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Land: Meaning, Importance and Other Details

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Meaning of Land:

Economics is a science of everyday life. It has to use words of everyday language.

But it gives them a meaning of its own, sometimes narrow and at other times wide.

The term ‘value’, for example, has been given a narrow meaning and ‘land’ a very wide one.

“By land is meant not merely land in the strict sense of the word, but whole of the materials and forces which nature gives freely for man’s aid in land, water, in air and light and heat.” –Dr. Marshall.

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In Economics, the word ‘land’ is used not merely in the sense of the soil or surface of the earth as is ordinarily understood. It stands for all nature, living and lifeless. It includes all natural resources that we can get free from air, water and land. It covers the land surface, whether level or mountainous.

It includes oceans, lakes and rivers, mineral deposits, rainfall, water-power, fisheries, forests and numerous other things which nature provides and man uses. The term ‘land’ thus embraces all that nature has created on the earth, above the earth, and below the earth’s surface. Dr. Marshall has therefore defined land thus: “By land is meant not merely land in the strict sense of the word, but whole of the materials and forces which nature gives freely for man’s aid in land, water, in air and light and heat.”

Importance of Land:

Land as a factor of production is of immense importance. As has already been pointed out, everything that we use can be traced ultimately to land. Land may be rightly called the original source of all material wealth. The economic prosperity of a country is closely linked with the richness of her natural resources.

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Generally speaking, it is true to say that a country is what nature has made it. It is possible that a country, rich in natural resources, may remain poor (e.g., India) owing to some unfavorable factors. But if nature has been unkind and has not given rich resources to a country, it will not be easy to make it prosperous.

Obviously, the quality and quantity of agricultural wealth in a country depends on the nature of the soil, climate, and rainfall. Agricultural products, in their turn, form the very basis of trade and industry. Industrial prosperity further depends on the presence of rich coal-mines or waterfalls from which electricity can be generated. Localisation of industry depends on the proximity of power and raw materials and they are largely determined by nature. The presence of cheap and efficient means of transport is largely conditioned by the topography of a country.

Thus, all aspects of economic life-agriculture, trade and industry—are generally influenced by natural resources which the economists call ‘land’. Land or nature has a determining influence in moulding the life, occupations and standard of living of a people.

Peculiarities of Land:

Lana as a factor of production is quite peculiar. It possesses some important features, which distinguish it from other factors of production.

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They are given below:

Land is a free gift of nature:

It is not a ‘produced’ or man-made agent. It follows, therefore, that we have to accept it as it is. No doubt man tries to improve and modify nature. But he cannot completely master it. A poor soil and a bad climate are great handicaps in the way of industrial and commercial prosperity.

Land is limited in area:

Efforts have been made to reclaim land from the sea, and thus add to the total land surface. Yet these efforts have produced only negligible results as compared with the total area already in existence. Some land in Holland has been reclaimed from the sea, but it is after all a small percentage of the total land surface of the world.

Land is permanent:

It is not easy to destroy it. All other factors are destructible, but land cannot be completely destroyed. Even the havoc wrought by an atom bomb can be cured and natural powers restored after some time.

Land lacks mobility:

Land cannot be moved bodily from one place to another. It lacks geographical mobility. But it can be put to many alternative uses and is thus mobile from a different point of view.

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Land is of infinite variety:

Land is not man-made. Nature has so made it ‘hat different pieces of land present infinite variations. None can say where the sandy soil ends and the clay begins. One type shades into the other. Such minute variations are not found in any other factor of production. Besides the situation of different pieces of land also varies.

Why Qualities of Land Differ?

There are several reasons which account for differences in the qualities of land:

Differences in Fertility:

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Some lands are too sandy and some too rocky; some are dry, while others receive ample rainfall. Some have a good climate, while others cannot support human life. The constituents of the soil also vary. All such things make a difference in the quality of the land.

Differences in Location:

A piece of land situated near a market is more convenient than one away from it. Situation is an important differentiating factor. A favourable situation may make a less fertile piece of land equal in value to one which is more fertile but has a bad situation.

Factors Affecting Productivity of Land:

Different pieces of land differ in quality or productivity. A number of factors affect the productivity of land.

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Productivity of land mainly depends on the following factors:

Natural Factors:

Natural factors like the soil, climate, rainfall, topography and nature of the coast-line determine whether land produces much or little. A sandy soil and dry climate are sure to make it unproductive. On the other hand, an alluvial soil, a good climate, and timely rainfall are conducive to rich crops.

Human Factor:

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Man does not easily surrender to nature. If nature is unkind, he fights her and tries to conquer her. For instance, if rainfall is scanty, he can bring canal water. If soil is poor and deficient in certain properties, it can be improved by the addition of chemical manures. In fact, man plays an important part in remedying the deficiencies of nature and contributing to the productivity of the son.

Situation Factor:

The situation of land is of great importance. Fertile lands, situated in a remote corner of the country, away from the market, may be left uncultivated. The cost of transporting their produce may be prohibitive. Such land cannot compare with those pieces of land which, though not so rich, are near to market.

Extensive and Intensive Cultivation:

Extensive Cultivation:

It is necessary to understand the distinction between extensive and intensive cultivation. In extensive cultivation, the farmer can have as much land as he can manage. The methods of cultivation are generally primitive and unscientific.

The yield per acre is comparatively low, but taken in relation to the capital and labour employed, it is large. Virgin lands yield good crops even though much work is not done on them. When they are exhausted, more land is available. Here seeds are just sown and crops harvested when ripe. Such methods were followed in new countries like the U.S.A. and Canada a hundred years back.

Intensive Cultivation:

Intensive cultivation, on the other hand, implies constant cropping from the same area. If more and more capital and labour are applied to the same piece of land, the system of cultivation is known as Intensive. Greater application of labour and capital involves the use of artificial irrigation, deeper ploughing, sowing of improved seeds, use of artificial manures and of modern implements and machinery. In such cases, land yields more per acre. By cultivating it more intensively, the farmer tries to take the utmost out of his land. This method is followed in those countries where land area relatively to population is small.

Does Extensive Cultivation Mean Large-Scale Farming and Intensive Cultiva­tion Small-Scale Farming?

Not necessarily:

It might seem that as the farmer has a large area at his disposal in extensive cultivation, cultivation must be on a large scale. In the same way, intensive cultivation seems to imply a small farm. The farmer is supposed to be trying to get the utmost out of a small piece of land by applying more and more labour and capital to the same piece of land.

But this may not be so:

The difference between extensive and intensive cultivation is one of method rather that of the size of the farm. In advanced countries like Canada, the U.S.A. and Australia, and even in Russia where land is nationalized, the farms are very big, sometimes extending over miles. But the methods of cultivation are intensive. Large amounts of capital are invested in the land.

The soil is thoroughly ploughed by tractors; the seed is most carefully selected; irrigation facilities are ample; and manuring is heavy. Agriculture is carried on in a scientific manner. It is, in short, intensive cultivation.

In countries like India, however, the holdings are very small, but cropping is very poor. Our method of cultivation is extensive. This is one of the important cause’s f the backwardness of Indian agriculture. After the attainment of independence, and specially since we started the process of five-Year plans in 1950-51, intensive cultivation has been given great importance.

The recent adoption of new agricultural technology involving the use of high-yielding varieties of seeds use to chemical fertilizers, irrigation by tube-wells, use of pesticides and double or treble cropping indicates the trend towards intensive cultivation. This is necessary for increasing our agricultural production to achieve self-sufficiency in both food for our people and raw materials for our expanding industries. Good results have been achieved. This is known as ‘Green Revolution’.

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