Understanding Agriculture: Farming, Land Use, and Technology


is part of the primary sector, which includes arable farming, livestock farming, forestry, and hunting. The product of these activities provides us with food and raw materials.

Arable land:

Used only for agriculture

Agricultural land:

Where agricultural activities take place (agriculture and livestock farming)

Rural land:

All mentioned above, plus food industry, rural tourism, and homem

Arable farming:

Physical factors:

  • Climate: Temperatures and rainfall.
  • Relief: Altitude affects crop growth, as does the amount of sunlight or shade they receive.
  • Soil: The quality of soil it’s planted on.

Arable farming:

Human factors

  • More population, more land used to produce more crops.
  • Relocation: To reduce the cost of workers, companies relocate livestock farming and forestry to less-developed countries.
  • Economic structure: The history and economic system of each country determine land ownership (individual/collective), the shape of plots (regular/irregular), the delimitation of their borders (open/closed), size (big/medium/small), and farming systems (sharecropping/tenancy).
  • Political organization: Governments must develop legislation that’s respectful towards the environment.
  • Technological advances: Governments can use these to increase productivity.

Rural landscapes

-Visible: Shape (regular, like square or rectangular), size of the plots -Non-visible: Land ownership (collectively owned or common land) and privately owned (individuals or companies)


are classified depending on their boundaries or their size:

  • Open field system: No visible boundaries between them.
  • Enclosed field system: Have stone walls or vegetation closing them too.
  • Smallholdings: Plots of land of less than 10 hectares, normally this type of plots are unprofitable.
  • Large farms: More than 100 hectares.


Privately-owned land can be used in different ways:

  • Direct use: The farmer is the owner of the land and is responsible for its management (tax payment, purchase of supplies) and use.
  • Indirect use: The farmer and the occupier are different people.
    • Rented land: The owner lets the tenant use the land however they want, the tenant pays a certain amount of rent, this can be money or a proportion of the crops farmed.
    • Sharecropping: The owner provides the land, the machinery, livestock, and grain. The owner and tenant share the benefits depending on how much each has contributed.
    • Cooperative: Each member contributes land, labour, and capital to buy equipment. In return, any profits are shared among the members proportionally.

Types of farming

Depending on species:

  • Monoculture farms: A single crop is produced. Very developed for high yields.
  • Polyculture: Many crops grow at the same time in the same land, for example family-run market gardens (low yields) and market gardens (high yields).

Depending on the quantity and source of water:

  • Dry crops: Watered by rainfalls.
  • Irrigated crops: Need additional water which is transported and distributed using technology.

Depending how the land is used:

  • Intensive: Use all available space, associated with irrigation.
  • Extensive: Larger, but don’t use all available space, so they’re less productive. Associated with dry crops.

The use of technology-Traditional agriculture: Based on production for consumption, very common in developing countries.-Modern agriculture: Integrated in the global market. In more-developed countries, land is most commonly used for commercial farming. It requires more investment in technology. These are some common farming methods:

  • Sanding: Sand is added to the soil to improve water retention and prevent evaporation.
  • Hydroponic farms: Crops are grown in water instead of soil, this is an artificial method.
  • Greenhouse cultivation: Crops grown under plastic or glass tunnels, both create a greenhouse effect and enable crops to grow quicker.
  • Mulching: Straw, compost, or plastic sheets cover the soil between the plants.
  • Biotechnology: Genetic modification produces stronger plants that are resistant to disease and drought and guarantee productivity.

Livestock farming

The raising of animals to produce meat, milk, wool, and leather, or to be used as labour (traction animals). The number of animals that a country has in its livestock farms is known as its livestock population.

  • Extensive: Animals graze in open meadows, in developed countries, it uses modern techniques, like selective breeding and veterinary check-ups.
  • Intensive farms: Livestock is raised in enclosed and modern facilities. They’re fed mechanically and their food is made using advanced techniques. They’re characteristic of developed countries because they require high levels of investment.


It’s the exploitation and maintenance of forests.

  • Provides food for grazing animals.
  • Creates biomass (plant or animal material that’s used as fuel)
  • Offers spaces for leisure, entertainment, and hunting
  • Provides drinking water, medicinal plants, and raw materials.

Our increasing need for raw materials is destroying forests.

Agricultural landscapes

Spain has three main biographical regions, each with a specific rural landscape.

Atlantic or oceanic landscapes:

Wet, green, and mountainous with moderate temperatures. These landscapes have the following characteristics:

  • Smallholdings: In which many agricultural activities take place, are common, especially in valleys. Livestock farming is common in valleys and forestry is common in mountainous areas.
  • Polyculture: It’s the most common, it’s located in areas with higher altitude or with a colder climate.
  • Small family farms: The population is dispersed, and people live in small villages.

Volcanic landscapes:

Subtropical climate and soil. It has the following characteristics:

  • Small dispersed properties
  • Bananas, potatoes, sugar cane, tobacco, and cotton, often goats.
  • Advanced technology, such as irrigation and sanding.
  • Subsistence polyculture is common in the mountains.

Mediterranean landscapes


  • Inland Mediterranean landscapes: Continental climate, medium altitude. It often produces cereal crops, and practice ovine (sheep) livestock farming, and there are many vineyards. Farms are extensive.
  • Coastal Mediterranean landscapes: Mediterranean climate, mild temperatures and little rainfall, occasionally there is torrential rainfall. Dry crops are grown, irrigation is used due to the lack of rainfall. Some farms are intensive, smallholdings are common and people often live in villages.

Agricultural landscapes around the world

Less-developed countries and developing countries: Traditional agriculture predominates

  • Hunter-gathering: Often found in tribes, nowadays is almost non-existent.
  • Slash-and-burn agriculture: Occurs in areas with rainforests; Part of the forest is burned and planted with seeds, and the ashes act as fertilizer. To allow it to recover, farmers leave it fallow and use the land for livestock.
  • Dry crops and nomadic grazing: The soil is cultivated and crops are rotated, then the land is left fallow and used for livestock. In desert regions, farming is nomadic, small herds of camels graze and move around to take advantage.
Traditional, intensive agriculture: The available soil is used intensively, this system degrades the soil.Plantations: Monoculture crops for exports, usually owned by multinationals, who make investment in technology. They provide jobs to local workers.

Developed countries:

Commercial agriculture predominates

  • Large scale, mechanized cereal monoculture: Extensive, uniform landscapes or crop belts. Owned by agroindustrial companies who export the products.
  • Extensive, excessively mechanized livestock and arable farming: Large, geometric plots
  • Intensive greenhouse farming: Increased yields by using greenhouses, hydroponic, mulching, sanding, and other techniques.


-Blue economy: Our use of the sea-Inland fishing: Fishing in rivers or lakes-Marine fishing: It takes place in coastal areas (coastal fishing), further out to sea (offshore fishing) or in fishing grounds (deep-sea fishing), that requires a large fleet of ships.-Aquaculture: Production of fish, seafood, or aquatic plants for food, like fish farms and other techniques that are used to breed and raise aquatic organisms, such as fish, algae, and crustaceans.-Overfishing: Excessive fishing that depletes the fish population, the EU protect the seas by setting limits on how much fish can be caught.