Agricultural Systems

AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS. Definition: This is method of farming evolved by different communities in their efforts to obtain the highest possible returns from their lands and animals for their food, shelter, clothing and fuel needs, without compromising the fertility and productivity of the soil.

Agricultural Farming system

Agricultural systems practiced in West Africa include:

(i) Shifting cultivation
(ii) Continuous cropping
(iii) Monocropping
(iv) Mixed cropping
(v) Pastoral farming
(vi) Ranching
(vii) Agro-forestry
(viii) Taungya system
(ix) Bush fallowing/land rotation
(x) Crop rotation
(xi) Monoculture
(xii) Mixed farming
(xiii) Nomadic herding
(xiv) Ley farming
(xv) Alley cropping
(xvi) Ecological/Organic farming

Characteristics of Agricultural Systems in West Africa include:

(i) Farm sizes are usually small- land tenure system
(ii) Simple farm tools and implements are used
(iii) Farm mechanization is difficult because of scattered farm holdings.
(iv) Farmers still rely on the use of unimproved seeds and planting materials
(v) Yields are usually low because of low application of farm inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides
(vi) Most farmers are commercially oriented because they sold their (surplus) produce.
(vii) Livestock management practices are still sub-standard
(viii) Output of livestock products such as milk, eggs and meat are usually low

breeds of Goats in agricultural farming systems
breeds of Goats and management of goat farm

(ix) Improved breeds of livestock and poultry are not widely used.
(x) There is poor record keeping on many farms
(xi) Modern storage facilities are absent on many farms, leading to loss of produce
(xii) Marketing of farm produce is poorly organized.
(xiii) Processing of farm produce is usually poorly done
(xiv) Majority of farmers are rural dwellers
(xv) Agricultural production is seasonal because most farmers depend on rain. That is, they practice rain-fed farming system

(xvi) Nomadic farming is extensively practiced
(xvii) Use of drought animal is possible
Agricultural systems have been used over the years by farmers to produce foods for humanity. These systems are affected by climatic conditions, vegetation and crops in different areas. This means that these factors in no small way determine the type of system that could be used in an area for production.

For instance, tree crops are planted in the Southern part of Nigeria because this part, which is known as the rain forest zone, can support tree crops very well, while the Northern part known as the savanna zone is mainly used for growing grain and cereal crops like maize and rice

Agricultural systems entail what we call farming and cropping systems. In this unit, we shall be discussing the various types of farming and cropping systems that have been used over the ages till date.

Meaning of Farming Systems:

Farming system simply means the different types of agricultural practices used by farmers around the world for the production of plants and animals. It may be defined as a system which encompasses the farmer, the farm, types of crops grown, the livestock reared and the technology used in carrying out various farm operations to achieve maximum yield.

Farming systems include the following:

Shifting cultivation and bush fallow system.

Shifting cultivation is a system of farming where a farmer cultivates on a piece of land for some years, until yields start to decrease. The farmer now abandons such land and moves to a different location without having the intention to go back to the original area. He may, however, return to the area again by accident.
In the

bush fallow system

, which is a form of shifting cultivation, the farmer cultivates on a piece of land for two or more years and intentionally leaves it for some years to enable the land to grow into bush and regain its lost nutrients before it can be used again. In this system, the farmer may not move away from that area completely, but may rotate his cultivation from one portion to another.

Simply put, bush fallow system is known as land rotation and that period when the land is allowed to rest, so that the lost nutrients can be restored, is referred to as fallow period. The lost nutrients are restored to the soil through the decomposition of dead plants and animals.

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In the past, shifting cultivation or bush fallowing was made possible due to low population and availability of enough land. But with the increase in population and man’s activities on land, such as road construction, building of schools, hospitals, recreational centres, living houses, industries, churches, game reserves, stadia, etc., there is hardly enough land to Practice this system of farming.

Differences between shifting cultivation and land rotation or bush fallowing

Shifting cultivation is a farming system whereby a piece of land is cultivated continuously for some years and then abandoned as a result of the decline in soil fertility, build-up of pests and diseases, and the resultant reduction in crop yield. The farmer abandons not only the exhausted farmland but also his settlement for a new farm and a new settlement with no hope of coming back. Whereas, land rotation involves growing crops on a piece of land until it is exhausted and the land is left to fallow for some years before it is used again. The farmer clears other areas in succession to make new farms while remaining in his farmstead.

Advantages of shifting cultivation or bush fallowing:

(i) Shifting cultivation is possible where there is enough land and low population density.
(ii) The soil fertility is easily restored during the period of fallow.
(i) It does not require capital investment on fertilizer.
(ii) It prevents the accumulation and spread of pests, diseases and certain weeds on a particular land or area.
(i) Burning is a feature of shifting cultivation and it helps in killing many harmful organisms in the soil

Disadvantages of shifting cultivation or bush fallowing:

(i) Shifting cultivation requires enough land and low population to succeed.
(ii) Many useful organisms living in the soil are usually destroyed during burning
(iii) The system encourages soil erosion.
(iv) It requires much energy, time and money to clear a new farmland.
(v) Under this system the farmer does not make any meaningful effort to improve on soil fertility.
(vi) It is very tedious moving 1mm one area Lu another, because the farmer may likely move his home to the new area.

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