Factors Affecting Agriculture

Farming is the practice of keeping animals and growing crops for raw materials and food. It is an important aspect of agriculture. Started centuries ago, agriculture is as old mankind, but nobody knows its exact age. Farming in the early century gave rise to the Neolithic Revolution. It was an era when people stopped nomadic hunting to start settlements that later grew into large cities.

Domestication of animals and agriculture are believed to have begun in the Fertile Crescent. The Crescent is made up of the Levant, the Nile Valley, and Mesopotamia. The area is today occupied by Israel, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan. The first crops to be grown include barley and wheat.

It means agriculture began slowly with just a handful of crops, with most foods gathered in the wild. Changes in soil and weather could have supported farming and its continued growth. Unlike hunting, farming can feed more people in the same area of land. Although agriculture was mainly done for subsistence purposes in the early days, it has grown to include commercial farming.

Agriculture has also grown to include various techniques such as crop rotation, fencing, the use of fertilizers, plantation, weeding, ranching, and breeding, among others. The techniques are meant to increase farm production and output for higher returns. Similarly, farming is now widespread worldwide based on various factors. The following are major factors affecting farming worldwide:

Top 3 Factors Affecting Farming

1. Economic Factors Affecting Farming

Farming is an old practice, but its modern forms are affected by various distinct economic factors. The farming environment today is economically complex and competitive. It allows farmers worldwide to choose what to grow from what’s produced globally. On the other hand, governments offer financial incentives to farmers on specific types of crops.

Most farmers in America are affected by weather and economic factors. However, some are independent and thus able to develop markets through innovative strategies and direct sales. Subsidies, commodity prices and immigration laws and labour are the major economic factors affecting farming.

Subsidies – Farmers receive subsidies from the American government to support the growth of commodity crops such as soy and corn. The modern federal agricultural policy assumes that mass production through farming keeps the prices of food low. As a result, it benefits the economy.

Theoretically, the policy offers farmers an economic stability measure. It also ensures consumers have access to affordably-priced food products processed from the commodity crops. Farmers are also encouraged to make sure there is an oversupply of a few types of crops. Such crops are required to generate money for growing processed foods despite the prevailing conditions on the market.

Commodity Prices – Weather, investor speculation and demand for non-food (such as biofuels) and food crops influence the price of main commodity crops such as soy and corn. Commodity crops earn farmers losses or profits based on the prevailing price of output that industrial buyers are willing to pay.

Moreover, international economic factors such as the strength or weakness of the dollar also affect commodity prices. This happens because American farmers don’t just compete with other local farmers, but also growers spread across the world.

Immigration Laws and Labour – Poorly paid labour in the form of migrant farmers are at the core of mainstream agriculture. The migrant labourers often live illegally in the country and thus accept the lowly-paying jobs that American citizens are unwilling to take up. There is a need for workers who can work for low pay, a practice customary in the agricultural field, for Americans to continue enjoying the low food prices, they’re accustomed to.

Immigration laws affect farming because they influence labour availability, including labour laws responsible for allowing or disallowing wages paid for subsistence farming.

Available transportation facilities or networks, cost of land, capital and markets are other economic factors that affect farming in different ways.

2. Climatic Factors Affecting Farming

Climatic factors such as light, water, and rainfall, temperature, air, relative humidity and wind also affect farming in various ways. Just like other abiotic elements of environmental factors such as soil and topography, they influence how crops grow and develop.

Light – Light is critical in plant photosynthesis (the process of manufacturing food in plants as sugars) and chlorophyll (the green pigment in plants) production. Light also influences phototropism, mineral absorption, stomatal movement, translocation, photomorphogenesis, and abscission. The intensity (degree or level of light brightness a plant receives), quality (specific light wavelengths) and day length (the duration plants receive light in a day) of light affect plant growth and development.

Water and Rainfall – Water promotes animal and plant life. The availability of water affects crop growth and development, and thus yield. Water irrigation can double farm yields, increasing the number of crops grown in a single year. However, different crops require varying amounts of water to grow and develop.

Just like snowfall, freezing rain, hail, ice pellets or sleet, rainfall is a type of precipitation. The frequency and amount of rainfall vary based on the prevailing type of climate and location. Water and rainfall determine the specific vegetation type that dominates and grows in any specific location. Therefore, they affect the growth and yield of crops.

Temperature – Temperature is the degree or level of coldness or hotness of a substance, expressed in centigrade (C) or degree Celsius and degree Fahrenheit (F). It affects various growth processes in crops such as seed dormancy breakage, photosynthesis, transpiration, respiration, protein synthesis, seed germination, and translocation. Plants mature earlier in hot areas with high temperatures because photosynthate translocation occurs faster.

Crops require a general temperature range of 0 to 50 degrees Celsius. Different crops have varying optimal or favourable temperature range during the night or day for growth and optimal yields. Temperature rise increases chemical reaction rates and enzyme activity in crops. Every 10 C increase in temperature can double enzymatic reactions in plants. However, extremely high temperatures denature proteins and enzymes.

On the other hand, extremely high temperatures limit the growth and development of crops. As an example, low soil temperature inhibits water absorption because water is less mobile and more viscous with less permeable plant protoplasm. Furthermore, water solidifies and expands if temperatures drop below the freezing point, rupturing plant cell walls.

Air – Air in the troposphere comprise 21% oxygen, 78% nitrogen and 1% argon gases, including carbon dioxide and traces of other gases. Crops require oxygen during respiration to produce energy used in different plant growth and development processes. During photosynthesis, plants require carbon dioxide to manufacture food.

Relative Humidity – The temperature of the air determines the amount of water vapour it can hold. Warm air can retain more water vapour than cold air. Whenever there is a 10 C decrease in temperature, the amount of water vapour the air can hold reduces by almost half. Relative humidity means the amount of water vapour air can hold at any given temperature. Air humidity is 5% in the humid tropical areas and 0.01% in the frigid poles.

Whereas air with high relative humidity is moist, dry air has low RH. Air with high humidity levels contains water vapour in large amounts for every unit of air volume. Relative humidity influences the closing and opening of stomata responsible for regulating water loss in crops through photosynthesis and transpiration.

RH also affects crop propagation. Bare root seedlings and plant cuttings are enclosed in plastic bags to prevent desiccation. Leaf and stem cuttings are also kept in plastic tens and propagation chambers to increase the relative humidity in the air.

Wind – Wind is moving air resulting from differences in heating and pressure gradients. Movement of large masses of air and the jet stream flow make up a global scale of air movement. Local air movement is small in scale. Less turbulent and lower surface winds occur at night because there is no heat from the sun.

Air closer to the ground cools, and contracts then increase in pressure. It expands and reduces in pressure when it warms up. Cold air flows to displace hot air from high-pressure zones to low-pressure areas. As a result, it balances the air pressure. This occurs on shores, over lakes and in tropical Asia where the monsoon winds take place.

Air promotes pollination, hence fruit and seed development. Gas exchanges in crops occur in moderate winds. However, strong winds can foster water loss and toppling or lodging or crops. Eventually, strong winds hamper plant photosynthesis due to little to no carbon dioxide diffusion into leaves when stomata partially or fully closed. Therefore, strong winds could result in poor crop growth and yield.

3. Physical/Environmental Factors Affecting Farming

Various factors in the natural environment affect farming. Topography, soil, and climate are the major physical factors affecting farming.

Topography/Relief – Topography relates to how difficult it is to till the land, soil erosion, and poor transportation networks and facilities. Agriculture can be mechanized depending on the topography of land to be used. It’s impossible to use farm machinery on sloppy land or rough, hilly slopes. Mountain slopes can be terraced in areas with high-pressure soil such as China.

Climate – Climatic factors such as rainfall and temperature affect farming as discussed above.

Soil – Crops thrive in rich, loamy soils with proper drainage. Crops absorb food and water through their roots from the soil. They also enjoy plant support. Soils with poor texture and harsh chemicals are low in productivity. Therefore, poor soils inhibit plant growth and development.

Other important factors affecting farming across the globe include education or knowledge of farming, technology, political factors such as government policies and social factors such as land ownership and inheritance and type of farming in practice.

It is important for farmers to recognize these factors in the given areas they wish to embark on farming to be able to choose the right crop to grow. Choosing the right crop for any given agricultural region is the key to high crop growth and yield.