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Agriculture

Concept: Methods and Steps of Farming

What is farming?

Farming, or in other words, agriculture, involves growing and harvesting crops and raising animals or livestock.

Agriculture provides food and raw materials that are essential for the survival of human beings.

Methods of farming:

There are various methods of farming, as shown in the following flowchart—

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Let us now have a brief look at these different methods of farming.

1. Terrace farming:

  • It is a method of agriculture where a sloped surface is cut into a series of steps.
  • Terrace farming was first practised by the Inca people who lived in the mountains of South America.
  • This method is apt to cultivate crops in mountainous or hilly regions.
  • Terrace farming is widespread in some Asian countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
  • The commonly grown crops by terrace farming are rice, wheat, barley, potatoes, and maize.
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2. Slash and burn agriculture:

  • In this method, forested lands are transformed into agricultural lands by deforestation.
  • First, all the woody trees and plants are cut down in a forest, followed by those burning.
  • As a result, the top layer of the soil becomes rich in nutrients due to the accumulation of ash.
  • Pests are also temporarily eliminated from the soil, making it easy to start farming on such land.
  • After a few years of cultivation, the fertility of the land declines. So, the farmers move to a new plot to start farming. The original land is left as it is to allow the growth of new vegetation.
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3. Extensive agriculture:

  • Extensive agriculture is a method of farming that involves the preparation of agricultural land by loosening the soil.
  • The seeds of the crops are sown in the loosened soil, and water is supplied by irrigation.
  • When the crops are grown, they are harvested either mechanically or manually.
  • Most crops in India are cultivated by extensive agriculture.
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4. Shifting cultivation:

  • In this method of cultivation, a small area of the forest is cleared of trees and shrubs by an individual farmer.
  • The vegetation is burned, and the plot of land is then used to grow various crops for a few years.
  • However, due to the rapid growth of weeds and declining soil fertility, the land is abandoned for 15 to 30 years or more.
  • After that, new forest patches are successfully cleared and cultivated for several years.
  • Shifting cultivation is only feasible if the population is small.
  • The slash and burn agriculture can be considered a variation of the shifting cultivation.
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Steps of farming:

The different steps involved in farming are shown in the following flowchart.

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1. Soil preparation:

  • In farming, the soil needs to be prepared first before sowing the seeds.
  • Air is incorporated into the soil by loosening it with a traditional plougher or a tractor.
  • In the villages, farmers use an axe or a hoe to dig the soil and loosen it.
  • It is called ploughing.
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2. Sowing:

  • It is the process of sowing seeds in the soil.
  • It can be done either mechanically or manually.
  • In the manual method, crop seeds are sprinkled on the agricultural lands at equal distances by hand.
  • In the case of the mechanical method, a seed driller is used.
  • Seed drillers help sow the seeds at equal distances and ensure that the seeds are sown at a certain level beneath the soil.
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3. Adding fertilisers or manure to the soil:

  • Fertilisers are chemicals added to the soil to increase its nutrient level. These help in the growth and productiveness of the plants.
  • On the other hand, manure consists of faeces and urine of domestic animals, along with straw and hay. The addition of manure also improves soil quality.
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Fertiliser

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Manure

4. Irrigation:

  • Irrigation provides water in the agricultural lands in a controlled way.
  • We all know that water is necessary for the growth and development of crops.
  • Some crops require an abundant supply of water, whereas others require a limited amount.
  • Irrigation is usually done in two ways—sprinkler irrigation and drip irrigation.
  • In the case of drip irrigation, water comes out of the drip pipes slowly through emitters located at specific positions in thin streams.
  • In the case of sprinkler irrigation, sprinklers are installed at different positions in the agricultural fields from where water is sprayed over the entire areas.
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Drip Irrigation

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Sprinkler Irrigation

5. Harvesting:

  • When crops get matured, it is harvested either manually or mechanically.
  • Mechanical harvesting is done using a combined harvester.
  • Reaping, threshing, and winnowing can be done together by a combined harvester.
  • The leftover straw is chopped and used as fodder for livestock.
  • In the case of manual harvesting, crops are cut with sickles.
  • Then threshing and winnowing are done by hand to separate the grains.
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6. Storing crops:

  • After the crops are harvested, they need to be stored properly; else they will be infested with insects or microbes.
  • Grains are stored after they are adequately dried.
  • Excess moisture in the crops always initiates the growth of microbes that eventually spoil crops.
  • Granaries are built to keep the grains for long periods.
  • Closed containers called silos are also used to store grains. These protect them from rats and other pests.
  • Dried neem leaves and cloves are added to the grains as their smell keeps the microbes and pests away.
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New Words:

Deforestation: The clearance of forest-covered areas by cutting down trees extensively in a forest is called deforestation. It happens primarily due to man-made causes, but certain natural factors also lead to deforestation.

Weeds: These are unwanted plants that grow on agricultural fields and compete for food, space, and sunlight with the cultivated plants.

Threshing and winnowing: The process of beating out grains from stems is called threshing, whereas winnowing is separating the grain from the chaff.


Did You Know?

  • In the case of organic farming, the cultivation of crops is done without using any chemical fertilisers, or chemical growth regulators. Only manures are used during farming. In the case of organic farming, earthworms are used to increase soil fertility.
  • The terrace steps for rice cultivation found in the Philippines’ Cordilleras have been marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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