Physical and Spatial Conditions

The physical and spatial conditions refer to land and water, which are the limited resources necessary for farming. This means that to produce agricultural goods and gain an income, the farmer depends on the quantity and quality of land and water.

Land quantity is the amount of land available for agriculture,which is dependent on geographic and socioeconomic factors. The geographic factors refer to landform, altitude, and the ratio of land to open water. The socioeconomic factors are population density (competition for land among farmers), development rate of the country (competition among land uses such as for housing, infrastructure, outdoor recreation, and nature), and the amount of people dependent on agriculture.

Land quality refers to both soil quality and the spatial configuration of farmed areas. Soil quality depends on soil type, structure and fertility (workability of the land, water-holding capacity, erosion sensitivity). The spatial configuration of farmed areas is determined by the fragmentation of property, the distance between farm buildings and fields, and the quality of the rural infrastructure, and is in many cases a reflection of the social structure in an area or the political situation in the country.

Water quantity depends on geographic, socioeconomic, and political factors. Geographic factors include climate (rainfall, temperature), altitude, steepness (water runoff), soil (water-holding capacity, permeability), and the presence of groundwater and surface water (rivers, lakes, brooks). The socio economic factors are population size and density and development rate of the country (amount of water for drinking and industrial uses). Political considerations include, for example, the relationship of a country with other (surrounding) countries that are using the same source for water. Table 1.3 shows the agricultural share of world water use.

Water quality depends on geographic and socioeconomic factors. Geographic factors include the influence of the sea and other natural sources of water not suited for agricultural use. Socioeconomic factors are related to water pollution.

Table 1.3. World water use

Water Withdrawals

Table 1.3. World water use

Water Withdrawals

Area

Annual (km3)

Domestic

Industry

Agriculture

(km3)

(%)a

(km3)

(%)

(km3)

(%)

Africa

144

10

7

7

5

127

88

Asia

1,531

92

6

122

8

1,317

86

North & Central America

697

63

9

293

42

342

49

South America

133

24

18

31

23

78

59

Europe

359

47

13

194

54

118

33

USSR (former)

358

25

7

97

27

233

65

Oceania

23

15

64

1/2

2

8

34

World

3,240a

259a

8

745a

23

2,235a

69

a Percentage of total water withdrawals. b Numbers are not column totals. Compiled from [9].

a Percentage of total water withdrawals. b Numbers are not column totals. Compiled from [9].

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