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Agriculture on (sub)tropical islands

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This article details on specifics regarding food production on (sub)tropical islands.

Oceania[edit | edit source]

Island types[edit | edit source]

In the Pacific, 2 types of islands can be distinguished:

  • Low lying islands --> ie atols --> soil type: pulverised coral; very poor; limited freshwater storage capability in soil
  • High lying islands --> ie vulcanic islands --> soil type: vulcanic debris; medium to very rich; high freshwater storage capability in soil; especially valleys are the most suitable locations for agriculture since they have a thicker layer of soil

The main limiting factor to agriculture on (sub)tropical islands is the freshwater storage capability in the soil. In essence, the low lying islands are so il-equipped to store freshwater that no agriculture is practiced on these islands at all. Rather, food is gathered by hunting and fishing and the islands are only occupied for a short period of time; untill the water stores have been depleted. The high lying islands are suitable for agriculture and 2 island subtypes can be distinguished, namely those with medium and with very rich soil; the latter allowing the growing of 2 additional crops, knowingly taro's and bananas.

Suitable crops[edit | edit source]

High lying islands with medium rich soil: allows the cultivation of coconuts, pandanus, breadfruit, yam, sweet potatoes. Examples: Marshall and Ellice island

High lying islands with very rich soil: allows the cultivation of coconuts, pandanus, breadfruit, yam, sweet potatoes, taro's and bananas. Examples: Gilbertese islands, Tokelau

Crop description[edit | edit source]

Taro: requires richer soil, though less freshwater; grows all year, mature after 6 months, easy cultivation

Yam: requires less rich soil, though more freshwater; harvested once a year, roots can be stored


Breadfruit: requires rich soil, harvested once a year (several varieties can be grown which are ripe at varying parts of the year), mature after 5 years


Cararium-almond: used as a spice