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GCSE Geography Revision Topics: Agriculture

Agricultural Systems
Farming types
World Distribution of Rice Farming
Green Revolution
Common Agricultural Policy
Soil erosion
What might the examiner ask?


Agricultural Systems

Farming is a system of Inputs, Processes and Outputs.

Inputs - Labour, land, capital, seeds, climate, soil, relief, machinery, fertilisers, water
Processes - Ploughing, spraying, weeding, harvesting, sowing, milking, feeding, irrigation
Outputs - Crops, pollution, agricultural waste, profits, meat, wool, lambs, calves

Farming types

Arable - Growing crops
Pastoral - Rearing animals
Mixed - Growing crops and rearing animals
Subsistence - Producing just enough for your own and your families consumption
Commercial - Producing enough to sell to make a profit
Nomadic - Moving from one place to another especially with herds of animals
Sedentary - Farming in one place
Intensive - High levels of input into a small area producing high yields
Extensive - Low inputs over a large area providing low yields

Farming can be a mixture of these types of Agriculture. For example, the Massai cattle herders in Kenya are both subsistence and nomadic farmers.

World Distribution of Rice Farming

Most of the world's rice is grown in South and South East Asia.

Ideal rice growing conditions:

  • Growing season five months with temperatures above 21 C
  • Annual rainfall over 2000 mm
  • Flat land to allow water to stay on the fields
  • Impermeable soil so water will not drain away

    Green Revolution

    By the 1960s an increase in population and subsistence farming in LEDCs meant it was essential to increase food production.

    The Green Revolution:

  • Introduced new farming methods to LEDCs in the 1960s
  • It was an attempt to increase food production via intensive farming
  • New high yielding varieties (HYVs) were developed; these were genetically engineered seeds
  • Used machinery to plough fields
  • Set up irrigation schemes and projects

    Successes and Failures of the Green Revolution:


  • Yields increased
  • Farmers had a better standard of living
  • New industries making fertilisers developed in rural areas


  • Many farmers can not afford machinery and fertilisers required
  • Machinery increases rural unemployment
  • Rural to urban migration increased
  • Increased yields make prices fall
  • Farmers become poorer

    Common Agricultural Policy

    The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) governs farming in all countries in the EU. After World War II Europe wanted to be agriculturally self-sufficient. Therefore, farmers were guaranteed a price for their crops regardless of market forces. This protected the farmers from cheap imports from abroad. EU farmers ended up producing too much food; this led to food mountains.


    Set-aside is a scheme by which the EU pays farmers a subsidy to leave land uncultivated to reduce overall production. In order to continue receiving EU subsidies all farms with over 20 hectares of land must now leave 15 % of it as set-aside.


    Desertification is when a desert gradually spreads to the surrounding areas of semi-desert.

    Desertification in the Sahel

    The Sahel is located in the southern region of the Sahara desert, Africa. It is an area which is experiencing desertification. The reason for desertification in the Sahel are as follows:

    Increase in population

    Deforestation for fire wood

    Roots no longer hold soil together, leaves no longer protect soil from wind and rain

    Loose top soil blown away by wind or eroded by rainfall


    Increase in cattle

    Grassland grazed more intensively, roots may be eaten as well as grass

    Less vegetation means less protection from winds and rainfall

    Loose top soil blown away by wind or eroded by rainfall


    Soil erosion

    SODU - An excellent acronym to remember the way farmers cause soil erosion. Farming practices which cause soil erosion:

    Soil exhaustion Too many crops are grown on the same area of land. Nutrients are exhausted. Vegetation will no longer grow. Soil exposed to wind and rain. Crop rotation - farmers should grow different crops from year to year. Fields should be taken out of production to allow the recovery of nutrients.
    Overgrazing Too many animals are kept on an area of land, vegetation cover is removed, wind and rain erode the soil Rotate animals on different fields.
    Deforestation Farmers remove woodlands and hedgerows. Less protection from the wind and rain lead to increase in erosion. Afforestation - planting trees.
    Up and down ploughing This is when farmers plough up and down hills. Rainfall flows down furrows removing top soil. Farmers should plough following contours.

    What might the examiner ask?

    1. Give a definition of a keyword e.g. arable
    2. Where is rice grown?
    3. Rice farming as a system
    4. What are the human causes of soil erosion/desertification
    5. How can the risk of soil erosion/desertification be reduced?
    6. How can farming affect the environment
    7. What are the main features of the Cap
    8. What problems did the CAP cause for the environment?
    9. What is Set-aside?
    10. How did the CAP cause Food Mountains?

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