AP Human Geography Exam
Vocabulary Definitions
Unit 5: Rural and Agricultural Geography
(Ch. 7 in Barron's)

The following vocabulary items can be found in your review book and class handouts.  These identifications and concepts do not necessarily constitute all that will be covered on the exam.

Unit 1

Nature & Perspectives

Unit 2


Unit 3


Unit 4


Unit 5


Unit 6


Units 7&8


Unit 9

Environmental & Medical


Agriculture: The deliberate effort to modify a portion of Earth’s surface through the cultivation of crops and the raising of livestock for subsistence or economic gain.

Monoculture: producing or growing one crop over a wide area

Polyculture: using multiple crops in the same space, and avoiding large stands of single crops

(imitates the diversity of natural ecosystems); helps prevent monocultures' susceptibility to disease. Can cause agricultural exhaustion if not done efficiently, making people move away from the land.

    -Multi cropping: growing two or more crops in the same space during a single growing season

    -Double cropping: a second crop is planted after the first has been harvested

Aquaculture: The cultivation of aquatic organisms especially for food. 

-Allowed us to use the sea and its abundant sources of food for our benefit.

Agrarian: People or societies that are farmers therefore promote agricultural interest ext.

-Where agrarian people and societies are located is not generally near cities; but these types of people are essential to the way that we live and our ability to live in cities.

Agricultural landscape: The land that we farm on and what we choose to put were on our fields.

- Effects how much yield one gets from their plants.

Sustainable yield – ecological yield that can be extracted without reducing the base of capital itself, the surplus required to maintain nature’s services at the same or increasing level over time. Example, in fisheries the basic natural capital decreases with extraction, but productivity increases; so the sustainable yield is within the ranch that the natural capital together with production are able to provide satisfactory yield.

Sauer, Carl O. – defined cultural landscape, as an area fashioned from nature by a cultural group. A combination of cultural features such as language and religion; economic features such as agriculture and industry; and physical features such as climate and vegetation. “Culture is the agent, the natural area is the medium, the cultural landscape is the result.”

Economic activities:

-Primary: (extractive sector) concerned with the direct extraction of natural resources from the environment (e.g., agriculture, mining, lumbering, fishing, …).

-Secondary: (manufacturing sector) processing of products and assembling raw materials.

-Tertiary: (service sector) provides us with transportation, communication and utilities (transportation, retailing, education, routine office-based jobs, …).

-Quaternary: concerned with the collection, processing, and manipulation of data and capital (e.g., FIRE – finance, insurance, real estate, …).

-Quinary: require a high level of specialized knowledge or technical skill (e.g., scientific research, high-level management).

Agricultural origins: Through time nomadic people noticed the growing of plants in a cycle and began to domesticate them and use for there own use. Carl Sauer points out vegetative planting and seed agriculture as the original forms. He also points out that vegetative planting likely was originated in SE Asia and seed agriculture originated in W. India, N. China and Ethiopia. Without the development of agriculture we would still have a relatively small and likely uneducated population.

Rise of Agriculture: (First Agricultural Revolution)

-Hunting & gathering: Before the agriculture, humans gained food by hunting for animals, fishing, or gathering plants. They lived in small groups (less than 50 people), traveled frequently following game and seasonal growth of plants.

-Metallurgy: technique or science of working or heating metals so as to give them certain desired shapes or properties.  Predates plant and animal domestication (e.g., gold, silver, copper, tin, iron,…).

-Plant domestication:  deliberate tending of crops to gain certain desired attributes; began around 12,000 years ago along several fertile river valleys and cultural hearths.
-Animal domestication:
domestication of animals for selling or using byproducts (the Fertile Crescent had cow, horses, pigs, and sheep, and therefore a comparative advantage over other early culture hearths).

-Helped us obtain meat without having to go out and kill our food right before dinner.

Functional differentiation: as civilizations developed and societies became more complex, so did the function and complexity of the homes and buildings (e.g., a chief’s or leader’s home would typically be larger).

Extensive subsistence agriculture: characterized by low inputs of labor per unit land area.

-Shifting cultivation: (slash-and-burn) vegetation is cut down and then ignited to make the ground more productive (swidden is the term for this prepared land); each field is used for a couple years then left fallow for a relatively long time.

-Nomadic herding/pastoralism: (animal husbandry) based on herding domesticated animals.

Intensive subsistence agriculture – a form of subsistence agriculture that involves effective and efficient use of labor on small plots of land to maximize crop yields. Popular in East, South, and Southeast Asia, because the ratio between farmers and arable land is so high, most of the work is done by the family by hand or by animal with processes refined over thousands of years.

Second Agricultural Revolution: precursor to Industrial Revolution in the 19th c., that allowed a shift in work force beyond subsistence farming to allow labor to work in factories. Started in United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Denmark, especially with the Enclosure Act, which consolidated land in Great Britain. Potatoes and corn diffused from America’s to Europe, and other resources followed from colonial possessions to Europe.

-Crop Rotation: The practice of rotating use of different fields from crop to crop each year, to avoid exhausting the soil.  Takes up large areas of land but keeps land usable for future generations.

-Little Ice Age: period of global cooling that occurred between the 16th c. and 19th c. after the Medieval Warm Period (~10th c. to 14th c.); greatly affected the northern empires of Rome and China (e.g., helped lead the Chinese to abandon overseas expeditions and focus inward to protect their lands).

Food manufacturing: the Green Revolution has increased production to avoid widespread famine. Allowing the world population to grow about four billion since stared, also allowing populations in developing nations to consume ~25% more than before. This increase in diets is questioned by the content in diets; Asian farmers are eating more rice than fish and other vegetables because they can rely on rice to grow efficiently.

Von Thünen Model: (The Isolated State) 1826, Northern Germany. When choosing an enterprise, a commercial farmer compares two costs; cost of the land versus the cost of transporting production to market. Identifies a crop that can be sold for more than the land cost, distance of land to market is critical because the cost of transporting varies by crop. Von Thunen’s theory disregards site or human factors.

      Also found that specific crops were grown in varying rings around city:

1.   Market-oriented gardens and milk producers in first ring, because of expense of transportation and perishability.

2.    In the next rings wood lots used for construction and fuel; it is a heavy industry with high transportation costs.

3.   Next rings are used for various crops or pasture

4.   The outermost ring devoted to animal grazing.

Commercial agriculture: characterized by integration of different steps in the food-processing industry, usually through ownership by large corporations.
Plantation agriculture:
based on a large estate owned by an individual, family, or corporation and organized to produce a cash crop. Mostly established in or near the tropics – many have been divided into smaller holdings, or reorganized as cooperatives (owned by a group of individuals).

Growing season – the season in which crops grow best. Growing seasons can vary by location, societies rely on their growing season to which crops they can or can’t grow at their latitude.
Location of world crops: (cultivation regions)

-Dairy: expensive transportation and storage makes it most profitable near larger markets (e.g., NE US and NW Europe).

-Commercial grains: (wheat, corn,…) most profitable in the temperate zone with decent land fertility (e.g., Eastern US, Mid to East Europe, …).

-Rice: a commercial grain that is the staple of many Asian nations; China is the largest producer, US is the largest exporter.

-Livestock ranching – commercial grazing of livestock over an extensive area. Practiced is semi-arid or arid land, where vegetation is too sparse or the soil to too poor to support crops. Prominent in later 19th century in the American West; ranchers free roamed throughout the West, until the U.S. government began selling land to farmers who outlined their farms with barbed wire, forcing the ranchers to establish large ranches to allow their cattle to graze.
farming in the land surrounding the Mediterranean Sea (Southern Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia), also in lands with similar climates (California, central Chile, Southwestern South Africa, and Southwestern Australia). Sea winds provide moisture and moderate winter; land is hilly with mountains frequently plunging directly into sea. Growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, and tree crops are the main crops, while animals are grown under transhumance – kept on coastal plains in winter and moved to hills in the summer.

-Cash crops: crops grown for money; more specifically refers to more specialized crops located mainly in or near the tropics (e.g., sugar, cotton, rubber, bananas, oranges, …)

-Luxury crops: specialized crops typically not essential to human survival; historically grown on plantations by European colonial powers (e.g., tea, coffee, tobacco, cocoa (or cacao), …).

-Illegal drugs: illegal cash crops are typically grown in the periphery and sold to the core; coca (cocaine; >50% grown in Colombia); poppy (heroin, opium; >90% grown in Afghanistan & Myanmar); marijuana (or cannabis).

Staple grains – Maize (corn), wheat, and rice are the most produced grains produced world wide, accounting for 87% of all grains and 43% of all food. Maize staple food of North America, South American, Africa, and livestock worldwide, wheat is primary in temperate regions, and rice in tropical regions.

Market gardening – The small scale production of fruits, vegetables, and flowers as cash crops sold directly to local consumers. Distinguishable by the large diversity of crops grown on a small area of land, during a single growing season. Labor is done manually.

Truck farm – Commercial gardening and fruit farming, so named because truck was a Middle English word meaning bartering or the exchange of commodities. Predominant in Southeastern U.S.A, because of the long growing season and humid climate, accessibility to large markets of New York, Philadelphian, and Washington. Truck farms grow many of the fruits and vegetables that consumers demand in developed societies. Truck farms sell some of their product to fresh markets, but mostly to large processors for canning or freezing. Truck farms are highly efficient and large-scale operations that take full advantage of machines at every stage of the growing process.

Feedlot: a plot of land on which livestock are fattened for market.

Third Agricultural Revolution: (Green Revolution) Rapid diffusion of new agricultural technology, especially new high-yield seeds and fertilizer. Because of Green Revolution, agricultural productivity at a global scale has increased faster than the population. (e.g., major impact in Mexico, India, China, …)

-Mechanization: Farmers need tractors, irrigation pumps, and other machinery to make the most effective use of the new miracle seeds. Farmer’s in LDC’s cannot afford this machinery or the fuel to run the equipment, so governments must allocate funds to subsidizing the cost of seeds, fertilizers and machinery.

-Biotechnology: using living organisms in a useful way to produce commercial products like pest resistant crops.

-Has helped the farmers grow a more bountiful harvest through the using of pesticides.  Genetically modified organisms (GMOs, or genetically modified foods) have had their genes altered in a laboratory for  specific reason (e.g., disease resistance, nutritional value, or increased productivity); grant producers greater control, predictability, and efficiency.

-Agribusiness: general term for businesses that provide goods and services that support agriculture; many are vertically integrated (see reading guide).

Commodity chains: (e.g. agribusiness) a sequential process used by firms to gather resources, transform them into goods or commodities and, finally, distribute them to consumers.

Chemical Farming – increased use of fertilizers with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The development of higher-yield crops has produced: a ‘miracle wheat seed” which is shorter and stiffer, less sensitive to variation in day length, responds better to fertilizers, and matures faster; a similar miracle rice seed, that was heartier and has increased yields; a high-yield corn seed is currently being developed.

Hybridization: the cross breeding of plants of different varieties in order to produce a new plant with desirable traits from both parent varieties; the Green Revolution has popularized its use

 - Benefits of hybridization - increased yields, better resistance to pests and diseases, and the

   ability to increase production of a crop in different regions and climates.

Food irradiation: began in the early 1900s; provides the same benefits as when food is processed by heat, refrigeration, freezing or treated with chemicals to destroy insects, fungi, bacteria, or viruses that cause food to spoil or cause human disease; makes it possible to keep food longer and in better condition in warehouses and homes.

Organic agriculture: approach to farming and ranching that avoids the use of herbicides, pesticides, growth hormones, and other similar synthetic inputs.

Rural settlement: Sparsely settled places away from the influence of large cities. Live in villages, hamlets on farms, or in other isolated houses. Typically have an agricultural character, with an economy based on logging, mining, petroleum, natural gas or tourism (ecotourism).

-Dispersed: characterized by farmers living on individual farms isolated from neighbors rather than alongside other farmers in the area.

-Nucleated: a number of families live in close proximity to each other, with fields surrounding the collection of houses and farm buildings (e.g., Asian longhouse)

Rural dwellings:

-Unchanged-traditional: layout, construction, and appearance have not been significantly altered by external influences.
new building materials used, but no change to the original structure or layout.

-Modernized-traditional: materials and layout have been changed (e.g. multiple bathrooms, two-car garage, aluminum siding, etc…)
sacrifices tradition for practicality & efficiency; reflects advanced technology, comfort, affluence, and suburbanization (most common in US)

Building materials: (wood, brick, stone, wattle, grass & brush) houses and buildings are typically built from materials that are abundant in the area.

Folk-housing: building styles that are particular to the culture of the people who have long inhabited the area; there are three distinct folk-housing regions in the United States (by way of Europe):

-New England: dating back to colonial times is of wood-frame and diffused past Wisconsin.

-Mid Atlantic: style originated as a one-room log cabin with a chimney at one end diffusing into Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

-Southern (Tidewater South): style was originally smaller, only one story, and a porch that diffused southward into Georgia.  They were often built on a raised platform to reduce heat.

Maladaptive diffusion: diffusion of an idea or innovation that is not suitable for the environment in which it diffused into (e.g., New England-style homes in Hawaii, or Ranch-style homes in northeast US).
Village forms: (linear, cluster, round, walled, grid pattern)
(see reading guide)
Patterns of Rural Settlement:
particular to the region in which they originated, or diffused to other parts of the world through diffusion and colonization.

-Primogeniture: system which the eldest son in a family (or daughter if necessary) inherits all of a dying parent’s land (tradition brought by the Normans to England).

-Cadastral system: survey system that determines the value, extent, and ownership of land for purposes of taxation.

-Rectangular: (Public Land Survey) US system set up to parcel land west of the Appalachian Mountains (e.g., Township-and-Range System).

Survey systems:

-Long Lots (French) – houses erected on narrow lots perpendicular along a river, so that each original settler had equal river access.

-Metes and Bounds (English) – uses physical features of the local geography, along with directions and distances, to define the boundaries of a particular piece of land. Metes refers to boundary defined by a measurement of a straight run, bounds refers to a more general boundary, such as a waterway, wall, public road, or existing building.

Township-and-Range (U.S.A) – survey’s used west of Ohio, after the purchase of the Louisiana Purchase. Land is divided into six-mile square blocks (township), which is then divided into one-mile square blocks (range). Ranges were then broken into smaller parcels to be sold or given to people to develop.

Nutrition & Diet:

-Caloric intake: often excessive in the core and deficient in the periphery (e.g., >50% of US adult population is overweight, … >30,000 people starve to death each day worldwide!) (World Bank determines 2,500 calories per day is adequate).

-Dietary balance: calories alone does not determine a balanced diet, but necessary requirements for the body to function and survive (e.g., the “food pyramid”)

-Hidden hunger: people who may consume enough calories to survive, but lack certain nutrients – specifically protein (protein deficiency in the first three years can cause permanent damage; both to mental capacity & physical growth).

Reducing global hunger: (see reading guide)

Debt-for-nature swap: when agencies such as the World Bank make a deal with third world countries that they will cancel their debt if the country will set aside a certain amount of their natural resources.
Life expectancy: (infant & child mortality rate)
a figure indicating how long an average person may be expected to live. Normally expressed in the context of a state. Relatively high mortality rates may drastically lower life expectancy, as seen in many least developed countries (LDCs).