|Environmental Handbook Volume II: Agriculture, Mining/Energy, Trade/Industry (GTZ, 1995, 736 p.)|
|27. Plant production|
The following terms recur frequently in this environmental brief and therefore require definition:
- Single cropping involves growing only one crop on a
particular area of land, e.g. rice. The sequence in which various single
crops are grown one after the other in a field is known as the crop
- Intercropping is a system in which a number of different crops grow together for the entire vegetation period or part of it, e.g. a combination of cassava, cowpeas and millet.
- Annual crops are generally herbaceous plants with a one-year vegetation cycle (e.g. cereals, legumes, various vegetables, tobacco).
- Perennial crops are plants which are used over a number of years; each plant is sowed or planted only once, e.g. fruit trees, tea, coffee and cocoa.
- Monoculture involves growing a particular crop on the same area of land over a number of cultivation periods, e.g. sugar cane.
Taking into account the production of wood, self-regenerating raw materials, animal fodder and crops used in the manufacture of semi-luxury goods, plant production represents - in terms of area - man's major form of interference with the Earth's natural balance.
Traditional farming systems are usually based on intercropping and tend to be subsistence-oriented. External inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides are uncommon and are used on only a small scale.
By contrast, large-scale plantation farming generally takes the form of monoculture (sugar cane, cotton) or permanent cropping (coffee, tea, cocoa). These forms of cultivation are market-oriented and dependent on external inputs.
Plant production involves activities in areas such as
- plant protection
- agricultural engineering and animal traction
- species and variety selection
- tillage and fertilising
- crop tending and weed control, harvesting, post-harvest treatment, storage
- erosion protection and control.
Crops are grown to meet the needs of the producer or the market. They also play a role in protecting soil, air and water.
Plant production is carried out on farms, for the most part using family labour, in order to ensure subsistence and earn monetary income.