Human Geography, Interactive Study Questions: Chapter 10

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1. What are the five principle advances which have transformed agricultural landscapes?

Agricultural landscapes have been transformed by the following major advances. First, the Industrial Revolution produced the onset of an agricultural revolution due to new agricultural practices and the introduction of machinery. This was followed by the development of nitrogen fertilizers, which increased crop yields. The green revolution was the introduction of plant and animal strains that were introduced to developing economies, thereby altering crops, yields, and world agricultural markets. This was followed by the use of biotechnology to produce genetically modified organisms. Currently, no-till practices are becoming more widespread.

2. What is the relationship between population and food production?

Many societies in the past had strategies to keep population below carrying capacity. However, the introduction of nitrogen fertilizers drastically increased crop yields, so much so that this technological innovation is credited with permitting the world’s population to increase by more than a factor of six.

3. What are the environmental impacts of nitrogen fertilizers?

Nitrogen fertilizers are responsible for increased soil acidity, the release of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, and the increased risk of cancer.

4. What is the difference between organic farming and industrial farming practices?

Organic farming practices are based on an alternative value system where methods are less centralized, products are sold to local markets, and production processes are cooperative. Organic farming does not use pesticides or chemical fertilizers, which industrial practices do. However, organic crops have lower yields than industrial crops.

5. What are the described benefits of genetically modified crops?

Genetically modified crops can increase the available locations for agricultural activity, as well as the length of the growing season. For instance, some GM advances are the production of frost-free tomatoes. Others reduce crop vulnerability to pests, weeds, drought, salty soil, and disease. As well, some modifications have included increasing the nutritional value of food.