Agriculture in Madeira is fundamentally based on three platforms. Cattle raising is one of them, which of course provides abundant fertiliser for the land. This is necessary because intensive farming over many years has taken its toll on the rich volcanic soil.
The second area is terrace planting, which produces the amazing staggered terraces visible on so many of Madeira’s steep mountainsides. Lastly, the excellent irrigation systems provided by the extensive levada systems allow for more productive crops. Even the driest areas of the island are provided with adequate water through these 'channels' to ensure abundant crops.
The climatic conditions on Madeira, coupled with the mountainous relief, allow for an enormous assortment of crops to be cultivated. The varieties are staggered in direct relationship to the altitude. At the lowest level we find the Mediterranean crops (figs, oranges, lemons and grapes, plus cereals such as maize, wheat, rye and barley).
The European fruit trees flourish in the depths of the valleys producing cherries, apples and plums. A little further up from sea level, tropical species are cultivated (bananas, sugar cane, custard apple, mango and passion fruit).