The following points highlight the four main stages in development of agriculture in different regions. The stages are: 1. Forest Fallow 2. Short Fallow 3. Annual Cultivation 4. Multiple Cropping.
Stage # 1. Forest Fallow:
Cutting and burning parts of a forest release nutrients contained in the plants; this fertilizes the land, allowing it to support crops. But this fertility lasts only until crops deplete the soil of its nutrients, and the farmers then move on to another part of the forest, repeating the cycle. In the meantime, they leave the original land fallow for up to 20 years, to restore its fertility.
Stage # 2. Short Fallow:
As human population density grows, grassland replaces the forest and farmers shorten the fallow period to one or two years. This is not long enough to fully restore the soil, to let it support crops, so added fertilizer-often animal manure-is required. Farmers often plant special legumes to accelerate restoration of soil fertility. In addition, they achieve higher yields by manual pest control.
Stage # 3. Annual Cultivation:
With a still-increasing population, now coupled with market demand, farmers drop the fallow period and grow a crop every year. Now they need constant fertilization and pest control to keep up the yield. Crop rotations increase the sustainability of the system.
Stage # 4. Multiple Cropping:
This is the most intensive use of the land. Not only do farmers grow several crops on the same land sequentially in one year, but also they grow two or more crops at the same time. Farmers often follow this latter pattern, called intercropping, for the same reason as they rotate crops: One species removes one type of nutrients, and the intercrop removes other nutrients.