Favorable and Marginal Agricultural Areas

The introduction of monocultures with large external inputs and standardized high yielding varieties of a few major crops has intensified the division between land favorable to agriculture and lands which are only marginally adapted for agriculture. This division has made the battle against genetic erosion a two-front one.

Favorable agricultural areas have accounted for most of the food production increases. They are well suited to large scale agricultural enterprises, fertile soils and level terrain amenable to agricultural activities. The farming system is one requiring high inputs of energy and depends largely on mechanization, irrigation and major crop species. Favorable agricultural areas tend to have good access to markets and export facilities with resulting options for diversification.

Marginal agricultural areas, on the other hand, are characterized by a range of factors which serve to limit their capacity for agricultural production. These may include infertile soil, adverse climatic conditions, hilly terrain, wetlands, difficulty of transportation, distance from markets, poor infrastructure and unfavorable output/input ratios which make large scale investment in agriculture unattractive. Many of these marginal areas occur in developing countries where resources for developing agricultural potential are few or lacking, often in tropical, arid or mountainous zones. Farming systems are often rainfed at subsistence level, with low inputs, difficulty of mechanization and centered on minor, locally-important crops. These zones provide the livelihood for 1.2 billion people. In the struggle of dealing with difficult and diverse constraints, traditional farmers have domesticated many species and created a wide range of intra-specific diversity (i.e., traditional landraces).

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