesey’s 1936 classification, with some modification is the following:

(1) Shifting Cultivation

Shifting cultivation is the main farm of agriculture found in much of the world’s tropical regions. The Amazon of South America, Central and West Africa, and Southeast Asia, including Indochina, Indonesia and New Guinea.

In this, cultivation, farmers usually clear the land for planting and crops only for a few years and then leave it fallow for many years to retain fertility and grow vegetation. Rice, maize, cassava, and sugarcane, are a few crops of this region.

Agriculture is at subsistence level. Shifting cultivation occupies approximately one-fourth of the world’s land area. However, only 5 percent of the world’s population engages in shifting cultivation. Shifting cultivation is regarded as a relatively inefficient approach to growing food in a hungry world. Because it can support only a low level of the population. Also check the scope of economic geography.

(2) Pastoral Nomadism

Pastoral nomadism is a farm of subsistence agriculture based on the herding of domesticated animals. Pastoral nomads live primarily in the large belt of arid and semiarid land that includes North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Central Asia. Only approximately 15 million people are pastoral nomads, but they occupy about 20% of the earth’s land area. They depend primarily on animals rather than crops for their survival.

Nomads select the type and number of animals for the herd according to local cultural and physical characteristics. The camel is frequently desired in North Africa and the Middle East, followed by sheep and goats. In Central Asia, horse is particularly important.

(3) Intensive Subsistence Agriculture

The largest number of farmers living in the large population concentrations of East, South, and Southeast Asia practice intensive subsistence agriculture. The farms in the intensive subsistence agricultural regions of Asia are much smaller and fragmented. In China, the govt. has combined these small farms into communes.

(4) Commercial Agriculture

Commercial agriculture can be defined as agriculture undertaken primarily to generate products for sale off the farm. Farmers in highly developed countries, including the U.S.A., Canada, Europe, Russian Federation, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand practice commercial agriculture.

The first distinctive characteristic of commercial agriculture is the small percentage of farmers in the labour force. Only 5% labour force is engaged in agriculture in these countries.

Second, commercial agriculture is characterized by a high degree of reliance on technological and scientific improvements. A small number of farmers are able to feed a large number of people.

(5) Mixed Crops and Livestock Farming

The most common form of commercial agriculture is mixed crops and livestock. Europe, North America, South America, and Australia are important for mixed crops and livestock farming.

In this farming, most of the crops grown are fed to the animals and in turn, the livestock supply manure to improve soil fertility to grow more crops. Farmers derives their income from the sale of animals, beef, milk and skins.

(6) Dairy Farming

Dairy farming is the most important type of commercial agriculture practiced on farms outside the large urban areas of the northern U.S.A., Southeast Canada, and Northern Europe. In Russian Federation, Australia, and New Zealand dairy industry has developed on a large scale. The development of the dairy industry is closely connected with the growth of large urban centers. 

(7) Grain Farming


In grain farming, some form of grain is the major crop on most farms, because crops on a grain farm are grown primarily for consumption by humans rather than by livestock.
Large-scale commercial grain production is found in only five countries, the U.S.A., Canada, Russian Federation, Argentina, and Australia The most important crop grown is hard wheat, used to make bread flour.

Large-scale grain production is heavily mechanized, conducted on large farms. Wheat is grown for international trade. As U.S.A. and Canada account for more than two third of the world’s export.

(8) Ranching

Ranching is the commercial grazing of livestock over an extensive area in arid and semi-arid lands in relatively developed countries, Spain and Portugal are important for ranching in Europe, In South America, a large portion of pampas of Argentina, Southern Brazil, and Uruguay are devoted to grazing cattle and sheep.

In the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, ranches are more likely to have sheep than cattle. Ranching has become the moat processing industry. In this way, ranching differs from pastoral nomadism.

(9) Mediterranean Agriculture

Mediterranean agriculture exists primarily in the lands that border the Mediterranean sea in Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia. Farmers in California (U.S.A), Central Chile, Southwestern parts of South Africa, and Australia also practice Mediterranean agriculture as well.

Mediterranean agriculture is an unusual combination of crops and livestock, both commercial and subsistence fanning are seen in every region of this climate. Olives and grapes are most important cash crops. Two-thirds of the world’s wine is produced in the Mediterranean region. Wheat, fruit growing, sheep and cattle rearing is another outstanding characteristic of this region

(10) Commercial Gardereitog and Fruit Farming

Commercial gardening and fruit Farming, is pre-dominant type of agriculture in the U.S southeast, which is near to the large urban centers of the region. This agriculture is also called truck farming or market gardening — therefore vegetable and Fruit growing on commercial basis is known as truck or market gardening. which is carried on in the outskirts of big towns, cities, and industrial centers.

Truck farming is now a common feature almost all over the world = carried on in the outskirts of big urban areas.

(11) Plantation Farming

The plantation is a form of commercial agriculture found in tropics and subtropics, especially in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

A plantation is a large farm that specializes in the production of one or two crops for sale. Among the most important crops found on plantation are cotton, tea, coconuts and oil palm, produced in large quantities.

(12) Silk Farming or Sericulture

Silk farming or sericulture or raising of silkworms is one of the oldest tradition in China, was practiced as long as the 27th century B.C.

Until 300 A.D., it was a secret, when Japan and then India penetrated the secrecy.

As sericulture is very tough and painful work and environmental factors limits the silk farming to a few areas of the world.

China is the main producer, while India ranks second. Other main producers are Iran, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, Sericulture is a unique art and limited to continent of Asia, except Brazil. Read more

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