What are Agricultural Systems in Nigeria?


What are  Agricultural Systems?


This article takes a look at the agricultural system in Nigeria and the various methods used by different groups of people for crop production and livestock management in order to supply human needs. 

In these systems, the aim of the farmers has always been the same - to make his land produce as much as he needs and to keep the soil fertile to support sufficient agricultural productions.


What is agricultural System?

Agricultural farming systems are simply the way a farmer makes use of resources available for sustainable agriculture to meet his needs. Whiles doing all that, he tries to preserve and maintain the environment.

As you read on, you will learn and understand very simply the various types of farming.

An agricultural system, or agro-ecosystem, is a collection of components that has as its overall purpose the production of crops and raising livestock to produce food, fiber, and energy from the Earth's natural resources. Such systems may also cause undesired effects on the environment. Agricultural farming systems come when necessary. Over the years many factors have changed farming systems.

These factors include:

1. Available water, land, grazing areas, arable lands, forest; climate, landscape etc.

2. The dominant pattern of farm activities and household livelihoods. These include field crops, livestock, trees and aquaculture. Also, hunting and gathering, processing and off-farm activities.

3.  The main technologies we use. This determines the intensity of production and integration of crops, livestock and other activities.

Read On: Agricultural Extension Service

Various agricultural systems

Below listed are the 8 various kinds of agricultural systems:

1. Shifting Cultivation

2. Land Rotations

3. Mixed Farming

4. Bush Fallow

5. Continuous Cropping

6. Monocropping (Sole Cropping)

7. Crop Rotation

8. Mixed Farming


1. Shifting Cultivation:  The most common system of agriculture practiced in Nigerian traditional villages is shifting cultivation. Under this system the farmer clears a piece of land and plants his crop. After one to three successive planting seasons, he leaves this piece of land and clears another, to allow the first piece of land to regain its fertility. He (farmer) may come back to the first piece of land after many years. During this period, this first piece of land grows into a bush and the land regains its richness through the leaves that fall and decay on the soil.

This system was practicable in the older days because population was small and the farmer plants only for himself and his family. Nowadays, because of increase in population, shifting cultivation may not be desirable and practicable, in some areas.

2. Land Rotation: A modified form of shifting cultivation is called land rotation. Under this system, a farmer makes use of a piece of land, over a number of years, when he feels that the land is becoming poor, he leaves it for another plot only to come back to the original plot, after some years. Land rotation is still practiced in some part of the tropics, especially in sparsely populated districts. This, in a region known for rapid re-growth of its secondary vegetation- like the equatorial and rain forest zones, present no problem to its pre-cultivation level.

However, the condition is different for grass land areas, as the grass does not drop enough litter to restore the fertility of the soil rapidly. Another factor which makes shifting cultivation and land rotation undesirable in grassland areas is frequent destruction of humus through indiscriminate bush burning etc. This is due to the method of disposing rubbish after cleaning since the vegetation in the tropics cannot easily be buried after clearing; the easiest way of disposing of it is by burning.

During burning, fire burns the humus of the soil and in addition destroys some of the elements of nutrient like nitrogen, sulphur and carbon. Sometimes, the fire spreads over the fallow plots and destroys the vegetative cover, as well as any litter that could have been added to the soil.

The soil is exposed to unnecessary leaching and soil wash.

Some of the features of shifting cultivation are mixed cropping, bush fallow, subsistence farming and extensive farming.

3. Mixed Farming: This means planting more than one type of crop on one plot of land at the same time. Yam, Maize, Melon, and Okra often go together, while maize, cassava and okra are planted on the same plot. The purpose of planting more than one crop on a plot of land is to prevent crop failure and to fully utilize the fertility of the soil.

It has even been argued by some people that under the traditional methods of farming, mixed cropping are more economical; they held that total proceeds from a plot on mixed cropping have been found to be greater than that for a similar plot on sole crop.

In order to achieve this successfully, the following points are very essential:

a. The soil must be in a very fertile condition.

b. The crop must be such that none disturbs the progress of the other.

c. All the crops should not be equally vigorous at the same time to allow even nutrient uptake.

d. Some must be shade tolerant.

e. The nutrient requirements of the crops should not be too identical to avoid excessive competition. The most suitable combination of plants for intercrop planting involves those that have a definite difference in their rate of growth.

Hence, a crop that matures after several months may be intercropped (with an advantage) with a crop that matures in half the time. When the early maturing crop is harvested, it gives room for the late maturing to develop fully.

Examples of typical combinations for inter-cropping with local crops are- tomatoes and green vegetable, hot pepper and okra, eggplant and spinach/green vegetable , sorghum or millet, cowpeas/millet or cowpea/cotton, guinea corn/cowpea/groundnuts, maize/cassava/barbara groundnuts.

With modern farming methods, mixed cropping has the following disadvantages:

a. The fel1ilizer mixture suitable for one of the crops may not be suitable for the other crops. This may reduce the yield of the other crops.

b. A plot containing different crops of varying heights and distances cannot be easily adapted to mechanization.

4. Bush Fallow: Here, when a farmer observes that the soil has lost much of its fertility, he moves over to another plot of land leaving the former plot to re-grow into a bush. When a plot is under bush fallow, there is hardly any addition of nutrients to the soil.

If, however, the fallow period extends to five or more years, the roots of the plants in the plot will grow deeper into the subsoil. Thus, they will recapture the nutrient elements lost from the topsoil through leaching and return them to the topsoil through leaf fall. This accounts for the rejuvenation of soil under bush fallow.

5. Continuous Cropping: This system, practiced in densely populated areas involves putting a piece of land under cultivation from year to year. The crop planted may either be annual or perennial. Continuous cropping can be well organized in a crop rotation system but it often leads to soil exhaustion, erosion and low productivity.

6. Mono-cropping (Sole Cropping): This is the practice of growing exclusively one type of annual crop and harvesting it before planting another one on the same plot of land. It is a risky system, analogous to carrying all one’s eggs in one basket. The farmer will be exposed to the danger of poor harvest, in case of adverse climatic condition or invasion of pest and diseases; and he may be forced to depend on other farmers for other food crops that he does not produce.

7. Crop Rotation: This is the third stage in the evolution of farming system. Crop rotation can be defined as fixed sequence of growing different crops on one field at different times. Crop rotation involves the use of land- but the crops planted on the land are changed from year to year or from season to season. Crop rotation has replaced land rotation and shifting cultivation in all advanced countries.

Even in more primitive societies, the rapid increase in population has forced people to come closer to crop rotation. Under the population pressure, it is no long possible to allow a fallow period of up to three years, in most communities.

In that case, the land has to be used almost continuously. In such a circumstance, the fertility of the soil has been maintained by the application of manure and fertilizer different crops require different amount nutrient. Some use much and are known as exhaustive crops- e.g. maize, yam, and cassava. Others can actually add nutrients to the soil e.g. legumes. Every year, a different kind of crop is planted in order to prevent depletion of nutrient. The crops should be arranged such that an increase in the yield of one results in an increase in the yield of the next crop.

For example a good legume crop will increase the nitrogen content of the soil, with the result that if the next is maize- which requires nitrogen, it will do well. Crops that require high nutrient should come first in the rotation.

Some crops have deep root that go deep into the soil and therefore feed deep, others have shallow roots. This enables the deep feeder to collect some of the nutrients materials that could be washed into the subsoil. It is necessary to consider the pest and diseases that attack crops in the rotation. As far as possible, the crops that are prone to being attacked by the same diseases or pests should not follow each other. Where a pest or disease has been identified, crops that are very resistant to the pest or diseases should be planted first. This will lower the incidence of the disease. Cultural practice should also be given adequate consideration. The only snag in this system is the cost involved; stumping especially can be very expensive, particularly in the forest zones.



This involves growing any major crop in between another crop, on the same piece of land. The crop planted later remains on the plot after the first crop has been harvested. Cassava and maize can be grown in this way.



This is the planting of quick-growing and quick-maturing crops between slow-growing and slow-maturing crops. Melon is intercropped with Yam, for example. The life cycle of both crops are short enough for them to fall within the same course, in the same year- e.g. groundnut is followed by late maize.

Read On: Methods of Farming in Nigeria

Advantages of Crop Rotation

a. It facilitates the control of weed, pest and diseases.

b. It makes for effective utilization of plant nutrient.

c. Under a good system of rotation, the fertility of the soil is maintained.

d. Labour is used much more effectively.

e. The soil is put into maximum use, without being destroyed.


Plan of a Rotation

Divide your land according to the numbers of crop, according to the numbers of years. Suppose you have four crops- a, b, c, and d to be planted on four plots of land A, B, C, and D respectively for the first season; during the second season, crop b goes to A, c to B, d on C and a on D. During the third season, c goes on a, d on E, a on C and b on D for the fourth season, d goes on A, a on B, b on C and c on D; the rotation is completed and the system starts all over again.

An efficient rotation is one that maintains soil structure and controls pest and diseases. This can be judged on long term basis. In this rotation, yam is inter-planted with vegetables like telfairia, which helps to cover the soil against splashing or rain-drop erosion.

8. Mixed Farming: The integration of animal production and crop production on the same farm is described as mixed farming. By this method, the farmer can operate throughout the year and he can operate economically. He can feed his animals - cattle, pigs, chickens with his farm products, especially at times when such crops are attracting low price in the market.

Also, the need to have a source of manure in order to maintain effective rotation makes some people to combine crop production with animal husbandry.

Another advantage of this system is that farm yard manure can be used to enrich the soil, and also farm by-products like straws, groundnut, and cowpea can be used as livestock feed.

In some communities, the animals not only supply manure but also serve as a means of transportation and provide labour for ploughing.

Conclusion on 8 Agricultural Systems

It has been highlighted to you in this unit that, from time immemorial, traditional agriculture in the forest and savannah zones has proved to be man’s most effective response to his environment in ensuring his survival and prosperity.

Agricultural systems are the various method used by different groups of people for producing crops and livestock in order to supply human needs. Some of these systems include shifting cultivation, crop rotation, mono cropping, monoculture, and mixed farming, to mention just a few.

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