Barcelona Field Studies Centre

Farming Factors

Factors affecting farming

Human Factors Physical Factors

Labour: All farms need either human labour or machinery to do the work. Some farm types use very little labour, e.g. sheep farming. Others require a large labour force, e.g. rice farming in India.

Climate: Temperature – a minimum temperature of 6°C is needed for crops to grow. The growing season is the number of months the temperature is over 6°C. Different crops need a different growing season, e.g. wheat needs 90 days. Rainfall – all crops and animals need water.

Market: This is the customer who buys farm produce. Farmers need to sell their crops and animals to make a profit. Perishable crops such as soft fruits fetch a high price, but need to be grown with a short travelling distance of the market.

Relief: Temperatures decrease by 1>°C every 160 metres vertical height. Uplands are more exposed to wind and rain. Steep slopes also cause thin soils and limit the use of machinery. Lowland areas are more easily farmed.

Finance: Profits are used to pay the wages and to re-invest in the farm, e.g. buying seeds, fertiliser, machinery and animals. This is known as feedback within the farming system.

Soils: Crops grow best on deep, fertile, free-draining soils, e.g. the brown earths found in lowland Britain. Less fertile soils prone to water logging are best used for pastoral farming.

Tradition: Farmers may have always farmed in a certain way and be unwilling to change. Aspect: The direction a slope faces. South-facing slopes are best for growing crops.

Politics: Government may provide subsidies and loans to encourage new farming practices but they may also place limits on production to prevent food surpluses, e.g. quotas and set-aside in the European Union.

Farming in the UK


Arable farming


Hill sheep farming

Market gardening


Growing of cereals, vegetables and animal feeds

Rearing of cattle for milk

Sheep rearing for meat and wool

Growing fruit, vegetables and flowers


Commercial, intensive, arable

Commercial, intensive, pastoral

Commercial, extensive, pastoral

Commercial, intensive, arable


East and south east England, East Anglia

West of Britain and close to large cities

Upland areas of Britain, e.g. Pennines, Lake District

South and east of England and close to large cities

Physical factors

Flat relief; fertile well-drained soils; warm summers; rainfall – under 650mm (some in growing season); winter frosts to break up soil and kill pests

Gentle relief; fertile soils; high rainfall for grass growth; mild winters (over 6°C)

High, steep relief; thin infertile soils; high rainfall (over 1000mm); low temperatures unsuitable for crops

Long hours of sunshine; most other factors are controlled

Human factors

Large market in south east; good transport networks; benefits from EU subsidies and intervention price

Access to large markets; milk subsidies up to the 1980s when quotas introduced

Remote from large markets; limited labour; EU subsidies and grants

Access to motorways and airports; large labour and capital input