Farming, Cropping Systems | Advantages & Disadvantages


There are 7 major faming systems; other farming systems fall under  these 7 major farming systems. Due to agricultural revolutions, some of these systems are no more or much practiced. These farming practices have advantages and disadvantages. Having the understanding of their pros and cons will guide an agribusiness man on which farming system to adopt, under which circumstances.

Farming and cropping Systems

Shifting cultivation

Mixed farming

Pastoral farming (nomadic & ranching)

Mixed cropping

Rotated cropping


Continuous cropping

Shifting Cultivation

Shifting cultivation is one of the most common system used by traditional farmers especially in development countries. Shifting cultivation is a farming system where a piece of land is cultivated for one to three seasons and left to lie fallow for some years before it can be cultivated on again. This practice is also known as ‘bush fallow,’ which means leaving a piece of land to rest for a number of years between cultivation.

Advantages of Shifting Cultivation

  • Shifting cultivation helps to check the spread of insects, pests and diseases. When the farmer shifts to a new land and he harvests his crops, the plants upon which the insects have been feeding disappear, so the insect population reduces.
  • Allowing farm land to lie fallow helps to replenish lost nutrients in the soil and improve the soil fertility.
  • Yields are usually huge.

Disadvantages of Shifting Cultivation

  • It requires a lot of land to practice, and as the population pressure on the land increases, it is not possible to have enough land for all the farmers' needs and to meet up the agricultural food demand of the consumer population when using this system.
  • A lot of time and energy are wasted preparing the new land.

Mixed Farming

This is a farming system whereby both crops and livestock are raised on the same farm. In a mixed farming practice, the farmer may keep cows for milk, chickens for eggs, and also grow maize and hay and various other food crops to feed his animals. There are different types of mixed farming.

Advantages of Mixed Farming

  • Risk of total loss is reduced, as it is unlikely that both the farm animals and crops will fail.
  • Animal manure can be added to the soil to increase soil nutrients and improve soil fertility.
  • Unwanted crops produce can be used to feed the livestock.
  • It leads to more efficient use of farm labor
  • Total yield is often increased
  • It leads to production  of various food items and essential nutrients in one place at same time.
  • Leads to increased revenue for the farmer, and the national economy at large.

Disadvantages of Mixed Farming

  • The capital investment is high in terms of buildings and equipment, and to buy the livestock.
  • Maintaining animals can be expensive in terms of vaccination and treatment for diseases.
  • Maintenance costs are spread out and tend to be much higher.
  • If animals break loose, they may get into the crops and destroy them.

Pastoral Farming/ Herding

Pastoral farming involves raising of livestock. Pastoral farming can be nomadic or Settled/ ranching.

Nomadic pastoral farming involves moving herds from one place to another in search of pastures and water. Nomadic herding is mostly practiced by Funali tribe in West Africa especially in Nigeria

Ranch is a place with suitable amenities and implements where cattle and livestock animals are raised for meat, dairy or wool. Ranching is the practice of raising cattle and livestock animals in a confined space. Ranching is mostly practiced in America and Europe. The sub-Sahara Africa is yet to embrace ranching — they still practice the extensive or traditional system of livestock production which is nomadic and primitive method.

Advantages of Pastoral Farming

The advantages can be viewed from two angles: nomadic herding and ranching.



Ranching has its own advantages and this advantages

Disadvantages of Pastoral Farming System

  • If the farmer only raises animals, there is a high risk of failure, if a disease hits his herd and wipes most of his stock out.
  • The initial investment for pastoral farming can be very high 
  • Maintaining the size of the herd, that is raising a young animal to maturity, takes between 18 months to 2 years.
  • Marketing the milk from a dairy herd must be done under very hygienic conditions, or the milk spoil and be of no value.

Mixed Cropping

Mixed cropping is a system in which the farmer plants two or more types of crops on the same piece of land during the same cropping season. These usually consist of a major and minor crops. Mixed cropping can be practiced in two ways:  interplanting and intercropping.

Interplanting: In interplanting, the crop planted first is harvested first, and obviously, the second crop is harvested later.

Intercropping: In intercropping, the crop planted first is harvested second, while the crop planted second is harvested first. Example: if yam is intercropping with cowpea, the yam is planted before cowpea, but cowpea is harvested before yam.

Advantages of Mixed Cropping

       (Interplanting and Intercropping)

  • Helps to improve soil fertility, especially if the farmer knows which crops to plants as companions.
  • One crop may provide ground cover or shade for the other crop, and prevent soil erosion during heavy rainfall.
  • Reduces the risk of crop failure, as both crops are unlikely to fail.
  • Ensures the farmer of a regular supply of food over the entire season. 
  • Helps to check the growing and spread of weeds, as the growing area is entirely covered with food crops

Disadvantages of Mixed Cropping

  • Planting nutrients in the soil can be used up much quicker, especially if incorrect combinations are used.
  • It is difficult to use mechanized farming because the entire area is planted.
  • There at be serious competition among certain crops struggling for water, sunlight and space.
  • In some cases, insect pests may become more widespread, as they have a continuous supply of food to feed on.

Rotated Cropping

This is a farming system where different crops are planted in rotation, season after season. This is a modern system of farming and is usually called crop rotation.

Advantages of Rotated Cropping

  • In areas where there is not enough land for farming, different crops can be planted on same piece of land season after season.
  • Where this system is practiced, the land will produce good crops yields because planting different types of crops each season, in right order, will prevent plant nutrients in the soil from being depleted and therefore guarantees good yields every season.
  • It provides a means of controlling insect pests and diseases on the cropping land.
Principles of Adopting Rotated Cropping
Crop rotation must be carefully planned and the following principles must be taken in to consideration to avoid the disadvantages of rotated cropping.
  • Closely related crops should not follow each other in ration . for example: both maize and rice use a lot of nitrogen from the soil, so if they follow each other on the same farm, the rotation will not achieve its purpose. Maize should follow cowpea, yam, cassava.
  • Plants with shallow roots should not follow each other as they take nutrients from same level (first layer) of the soil. Therefore, deep rooted crops should follow shallow rooted crops to allow the surface layer of the soil to rebuild its nutrients.
  • Crops likely to be affected by same diseases should not follow each other. For example: most cereal crops are susceptible to similar diseases, and if they are grown on same land, season after season, the insects will build up in then soil.
  • A short period of fallow should be included.
Mono-cropping means growing the same crop season after season on the same farm. Commercial farm enterprises who specialize on production of  a particular crop  practice this system.
Plantation farming is an aspect of mono-cropping. Plantation farming is the farming of a crop especially tree crops like rubber, cocoa, coconut, palm trees, plantain, etc.
Disadvantages of Plantation Farming
  • If there is disease on a plantation where mono-cropping is practiced, the farmer may suffer economic losses since he will not have any other crops to fall back on for income.
  • Soil nutrients are used up quickly on mono-cropping plantation farm.
  • Yields drop with time.
To prevent such losses, plantation farmers invest in fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, as they can’t afford crop failure.
Continuous Cropping
In continuous cropping, a crop is planted and harvested, and planted again on the same land. Continuous cropping can be effectively practiced when the soil fertility and water requirements are met. For example: rice can  be grown continuously on the same land, if there is ample water and the nutrients in the soil are maintained through addition of fertilizers.
Advantages of Mono-cropping and Continuous Cropping
  • The farmland for cropping may be suitable for only one or two crops.
  • There may be a high demand for certain crops in the market.
  • Specialization gives the farmer an advantage in becoming an expert in one area, and better varieties will be grown.
  • It is easier to market one crop.
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