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Harvesting wheat with a combine harvester accompanied by a tractor and trailer

Agriculture is the science and art of cultivating plants and livestock. 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. The history of agriculture began thousands of years ago. After gathering wild grains beginning at least 105,000 years ago, nascent farmers began to plant them around 11,500 years ago. Pigs, sheep and cattle were domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Plants were independently cultivated in at least 11 regions of the world. Industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture in the twentieth century came to dominate agricultural output, though about 2 billion people still depended on subsistence agriculture into the twenty-first.

Modern agronomy, plant breeding, agrochemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers, and technological developments have sharply increased yields, while causing widespread 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 global warming, depletion of aquifers, deforestation, antibiotic resistance, and growth hormones in industrial meat production. Genetically modified organisms are widely used, although some are banned in certain countries.

Selected general articles

Did you know...

  • ... that the rose aphid and the rose-grain aphid both overwinter on rose bushes, but the latter disperses to grass and cereal crops in summer?
  • ... that Henry Semon lost his seat in the Oregon legislature when he accepted a position on the state's agriculture board, but was reappointed to the legislature after resigning from the board?
  • ... that the BAFTA-winning documentary 73 Cows tells the story of Jay and Katja Wilde, beef farmers who gave most of their cows to the Hillside Animal Sanctuary and took up vegan organic farming?
  • ... that historically, curryfish was not commercially harvested because it disintegrated too easily when handled?
  • ... that termites developed agriculture some 31 million years ago?
  • ... that the diary of Mary Hardy provides a detailed record of an 18th-century English farming and brewing business?

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