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Portal:Agriculture

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The Agriculture Portal

Ploughing rice paddies with water buffalo, in Indonesia.
Ploughing rice paddies with water buffalo, in Indonesia.

Agriculture encompasses crop and livestock production, aquaculture, fisheries, and forestry for food and non-food products. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that enabled people to live in cities. While humans started gathering grains at least 105,000 years ago, nascent farmers only began planting them around 11,500 years ago. Sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle were domesticated around 10,000 years ago. Plants were independently cultivated in at least 11 regions of the world. In the 20th century, industrial agriculture based on large-scale monocultures came to dominate agricultural output.

, small farms produce about one-third of the world's food, but large farms are prevalent. The largest 1% of farms in the world are greater than 50 hectares (120 acres) and operate more than 70% of the world's farmland. Nearly 40% of agricultural land is found on farms larger than 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres). However, five of every six farms in the world consist of fewer than 2 hectares (4.9 acres), and take up only around 12% of all agricultural land. Farms and farming greatly influence rural economics and greatly shape rural society, effecting both the direct agricultural workforce and broader businesses that support the farms and farming populations.

The major agricultural products can be broadly grouped into foods, fibers, fuels, and raw materials (such as rubber). Food classes include cereals (grains), vegetables, fruits, cooking oils, meat, milk, eggs, and fungi. Global agricultural production amounts to approximately 11 billion tonnes of food, 32 million tonnes of natural fibres and 4 billion m3 of wood. However, around 14% of the world's food is lost from production before reaching the retail level.

Modern agronomy, plant breeding, agrochemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers, and technological developments have sharply increased crop yields, but also contributed to ecological and environmental damage. Selective breeding and modern practices in animal husbandry have similarly increased the output of meat, but have raised concerns about animal welfare and environmental damage. Environmental issues include contributions to climate change, depletion of aquifers, deforestation, antibiotic resistance, and other agricultural pollution. Agriculture is both a cause of and sensitive to environmental degradation, such as biodiversity loss, desertification, soil degradation, and climate change, all of which can cause decreases in crop yield. Genetically modified organisms are widely used, although some countries ban them. (Full article...)

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Shade-grown coffee, a form of polyculture (an example of sustainable agriculture) in imitation of natural ecosystems. Trees provide resources for the coffee plants such as shade, nutrients, and soil structure; the farmers harvest coffee and timber.

Sustainable agriculture is farming in sustainable ways meeting society's present food and textile needs, without compromising the ability for current or future generations to meet their needs. It can be based on an understanding of ecosystem services. There are many methods to increase the sustainability of agriculture. When developing agriculture within sustainable food systems, it is important to develop flexible business processes and farming practices. Agriculture has an enormous environmental footprint, playing a significant role in causing climate change (food systems are responsible for one third of the anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions), water scarcity, water pollution, land degradation, deforestation and other processes; it is simultaneously causing environmental changes and being impacted by these changes. Sustainable agriculture consists of environment friendly methods of farming that allow the production of crops or livestock without causing damage to human or natural systems. It involves preventing adverse effects on soil, water, biodiversity, and surrounding or downstream resources, as well as to those working or living on the farm or in neighboring areas. Elements of sustainable agriculture can include permaculture, agroforestry, mixed farming, multiple cropping, and crop rotation.

Developing sustainable food systems contributes to the sustainability of the human population. For example, one of the best ways to mitigate climate change is to create sustainable food systems based on sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture provides a potential solution to enable agricultural systems to feed a growing population within the changing environmental conditions. Besides sustainable farming practices, dietary shifts to sustainable diets are an intertwined way to substantially reduce environmental impacts. Numerous sustainability standards and certification systems exist, including organic certification, Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade, UTZ Certified, GlobalGAP, Bird Friendly, and the Common Code for the Coffee Community (4C). (Full article...)

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Did you know...

... the theoretical maximum cereal yield per year in the tropics amounts to 66,138 pounds (30,000 kg) per hectare?
Other "Did you know" facts... Read more...

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