Agricultural farming systems are a set of strategies to manage the available resources to achieve economic and sustainable agricultural productivity to meet the needs of the farm household. Moreover, preserving the resources and maintaining the environment.
Agricultural farming systems arise as a matter of necessity. Over the years many factors have influenced farming systems. These factors include;
- Available water, land, grazing areas, arable lands, forest; climate, landscape etc.
- The dominant pattern of farm activities and household livelihoods. These include field crops, livestock, trees, aquaculture, hunting and gathering, processing and off-farm activities. Also, taking into account the main technologies used, which determine the intensity of production and integration of crops, livestock and other activities.
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We elaborate some of the very dominant agricultural farming systems.
1. Arable farming
In this system of farming, the farmer grows only crops, unlike mixed or pastoral farming. Crops produced include annual crops eg. vegetables, plantain, cassava, grains and legumes etc. You can practice this system either on a small scale or on a commercial scale.
Features of arable farming
- The farmer grows only crops.
- Requires specialised skill and know-how.
2. Mixed farming
Mixed farming is an agricultural farming system where the farmer cultivates crops and raise animals simultaneously on the same piece of land. Different crops with different maturity periods are grown at the same time. There is continuous cropping throughout the season. This is best practised in areas with good rainfall or irrigation facilities.
Features of the mixed farming system
- Mostly practised on a small to medium scale
- Droppings of animals are used as manure, therefore, less use of synthetic fertiliser.
- The farmer raises and uses some farm animals as farm traction.
3. Subsistence farming
Subsistence farming is where the farmer produces food for himself and his family. Farming is usually done on relatively small land holding with simple farm tools. It is perceived, the farmers in this system are poor and do not use fertilisers and improved seeds as much as they should. Productivity is usually low. Moreover, facilities like electricity and irrigation are mostly not available to them.
Most of the food they produce is consumed by the farmers and their household.
Read also: 6 key importance of Backyard Gardens
Features of Subsistence Farming
- The family works on the farm.
- Most of the work is done manually.
- The farms are small.
- Farmers follow traditional methods of farming.
- Yield is not very high.
- The family consume most of the yield.
4. Shifting Cultivation
With this system, the farmer clears a piece of forest land by felling and burning of the vegetation residue including the tree trunks and branches. This piece of land is used to grow crops for three to five years. The farmer abandons this land after it loses its fertility for a fallow period. He moves with his household/community to a new area to cultivate a new fertile land. The process is repeated and the farmer may come back to cultivate former lands after it has been left for years to regain its fertility.
The practice is discouraged in modern days due to the scarcity of fertile lands. The government also discourages the practice due to the dangers it poses to forest reserves and nature. It is an unsustainable agricultural practice.
Features of Shifting Cultivation
- Clearing and burning of the trees.
- There is a consistent decline in production levels after a couple of years.
- The land loses its fertility and its left for a fallow period.
- Households/families migrate to a new area for fertile lands.
5. Plantation farming
Also known as tree crop farming, it is one of the agricultural farming systems, where the farmer grows a sole crop on a relatively large piece of land. Crops include rubber, tea, coffee, cocoa, spices, coconut, apples, grapes, oranges, mangoes, avocado etc. It is usually done on commercial bases with a substantial amount of capital investment. The system requires good management and technical know-how. It may also require the use of machines, fertilizers, irrigation and other facilities.
Some commercial plantations have a processing factory attached to the farm.
Features of Plantation farming
- High levels of production of a particular crop
- High adoption of mechanization
- A huge capital investment involved
- Commercial in nature
6. Pastoral/Livestock farming
Pastoral farming aims at producing only livestock and not crops. Examples include dairy farming, raising beef cattle, and raising sheep for wool. In this system, farmers make use of the available feed resources to feed the livestock. Farmers do not move livestock, like in the case of nomadic farming. Farmers establish pasture lands for the livestock. This system is not sustainable and it becomes very expensive when excessive grazing destroys all natural grazing fields. The farmer would have to buy feed for the herd.
Features of pastoral farming
- The farmer only raises livestock.
- The farmer can use the animals as farm traction.
- Manure of animals used to fertilize grazing fields.
7. Nomadic farming
This is a type of agricultural farming systems similar to pastoral farming. However, herdsmen move their animals around in search of suitable grazing fields and water. Animals usually moved include; cattle, sheep, goats, camel, horses and donkeys.
In Africa, there are incidences of nomadic herdsmen leading their cattle into farmlands and destroying them. This has caused various conflicts between the herdsmen and other farmers.
Features of Nomadic farming
- Movement of herds.
- Herdsmen and their herd settle on fresh grazing fields for as long as it lasts.
- In West Africa, encroachment into crops farms and destroying them.
These listed and elaborated agricultural farming systems are not exhaustive. There are several systems and a hybrid of them arising from factors like the availability of some natural resources, landscape etc.
We shall be updating with more farming systems over time. We invite you to share with us other systems that you know about by using the comment form.
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