Farming as a System
Human Inputs: Things that are built or made by humans and added to a farm.
- Labour (workers)
- Machinery (tractors, combine harvesters, etc.)
- Buildings (barns, silos)
- Seed to grow crops
- Animal feed
- Fertlisers and pesticides
- Calves, Chicks, piglets, etc. (small animals bought to rear and later sell)
Farming as a System
Physical Inputs: Natural things that are either found on a farm or are added to a farm.
- Soil: If soil is fertile then arable farming is likely to take place, if it is less fertile and can only support grass then pastoral farming is likely to take place.
- Precipitation: Water that helps water the crops.
- Sun: Energy to help plants and animals to grow.
- Alluvium: This is mineral and nutrient rich sediment (load) that is transported by rivers and deposited on floodplains in times of flood.
- Flood water: Floods not only bring alluvium but also water to keep the ground moist.
- Relief: If land is flat then it is easier for arable farming to take place. If land is hilly then pastoral farming is more likely to take place.
- Drainage: It is important that fields are well drained so they are not permanently flooded. Apart from rice most crops and animals can't survive being permanently submerged.
Farming as a System
Processes: The events that take place on a farm to turn inputs into outputs.
- Rearing: This is the caring for and support of animals to maturity.
- Shearing: The removing of wool from animals, normally sheep.
- Ploughing: Turning over the land and preparing it for planting seeds.
- Fertilising: Adding chemicals to the soil to try and make it more fertile.
- Weeding: Removing alien plants (plants other than the crops your are growing) from crop fields.
- Irrigating: Watering the land.
- Cultivating: To care for and grow crops.
- Harvesting: The collection of crops at the end of the growing season.
- Slaughtering: The killing of animals once they have reached maturity and are ready to sell.
- Planting: Putting seeds into the ground.
Farming as a System
Outputs: Things that are produced on a farm and are often sold.
- Meat products (lamb, beef, chicken, pork)
- Wool (normally from sheep)
- Milk (normally from cows)
- Waste e.g. animal excrement
- Methane (mainly from cows)
- Crops (corn, wheat, carrots, potatoes, etc.)
Famine: When the demand for food exceeds the supply of food leading to undernourishment. Prolonged undernourishment can damage people's health and eventually lead to starvation.
Human Causes of Famine:
- Overpopulation: The growing population of the world means that demand for food is increasing. Unfortunately the supply of food is not always matching this demand.
- Overgrazing: By trying to graze too many cattle on land, all the vegetation can be eaten. This reduces the integrity of the soil and can cause topsoil erosion and soil degradation.
- Overcultivation:Trying to grow much on land can cause its degradation by using all the nutrients and not giving them time to recover. If the land becomes degraded then the yields decline.
- Deforestation: By deforesting large areas of woodland, then again the integrity of the soil can be damaged as well as its source of nutrients. This can cause soil degradation and erosion, both leading to reduced yields.
- Pollution: Farming and industrial pollution can both degrade the land and reduce yields of crops.
- Conflict: When fighting takes place, it is often men that fight removing them from farming duties and therefore reducing yield. Also conflict can also make the land to dangerous to farm (mines) or degrade the soil because of chemical or biological warfare.
- Corruption: Sometimes government officials or armies can use crops for themselves or their own needs leading the general population to go hungry.
Physical Causes of Famine:
- Temperature: Temperatures that are too hot or too cold can both kill crops and animals.Most crops need steady and reliable temperatures.
- Rainfall: If there is a shortage of rainfall then most crops will die or need extra irrigation. If water to irrigate is not available then crops will begin to die and yields reduce.
- Flooding: Although all crops need rainfall, especially things like rice, too much rainfall can flood and kill crops or wash away topsoil reducing the soils fertility.
- Natural Disasters: Natural disasters like hurricanes, tsunamis and volcanoes can destroy large areas of agricultural land. They can also kill or injure farmers. Both factors reduce yields.
Problems caused by both Famine and Drought:
Livestock deaths: When there is a shortage of water and food, animals are the first to go without, so animals will start to die. This makes the famine even worse because there is less meat, eggs, milk, etc.
Crop failure: Drought can cause crops to fail, but also when there is famine people often become too weak to work on the land so less crops are grown and the famine worsens.
Illness: When there is s shortage of food and water, people become weak from undernourishment (lack of food) and are more vulnerable to getting sick.
Death: Severe drought and famine will eventually lead to death. It is usually the very old, young or already sick that die first.
Conflict: If the resources of food and water are declining, fighting over these resources is likely to increase, especially between different tribes and countries.
Loss of Education: When drought happens people have to travel further to find food and water. They also become sicker. Both of these factors can impact students and teachers. Who it affects it means that people are either unable to go to school or have no one to teach them once they are at school.
Loss of income: If people are unable to work they are unable to work and earn money. Also many countries that suffer from famine have large primary sectors. Famine normally means that the primary sector (farming) has collapsed and people have nothing to sell to make money.