Food Supply Issues (AQA)

AS Geography (AQA) - Food Supply Issues

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  • Created by: Jess
  • Created on: 07-05-11 14:16

Environmental factors affecting farming


- each plant or crop has a minimum temperature and growing season

- growing season - the number of frost free days required for plant growth

- within the tropics there is a continuous growing season

- it is defined as being between the last frost of spring and the first of autumn


- average annual rainfall determines the type of farming for an area (whether it will be based on tree crops, grass/cereals, or irrigation)

- few crops can grow with less than 250mm per year or more than 500mm per year

- rain must fall evenly, e.g. no summer droughts or floods

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Environmental factors affecting farming


- the growth of crops is controlled by the decrease in temperature with height

- as height increases, so does wind, cloud, snow, and rain

- length of the growing season decreases


- slope affects the depth of the soil, its moisture content, and its pH level

- therefore influences the type of crop that can be grown on it

- limits the use of machinery

- the maximum slope for mechanised ploughing is 11degrees

- many steep slopes in Asia have been terraced to overcome these problems

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Environmental factors affecting farming


- farming depends on the depth, stoniness, water retention capacity, aeration, texture, structure, pH, and mineral content of the soil

- soils can be improved by adding missing substances and fertilizers

- there is a limit to the amount soils can be improved


- greenhouse effect will lead to a global increase in temperatures

- it will also change rainfall patterns

- parts of the world that used to be too cold will then be able to grow more crops

- some places will become wet and stormy while others become drier

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Human factors affecting farming


- farmers may be owner-occupiers, tenants, landless labourers, or state employees


- in several countries, when a farmers dies, his land is divided equally between all of his sons (rarely between daughters)


- inheritance laws tend to reduce the size of individual farms

- often they can only operate at subsistence level or below

- small farms are often bought by larger, more successful farms

- this is particularly common in the EU and North America

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Economic factors affecting farming


- this includes the type of transport available, the cost of transport

- perishable products like milk and fruit need speedy, efficient transport

- for bulky goods like potatoes, transport costs must be low enough to create profit


- market demand depends on the population (preferred diet, changes in taste, etc)

- e.g. in Jewish populations there is very little or no demand for pork


- farmers in developing countries often have to resort to labour-intensive methods

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Economic factors affecting farming


- technological developments such as new strains of seeds (high-yielding varieties), cross breeds of animals, and improved machinery increase production

- developing countries rarely have the capital or expertise for these advances

- therefore the gap between LEDCs and MEDCs continues to increase

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Types of farming


- the growing of crops, usually on flatter land


- the raising of animals, usually on land that is not used for arable farming


- the growing of crops and rearing of animals

- this is used on a commercial scale across developed countries

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Types of farming


- growing and providing food only for the farmer and his family

- sometimes food is produced for the local community

- there is no surplus

- labour intensive, amount of capital input is low


- large scale, profit making farming

- very high yields per hectare

- commercial farms often grow just one type of crop/rear one type of animal

- amount of capital input is high, labour input is low

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The Green Revolution


- new varieties of crops are higher yielding

- shorter growing season has allowed the introduction of an extra crop

- farming incomes have increased

- the diet of rural communities has become more varied

- employment has been created in industries supplying farms

- areas under irrigation have increased in number

- by intensifying production on existing farmland, large areas of wildnerness have been spared from agriculture

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The Green Revolution


- high inputs of fertiliser and pesticide are required to optimise production

- rural debt has risen sharply to pay for the new inputs

- high-yielding varieties require more weed and pest control

- higher income farmers benefit more than low income farmers, widening the income gap in rural communities

- increased rural-urban migration has been the result

- mechanisation has increased rural unemployment

- some HYV's have inferior flavour

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Arguments for and against GM crops


- could solve food shortages in the developing world

- GM rice is being researched in China - there it is a staple food


- the pollen from GM crops might pollinate nearby crops, speading modifications

- crops on organic farms might be contaminated, losing their organic status

- the long term effects of GM crops on human health are unknown

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The Common Agricultural Policy

the five basic aims were to:

- increase agricultural productivity

- ensure a fair standard of living for farmers

- stabilise agricultural markets

- ensure reasonable consumer prices

- maintain employment in agricultural areas

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CAP policies


- applied to specific goods imported into the EU

- set at a level to raise world market prices up to the EU target price


- used to reduce production from one country or area


- guaranteed prices for each product


- paid to farmers growing particular crops, encourages famers to grow certain crop

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Problems with the CAP

- farmers in the EU tended to overproduce

- this led to surpluses known as 'mountains' and 'lakes'

- agriculture provides 5% of the EU's income, but they spend 70% of the budget

- led to over-intensive farming and use of fertilisers

- this caused environmental damage

- caused tension between the EU and its trading partners over market prices

- large, prosperous farmers benefited more than small-scale farmers

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CAP reform

in 1992 radical reforms to the system were introduced:

- the support for cereals, beef and sheep was reduced

- quotas were introduced, particularly in dairy farming

- there were to be more set-aside policies

- environmentally sensitive farming was encouraged

- early retirement plans for farmers aged 55 and above were implemented

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Organic farming

- an increasing number of farmers are converting their farms to organic farming

definition of organic:

- clover, manure, rock salt and fish are used as fertilizers instead of artificial ones

- herbicides are not allowed and pesticides are extremely restricted

- animals must have enough room to express their behaviour and access pasture

- some form of crop rotation is usually involved to prevent pest build-up

- conversion of a farm to organic usually takes around 2years

- it is less environmentally damaging than regular farming methods

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Problems with organic farming

- in the early years, yields fall because artificial fertilizers are not permitted

- farmers cannot sell any products as 'organic' until they have been certified

- weeds may have to be controlled by hand

- labour costs per unit of land are much higher than normal farming

- lower yields are obtained which means the produce is more expensive

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really helpful with green revolution and CAP

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