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10 Examples of Intensive and Extensive Agriculture

Agriculture faces in modern times  great challenges in terms of ecology, sustainability, and quantity of production, compared to a human population that continues to grow year after year. And from these considerations come the opposite concepts of intensive agriculture and extensive agriculture.

Intensive agriculture , firstly, is one that aims to increase production levels to the maximum , through the employment of chemical fertilizers and technology, and usually an extension of limited territory, as part of the optimization of the possible space. Its extreme form is agriculture without soil.

Extensive agriculture , however, has a total amount of much lower production , despite be on larger surfaces and more labor, but by more friendly processes environment often can, in cases where no chemical products are used, to be classified as ecological .

Normally, this type of agriculture depends on environmental conditions and climate cycles, and in developing countries it can be associated with depressed and low-income productive sectors.

Differences between intensive and extensive agriculture

The main difference has to do with production, which is much greater in the intensive than in the extensive, although it is also the impacts on the environment and on the nature of the products obtained.

Intensive agriculture operates over the pace of demand for food goods, taking advantage of small tracts of land (sometimes not even need soil) and using pesticides, chemical fertilizers, seeds bioengineering and normally undertaking successive crops of the same plant variety ( monocultures ) that usually lead to soil depletion.

Extensive agriculture uses own cycles of the territory in which it operates, which is often combined with activities of livestock type (livestock grazing), but is always subject to weather and soil conditions, which may be unfavorable and undermine their processes. However, the products obtained in this way are usually considered healthier , since they include a lower (or null) load of chemicals and agrotoxics, as well as more sustainable, since they alternate plant species and thus do not deplete the soil.

Finally, intensive agriculture requires greater investments in energy (electricity), resources (water) and technology, while extensive investment depends on natural hydrological cycles.

Examples of intensive agriculture

  1. Massive monocultures . Like wheat, corn and barley crops in the North American plains, or soy in Argentina, it is a highly profitable monoculture for both domestic consumption and export, and despite being highly mechanized, they cause environmental damage and they impoverish the species by always preferring bio-engineered seeds and using agro-toxins (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.).
  2. Greenhouse agriculture. It is called greenhouse to closed places and controlled climatic conditions, usually transparent to allow the entry of sunlight but prevent the dispersion of heat. They are widely used for the intensive cultivation of certain plant species, taking advantage of the simulated climate to boost their productivity.
  3. Hydroponic agriculture. In her mineral solutions are used to cultivate the plants, instead of soil properly. Sometimes an inert material is used as support for the plants, other times directly for the water, in which the substances necessary for plant growth are poured.
  4. Irrigated agriculture. By using automated irrigation systems, moisture levels are maintained that are conducive to the cultivation of a few plant variants, thus making it possible to constantly supply these foods without the need to coordinate the seasons of rain and drought.
  5. Commercial floral crops . The flower industry also has its intensive variant, through vast rose gardens, sunflower plantations or other highly sought-after flowers, both for aesthetic arrangements and for perfumery work. This includes aromatic crops, such as lavender, which require constant preparation of soils to speed flowering and pests to prevent spoilage.

Examples of extensive agriculture

  1. The farm . Grouping livestock activities (cattle, swine, avian) with agriculture, this development model takes advantage of the natural fertilizer of the animals and the vegetable residues of the harvest as food, to point to a sort of artificial ecosystem where diverse processes are fed back .
  2. Rainfed agriculture . Given its limited rainfall or convenient hydrography, this type of crop usually prefers winter fruits, which coincide with the period of highest humidity (wheat, barley, rye), since only this source of natural water is used.
  3. Rice plantations in Asia. The largest producers of this grain in the world are the Asian countries, especially China and India, and carry it out in long wetlands that require a lot of labor and relatively little mechanized intervention. Despite this, Chinese rice production reached almost 200 million tons in 2010.
  4. Subsistence farming . An example perhaps a bit extreme, since the crop, conuco or family garden provides just enough for a family to subsist and change or sell the surplus with their neighbors. It is perhaps the agricultural point furthest from the needs of the world food market and therefore does not require almost technological intervention or inputs.
  5. Organic crops . These are variants of extensive agriculture whose purpose is to dispense with all types of contaminants and machinery, betting on products as natural as possible, which instead of volume offer food quality to the market.

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