Intensive Agriculture

Indian farmer


Intensive agriculture was developed in order to produce greater amounts of food for large populations. It is the most recent form of subsistence strategy emerging about 10,000 years ago. With the emergence of intensive agriculture major changes occurred in other areas of culture. Deities in polytheistic cultures began to represent rain and important plants. Power began to become more centralized as the need arose to organize the growing, harvesting, and distribution of crops. With a changing power structure, social ranking became the norm. People became more dependent on one another as occupational specialization developed. Urbanization occurred as there was now a method to feed a large, non-food producing populace. In other words, a class-based society emerges.

There are two basic forms of intensive agriculture: non-industrial and industrial. The former is dependent on human labor and draft animals, while the latter is reliant on machinery. However, there are characteristics that unite the two forms. Both forms of intensive agriculture manipulate the landscape. This may entail actual modification of the landscape through clearing tracts of land, terracing hillsides or digging irrigation systems. Fertilizers are usually required because growing takes place on permanent fields. The type of fertilizers varies. Non-industrial agriculturalists may use natural fertilizers such as animal dung. Industrial agriculturalists use chemical fertilizers.

Private ownership is the norm for intensive agriculture. While non-industrial agriculturalists may own the land with extended family, a single family or corporation owns industrial agricultural land. Permanent residences became the norm.

With the advent of industrial agriculture other changes occurred. Women began to be relegated to the private arena; they became the homemakers while men engaged in public work, farming, politics, etc. Mass production of food became the primary focus of agricultural endeavors. Monocropping replaced polycropping. Machinery became common, requiring agriculturalists to have a high capital investment in their farms, eventually leading to many family farms being bought out by large corporations. Unlike the other forms of subsistence, intensive agriculture is not sustainable because it destroys habitats, increases erosion, increases water use, undermines stability of other systems, and encourages high consumption both of fossil fuels and food itself.

All four of the subsistence strategies are in use today. Foragers, pastoralists, and horticulturalists are threatened through government selling and protecting of areas such as game preserves, thereby restricting land use.



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