Soils Systems & Food Production

Study and revision resources

Fig 5.1: Introduction to soil systems slide show

Phosphorus in Soils

Read this BBC article and answer the following questions:

  1. Why is phosphorus so important in soil?
  2. Where do most farmers get phosphorus from?
  3. What % of global phosphorus reserves does Morocco have?
  4. Why are people concerned about phosphorus supplies?
  5. Why are acid soils problematic for enhancing phosphorus content?
  6. Healthy soils are a rich ecosystem - explain this.
Fig 5.2: Food Production Systems slide show

Key Points

You should be have an understanding of differing food production systems in terms of:

  • Their inputs (natural/human), the process involved and the level of outputs
  • Their scale and whether they are commercial or subsistance models
  • Their environmental/social/economic impacts

You should know two examples in detail that you can use in an exam.

You should also be able to discuss the issue of food waste, how it differes between developed and developing countries and approaches that could be used to reduce it

Case Study: Thanet Earth

Fig 5.21: Thanet Earth, Intensive Commercial production

Watch fig 5.21 and the the slide show for unit 5.2 to answer the following questions:

  1. Draw/save a locational map of Thanet Earth
  2. What type of farming system is Thanet Earth?
  3. What does Thanet Earth Produce?
  4. Describe the natural inputs (relief, climate).
  5. Describe the human inputs (labour, raw materials, capital, technology).
  6. Explain how the capital inputs allow such large output from a small area of land.
  7. Describe the ways in which the system is attempting to be more environmentally sustainable.
  8. Evaluate the environmental impact of the food production system, for example, pollution, habitat loss, reduction in biodiversity, soil erosion

Case Study: Palm Oil Production

Fig 5.22: Rainforest destruction and Palm oil Production

Use these 2 WWF pages to answer the following questions:

  1. Palm Oil Production
  2. 8 Things you should know about Palm Oil
  3. What is palm oil used for?
  4. Where does palm oil grow?
  5. Why is it used over other types of vegetable oil?
  6. What are the main environmental issues associated with palm oil plantations?
  7. Watch the video (fig 5.2.9), describe the message that it is conveying.

Polyculture Farming

Research what polyculture farming is:

  1. Describe polyculture approaches to farming?
  2. Why are they considered more environmentally sustainable?
  3. What are the limitations/restrictions of polyculture farming?
  4. Give an example of polyculture farming being used (where, what crops, benefits)

The Importance of Biodiversity

Use this Guardian article to answer the followong questions:

  1. Describe what 'biodiversity' is.
  2. Summarise the main reasons why biodiversity is very important.
  3. How much money does biodiversity loss cost Europe each year?
  4. How many species have been identified/recorded?
  5. Which biome has the most biodiversity? Why?
  6. How many bacteria are there thought to be in a spoonful of soil?
  7. What % of flying insects have been lost in Germany over 25 years?
  8. AHow many hectares of forest were lost/removed in 2016?
  9. By how much have freshwater populations declined since 1970? Why?

The Decline of Insect Populations

Use this Guardian article to answer the followong questions:

  1. What % decline has there been in insect mass has there been per year over the last 25 years.
  2. What % of the insect species are in decline?
  3. Why should we be concerned about insect decline? (explain).
  4. Describe the decline of bee populations in America. Why is this a major environmental issue?
  5. Explain why insect populations are plummeting.

Food Waste

Watch the TED talk video and read the 2 article linked below.

  1. How much food is wasted globally each year?
  2. Why is it so important that we reduce the amount of food we waste globally?
  3. Describe and explain the causes of food waste in developing countries (refer to infrastructure, pests), use the example of the woman in Uganda.
  4. Describe and explain the causes of food waste (mainly by developed countries) due to:
    • supermarket requirements (shape, size, colour, imperfections etc).
    • consumer tastes (crusts on sandwiches).
    • Over-purchasing of food that we don't eat.
  5. Research ways in which we can reduce food waste, give an example for:
    • changes that individuals/families can make
    • changes that business can make
    • changes that governments can make
Fig 5.22: Food Waste, TED talks

Cultural factors and changing attitudes

Watch the TED talk video and read the 2 article linked below.

  1. Explain why eating a meat based diet is less sustainable than plant based diets (describe the loss as you move up trophic levels).
  2. How do cultural factors affect the amount of meat that societies consume?
  3. Read page 95: Explain how organic farming and buffer zones can make farming more sustainable. What are the limitations of organic farming?
  4. Scroll through the interactive page below (Fig 5.2.19). Explain with examples why it takes 15400 litres of water to produce a kilo of beef in the American intensive style of cattle farming.
  5. Screen shot the diagram that shows how much water is needed to produce a kilo of several different food types, add it to your notes.
Fig 5.22: Food Waste, TED talks
Fig 3.15: Systems and Models slideshow
Fig 3.14: Feedback Loops


Use this Unesco pdf about desertification to answerr the following questions

  1. How does the UNCCD define desertification? [1 mark]
  2. Outline the causes of desertification. [5 marks]
  3. What is the result of desertification? [3 marks]
  4. What proportion of the Earth’s land surface experiences desertification? [1 mark]
  5. Outline the environmental consequences of desertification. [7 marks]
  6. Outline the effects of desertification on socio-economic conditions. [6 marks]
  7. How can desertified land be restored? [5 marks]
  8. Describe three agricultural practices that may harm the environment. [3 marks]
Fig 5.22: Food Waste, TED talks
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