Derwent Stainthorpe Whittlesey (1890-1956) was an American geographer. He was born in Illinois and received his master’s degree in history from the University of Chicago in 1913. He served in World War I, where he developed an interest in the role of geography in warfare.
After the war, Whittlesey earned his doctorate in geography from Harvard University in 1922. He then joined the faculty of Harvard, where he remained for the rest of his career. He was the only professor of geography at Harvard for many years.
Whittlesey was a prolific author and wrote extensively on a variety of geographical topics, including political geography, economic geography, and historical geography. He is best known for his work on the geography of Africa, which he visited several times. He also wrote about the geography of the Boston region and the geography of war.
Whittlesey was a leading figure in the field of geography in the United States during the mid-20th century. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He also served as president of the Association of American Geographers from 1941 to 1942.
Whittlesey’s work has had a lasting impact on the field of geography. He is credited with developing the concept of “sequence occupancy,” which refers to the way in which different societies have modified the physical landscape over time. He also made significant contributions to the study of political geography and the geography of Africa.
Here are some of Whittlesey’s most notable contributions to geography:
- He coined the term “sequence occupancy” to describe the way in which different societies have modified the physical landscape over time.
- He developed a classification system for the world’s agricultural regions.
- He was a leading expert on the geography of Africa.
- He wrote extensively on the geography of war and national power.
- He was a strong advocate for the use of geography in public policy.
Derwent Whittlesey’s Classification of World Agricultural Regions is a system of classifying the world’s agricultural regions based on the combination of crops and livestock raised and the intensity of farming. Whittlesey classification system is widely used even today. It was published in 1936 in ‘Annals of Association of American Geographers (vol. 26: 199-240)’. The classification was further refined by Thomson and Fryer in 1962, 65.
Derwent Whittlesey delineated the agricultural system of the earth on the following five characteristics of agriculture:
- Crop and livestock association: This refers to the combination of crops and livestock raised in a particular region. For example, in some regions, farmers may specialize in raising livestock, such as cattle or sheep. In other regions, farmers may grow a variety of crops, such as wheat, corn, and soybeans.
- Labour and capital intensity: This refers to the amount of labour and capital that is used in agricultural production. In some regions, agriculture is labour-intensive, meaning that a lot of manual labour is used to produce crops and livestock. In other regions, agriculture is capital-intensive, meaning that a lot of machinery and technology is used.
- Productivity: This refers to the amount of output that is produced per unit of input. In some regions, agricultural productivity is high, meaning that farmers are able to produce a lot of crops and livestock with relatively little input. In other regions, agricultural productivity is low, meaning that farmers need to use a lot of input to produce a relatively small amount of output.
- Consumption pattern of production: This refers to how the agricultural products are used. In some regions, most agricultural products are consumed domestically. In other regions, most agricultural products are exported to other countries.
- Methods and techniques used: This refers to the specific methods and techniques that farmers use to produce crops and livestock. For example, some farmers may use traditional farming methods, such as hand ploughing and irrigation. Other farmers may use modern farming methods, such as mechanization and chemical fertilizers.
On the basis of the above five characteristics, Whittlesey gave 4 major regions subdivided into 13 minor agricultural regions.
- Nomadic herding: This type of agriculture is practised in arid and semi-arid regions of Central Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. Nomadic herding is a type of agriculture in which livestock are herded from one place to another in search of fresh pasture and water. It is a traditional way of life that has been practised for thousands of years, and it is still common in many parts of the world today. Nomadic herders typically live in arid and semi-arid regions where crop production is difficult. They raise a variety of livestock, including cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and reindeer. The specific types of livestock that are raised vary depending on the environment and the needs of the herders. Nomadic herders move their livestock seasonally to find fresh pasture and water. In the spring, they move to higher elevations where the snow has melted and the grass is new. In the fall, they move to lower elevations where the weather is milder.
- Shifting cultivation: Shifting cultivation, also known as swidden agriculture or slash-and-burn farming, is an agricultural system in which plots of land are cultivated temporarily, then abandoned while post-disturbance fallow vegetation is allowed to freely grow while the cultivator moves on to another plot. The period of cultivation is usually terminated when the soil shows signs of exhaustion or, more commonly, when the field is overrun by weeds. The period of time during which the field is cultivated is usually shorter than the period over which the land is allowed to regenerate by lying fallow. Shifting cultivation is an ancient agricultural system that has been practiced for thousands of years. It is still used today by millions of people around the world, particularly in tropical rainforests. Shifting cultivation is typically practiced in areas with poor soils and high rainfall. The process begins with the clearing of a small plot of forest. The trees are felled and the vegetation is burned. The ashes from the fire fertilize the soil, and the farmer then plants crops such as rice, maize, cassava, and beans. The crops are harvested after one or two growing seasons. After that, the plot of land is abandoned and allowed to lie fallow for several years. During this time, the forest regrows and the soil is restored. It is practised in tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Rudimentary sedentary agriculture: It is a type of agriculture in which farmers cultivate the same plot of land year after year, using simple tools and techniques. It is a more advanced form of agriculture than shifting cultivation, but it is still relatively basic. Rudimentary sedentary agriculture is typically practiced in areas with limited resources, such as poor soils and low rainfall. Farmers use simple tools such as hoes and digging sticks to cultivate the land. They may also use manure or other organic matter to fertilize the soil. Farmers typically plant a variety of crops in their fields, including grains, vegetables, and fruits. They may also raise livestock, such as chickens, goats, and pigs. It is practiced in the regions of Africa, Southeast Asia’s, South America, Central America.
Intensive subsistence agriculture with paddy crop dominance: It is a type of agriculture in which rice is the main crop and is grown intensively on small plots of land. This type of agriculture is common in East and Southeast Asia, where rice is the staple food. Farmers who practice intensive subsistence agriculture with paddy crop dominance use a variety of techniques to maximize their yields. These techniques include:
- Terracing: Terracing is a practice of building level shelves on hillsides to create more arable land. This helps to prevent soil erosion and allows farmers to grow rice on steeper slopes.
- Irrigation: Irrigation is the practice of supplying water to crops artificially. This is essential for rice cultivation, as rice needs to be grown in water.
- Crop rotation: Crop rotation is the practice of planting different crops in the same field in succession. This helps to maintain soil fertility and reduce the risk of pests and diseases.
- Intercropping: Intercropping is the practice of planting two or more crops together in the same field. This can help to improve soil fertility and reduce the risk of crop failure.
Intensive subsistence agriculture with paddy crop dominance is a labour-intensive type of agriculture. Farmers typically work long hours to cultivate their fields and harvest their crops. However, this type of agriculture is also very productive, and farmers are able to produce enough food to feed their families and sell any surplus in the market.
Intensive subsistence agriculture without paddy crop dominance: It is a type of agriculture in which crops are grown intensively on small plots of land, but rice is not the main crop. This type of agriculture is common in areas where rice cannot be grown, such as dry regions or areas with high altitudes.
Farmers who practice intensive subsistence agriculture without paddy crop dominance use a variety of techniques to maximize their yields on small plots of land. These techniques include:
- Fertilizer: Farmers use manure or other organic fertilizers to improve the fertility of the soil.
- Crop rotation: Farmers plant different crops in the same field in succession to maintain soil fertility and reduce the risk of pests and diseases.
- Intercropping: Farmers plant two or more crops together in the same field to improve soil fertility and reduce the risk of crop failure.
- Irrigation: Farmers irrigate their crops in areas where rainfall is not sufficient.
- Terracing: Farmers terrace hillsides to create more arable land and prevent soil erosion.
The specific crops that are grown in intensive subsistence agriculture without paddy crop dominance vary depending on the local climate and soil conditions. Some common crops include: Wheat, Barley, Millet, Sorghum, Maize, Beans, Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, Vegetables
Intensive subsistence agriculture without paddy crop dominance is a labour-intensive type of agriculture, but it is also very productive and can provide enough food for a family. It is a way of life that is deeply connected to the land and culture in many parts of the world.
Subsistence crop and livestock farming: This type of agriculture is practised in a variety of climates and soils in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This is a type of agriculture in which farmers grow crops and raise livestock to meet their own needs and the needs of their families. This type of agriculture is common in developing countries and rural areas, where people may not have access to markets or have limited incomes. Farmers typically grow a variety of crops, such as grains, vegetables, and fruits. They may also raise livestock, such as chickens, goats, and pigs. This allows them to have a diversified diet and to reduce their risk of crop failure.
Subsistence crop and livestock farming is a labour-intensive type of agriculture. Farmers typically work long hours to cultivate their fields, care for their livestock, and harvest their crops. However, it can also be a very rewarding way of life. Farmers have a deep connection to the land and a wealth of knowledge about the crops and animals they care for.
Mediterranean agriculture: This is a type of agriculture that is practised in the Mediterranean region. This region is characterized by a Mediterranean climate, which is characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. The crops grown in this region are well-suited to such climate, as they are able to withstand the hot, dry summers.
Crops grown under this system are of high value. Some examples of such crops are:
- Olive groves of Spain
- Vineyards of Italy
- Citrus groves of Greece
- Vegetable farms in Morocco
Livestock ranching: This type of agriculture is practised in the temperate grasslands of North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. This is a type of agriculture in which animals are raised on large tracts of land. Ranchers typically raise cattle, sheep, and horses, but other animals such as goats, bison, and elk can also be ranched. Ranching is practised in many parts of the world, but it is most common in dry regions where crops cannot be grown easily. Ranchers use the land to produce grazing for their animals, and they may also raise hay and other crops to feed their animals in the winter.
Regions in which livestock ranching is practised
- North America: The Great Plains of the United States and Canada are major cattle ranching regions.
- South America: The Pampas region of Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil is a major cattle and sheep ranching region.
- Australia: The Outback is a major cattle and sheep ranching region.
- Africa: The Sahel region of North Africa and the savannas of East and Southern Africa are major cattle ranching regions.
- Asia: The steppes of Central Asia and the grasslands of Mongolia are major cattle and sheep ranching regions.
Extensive commercial grain farming: This is a type of agriculture in which large areas of land are used to grow grains such as wheat, corn, and soybeans. This type of agriculture is typically practised in semi-arid regions where the climate is not suitable for other types of crops.
Extensive commercial grain farming is characterized by the use of large machinery and high-yield crop varieties. This type of agriculture is also characterized by low yields per hectare, but high yields per person. This is because extensive commercial grain farming uses less labour than other types of agriculture. This type of farming is also done in temperate grasslands.
Commercial grain and livestock farming: This type of agriculture is practised in the temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Australia. It is a type of agriculture in which crops and livestock are raised for sale in the market. This type of farming is typically practised on a large scale, and it uses modern farming methods and technologies to produce high yields.
Some features of this type of farming are
- High productivity: Commercial grain and livestock farming is very efficient at producing large quantities of food. This is important for meeting the needs of a growing global population.
- Economic benefits: Commercial grain and livestock farming can provide a good income for farmers and other people involved in the agricultural sector. It can also contribute to rural economic development.
- Global food security: Commercial grain and livestock farming plays an important role in global food security by ensuring that there is a sufficient supply of food available to meet the needs of the global population.
Commercial dairy farming: This type of agriculture is practised in the temperate regions of Europe, North America, and Australia. It is a type of agriculture that involves the raising of dairy cows for the production of milk and milk products. This type of farming is typically practised on a large scale, and it uses modern farming methods and technologies to produce high yields.
Commercial dairy farms are typically found in areas with a mild climate and abundant land. Some of the major regions of commercial dairy farming include:
- The United States
- New Zealand
Commercial dairy farms typically have large herds of dairy cows, and they use a variety of technologies to manage their herds and produce milk efficiently. Some of the technologies used in commercial dairy farming include:
- Milking machines
- Automated feeding systems
- Cow monitoring systems
- Reproductive technologies
- Refrigeration systems
Commercial dairy farming is an important part of the global food system. It provides milk and milk products for billions of people around the world.
Horticulture intensive agriculture: It is a type of agriculture that focuses on the cultivation of high-value horticultural crops, such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants, on a small scale using intensive methods. It is often practised in areas with high population density and limited land availability.
Horticulture-intensive agriculture is characterized by the use of a variety of techniques to maximize crop yields, such as:
- High-density planting
- Pest and disease control
- Protected cultivation (e.g., greenhouses)
This type of agriculture can be very productive and can provide a good income for farmers. However, it is also labour-intensive and can be expensive to implement. It is practised in densely populated regions of Europe, North America, and Asia.
Plantation agriculture: In this type of agriculture a single crop or a small number of crops are grown on a large scale, typically for commercial purposes. Plantation agriculture is often practised in tropical and subtropical regions, where the climate is suitable for growing high-value crops such as coffee, cocoa, tea, sugar cane, rubber, and palm oil.
Plantation agriculture is characterized by the following features:
- Large-scale production: Plantation farms are typically very large, often covering thousands of hectares.
- Monoculture: Plantation farms typically grow a single crop or a small number of crops. This is because monoculture is more efficient and profitable than polyculture.
- Intensive use of land and labour: Plantation agriculture is a very intensive form of agriculture, requiring a large amount of land and labour.
- Use of machinery: Plantation agriculture often relies heavily on machinery to cultivate and harvest crops.
- Export orientation: Plantation crops are often grown for export, rather than for domestic consumption.
Here are some examples of plantation agriculture:
- Coffee plantations in Brazil
- Cocoa plantations in Ghana
- Tea plantations in India
- Sugar cane plantations in Cuba
- Rubber plantations in Malaysia
- Palm oil plantations in Indonesia