Agricultural Geography

agricultural geography

[¦ag·ri¦kəl·chə·rəl jē′ag·rə·fē]
A branch of geography that deals with areas of land cultivation and the effect of such cultivation on the physical landscape.

Geography, Agricultural


the branch of economic geography that studies the territorial distribution of agriculture and the factors and laws related to that distribution. What distinguishes the territorial distribution of agriculture from that of industry is the special nature of the relations between agricultural production and the natural environment, that is, the fact that land in this case is a means of production. The territorial distribution of agriculture obeys a variety of laws characteristic of the social and economic structure within which it is practiced.

In socialist countries, the territorial distribution of agriculture is based on the principle of the law of planned proportional development of the national economy. The territorial differences of agriculture are caused by differences in the natural conditions prevailing in the various localities and by differences in the objective economic conditions on which the level of efficiency of production of different products by various methods depends.

The territorial distribution of agriculture in the capitalist world obeys other laws. In countries and regions with highly developed capitalist relations in agriculture, it is mostly influenced by considerations of the rate profit and land rent. In economically weakly developed countries, especially in the former colonies, the forms of small-scale commodity agriculture are important, along with the existence at the same time of both capitalist and precapitalist relations. The diversity of regional types of agriculture in the capitalist countries is largely caused by the prevailing socioeconomic structures, the nature of land ownership and land use, and the great differences in the levels of agriculture and of animal husbandry.

The effects of the differences in the natural environment, which create unequal conditions in different regions for the development of agriculture, are manifested by productivity, levels of required production expenditures, and efficiency in producing various products. However, the correlations of these indexes in different localities cannot be regarded as a simple reflection of the differences in their natural conditions, because cultivated plants develop in an environment altered to a greater or lesser degree by cropping and reclamation methods. Different methods of farming are economically possible and expedient in different kinds of environments because of the great differences in the natural conditions.

In general, the most important objective economic conditions under which territorial differences create unequal farming possibilities are the following: (1) the location of the places of consumption, industrial processing of farm produce, and manufacture of the means of production for agriculture; (2) the presence of the manpower required for farming; (3) the differences in natural resources and local farming experience.

The most important elements of the economic-geographic study of agricultural geography include classification and mapping of different kinds of land use; study of the forms of organization of land used for agricultural enterprises; investigation of the productive types of agricultural enterprises from the standpoint of location and of production links between agricultural and industrial enterprises; study of the economic factors affecting the geography of agriculture; economic evaluation of types of natural environments; and sector-by-sector analysis of the geography of agriculture and of agricultural regionalization.

The development of agricultural geography in prerevolutionary Russia was closely related to work on agricultural regionalization. The regionalization was done according to environmental features important for agriculture; it was simultaneously used for studying the nature of the existing agriculture. The work of A. I. Voeikov and V. V. Dokuchaev significantly influenced the development of agricultural geography in prerevolutionary Russia.

The need for spatially differentiated examination of agricultural production increased sharply in the USSR and other socialist countries with the shift to a planned economy and with the socialist reconstruction of agriculture. Outstanding work on the subject in the USSR includes the study on plant growing carried out by a collective in the All-Union Institute of Plant Growing under the direction of N. I. Vavilov; works by collectives of the Council for Productive Forces, the Soil Institute, and other institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR carried out under the direction of S. G. Strumilin and L. I. Prasolov; studies on agroclimatology, especially the work of P. I. Koloskov, G. T. Selianinov, and F. F. Davitai; monographs dealing with the agricultural geography of individual republics and economic regions; works on agricultural regionalization of the USSR prepared from 1958 to 1965 by teams of geographers from universities and other higher institutions of learning; and studies of the All-Union Institute of Agricultural Economics on the agricultural geography of the USSR. The work done on quantitative and qualitative evaluation of land was very important.

The future development of research in the field of agricultural geography will be greatly influenced by the program of the CPSU on the scientifically sound location of agriculture by natural economic zones and regions, as well as on the greater specialization of agriculture with primary emphasis on those types of agricultural production for which the conditions are most favorable and the expenditures are lowest.

Major and original studies on the application of investigative methods to agricultural regionalization, to the factors affecting the geography of agriculture, and to the economic evaluation of land are under way in Poland, East Germany, Hungary, and other socialist countries.

Many bourgeois studies are characterized by a treatment of agriculture’s naturalistic forms and by their dependence on explanations based on natural conditions, disregarding social and class relations in agriculture. Studies containing an analysis of modern agricultural geography frequently contain ideas, significant for bourgeois economics, on the so-called law of diminishing productivity of marginal expenditures. At the same time studies are published in the capitalist countries that are free from the influence of bourgeois theory and are valuable because of the methods used and because of the richness of the source material.

In the 20th century, studies on the use of land became widespread; these studies were first done in Great Britain in 1930 by L. D. Stamp. Later on, such research was carried out by the geographers of Italy, Canada, the United States, and New Zealand using more or less similar methods. Aided by aerial photographic surveys, this research consists mainly of employing maps to record original data on modern agriculture; it is thus different from research that relies on the usual statistical sources. Typical of studies in the USA is the work done on productive types of agriculture and agricultural regionalization by F. F. Elliott and others; the results have been put to practical use by agricultural agencies. Land use and organization of agricultural territory became important objects of economic-geographic study in the United States in the 1930’s in connection with the need to control soil erosion. The historical-geographic study of agriculture spread in France, Belgium, Great Britain, and West Germany. The results are useful in tracing the successive stages in the opening up (or abandonment) of land and uncovering the historically determined features of the modern organization of agricultural lands (the French scientists A. Demangeon, M. Bloch, and others).


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Lenin, V. I. “Novye dannye o zakonakh razvitiia kapitalizma v zemledelii.” Ibid., vol. 27.
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