What does Extensive Agriculture Mean?

The agriculture is the set of processes and knowledge that allow till and cultivate the land. The extensive adjective, on the other hand, qualifies what can be extended to other things.

The idea of extensive agriculture, in this framework, is linked to agricultural exploitation that does not intend to maximize the yield of the soil through the use of agrochemicals or infrastructure, but rather bets on the use of the resources that nature offers in the area. That is why extensive agriculture is the opposite of intensive agriculture, which implies an intense use of resources (inputs, workers, etc.) to increase the yield per hectare.

Extensive agriculture, therefore, offers a low yield per hectare but, being developed in very large areas, allows obtaining a large production. Although many times it is an organic agriculture, without chemical products, sometimes this exploitation system does not respect the environment either.

In cases where the producer does not have money to invest in technology or the soil is poor, it is common for extensive agriculture to develop. The extension of the land allows obtaining a good yield per unit of work, even when the yield per hectare is very low.

The intention of obtaining a high yield in the short term makes industrial farms turn to intensive agriculture, using large machinery, chemical fertilizers and pesticides and advanced irrigation systems. Beyond this choice, extensive agriculture offers greater sustainability over time.

Extensive rainfed agriculture

It is called rainfed agriculture, which does not depend on the irrigation of the field by the human being, but uses the water from the rain exclusively. It goes without saying that a practice of this type fits perfectly into the extensive agriculture scheme, which does not seek by all means to take advantage of every square centimeter of land.

The preferred climate for its application is tropical, and we can find it in various regions of the American continent, as well as in Asia, Africa and the Iberian Peninsula.

In the Mediterranean region, which is made up of North Africa, Western Asia and Southern Europe around the Mediterranean Sea, the most common crops in extensive rainfed agriculture are the following:

* cereals: wheat, barley, millet, rye and oats;
* legumes: peas, peanuts, beans and chickpeas;
* fruit trees: olive, almond and apricot tree;
* horticultural: melons, onions and tomatoes.

To this list we can add trees such as the carob tree, whose fruit is widely used both in gastronomy and in animal feed, and the vine, of incalculable importance in the industry since it allows the manufacture of wine. Precisely, the three most important crops in the Mediterranean are the vine, the olive trees and the wheat.

If we focus on olives, for example, those grown in this way have a higher yield than irrigated ones; the reason is that since it does not have as much water, its oil content is higher.

This type of extensive agriculture receives different names in each part of the world: in Chile, for example, it is called roll agriculture; in the northern hemisphere, on the other hand, it is common to find it as seasonal agriculture, and it is practiced between the months of April and September.

Of course, like all methods and systems, extensive rainfed agriculture has its weak points and is not suitable for any type of crop or for any producer. One of its most obvious disadvantages is the possibility that rainy seasons are delayed, something that can be fatal for planting and lead to social problems such as famine.

Extensive Agriculture