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Agriculture

Fields in Záhorie (Slovakia) - a typical Central European agricultural region.
Domestic sheep and a cow (heifer) pastured together in South Africa.

Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi, and other life forms for food, fiber, biofuel, medicinal and other products used to sustain and enhance human life.[1] Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the development of civilization. The study of agriculture is known as agricultural science. The history of agriculture dates back thousands of years, and its development has been driven and defined by greatly different climates, cultures, and technologies. In the civilized world, industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture farming has become the dominant agricultural methodology.

Modern aquifers, has been observed in recent decades, and the effects of global warming on agriculture and of agriculture on global warming are still not fully understood.

The major agricultural products can be broadly grouped into foods, fibers, fuels, and raw materials. Specific foods include cereals (grains), vegetables, fruits, oils, meats and spices. Fibers include cotton, wool, hemp, silk and flax. Raw materials include lumber and bamboo. Other useful materials are produced by plants, such as resins, dyes, drugs, perfumes, biofuels and ornamental products such as cut flowers and nursery plants. Over one third of the world's workers are employed in agriculture, second only to the services' sector, although the percentages of agricultural workers in developed countries has decreased significantly over the past several centuries.

Contents

  • Etymology and terminology 1
  • History 2
  • Contemporary agriculture 3
  • Workforce 4
    • Safety 4.1
  • Agricultural production systems 5
    • Crop cultivation systems 5.1
      • Crop statistics 5.1.1
    • Livestock production systems 5.2
  • Production practices 6
  • Crop alteration and biotechnology 7
    • Genetic engineering 7.1
  • Environmental impact 8
    • Livestock issues 8.1
    • Land and water issues 8.2
    • Pesticides 8.3
    • Climate change 8.4
    • Sustainability 8.5
  • Agricultural economics 9
  • Agricultural science 10
  • List of countries by agricultural output 11
  • Energy and agriculture 12
    • Mitigation of effects of petroleum shortages 12.1
  • Policy 13
  • See also 14
  • References 15
  • Further reading 16
  • External links 17

Etymology and terminology

The word agriculture is a late Middle English adaptation of Latin agricultūra, from ager, "field", and cultūra, "cultivation" or "growing".[2] Agriculture usually refers to human activities, although it is also observed in certain species of ant, termite and ambrosia beetle.[3] To practice agriculture means to use natural resources to "produce commodities which maintain life, including food, fiber, forest products, horticultural crops, and their related services."[4] This definition includes arable farming or agronomy, and horticulture, all terms for the growing of plants, animal husbandry and forestry.[4] A distinction is sometimes made between forestry and agriculture, based on the former's longer management rotations, extensive versus intensive management practices and development mainly by nature, rather than by man. Even then, it is acknowledged that there is a large amount of knowledge transfer and overlap between silviculture (the management of forests) and agriculture.[5] In traditional farming, the two are often combined even on small landholdings, leading to the term agroforestry.[6]

History

A Sumerian harvester's sickle made from baked clay (ca. 3000 BC).

Agriculture involving domestication of plants was developed around 11,500 years ago separately in both the Fertile crescent and at Chogha Golan in modern day Iran, where wild barley, wheat and lentils were cultivated and with domesticated forms of wheat appeared about 9,800 years ago.[7] Agriculture has undergone significant developments since the time of the earliest cultivation. The Fertile Crescent of Western Asia, Egypt and India were sites of the earliest planned sowing and harvesting of plants that had previously been gathered in the wild. Independent development of agriculture occurred in northern and southern China, Africa's Sahel, New Guinea, parts of India and several regions of the Americas.[8] Agricultural techniques such as irrigation, crop rotation, the application of fertilizers were developed soon after the Neolithic Revolution but have made significant strides in the past 200 years. The Haber-Bosch method for synthesizing ammonium nitrate represented a major breakthrough and allowed crop yields to overcome previous constraints.

In the past century, agriculture in the developed nations, and to a lesser extent in the developing world, has been characterized by enhanced productivity, the replacement of human labor by synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, tariffs and farm subsidies.


Contemporary agriculture

Satellite image of farming in Minnesota
Infrared image of the above farms. Various colors indicate healthy crops (red), flooding (black) and unwanted pesticides (brown).

In the past century agriculture has been characterized by increased productivity, the substitution of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides for labor, integrated pest management and selective breeding. Recent mainstream technological developments include genetically modified food.

In 2007, higher incentives for farmers to grow non-food biofuel crops[12] combined with other factors, such as overdevelopment of former farm lands, rising transportation costs, climate change, growing consumer demand in China and India, and population growth,[13] caused food shortages in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Mexico, as well as rising food prices around the globe.[14][15] As of December 2007, 37 countries faced food crises, and 20 had imposed some sort of food-price controls. Some of these shortages resulted in food riots and even deadly stampedes.[16][17][18] The International Fund for Agricultural Development posits that an increase in smallholder agriculture may be part of the solution to concerns about food prices and overall food security. They in part base this on the experience of Vietnam, which went from a food importer to large food exporter and saw a significant drop in poverty, due mainly to the development of smallholder agriculture in the country.[19]

Disease and land degradation are two of the major concerns in agriculture today. For example, an epidemic of stem rust on wheat caused by the Ug99 lineage is currently spreading across Africa and into Asia and is causing major concerns due to crop losses of 70% or more under some conditions.[20] Approximately 40% of the world's agricultural land is seriously degraded.[21] In Africa, if current trends of soil degradation continue, the continent might be able to feed just 25% of its population by 2025, according to UNU's Ghana-based Institute for Natural Resources in Africa.[22]

Agrarian structure is a long-term structure in the Braudelian understanding of the concept. On a larger scale the agrarian structure is more dependent on the regional, social, cultural and historical factors than on the state’s undertaken activities. Like in Poland, where despite running an intense agrarian policy for many years, the agrarian structure in 2002 has much in common with that found in 1921 soon after the partitions period.[23]

In 2009, the agricultural output of China was the largest in the world, followed by the European Union, India and the United States, according to the International Monetary Fund (see below). Economists measure the total factor productivity of agriculture and by this measure agriculture in the United States is roughly 1.7 times more productive than it was in 1948.[24]

Workforce

As of 2011, the

External links

  • Bolens, L. (1997). "Agriculture" in Selin, Helaine (ed.), Encyclopedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht/Boston/London, pp. 20–22.
  • Collinson, M. (ed.) A History of Farming Systems Research. CABI Publishing, 2000. ISBN 978-0-85199-405-5
  • Jared Diamond, Guns, germs and steel. A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years, 1997.
  • Mazoyer, Marcel; Roudart, Laurence (2006). A history of world agriculture: from the Neolithic Age to the current crisis. Monthly Review Press, New York. ISBN 978-1-58367-121-4
  • Watson, A.M. (1983). Agricultural Innovation in the Early Islamic World, Cambridge University Press.

Further reading

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b
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  8. ^ In particular, the history of maize cultivation in southern Mexico dates back 9000 years. New York Times, accessdate=2010-5-4
  9. ^
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  16. ^ Watts, Jonathan (4 December 2007). "Riots and hunger feared as demand for grain sends food costs soaring", The Guardian (London).
  17. ^ Mortished, Carl (7 March 2008)."Already we have riots, hoarding, panic: the sign of things to come?", The Times (London).
  18. ^ Borger, Julian (26 February 2008). "Feed the world? We are fighting a losing battle, UN admits", The Guardian (London).
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Sample, Ian (31 August 2007). "Global food crisis looms as climate change and population growth strip fertile land", The Guardian (London).
  22. ^ "Africa may be able to feed only 25% of its population by 2025", mongabay.com, 14 December 2006.
  23. ^ M. Pietrzak, D. Walczak. 2014. The Analysis of the Agrarian Structure in Poland with the Special Consideration of the Years 1921 and 2002, Bulgarian Journal of Agricultural Science, Vol 20, No 5, pp. 1025, 1038.
  24. ^
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  27. ^ a b
  28. ^
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  31. ^ a b
  32. ^
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  34. ^ a b Acquaah, G. 2002. Agricultural Production Systems. pp. 283–317 in "Principles of Crop Production, Theories, Techniques and Technology". Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  35. ^ a b c d e f g Chrispeels, M.J.; Sadava, D.E. 1994. "Farming Systems: Development, Productivity, and Sustainability". pp. 25–57 in Plants, Genes, and Agriculture. Jones and Bartlett, Boston, MA.
  36. ^ a b
  37. ^ a b c
  38. ^ a b
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^ Brady, N.C. and R.R. Weil. 2002. Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils. Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  43. ^ Acquaah, G. 2002. "Land Preparation and Farm Energy" pp.318–338 in Principles of Crop Production, Theories, Techniques and Technology. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  44. ^ Acquaah, G. 2002. "Pesticide Use in U.S. Crop Production" pp.240–282 in Principles of Crop Production, Theories, Techniques and Technology. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  45. ^ Acquaah, G. 2002. "Soil and Land" pp.165–210 in Principles of Crop Production, Theories, Techniques and Technology. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  46. ^ Chrispeels, M.J.; Sadava, D.E. 1994. "Nutrition from the Soil" pp.187–218 in Plants, Genes, and Agriculture. Jones and Bartlett, Boston, MA.
  47. ^ Brady, N.C.; Weil, R.R. 2002. "Practical Nutrient Management" pp.472–515 in Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils. Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  48. ^ Acquaah, G. 2002. "Plants and Soil Water" pp.211–239 in Principles of Crop Production, Theories, Techniques and Technology. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  49. ^
  50. ^ a b
  51. ^ a b c d e f g UNEP, 2011, Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication, www.unep.org/greeneconomy
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^ Conversion note: 1 bushel of wheat = 60 pounds (lb) ≈ 27.215 kg. 1 bushel of maize = 56 pounds ≈ 25.401 kg
  58. ^
  59. ^
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  67. ^ a b
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  73. ^
  74. ^
  75. ^
  76. ^
  77. ^
  78. ^
  79. ^
  80. ^ WHO. 1992. Our planet, our health: Report of the WHO commission on health and environment. Geneva: World Health Organization.
  81. ^ a b Chrispeels, M.J. and D.E. Sadava. 1994. "Strategies for Pest Control" pp.355–383 in Plants, Genes, and Agriculture. Jones and Bartlett, Boston, MA.
  82. ^
  83. ^
  84. ^ Lappe, F.M., J. Collins, and P. Rosset. 1998. "Myth 4: Food vs. Our Environment" pp. 42–57 in World Hunger, Twelve Myths, Grove Press, New York.
  85. ^
  86. ^
  87. ^
  88. ^
  89. ^ a b Brady, N.C. and R.R. Weil. 2002. "Soil Organic Matter" pp. 353–385 in Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils. Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  90. ^ Brady, N.C. and R.R. Weil. 2002. "Nitrogen and Sulfur Economy of Soils" pp. 386–421 in Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils. Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  91. ^
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  108. ^ "World oil supplies are set to run out faster than expected, warn scientists". The Independent. 14 June 2007.
  109. ^
  110. ^ a b c d
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References

See also

[129] There are many influences on the creation of agricultural policy, including consumers, agribusiness, trade lobbies and other groups.

[127]. Policy programs can range from financial programs, such as subsidies, to encouraging producers to enroll in voluntary quality assurance programs.conservation, ensuring that the food supply meets the population's needs, and food security, ensuring that the food supply is of a consistent and known quality, food quality Agricultural policy can also touch on [126]

Policy

It has been suggested that some transgenic plants may some day be developed which would allow for maintaining or increasing yields while requiring fewer fossil-fuel-derived inputs than conventional crops.[122] The possibility of success of these programs is questioned by ecologists and economists concerned with unsustainable GMO practices such as terminator seeds.[123][124] While there has been some research on sustainability using GMO crops, at least one prominent multi-year attempt by Monsanto Company has been unsuccessful, though during the same period traditional breeding techniques yielded a more sustainable variety of the same crop.[125]

[121][120] It has been suggested that rural communities might obtain fuel from the

In the event of a petroleum shortage (see labor-intensive and would require a shift of the workforce from urban to rural areas.[119] The reconditioning of soil to restore nutrients lost during the use of monoculture agriculture techniques also takes time.[117]

M. King Hubbert's prediction of world petroleum production rates. Modern agriculture is totally reliant on petroleum energy.[116]

Mitigation of effects of petroleum shortages

Indirect consumption is mainly oil and [110] Food systems encompass not just agricultural production, but also off-farm processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consumption, and disposal of food and food-related items. Agriculture accounts for less than one-fifth of food system energy use in the US.[112][113]

Modern or industrialized agriculture is dependent on fossil fuels in two fundamental ways: 1. direct consumption on the farm and 2. indirect consumption to manufacture inputs used on the farm. Direct consumption includes the use of lubricants and fuels to operate farm vehicles and machinery; and use of gasoline, liquid [110]

Agriculture and food system share (%) of total energy
consumption by three industrialized nations
Country Year Agriculture
(direct & indirect)
Food
system
United Kingdom[111] 2005 1.9 11
United States[112] 1996 2.1 10
United States[113] 2002 2.0 14
Sweden[114] 2000 2.5 13
[110]Since the 1940s, agricultural productivity has increased dramatically, due largely to the increased use of energy-intensive mechanization, fertilizers and pesticides. The vast majority of this energy input comes from

Energy and agriculture

Largest countries by agricultural output according to IMF and CIA World Factbook, 2015
Economy
Countries by agricultural output in 2015 (billions in USD)
(01)  China
1,088
(02)  India
413
(—)  European Union
333
(03)  United States
290
(04)  Indonesia
127
(05)  Brazil
110
(06)  Nigeria
106
(07)  Pakistan
63
(08)  Turkey
62
(09)  Argentina
59
(10)  Japan
51
(11)  Egypt
47
(12)  Thailand
47
(13)  Russia
47
(14)  Australia
46
(15)  Mexico
43
(16)  France
42
(17)  Italy
41
(18)  Spain
39
(19)  Vietnam
37
(20)  Iran
36

The twenty largest countries by agricultural output in 2015, according to the IMF and CIA World Factbook.

List of countries by agricultural output


Agricultural science is a broad multidisciplinary field of biology that encompasses the parts of exact, natural, economic and social sciences that are used in the practice and understanding of agriculture. (Veterinary science, but not animal science, is often excluded from the definition.)

Agricultural science

However, as of 2009, there was still a significant amount of policy-driven distortion in global agricultural product prices. The three agricultural products with the greatest amount of trade distortion were sugar, milk and rice, mainly due to taxation. Among the oilseeds, sesame had the greatest amount of taxation, but overall, feed grains and oilseeds had much lower levels of taxation than livestock products. Since the 1980s, policy-driven distortions have seen a greater decrease among livestock products than crops during the worldwide reforms in agricultural policy.[105] Despite this progress, certain crops, such as cotton, still see subsidies in developed countries artificially deflating global prices, causing hardship in developing countries with non-subsidized farmers.[106] Unprocessed commodities (i.e. corn, soybeans, cows) are generally graded to indicate quality. The quality affects the price the producer receives. Commodities are generally reported by production quantities, such as volume, number or weight.[107]

National government policies can significantly change the economic marketplace for agricultural products, in the form of taxation, subsidies, tariffs and other measures.[103] Since at least the 1960s, a combination of import/export restrictions, exchange rate policies and subsidies have affected farmers in both the developing and developed world. In the 1980s, it was clear that non-subsidized farmers in developing countries were experiencing adverse affects from national policies that created artificially low global prices for farm products. Between the mid-1980s and the early 2000s, several international agreements were put into place that limited agricultural tariffs, subsidies and other trade restrictions.[104]

Agricultural economics refers to economics as it relates to the "production, distribution and consumption of [agricultural] goods and services".[98] Combining agricultural production with general theories of marketing and business as a discipline of study began in the late 1800s, and grew significantly through the 20th century.[99] Although the study of agricultural economics is relatively recent, major trends in agriculture have significantly affected national and international economies throughout history, ranging from tenant farmers and sharecropping in the post-American Civil War Southern United States[100] to the European feudal system of manorialism.[101] In the United States, and elsewhere, food costs attributed to food processing, distribution, and agricultural marketing, sometimes referred to as the value chain, have risen while the costs attributed to farming have declined. This is related to the greater efficiency of farming, combined with the increased level of value addition (e.g. more highly processed products) provided by the supply chain. Market concentration has increased in the sector as well, and although the total effect of the increased market concentration is likely increased efficiency, the changes redistribute economic surplus from producers (farmers) and consumers, and may have negative implications for rural communities.[102]

Agricultural economics

According to a report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI),[50] agricultural technologies will have the greatest impact on food production if adopted in combination with each other; using a model that assessed how eleven technologies could impact agricultural productivity, food security and trade by 2050, IFPRI found that the number of people at risk from hunger could be reduced by as much as 40% and food prices could be reduced by almost half.

Technological advancements help provide farmers with tools and resources to make farming more sustainable.[96] New technologies have given rise to innovations like conservation tillage, a farming process which helps prevent land loss to erosion, water pollution and enhances carbon sequestration.[97]

Some major organizations are hailing farming within agroecosystems as the way forward for mainstream agriculture. Current farming methods have resulted in over-stretched water resources, high levels of erosion and reduced soil fertility. According to a report by the International Water Management Institute and UNEP,[94] there is not enough water to continue farming using current practices; therefore how critical water, land, and ecosystem resources are used to boost crop yields must be reconsidered. The report suggested assigning value to ecosystems, recognizing environmental and livelihood tradeoffs, and balancing the rights of a variety of users and interests. Inequities that result when such measures are adopted would need to be addressed, such as the reallocation of water from poor to rich, the clearing of land to make way for more productive farmland, or the preservation of a wetland system that limits fishing rights.[95]

Sustainability

There are several factors within the field of agriculture that contribute to the large amount of CO2 emissions. The diversity of the sources ranges from the production of farming tools to the transport of harvested produce. Approximately 8% of the national carbon footprint is due to agricultural sources. Of that, 75% is of the carbon emissions released from the production of crop assisting chemicals.[91] Factories producing insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers are a major culprit of the greenhouse gas. Productivity on the farm itself and the use of machinery is another source of the carbon emission. Almost all the industrial machines used in modern farming are powered by fossil fuels. These instruments are burning fossil fuels from the beginning of the process to the end. Tractors are the root of this source. The tractor is going to burn fuel and release CO2 just to run. The amount of emissions from the machinery increase with the attachment of different units and need for more power. During the soil preparation stage tillers and plows will be used to disrupt the soil. During growth watering pumps and sprayers are used to keep the crops hydrated. And when the crops are ready for picking a forage or combine harvester is used. These types of machinery all require additional energy which leads to increased carbon dioxide emissions from the basic tractors.[92] The final major contribution to CO2 emissions in agriculture is in the final transport of produce. Local farming suffered a decline over the past century due to large amounts of farm subsidies. The majority of crops are shipped hundreds of miles to various processing plants before ending up in the grocery store. These shipments are made using fossil fuel burning modes of transportation. Inevitably these transport adds to carbon dioxide emissions.[93]

Agriculture in its many forms can both mitigate or worsen [51]

Climate change has the potential to affect agriculture through changes in temperature, rainfall (timing and quantity), CO2, solar radiation and the interaction of these elements.[35] Extreme events, such as droughts and floods, are forecast to increase as climate change takes hold.[85] Agriculture is among sectors most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change; water supply for example, will be critical to sustain agricultural production and provide the increase in food output required to sustain the world's growing population. Fluctuations in the flow of rivers are likely to increase in the twenty-first century. Based on the experience of countries in the Nile river basin (Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan) and other developing countries, depletion of water resources during seasons crucial for agriculture can lead to a decline in yield by up to 50%.[86] Transformational approaches will be needed to manage natural resources in the future.[87] For example, policies, practices and tools promoting climate-smart agriculture will be important, as will better use of scientific information on climate for assessing risks and vulnerability. Planners and policy-makers will need to help create suitable policies that encourage funding for such agricultural transformation.[88]

Climate change

An alternative argument is that the way to 'save the environment' and prevent famine is by using pesticides and intensive high yield farming, a view exemplified by a quote heading the Center for Global Food Issues website: 'Growing more per acre leaves more land for nature'.[82][83] However, critics argue that a trade-off between the environment and a need for food is not inevitable,[84] and that pesticides simply replace [51]

Pesticide use has increased since 1950 to 2.5 million tons annually worldwide, yet crop loss from pests has remained relatively constant.[79] The World Health Organization estimated in 1992 that 3 million pesticide poisonings occur annually, causing 220,000 deaths.[80] Pesticides select for pesticide resistance in the pest population, leading to a condition termed the 'pesticide treadmill' in which pest resistance warrants the development of a new pesticide.[81]

Pesticides

Agriculture accounts for 70% of withdrawals of freshwater resources.[75] Agriculture is a major draw on water from aquifers, and currently draws from those underground water sources at an unsustainable rate. It is long known that aquifers in areas as diverse as northern China, the Upper Ganges and the western US are being depleted, and new research extends these problems to aquifers in Iran, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.[76] Increasing pressure is being placed on water resources by industry and urban areas, meaning that water scarcity is increasing and agriculture is facing the challenge of producing more food for the world's growing population with reduced water resources.[77] Agricultural water usage can also cause major environmental problems, including the destruction of natural wetlands, the spread of water-borne diseases, and land degradation through salinization and waterlogging, when irrigation is performed incorrectly.[78]

Eutrophication, excessive nutrients in aquatic ecosystems resulting in algal blooms and anoxia, leads to fish kills, loss of biodiversity, and renders water unfit for drinking and other industrial uses. Excessive fertilization and manure application to cropland, as well as high livestock stocking densities cause nutrient (mainly nitrogen and phosphorus) runoff and leaching from agricultural land. These nutrients are major nonpoint pollutants contributing to eutrophication of aquatic ecosystems.[74]

Land transformation, the use of land to yield goods and services, is the most substantial way humans alter the Earth's ecosystems, and is considered the driving force in the loss of biodiversity. Estimates of the amount of land transformed by humans vary from 39 to 50%.[72] Land degradation, the long-term decline in ecosystem function and productivity, is estimated to be occurring on 24% of land worldwide, with cropland overrepresented.[73] The UN-FAO report cites land management as the driving factor behind degradation and reports that 1.5 billion people rely upon the degrading land. Degradation can be deforestation, desertification, soil erosion, mineral depletion, or chemical degradation (acidification and salinization).[35]

Land and water issues

A senior UN official and co-author of a UN report detailing this problem, Henning Steinfeld, said "Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems".[70] Livestock production occupies 70% of all land used for agriculture, or 30% of the land surface of the planet. It is one of the largest sources of [51]

Livestock issues

Agriculture, as implemented through the method of farming, imposes [51]

Environmental impact

Other GMO crops used by growers include insect-resistant crops, which have a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which produces a toxin specific to insects. These crops protect plants from damage by insects.[65] Some believe that similar or better pest-resistance traits can be acquired through traditional breeding practices, and resistance to various pests can be gained through hybridization or cross-pollination with wild species. In some cases, wild species are the primary source of resistance traits; some tomato cultivars that have gained resistance to at least 19 diseases did so through crossing with wild populations of tomatoes.[66]

Herbicide-resistant seed has a gene implanted into its genome that allows the plants to tolerate exposure to herbicides, including glyphosates. These seeds allow the farmer to grow a crop that can be sprayed with herbicides to control weeds without harming the resistant crop. Herbicide-tolerant crops are used by farmers worldwide.[61] With the increasing use of herbicide-tolerant crops, comes an increase in the use of glyphosate-based herbicide sprays. In some areas glyphosate resistant weeds have developed, causing farmers to switch to other herbicides.[62][63] Some studies also link widespread glyphosate usage to iron deficiencies in some crops, which is both a crop production and a nutritional quality concern, with potential economic and health implications.[64]

genetic material has been altered by genetic engineering techniques generally known as recombinant DNA technology. Genetic engineering has expanded the genes available to breeders to utilize in creating desired germlines for new crops. Increased durability, nutritional content, insect and virus resistance and herbicide tolerance are a few of the attributes bred into crops through genetic engineering.[58] For some, GMO crops cause food safety and food labeling concerns. Numerous countries have placed restrictions on the production, import or use of GMO foods and crops, which have been put in place due to concerns over potential health issues, declining agricultural diversity and contamination of non-GMO crops.[59] Currently a global treaty, the Biosafety Protocol, regulates the trade of GMOs. There is ongoing discussion regarding the labeling of foods made from GMOs, and while the EU currently requires all GMO foods to be labeled, the US does not.[60]

Genetic engineering

The Green Revolution popularized the use of conventional hybridization to sharply increase yield by creating "high-yielding varieties". For example, average yields of corn (maize) in the USA have increased from around 2.5 tons per hectare (t/ha) (40 bushels per acre) in 1900 to about 9.4 t/ha (150 bushels per acre) in 2001. Similarly, worldwide average wheat yields have increased from less than 1 t/ha in 1900 to more than 2.5 t/ha in 1990. South American average wheat yields are around 2 t/ha, African under 1 t/ha, and Egypt and Arabia up to 3.5 to 4 t/ha with irrigation. In contrast, the average wheat yield in countries such as France is over 8 t/ha. Variations in yields are due mainly to variation in climate, genetics, and the level of intensive farming techniques (use of fertilizers, chemical pest control, growth control to avoid lodging).[55][56][57]

Domestication of plants has, over the centuries increased yield, improved disease resistance and drought tolerance, eased harvest and improved the taste and nutritional value of crop plants. Careful selection and breeding have had enormous effects on the characteristics of crop plants. Plant selection and breeding in the 1920s and 1930s improved pasture (grasses and clover) in New Zealand. Extensive X-ray and ultraviolet induced mutagenesis efforts (i.e. primitive genetic engineering) during the 1950s produced the modern commercial varieties of grains such as wheat, corn (maize) and barley.[53][54]

[52] Crop alteration has been practiced by humankind for thousands of years, since the beginning of civilization. Altering crops through breeding practices changes the genetic make-up of a plant to develop crops with more beneficial characteristics for humans, for example, larger fruits or seeds, drought-tolerance, or resistance to pests. Significant advances in plant breeding ensued after the work of geneticist

Crop alteration and biotechnology

"[51]

According to a report by the International Food Policy Research Institute, agricultural technologies will have the greatest impact on food production if adopted in combination with each other; using a model that assessed how eleven technologies could impact agricultural productivity, food security and trade by 2050, the International Food Policy Research Institute found that the number of people at risk from hunger could be reduced by as much as 40% and food prices could be reduced by almost half.[50]

Water management is needed where rainfall is insufficient or variable, which occurs to some degree in most regions of the world.[35] Some farmers use irrigation to supplement rainfall. In other areas such as the Great Plains in the U.S. and Canada, farmers use a fallow year to conserve soil moisture to use for growing a crop in the following year.[48] Agriculture represents 70% of freshwater use worldwide.[49]

manure, green manure, compost and mined minerals.[45] Crop nutrient use may also be managed using cultural techniques such as crop rotation or a fallow period.[46][47] Manure is used either by holding livestock where the feed crop is growing, such as in managed intensive rotational grazing, or by spreading either dry or liquid formulations of manure on cropland or pastures.

Pest control includes the management of weeds, insects, mites, and diseases. Chemical (pesticides), biological (biocontrol), mechanical (tillage), and cultural practices are used. Cultural practices include crop rotation, culling, cover crops, intercropping, composting, avoidance, and resistance. Integrated pest management attempts to use all of these methods to keep pest populations below the number which would cause economic loss, and recommends pesticides as a last resort.[44]

[43][42]

Farming is the practice of agriculture by specialized labor in an area primarily devoted to agricultural processes, in service of a dislocated population usually in a city.

Road leading across the farm allows machinery access to the farm for production practices.

Production practices

[41], are controversial.growth hormones Some of the practices used in commercial livestock production, including the usage of [38]. Much of this growth is happening in developing countries in Asia, with much smaller amounts of growth in Africa.factory farming, sometimes called confined animal feeding operations Industrialized countries use these operations to produce much of the global supplies of poultry and pork. Scientists estimate that 75% of the growth in livestock production between 2003 and 2030 will be in [37] Landless systems rely upon feed from outside the farm, representing the de-linking of crop and livestock production found more prevalently in

Grassland based livestock production relies upon plant material such as shrubland, rangeland, and pastures for feeding ruminant animals. Outside nutrient inputs may be used, however manure is returned directly to the grassland as a major nutrient source. This system is particularly important in areas where crop production is not feasible because of climate or soil, representing 30–40 million pastoralists.[35] Mixed production systems use grassland, fodder crops and grain feed crops as feed for ruminant and monogastric (one stomach; mainly chickens and pigs) livestock. Manure is typically recycled in mixed systems as a fertilizer for crops.[37]

During the second half of the 20th century, producers using selective breeding focused on creating livestock breeds and crossbreeds that increased production, while mostly disregarding the need to preserve genetic diversity. This trend has led to a significant decrease in genetic diversity and resources among livestock breeds, leading to a corresponding decrease in disease resistance and local adaptations previously found among traditional breeds.[40]

Livestock production systems can be defined based on feed source, as grassland-based, mixed, and landless.[37] As of 2010, 30% of Earth's ice- and water-free area was used for producing livestock, with the sector employing approximately 1.3 billion people. Between the 1960s and the 2000s, there was a significant increase in livestock production, both by numbers and by carcass weight, especially among beef, pigs and chickens, the latter of which had production increased by almost a factor of 10. Non-meat animals, such as milk cows and egg-producing chickens, also showed significant production increases. Global cattle, sheep and goat populations are expected to continue to increase sharply through 2050.[38] Aquaculture or fish farming, the production of fish for human consumption in confined operations, is one of the fastest growing sectors of food production, growing at an average of 9% a year between 1975 and 2007.[39]

Oxen driven ploughs in India

Animals, including horses, mules, oxen, water buffalo, camels, llamas, alpacas, donkeys, and dogs, are often used to help cultivate fields, harvest crops, wrangle other animals, and transport farm products to buyers. Animal husbandry not only refers to the breeding and raising of animals for meat or to harvest animal products (like milk, eggs, or wool) on a continual basis, but also to the breeding and care of species for work and companionship.

Ploughing rice paddies with water buffalo, in Indonesia

Livestock production systems

Top agricultural products, by crop types
(million tonnes) 2004 data
Cereals 2,263
Vegetables and melons 866
Roots and tubers 715
Milk 619
Fruit 503
Meat 259
Oilcrops 133
Fish (2001 estimate) 130
Eggs 63
Pulses 60
Vegetable fiber 30
Source:
[36]
Top agricultural products, by individual crops
(million tonnes) 2011 data
Sugar cane 1794
Maize 883
Rice 722
Wheat 704
Potatoes 374
Sugar beet 271
Soybeans 260
Cassava 252
Tomatoes 159
Barley 134
Source:
[36]

Important categories of crops include FAO estimate.

Crop statistics

In subtropical and arid environments, the timing and extent of agriculture may be limited by rainfall, either not allowing multiple annual crops in a year, or requiring irrigation. In all of these environments perennial crops are grown (coffee, chocolate) and systems are practiced such as agroforestry. In temperate environments, where ecosystems were predominantly grassland or prairie, highly productive annual farming is the dominant agricultural system.[35]

Further industrialization led to the use of monocultures, when one cultivar is planted on a large acreage. Because of the low biodiversity, nutrient use is uniform and pests tend to build up, necessitating the greater use of pesticides and fertilizers.[34] Multiple cropping, in which several crops are grown sequentially in one year, and intercropping, when several crops are grown at the same time, are other kinds of annual cropping systems known as polycultures.[35]

Shifting cultivation (or slash and burn) is a system in which forests are burnt, releasing nutrients to support cultivation of annual and then perennial crops for a period of several years.[35] Then the plot is left fallow to regrow forest, and the farmer moves to a new plot, returning after many more years (10–20). This fallow period is shortened if population density grows, requiring the input of nutrients (fertilizer or manure) and some manual pest control. Annual cultivation is the next phase of intensity in which there is no fallow period. This requires even greater nutrient and pest control inputs.

Cropping systems vary among farms depending on the available resources and constraints; geography and climate of the farm; government policy; economic, social and political pressures; and the philosophy and culture of the farmer.[33][34]

The Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao, Philippines
Rice cultivation at a paddy field in Bihar state of India

Crop cultivation systems

Agricultural production systems

[25] The organization has developed the [32] It estimates that the annual work-related death toll among agricultural employees is at least 170,000, twice the average rate of other jobs. In addition, incidences of death, injury and illness related to agricultural activities often go unreported.[25] The International Labour Organization considers agriculture "one of the most hazardous of all economic sectors."

Agriculture, specifically farming, remains a hazardous industry, and farmers worldwide remain at high risk of work-related injuries, lung disease, noise-induced hearing loss, skin diseases, as well as certain cancers related to chemical use and prolonged sun exposure. On industrialized farms, injuries frequently involve the use of agricultural machinery, and a common cause of fatal agricultural injuries in developed countries is tractor rollovers.[29] Pesticides and other chemicals used in farming can also be hazardous to worker health, and workers exposed to pesticides may experience illness or have children with birth defects.[30] As an industry in which families commonly share in work and live on the farm itself, entire families can be at risk for injuries, illness, and death.[31] Common causes of fatal injuries among young farm workers include drowning, machinery and motor vehicle-related accidents.[31]

Safety

[27] In the same countries today, the figure is less than 10%.[28] In developed countries, these figures are significantly lower than in previous centuries. During the 16th century in Europe, for example, between 55 and 75 percent of the population was engaged in agriculture, depending on the country. By the 19th century in Europe, this had dropped to between 35 and 65 percent.[27] The number of people employed in agriculture varies widely on a per-country basis, ranging from less than 2% in countries like the US and Canada to over 80% in many African nations.[26] only overtook the agricultural sector as the largest global employer in 2007. Between 1997 and 2007, the percentage of people employed in agriculture fell by over four percentage points, a trend that is expected to continue.service sector The [25]

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