Annex identification of different global production systems and their relative productivity

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In this section we briefly characterise the major farming systems of the world giving an overview of the major crops grown or livestock produced, typical yields and the major inputs. Farming systems are divided between intensive and extensive systems. Some systems are found in most regions while others are largely confined to the developing countries.


Production systems can be defined as a ‘population of farms that have broadly similar resource bases, enterprise patterns, household livelihoods and constraints, and for which similar development strategies and interventions would be appropriate’ (Dixon et al., 2001). Production systems are classified as extensive or intensive, and distinctions are made between indoor and outdoor systems. The environmental impacts of production systems are introduced in this chapter and are further examined in terms of environmental impact and long-term sustainability in Chapter 2. Key resource use and environmental impacts to be examined are:

  • water use, whether rain-fed or irrigated;

  • inputs of mineral fertilizers;

  • soil (erosion, degradation and desertification);

  • emissions to water (nitrate, phosphate, pesticides and BOD);

  • emissions to air (greenhouse gases (GHG), ammonia (NH3), particulates);

  • impacts on biodiversity;

  • land use change.

These factors will be reported in the context of the productivity, yield per ha, of the system.

Key crops and livestock within each production system are identified. It is suggested that without this information, no insight into possible solutions to improve the livelihoods of farmers can be obtained based on the application of production system research. In addition, as intensification of agricultural systems occurs, livestock are increasingly dependent on crop by-products and less so on grazing on fallows and marginal areas, thus it is important to consider the relationship between livestock and crop types within the same systems (Smith et al., 1997; Naazie and Smith, 1997 in Fernandez-Rivera et al., 2004).
The approach we have adopted to identify farming systems follows the framework proposed by Dixon (et al., 2001) who considered methods to 'determine appropriate agricultural development strategies and interventions in developing countries.’ He found that ‘the definition of such broad farming systems inevitably results in a considerable degree of heterogeneity within any single system. However, the alternative of identifying discrete micro-level farming systems in each developing country – which could result in hundreds or even thousands of systems world-wide – would complicate the debate concerning appropriate regional and global strategic responses'. The main farming systems have, therefore, been grouped in order to estimate their productivity, use of resources and environmental burdens. Within each of the broad systems, we will identify the typical development issues, enabling the identification of broad strategic approaches to agricultural development and improvement of food security.
We have adopted the seven broad types of farming system identified by Dixon et al, (2001) in the developing regions:
(i) irrigated farming systems, embracing a broad range of food and cash crops, and of farm sizes;
(ii) rainfed farming systems in humid high potential areas, with systems dominated by one or another crop activity (notably root crops, cereals, industrial tree crops – both small scale and plantation – and commercial horticulture) and mixed crop-livestock systems;
(iii) rainfed farming systems in steep and highland areas, often mixed crop/livestock systems;
(iv) rainfed small-scale farming systems in dry or cold low potential areas, with mixed crop-livestock and pastoral systems which grade into sparse, often dispersed, systems with very low current productivity or potential because of extreme aridity or cold;
(v) large-scale commercial farming systems, across a variety of ecologies and with diverse production patterns;
(vi) coastal artisanal fishing and mixed farming systems;
(vii) urban-based farming systems, typically focused on horticultural and animal production.
The above criteria and farming system groups were applied to developing countries as well, and for all regions distinction was made with respect to:
•water resource availability, e.g. irrigated, rainfed, dry;

•climate, e.g. tropical, temperate, Mediterranean;

•landscape relief/altitude, e.g. highlands, upland, lowland;

•farm scale and structure, e.g. small scale, large scale;

•production intensity, e.g. intensive, extensive, sparse;
This chapter begins with production systems in the European Union (EU-27) and North America. In terms of developing countries, key production systems are based on categories identified (Dixon et al, 2001) and TECA (2006). Again, these are classified as being either intensive or extensive, taking into account their environmental impact. Farming systems are also discussed in terms of whether they are subsistence, commercial or collective.
The inputs into each system were also considered, since the levels of inputs – whether fertilizers, labour or veterinary care – reflects fluctuations in price, environmental concerns, advances in technology and changes to the production system (European Commission, 2008).
Finally, the future of each farming system will be summarized along with a brief outline of the opportunities, threats and limitations facing each system. These include factors such as limitations on soil type and lack of finance to gain credit to buy new livestock or fertilizers.

1.1 Intensive production systems

1.1.1 Intensive arable

All crop production relies primarily on natural resources (solar energy, water, soil and oxygen and carbon dioxide) and in addition many farming systems rely on nutrients in soil and those that can be recycled from livestock production or domestic wastes which are available in varying levels of abundance. A number of factors influence the intensity of agricultural production, including the availability and quality of these natural resources (e.g. fertile soil and water for irrigation) access to and affordability of technology, biodiversity, environmental and recreational demands on the land and external factors such as market demand or subsidy systems.

Across the EU-27, 100 x 106 ha of land out of 162 x 106 ha agricultural land are devoted to arable farming. Member States with the largest utilized agricultural areas (UAA, the EU measure for holdings) devoted to arable land include Belgium with 95% and Finland with 99%. Average farm sizes range from 1.2 ha in Malta to 143.0 ha in Slovakia (European Commission, 2008a).
The greatest amounts of fertilizers used in the EU-27 are nitrogenous (N), with phosphate (P2O5)-based fertilisers and potash (K2O) also used in large amounts. In 2005, Belgium, the Netherlands and Malta had the highest spend (Euros per ha) on fertilizers and soil improvers, with spends of 155.7, 125.9 and 123.3 Euros per ha respectively (European Commission, 2008a).
Within countries in transition, the main crops grown are wheat and rye. Flax and cotton are typical in central Asia, with fruit and vegetables being grown south of the Caucasus Mountains. Under former communist control, most agriculture was collectivized with farms ranging in size from 2,500 to 25,000 acres (Agribusiness, 2009).

Figure 1: Harvested production of cereal crops (1000 t) in EU-27, 2007 (European Commission, 2008a)

On vulnerable soils intensive arable farming systems may face constraints from land degradation and soil nutrient depletion in the coming years. In order to increase the area of land under arable cropping, land use change may be needed. Land with limited yield potential may also be brought into production, threatening soil erosion and nutrient depletion. These potential problems may be most likely to arise in semi-arid regions such as the Mediterranean (Delgado et al., 1999; Bouwman et al., 2006).

In addition, intensive crop production is beginning to encroach on periurban areas. Combined with an increase in fertilizer use and an intensification of crop production, considerable local surpluses of nitrogen and phosphates could be produced in these areas (Bouwman et al, 2006).
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