Organic Farming and Diversification

The study of land use and rural change forms a significant part of any geography syllabus and often involves making comparisons between the world's poorest countries and the world's richest. This GCSE quiz is about land use in the UK, specifically how farming, a primary sector industry, has changed in recent years.

Farming in the UK is sedentary, that is to say, farmers do not move from place to place. In general, in the upland areas of the UK, farming is pastoral with farmers raising cattle or sheep. These farms tend to be the smaller farms, whereas in the lowlands, farming is mixed and quite often the farms are larger. Farming in Britain these days is not as profitable for everybody as it was in the past - small farms in particular suffer the most. The reasons for this are that supermarkets buy in bulk and if farmers don't agree to accept lower prices, the supermarkets will buy from someone else.

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Supermarkets also sell a lot of food that has been imported - much of this comes from LEDCs where production and transport costs are much lower. Even with the costs of importing the food, it is still cheaper than home-produced foods. Mechanisation and changes to subsidies for farmers causes problems for smaller lowland farms and hill farms.

In order to continue to make money, farms can diversify (increase the range of products) or specialise (produce fewer but more expensive products). An example of diversification is a farm in the south of England used to grow just watercress, however they realised that the expensive vegetable, wasabi, could grow in similar conditions. Normally, this vegetable is grown in Japan and is used in Japanese cuisine, including sushi. The market for sushi is increasing in the UK so they have successfully increased their income by diversifying. Some pastoral farms have diversified to farm alpaca for wool, ostrich for food and there is even a crocodile farm! Other farms have diversified by offering non-farming activities such as paintballing, creating a golf course, trekking with llamas, selling produce through a farm shop, starting a brewery or winery or offering tourist accommodation.

An example of specialisation is organic farming. Only natural fertilisers are used on the land (e.g. manure or chicken dung) and organically-farmed animals are not given any food additives, hormone treatments or antibiotic injections to increase their growth. No pesticides are used and crops are protected using biological pest control, for example, using ladybirds to eat aphids. This is more like farming was before the Industrial Revolution and many people believe that organic food is healthier than non-organic food as pesticides and herbicides (weedkillers) are not good for human health. Unfortunately, since yields are lower, organic produce is more expensive so not everyone, even in a MEDC, can afford organic produce. Organic farming is better for the environment as there are no pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilisers that can pollute water supplies. The soil on an organic farm is much better than that on a non-organic farm and an organic farm will have a greater biodiversity because no chemicals that harm bees and other insects are used.

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  1. Which of the following would be an example of diversification?
    This works best in tourist areas like the south west of England and the Lake District
  2. Which of the following best describes specialisation?
    There are many ways that a farm can specialise, but what they all have in common is that they concentrate on products for niche markets rather than the mass markets, where competition is greater
  3. Farm diversification does not include...
    Diversification involves doing something different with the farm, not more of the same
  4. Which of the following is not a reason for farming diversification?
    The other three reasons cause a drop in food prices so smaller farms need to diversify to increase their income
  5. Which of the following is a reason why organic produce is more expensive than non-organic produce?
    Since no pesticides are used, more crops are damaged or destroyed by pests. The yield of crop is lower making it more expensive to produce
  6. In which sector is farming?
    The primary sector of the economy is the sector that makes direct use of natural resources
  7. Crop rotation is a technique used by organic farmers. Which of the following advantage / disadvantage pairs applies to crop rotation?
    Growing the same crop in the same place year after year can introduce diseases and pests to the soil so yields become lower and lower. Changing the crop that is grown means that the pests and diseases cannot become established permanently in the soil as they are usually specific to a particular crop
  8. Identify the positive aspect of organic farming from the following.
    Bees are really important as they pollinate most of the crops we eat
  9. Which of the following statements about organic farming is not true?
    Organic farms use only natural fertilisers
  10. Which of the following best describes diversification?
    There are many ways that a farm can diversify, but what they all have in common is that the farmer changes the way the farm is used

Author: Kev Woodward

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