Basis of Whittlesey Classification of Agricultural Regions

World has different climatic regions and different kinds of agriculture is practices in different climatic zones. However, human beings are intelligent beings. As a result, they are able to control the impact of environment on agriculture. They can also modify the agricultural environment through modern agricultural inputs. Therefore, Derwent Whittlesey classification of agricultural regions entails the cultural dimension. He classified the world into 13 agricultural regions in 1936 by inculcating the effect of many factors apart from environmental factors. He took the following factors in to consideration.

Basis of Whittlesey Classification of Agricultural Region

  1. Market Orientation: Based on market orientation, one can divide agriculture into subsistence agriculture and commercial agriculture.
    • Subsistence agriculture refers to type of farming where a farmer is able to grow crops just for sustenance of his family.
    • Commercial agriculture refers to type of farming where a farmer is able to grow crops for selling in the market. The primary motive is to sell to market.
  2. Spatial Stability: It indicates whether the farmer grows the crops and animals on one place throughout the year or shifts the location from season to season.
  3. Intensity of Capital and Labour Inputs: Capital and labour intensity refers to the amount of capital and labour investment per unit of land. High capital and labour intensity leads to high cropping intensity and vice-versa.
  4. Productivity: Productivity refers to the yield per unit of land. If yield is high, the farmer will sell the additional crops to the market. If the yield is low, the farmer will only be able to sustain his family.
  5. Specialization: A farmer can grow many types of crop and grow many types of animal on his farm.
    • However, some regions deem it fit to focus on one crop or animal. As a result, the agriculture in the region becomes specialized.
    • Low diversity of farm activity is termed as specialization of agriculture.
    • Diversification of agriculture is opposite of specialization of agriculture.
  6. Natural Vegetation: Whittlesey took the presence of natural vegetation in a farm into consideration, too.
    • Some farmers make use of natural vegetation to achieve their agricultural needs.
    • For instance, the farmers in Prairies and Steppes practice Livestock Ranching and let their animals feed on naturally growing grass.

Three Primary Agricultural Regions

Based on the above criteria, Whittlesey classified the world into three primary agricultural region

  1. Shifting Agriculture: Crops and Livestock
  2. Subsistence Agriculture: Intensive and Extensive subsistence agriculture.
  3. Commercial Agriculture: Commercial Cropping and Commercial Livestock

These types of agriculture are further divided into 13 agricultural regions.

Relevance of Whittlesey’s Classification of Agricultural Regions

Whittlesey gave this classification in 1936 but it is valid till date.

  1. Technology has spread widely but many isolated regions still practice subsistence farming.
  2. All the regions as mentioned by Whittlesey, still exist though their boundaries have changed.
  3. Distribution of different cropping pattern is also changing. Developing nations have also started to practice commercial crop and livestock farming.
  4. Market for many goods has expanded, therefore, the markets try to source the product in demand from the local farms. Markets motivate farmers to grow new crops through contract farming.
  5. Due to genetic modification of certain crops, they can be grown in wide range of climatic conditions.
  6. To sum up, this classification of agricultural regions is still relevant but the world distribution of agricultural region has changed.

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