Flashcards for Patterns of Subsistence
Topics 4-5:  Horticulture and Intensive Agriculture
(19 cards)

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The kind of environmental zone in which horticulture is still practiced today.

mostly in tropical forests

The method commonly used by horticulturalists to clear fields of heavy vegetation in preparation for planting new crops. With this method, brush and small trees are cut down and allowed to dry out in place. They are then burned.

slash and burn

Why Mesoamerican horticulturalists plant corn, bean, and squash seeds in the same hole.

the corn stalk provides support for the climbing bean plant and the squash grows over the ground and keeps down the weeds

Where the nutrients for plant growth are mostly located in tropical forests.

in growing plants rather than the soil

What happens to a tropical forests nutrients and its soil when forestry product corporations cut down most of the trees and haul them off for lumber.

most of the nutrients are permanently removed leaving the soil impoverished and then rainfall erodes it away leaving a waste land

What horticulturalists do when the nutrients have become depleted in their farm plot and the weeds and insects pests are too much competition for their crops.

abandon the plot and start a new one in an area that has not been farmed for many years if at all

The typical kind of farming equipment used by horticulturalists to plant and tend their crops.

digging stick and/or hoe

The horticultural practice of abandoning a farm plot and creating another when crop production drops due to the inevitable depletion of soil nutrients. This is also referred to as "swidden cultivation."

shifting agriculture

The subsistence pattern that usually produces the most food per acre of land.

intensive agriculture

How many years ago the development of intensive farming methods became necessary as the human population grew in some major river valleys to levels beyond the carrying capacity of the environment using horticulture and pastoralism.


The major innovations that made the original transition of intensive agriculture possible.

water management systems (e.g., irrigation) and the domestication of large animals for pulling plows

Where the first successful intensive agricultural societies were located. (Hint: these were the early civilizations.)

river valleys in Egypt, Mesopotamia (now Iraq and part of Syria), India, North China, Mesoamerica, and Western South America

What happened to the social classes as the ancient civilizations developed.

they became rigidly divided with power and wealth monopolized by a few people at the top

What happened to the concept of property ownership as the ancient civilizations developed.

the concept of individuals being merely stewards of land for the community was replaced by the concept of individuals having absolute personal property rights

The term for intensive farming for the production of cereals (e.g., corn, wheat, oats) in which hundreds and even thousands of acres are planted, tended, and harvested by a small number of people using large machinery (e.g., tractors and combines). There usually are heavy applications of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. This highly productive form of intensive mono-cropping agriculture is capital but not labor intensive.

mechanized grain farming

The term for farming based on large labor-intensive farms that mostly produces fruit, sugar, fiber, or vegetable oil products for the international market. The laborers usually work for very low wages that keep them in poverty. Many of these large farms in Indonesia, the Philippines, Central America, the Caribbean, and West Africa are owned by multinational corporations such as Dole and the National Fruit Company. The net effect of this form of agriculture generally has been the flow of wealth from poor nations in the Southern Hemisphere to rich ones in the Northern Hemisphere.

plantation agriculture

A subsistence pattern characterized by full-time farming in which large beasts of burden or highly mechanized farm equipment (e.g., rototillers and tractors) are used to prepare the land for planting. There usually is irrigation or other forms of water management. Often there is mono-cropping with heavy applications of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. This form of farming is highly productive but generally capital intensive.

intensive agriculture

A term for planting a crop of only one species in a farm field.


A term for planting a farm field with more than one species of plant.