Agricultural Production Regions

Two farmers wake up to start their day. They both have the same thing on their mind—their crops. Both work hard to produce as much food as they can. On this level, both are hardly different from one another. However, one works on a soybean farm in Illinois, USA, and the other on a cassava farm in Northwest Cameroon. The types of agriculture produced worldwide change significantly based on geography, technology, and economics. Today let's dive into the types of agricultural production regions and what makes them distinct.

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    Agricultural Production Regions Definition

    Agriculture is associated with varied geography throughout the world. The crops grown, livestock raised, and farm sizes depend on climatic and economic conditions. Parts of the planet have more agriculture than others and grow food for different purposes. Generally, the parts of the world where food is grown are called agricultural production regions.

    Agricultural Production Regions: Areas of the globe that produce food.

    Next, let's explore more about what the major agricultural production regions around the world are and how they are categorized.

    Major Agricultural Production Regions Around the World

    All agriculture has the same ultimate goal—cultivating food. Whether or not it's primarily for money is where the difference lies between agriculture in different areas of the world. Agricultural production regions are divided into commercial and subsistence agriculture dominant, discussed next.

    Commercial Agriculture Dominant

    When crops are grown or animals raised primarily to make money, that's commercial agriculture. Commercial farms are businesses, and their products can be shipped to faraway places. Commercial agriculture is dominant in more-developed countries (MDC)s. Because the food supply is abundant, most people in MDCs do not have to work in agriculture, and farmers can focus on growing crops that pay well.

    Not all MDCs have a sizeable commercial agriculture sector. Iceland is an island country with an advanced economy that needs to import the vast majority of its food because of its physical geography. Iceland is at a very high latitude, and its cold climate is not conducive to large-scale farming, but some greenhouses supply local fresh produce.

    MDCs can have greater crop yields because of the widespread adoption of agricultural technology and government subsidies for agriculture. The worse economic conditions in some LDCs make technological advancements and financial aid less widespread, and therefore commercial agriculture is less dominant.

    Agricultural Production Regions Cotton harvester StudySmarterFig. 1 - combine harvester harvest a cotton field. Mechanization and monocropping are major features of commercial farms.

    The regions of the world that are commercial agriculture dominant include the Americas, Europe, and most of East Asia. One commercial agriculture dominant country is Canada. Let's explore in more detail what agriculture looks like in Canada.

    Commercial Agriculture in Canada

    Canada's economy today is dominated by the service and secondary sectors, with agriculture accounting for about 1.6% of its GDP in 2017. Its largest crop is wheat, and most of its crops are exported to other countries, with the United States being its largest export partner. The shipping of agricultural products is a significant feature of commercial agriculture dominant regions and indicative of the food not being produced just for the farmers and their communities.

    Subsistence Agriculture Dominant

    When the primary purpose of a farm is to feed its farmer and family or community, it's known as subsistence agriculture. Subsistence farms produce enough to provide nourishment and food security, with little left to be sold at the market. Subsistence-dominant areas are primarily found in the developing world, where food insecurity is rampant. Food insecurity in LDCs leads a large portion of the workforce to work in agriculture, much more than the proportion in MDCs.

    Subsistence farms vary in size but generally are smaller than commercial farms. Subsistence farms might also not be privately owned—they can be owned collectively by a community where everyone takes part in running it. A feature of subsistence farms is mixed cropping, meaning multiple crops are grown at once. This stands in contrast to monocropping, where a single crop is planted. Because the goal is to provide nourishment and not make money, different types of foods are grown to meet those nutritional needs.

    Agricultural Production Regions Maize field StudySmarterFig. 2 - Tending to a maize (corn) field on a subsistence farm in Tanzania

    Parts of the world that are subsistence agriculture dominant include sub-Saharan Africa and portions of South Asia and South America. The prevalence of subsistence agriculture worldwide is declining, with factors like urbanization and industrialization leading to people leaving rural areas. In addition, the spread of agricultural technology led to increased yields, meaning more food sold and fewer people needed to tend fields.

    Why Subsistence Agriculture?

    Because of the monetary benefits of focusing on commercial production, it's easy to wonder why subsistence agriculture still exists in the 21st century. As previously stated, economic conditions are a significant driver of why people turn to subsistence agriculture, but tradition and way of life are huge factors too. For some communities, participation in farm work and growing what you eat is a vital part of the culture. In the United States, for example, some Native American tribes maintain nomadic herding and subsistence agriculture practices due to tradition. In some cases, promoting subsistence agriculture is a solution to solving food insecurity. Check out our explanation on Types of Agriculture to gain more insight into what defines different agricultural operations and their main features.

    Major Agricultural Production Regions of the USA

    Agriculture in the United States changed and adapted throughout the centuries. Today, a small portion of the population works on farms, but the amount of food produced is more than at any time in history. Agriculture in the USA is overwhelmingly commercial, having changed from subsistence driven during the Industrial Revolution. Next, let's discuss some major agricultural production regions of the USA.

    Crop Producing Regions

    You may have heard jokes that if you go on a road trip to Iowa or Illinois, all you see are cornfields. While there's definitely more than that, the jokes aren't entirely unfounded! The largest crop-producing regions of the US include the midwest and Great Plains. The most-produced crops in the United States are corn, soybeans, and wheat. These regions ended up dominating crop production primarily due to favorable soil and climate conditions. The advent of fertilizers, pesticides, and farming technology on top of the already excellent growing conditions means the midwest and Great Plains are now highly productive agriculture regions.

    Central California is another major crop-producing region, focusing on fruits and vegetables you're likely to see in the produce section of a supermarket. Because of Central California's year-round warm weather, it supplies fresh fruit and vegetables to other parts of the country during the winter.

    Livestock Producing Regions

    Other parts of the United States are more suited to raising animals. In places like West Texas, soil conditions made growing crops nearly impossible, but the ample land made maintaining herds of cattle feasible. Today, livestock production is widely geographically dispersed, with indoor animal husbandry enabling them to thrive regardless of climate conditions. By the number of animals, chickens occupy the largest livestock group in the US, with some raised for meat and others for eggs. The second is cows, for both dairy and meat.

    Agricultural Production Map United States

    There are many ways to measure agricultural production in the United States—total value of what's grown, the number of people who work on farms, total farm acreage—but let's look at a map of what land is dedicated to crops first.

    Agricultural Production Regions Cropland map StudySmarterFig. 3 - Areas highlighted in green represent cropland

    As we can see, cropland in the United States is concentrated around the midwestern states and central great planes, with California's Central Valley also a notable spot.

    Climatic Zones and Agricultural Production Regions

    Plants rely on sunlight and water to grow, and the environment they're grown in is the biggest factor in how well they will thrive. Climate refers to the long-term weather patterns of a region and is affected by things like elevation and distance from the equator. The amount of rainfall, sunlight, and temperature define a region's climate and, thus, its agricultural potential.

    The most widely used system for categorizing climatic zones is called the Köppen climate classification. Based on a region's rainfall and temperature, it's divided into five climate categories: tropical, dry, temperate, continental, and polar. Let's discuss some of these climate regions and what crops are produced there next.

    Tropical Agriculture

    Tropical areas have abundant heat, sunlight, and rainfall. It's unsurprising, then, that tropical regions are home to all kinds of crop production. Fruits, vegetables, trees, grains, and much more are cultivated in tropical areas, and the absence of harsh winters means the growing season is year-round. However, tropical regions are beset by some extra challenges, including high pest populations owing to the favorable climate. Additionally, some plants and animals are heat sensitive, meaning the high temperatures are not conducive to their thriving.

    Temperate and Continental Agriculture

    Temperate and continental climates differ from tropical climates in that there are distinct seasons, each with a variation in temperature and rainfall. The different seasons mean that a different crop is grown during wintertime, or nothing can be grown at all. Crops in these regions include corn, soybeans, rice, and some hardier vegetables. A major advantage of farming in these regions as opposed to tropical ones is that soil quality is often better, and low winter temperatures kill off pests, lowering their overall populations.

    Agricultural Production Regions - Key takeaways

    • Agricultural production regions in the world are divided between commercial-dominant and subsistence-dominant regions
    • Commercial agriculture is when a farm grows crops or raises animals for the main purpose of making money and is primarily found in more-developed countries
    • Subsistence agriculture is a farm dedicated to feeding just the farmer and their family or community and is primarily found in less-developed countries
    • Climate is a major determinant of what crops can be grown in different regions, limiting the types of crops grown and animals raised

    References

    1. Fig. 2 a maize field in Tanzania (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cleaning_the_Farm_plantation.jpg) by Fredynjeje (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Fredynjeje) is licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)
    Frequently Asked Questions about Agricultural Production Regions

    What are agricultural production regions?

    Agricultural production regions are the areas of the world in which food is grown, and animals are raised. Climate is the primary factor determining if a region can support agriculture, but geology plays a role too with certain minerals aiding plant growth.

    Why does agricultural production occur within regions?

    Agricultural production occurs within regions for several regions, including their climates and economic conditions. Firstly, a favorable environment is needed to determine what crops can be grown or what kinds of animals can be raised. Secondly, depending on the level of food security and economic power, farms are either mainly driven by profit or are to feed people first and foremost. 

    Which region has the most agriculture?

    No one part of the world has the most agriculture, but some areas produce more crops than others. For example, East and Southeast Asia grow more rice than any other area of the world. In general, all areas of the world, except for the poles, have some sort of agriculture.

    What are major agricultural production regions?

    The major agricultural production regions of the world are divided into commercial-dominant and subsistence-dominant regions. Commercial agriculture-dominant regions are mostly in more-developed countries like the United States and France. Subsistence-dominant regions include most of Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Latin America and Asia.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which are the major drivers of why someone might turn to subsistence agriculture?

    Which of the following regions is a major crop-producing area of the United States?

    Which of the following are attributes of commercial agriculture-dominant regions?

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