Types of Agriculture - UPSC Notes - World Geography

Types of Agriculture – UPSC Notes – World Geography

The diverse Types of Agriculture encompass subsistence farming, commercial farming, transfer farming, intensive farming, extensive farming, plantation farming, and mixed farming. Farming stands as a primary activity crucial to any country. The economy of a nation significantly relies on agriculture, and the success of farming hinges on geographical conditions, labor availability, product demand, and the level of technological advancement.

Types of FarmingProcedureBenefits
Subsistence farmingCharacterized by small and scattered land holdings and the use of primitive tools.High-yielding and different types of seeds can be used in the fields.
Shifting agricultureFarmers grow crops and move to other lands when old fertility diminishes.Helps in pest control and gives maximum yield
Intensive farmingSmall farms are cultivated using large inputs of manual labor, fertilizer, and manure.More than one crop can be cultivated, which increases productivity.
Extensive farmingLarge-sized fields are cultivated with the help of machines. The input of labor per unit is less.Emphasis is laid on enhanced production.
Plantation farmingSingle agriculture crop is producedUsually produced for the export market
Commercial farmingCultivation of crops is done for sale in the marketIt gives higher benefits to the farmers
Mixed farmingFarming of crops and rising animal together is called mixed farmingEnsures steady income for farmers

Cultivating Progress: Exploring the Diverse Types of Agriculture in Our Nation’s History

Agriculture has been a time-honored economic activity in our country. Throughout the years, cultivation methods have undergone significant changes based on the characteristics of the physical environment, technological know-how, and socio-cultural practices. Farming ranges from subsistence to commercial types.

Classification of Farming Based on Moisture Sources

  1. Irrigated Farming:
    • Protective Irrigation: Aims to shield crops from the adverse effects of soil moisture deficiency.
      • Acts as a supplementary source of water beyond rainfall.
      • Maximizes soil moisture application across the cultivated area.
    • Productive Irrigation: Aims to provide sufficient soil moisture for high productivity.
      • Higher water input per unit area compared to protective irrigation.
  2. Rainfed Farming:
    • Primarily dependent on rainfall.
    • Further classified into:
      • Dryland Farming: Prevails in regions with annual rainfall less than 75 cm.
        • Cultivates hardy and drought-resistant crops (e.g., ragi, bajra, moong, gram, guar).
      • Wetland Farming: Found in regions with excess rainfall during the rainy season.
        • May face flood and soil erosion hazards.
        • Cultivates water-intensive crops (e.g., rice, jute, sugarcane) and practices aquaculture in freshwater bodies.

Other major types of agriculture are as follows

Subsistence Agriculture

This form of agriculture is undertaken to fulfill the requirements of the farmer’s family. Traditionally, minimal levels of technology and household labor are employed to generate modest output. In this method, cultivated areas utilize most, if not all, of the locally grown products.

It is categorized into two types – Primitive Subsistence Agriculture and Intensive Subsistence Agriculture.

  • Primitive Subsistence Farming and Shifting Cultivation Dynamics:
    • Common among tribes in tropical regions (Africa, South/Central America, Southeast Asia).
  • Relying on Monsoon:
    • Dependence on monsoon, natural soil fertility, and environmental conditions suitable for crops.
  • Shifting Cultivation:
    • Involves shifting cultivation or slash and burn farming.
    • Requires clearing vegetation with fire, enhancing soil fertility (Refer figure).
  • Technology:
    • Utilizes primitive tools such as sticks and hoes.
  • Shifting Agriculture Cycle:
    • Soil fertility diminishes after 3-5 years, necessitating the shifting of plots.
Areas of Primitive Subsistence Agriculture

Shifting Cultivation is known by different names in India

JhummingAssam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland
DipaBastar district of Chhattisgarh, and in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Bewar’ or DahiyaMadhya Pradesh
Pama Dabi or Koman or BringaOdisha
Valre’ or WaltreSouth-eastern Rajasthan
KhilHimalayan belt

Global Instances of Shifting Cultivation

The practice of shifting cultivation varies in nomenclature across different parts of the world. For instance, it is referred to as Milpa in Central America/Mexico, Ladang in Indonesia/Malaysia, ‘Conuco’ in Venezuela, ‘Roca’ in Brazil, ‘Masole’ in Central Africa, and ‘Ray’ in Vietnam, among others.

Shifting Agriculture

Agricultural Practices in Densely Populated Regions

  • Two Types:
    • Wet Paddy Dominated: Characterized by the dominance of rice crops, small land holdings, high population density, reliance on family labor, and limited machinery usage.
      • Extensive land use, with manure employed to maintain soil fertility.
      • High yield per unit area but low labor productivity.
    • Non-Paddy Dominated: Practiced in areas unsuitable for rice.
      • Cultivates crops such as wheat, soybean, barley, and sorghum.
      • Millets are grown similarly to wet paddy but may require irrigation.
Areas of Intensive Subsistence Farming

Intensive farming is prevalent in densely populated developing countries, whereas commercial agriculture dominates larger holdings in the USA, Canada, and Australia.

Cultivating Success the Techniques and Diversity of Commercial Farming

  • Definition of Commercial Farming:
    • Involves cultivating crops and/or raising livestock primarily for the purpose of selling for profit.
  • Modern Inputs in Commercial Farming:
    • Relies on modern inputs such as high-yielding seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides to enhance productivity.
  • Regional Variation in Commercialization:
    • Degree of commercialization varies by region.
      • Example: Rice is commercial in Haryana and Punjab but subsistence in Odisha.
Areas of Extensive Commercial Grain Farming

Extensive Commercial Grain Cultivation

  • This type of agriculture thrives in the interior regions of semi-arid lands within the mid-latitudes.
  • Primary Crop: Wheat is the primary crop, with other grains like corn, barley, oats, and rye also cultivated.
  • Mechanized Agriculture:
    • Farms are typically large in size, allowing for mechanized operations from plowing to harvesting.
    • Mechanization plays a crucial role in these large-scale operations.
  • Efficiency of Mechanized Agriculture:
    • While the yield per acre is low, the yield per person involved in farming is high due to mechanization and extensive land use.
  • Geographical Regions:
    • Extensive commercial grain cultivation is best developed in regions such as Eurasian steppes, the Canadian and American Prairies, the Pampas of Argentina, the Velds of South Africa, the Australian Downs, and the Canterbury Plains of New Zealand (Refer figure).

Plantation Farming: Revealing the Dynamics of Large-Scale Crop Cultivation for Profit and Industry

  • Meaning:
    • Plantation farming is a large-scale agricultural system that emphasizes cultivating a single cash crop on a substantial estate.
  • Objective:
    • The primary purpose is to produce crops for sale, often for industrial purposes rather than direct consumption.
    • It falls under the category of commercial farming.
  • Introduction by Europeans:
    • Europeans introduced various forms of farming guided by profit-oriented motives, including commercial farming and plantation farming.
  • Characteristics of Plantation Farming:
    • Includes large estates, significant capital investment, managerial and technical support, and the use of scientific cultivation methods.
  • Monoculture Farming:
    • Involves cultivating a single crop on a large scale.
  • Capital-Intensive Crop Production:
    • Plantations demand substantial capital and labor, producing crops used as raw materials for industries.
  • Crucial Role of Infrastructure:
    • A well-developed transport and communication network is vital for plantation development and the export of shift products to factories and markets.
  • Example:
    • Important plantation crops in India include tea, coffee, rubber, sugarcane, and banana, with key roles played by regions like Assam, North Bengal, and Karnataka.

Mixed Farming: Nurturing Agricultural Synergy through Crop Cultivation and Livestock Rearing

  • Meaning:
    • Mixed farming is an agricultural practice involving the simultaneous cultivation of crops and the raising of livestock on the same farm.
  • Geographical Distribution:
    • Common in highly developed regions like North-western Europe, Eastern North America, parts of Eurasia, and temperate latitudes of Southern continents (Refer figure).
  • Crops in Mixed Farming:
    • Moderate-sized farms typically cultivate crops such as wheat, barley, oats, rye, maize, fodder, and root crops.
    • Fodder crops are vital, and practices like crop rotation and intercropping help maintain soil fertility.
  • Balanced Agriculture:
    • Farms balance crop cultivation and animal husbandry, with cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry contributing significantly to income.
  • Resource-Intensive Nature:
    • Involves substantial capital investment in farm machinery and infrastructure.
    • Extensive use of chemical fertilizers and green manures.
    • Requires skilled expertise in its implementation.
Areas of Mixed Farming

Cooperative Farming: Fostering Unity for Agricultural Prosperity and Sustainability

  • Definition:
    • Cooperative farming involves farmers forming a society to pool resources for more efficient and profitable agriculture.
  • Farm Structure:
    • Individual farms remain intact, promoting cooperation in farming.
  • Role of Cooperative Societies:
    • Co-op societies assist farmers in procuring essential inputs, selling products on favorable terms, and processing quality products at lower costs.
  • Flourishing Cooperative Movement:
    • Originating over a century ago, this movement found success in Western European countries like Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, and especially in Denmark, where every farmer is a member of cooperatives.


In conclusion, cooperative farming emerges as a compelling solution to enhance the efficiency and profitability of agriculture. By fostering collaboration among farmers within a society, this approach allows for the pooling of resources while preserving individual farm structures. Cooperative societies play a pivotal role in facilitating the procurement of essential inputs, securing favorable terms for product sales, and processing high-quality products at reduced costs. The success of the cooperative movement, originating over a century ago, is evident in Western European countries, particularly Denmark, where the model has been widely embraced. As we navigate the challenges of modern agriculture, the cooperative farming model stands as a testament to the enduring power of collective effort in shaping a sustainable and thriving agricultural landscape.

FAQs on Types of Agriculture

1. What is the definition of agriculture?

Agriculture is the practice of cultivating crops and raising livestock for food, fiber, medicinal plants, and other products used to sustain and enhance human life.

2. What are the main types of agriculture?

The main types of agriculture include subsistence farming, commercial farming, plantation farming, mixed farming, and cooperative farming.

3. What is subsistence farming?

Subsistence farming is a practice where farmers cultivate crops and raise livestock primarily to meet the needs of their own families, with minimal surplus for sale.

4. How does commercial farming differ from subsistence farming?

Commercial farming is focused on cultivating crops or raising livestock for profit, emphasizing market-oriented production, in contrast to subsistence farming, which is primarily for self-sufficiency.

5. What characterizes plantation farming?

Plantation farming involves large-scale cultivation of a single cash crop on a substantial estate, often for industrial purposes rather than direct consumption.

6. What is mixed farming, and what crops are typically grown?

Mixed farming involves the simultaneous cultivation of crops and raising of livestock on the same farm. Typical crops include wheat, barley, oats, rye, maize, fodder, and root crops.

7. How does cooperative farming work?

  • Cooperative farming involves farmers forming a society to pool resources for more efficient and profitable agriculture, while individual farms remain intact.

8. What are the geographical regions where different types of agriculture are prevalent?

The prevalence of different types of agriculture varies by region. For example, subsistence farming is often found in less developed regions, while commercial farming is common in more developed areas.

9. How does mechanized agriculture contribute to modern farming practices?

Mechanized agriculture involves the use of modern machinery for operations like plowing, planting, and harvesting, contributing to increased efficiency and productivity.

10. Which countries have successful cooperative farming movements?

Countries like Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, and especially Denmark have witnessed successful cooperative farming movements over a century ago, where farmers collaborate for mutual benefit.

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