Many researchers have studied how social factors shape agricultural production. Institutional and bureaucratic changes, like the self-sufficiency policy, the pattern of land holdings (in terms of size distribution of farm), land tenure and other contractual arrangements have contributed to efficiency of productions (i.e. Fagerberg, 2000). Diversity in cropping systems and market arrangements have also been argued as having implications for soil fertility management (Sanchez, 2002; Adjei-Nsiah, 2006). In the similar vein, gender-linked differences in the adoption of modern crop varieties and chemical fertilizer result from gender-linked differences in access to agricultural inputs (Doss and Morris, 2000).
The abundant amount of such streams of studies provides us with sufficient knowledge of and methodological suggestions for studying how social factors shape the physical and technical environment for agricultural production. This interest in insights on the social determinants of physical and technical environments has come at the expense of complementary studies regarding physical and technical determinants of social and, in particular, legal strategies.
The physical and technical environments are indeed connected with societal legal concerns, particularly pertaining to claims and strategies as well as settlement of disputes. A recent finding of research on land management in the oil palm based cropping system on the Adja Plateau in Benin conducted by the Soil Quality Department WUR shows that what looks as one field with crops and trees is in fact an arena for competing claims where informal and formal tenure rules interact; and where formalisation that results in increasing clear ownership may also weaker positions for the landless that use the land for growing food crops (Yemadje et al, forthcoming). Conflicts between herders and agriculturalist could also show the same connection, especially in the context of land grabbing (Deininger and Castagnini, 2006; Peters, 2004). Recommendations for treating specific physical and technical factors crucial for farmers, such as land (de Schutter, 2011) and seed (de Schutter, 2011), in different ways has been advocated a way to essentially deliver possible safety net from marginalisation.
What critically missing from the foregoing studies on the intersections between law and natural sciences is an explicit methodology how to study the influence of physical and technical features pertaining to food production to legal representations and strategies, where plurality is not only a character of the legal orders and the agricultural features but also in their interaction with the societal settings.