What Factors Affect Agricultural Productivity?

Mary McMahon

A number of different factors can cause agricultural productivity to increase or decrease. It is important to note that productivity is not an absolute measure, but rather a reflection of the ratio between inputs and outputs. So a field that produces twice as much corn as it did in a previous year is not necessarily twice as productive; if the farmer spent twice as much on that field, the net change in productivity would be zero.

Poor weather conditions, such as drought, can dramatically hurt productivity.
Poor weather conditions, such as drought, can dramatically hurt productivity.

Some factors, like weather, are out of the control of the farmer. Unusual weather patterns, such as drought, a prolonged rainy season, early or late frosts, and other factors, can ruin crops and bring productivity down. The capacity of a given farm is also an important factor. Soil cannot be forced to produce beyond capacity, although there are methods that can be used to improve production capacity, such as fertilizing to add nutrients to the soil so that it can support more crops.

Pest control is an important consideration for farmers.
Pest control is an important consideration for farmers.

Pests can be another concern. In addition to spoiling crops, pests can also add significantly to the costs of producing a crop. Controlling them may require measures such as fencing, chemical treatments, or companion planting, all of which change the ratio of inputs to outputs.

Improvements in agricultural technology can increase farm yields.
Improvements in agricultural technology can increase farm yields.

Available equipment is another factor. In regions where access to mechanized farm equipment is low, agricultural productivity can also be low as people handle their crops primarily by hand. This involves a big investment of time, energy, and money, and also limits the total capacity of the land. Likewise, people with access to specialized seeds such as crop hybrids specifically developed to produce more can improve their productivity.

Farm subsidies encourage agricultural efforts.
Farm subsidies encourage agricultural efforts.

Innovation is a key factor for agricultural productivity. Farmers who can develop creative ways to farm smarter, as it were, will experience productivity increases. For this reason, many agricultural companies and nations invest in developing new farming techniques and in researching new approaches to farming. Studying ancient approaches to learn from prior generations can also play a role in agricultural innovation; sometimes the best method is already in use.

Using the proper equipment greatly enhances agricultural productivity.
Using the proper equipment greatly enhances agricultural productivity.

The supply and demand in the market may also play a role, because farmers will adjust their activities to meet the needs of consumers and this can have an impact on agricultural productivity. In some cases, governments even pay subsidies to farmers to compensate them for not growing crops, which can skew productivity measures.

Some crops, such as corn, receive subsidies that affect the market.
Some crops, such as corn, receive subsidies that affect the market.

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Discussion Comments


What are the probable solutions for these factors?


@bluespirit - Yes, there are farm subsidies for corn, but there are other farm subsidies as well.

I think corn gets talked about a lot because of the debate about high fructose corn syrup that says that corn subsidized to make high fructose corn syrup may not be the best use of our governments money because of the debate that high fructose corn syrup is one of the many changes to our diets that have led to our increasing waistlines here in America.

Actually another fact that is not making corn look much better is that Twinkies are actually made out of carbohydrates and fat pulled from corn (as well as some other food sources).

Not helping corn’s case much!

However, in the end my question would have to be - how much are subsidies affecting the products and productivity of those products or is it the other way around - consumer actions are fueling how subsidies are spent?

I just simply do not get subsidies.


I am so thankful for farmers because of all the factors especially the ones out of their control that they have to deal with to make a living.

I so enjoy going to the local farmer's market and finding what is fresh, local, and in-season. Before going to the farmer's market I never knew what was in season and out of season because the grocery store has no seasons! If it takes getting tomatoes from halfway around the world, we shall have tomatoes!

But seeing that I am a veggie lover, I cannot complain.

I have another question about what factors agricultural productivity.

In addition to subsidies for farmers not to farm as mentioned in the article, I have also heard that their are more subsidies for corn farming? Is this true?


Raccoons and rabbits are two of a garden’s worst enemies. We had both on our farm, and we had to do something to stop them from eating everything.

The raccoons would climb the corn stalks at night and topple them over while stealing the corn. The destroyed so many rows! The rabbits were eating our lettuce like crazy. My family and I wanted a way to prevent them from getting in the garden that didn’t involve killing them.

So, we put up an electric fence with three live wires spaced out several inches from each other vertically. The fence was short enough to step over, but it was tall enough to zap these small creatures.

After we erected the fence, we didn’t have any more problems with these animals. Our big dogs have accidentally hit the fence and run away screaming, so I know it must really deliver a shock to something as small as a raccoon.


The weather can have unexpected effects on productivity. This spring, it rained so much that we had a nearby river flood its banks and flow into our corn crop. I figured that it would totally destroy the stalks, but it had the opposite effect.

The river was rich with nutritional sediment. When the waters receded, it left behind these nutrients, and it greatly enriched the soil. This is some of the best fertilizer you could ask for, and we got it for free.

The corn has flourished this year. We were thankful for the flood, because the summer was so hot and dry that the corn likely would have yielded a poor crop without the extra nutrition. We did have to irrigate the field, but we needed no fertilizer.


Pests can affect productivity to such a degree that you have to do something about them to yield a good crop. The first year my dad planted pumpkins, the squash beetles ate through the vines and destroyed almost all of them. He decided to try companion planting the next year.

He had heard that marigolds and nasturtiums could repel squash beetles if planted within the pumpkin patch, so he sowed these flower seeds in right along with the pumpkin seed. They really did cut down on the number of beetles, and he took care of the rest by spraying down the vines, fruit, and leaves with a solution of soap and water.


It seems like the number of family run farms that are able to make it are getting smaller and smaller. It takes quite a bit of money to make a living from farming and the number of farming jobs on small family farms are harder to find.

The timing of the weather is something that nobody has any control over. We started out with a wet spring and a slow start with farmers getting in the field. This was followed by too many long, hot days that never cooled off at night.

While corn usually provides a good yield when there are hot days, if the nights don't get cool, this has a significant affect on the yield of the crop.


Living in the middle of farm country you are constantly aware of the weather forecast and commodity prices. Listening to the agricultural news and weather are the two most important parts of the news cast for our family.

While there are some factors you don't have any control over, there are many things you can do to hopefully have a successful crop. It takes a lot of careful planning and making sure the equipment is in good working order before the season begins.

One of the biggest jobs during the winter months is to make sure the equipment is serviced and ready to go when spring comes. If the equipment breaks down during planting or harvest time, this can have a significant effect on productivity if I am trying to beat the weather.


I live in the heart of the Midwest where corn and soybeans are a major part of our agriculture business. While I have never farmed for a living, I am surrounded by corn and bean fields.

One of the most important factors that affects the yield of the crops is something they have no control over, and that is the weather.

If we have a very wet spring, and they are late getting the crops in, that can really hurt. There have also been many summers where we have not had much rain, and that also makes a difference in what the productivity is.

We don't do any irrigating in our area, but there are some parts of the state and surrounding areas that rely on irrigating to make sure there is enough water for a good yield.

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