Portal:Agriculture

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The Agriculture Portal

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 twentieth century, industrial agriculture based on large-scale monocultures came to dominate agricultural output.

Today, small farms produce about a third of the world’s food, but large farms are prevalent. The largest one percent of farms in the world are greater than 50 hectares and operate more than 70 percent of the world's farmland. Nearly 40 percent of agricultural land is found on farms larger than 1,000 hectares. However, five of every six farms in the world consist of less than two hectares and take up only around 12 percent of all agricultural land.

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 percent 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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A photo from a 1921 encyclopedia shows a tractor ploughing an alfalfa field
A photo from a 1921 encyclopedia shows a tractor ploughing an alfalfa field
Agriculture is a major industry in the United States of America and the country is a net exporter of food. As of the last census of agriculture in 2007, there were 2.2 million farms, covering an area of 922 million acres (3,730,000 km2), an average of 418 acres (1.69 km2) per farm. Agriculture in the United States is primarily governed by periodically renewed U.S. farm bills. Governance is both a federal and a local responsibility with the United States Department of Agriculture being the federal department responsible. Government aid includes research into crop types and regional suitability as well as many kinds of subsidies, some price supports and loan programs. American farmers are not subject to production quotas and some laws are different for farms compared to other workplaces. A large part of the American farm workforce is made up of migrant and seasonal workers, many of them recent immigrants from Latin America or aliens working under work permits. Additional laws apply to these workers and their housing which is often provided by the farmer.

Corn, turkeys, tomatoes, potatoes, peanuts, and sunflower seeds constitute some of the major holdovers from the agricultural endowment of the Americas. European agricultural practices greatly affected the New England landscape, leaving behind many physical foot prints. Colonists brought livestock over from Europe which caused many changes to the land. Grazing animals required a lot of land and food to sustain them and due to grazing, native grasses were destroyed and European species began to replace them. New species of weeds were introduced and began to thrive as they were capable of withstanding the grazing of animals, whereas native species could not. In 2004, of the 145 million employed workers in the US, 834,000 of them held jobs as agricultural workers. 83% of these jobs were as farm workers. The median hourly income as of May 2004 was $7.70 for farmworkers planting, growing and harvesting crops, and $8.31 for farmworkers tending to animals. (Full article...)

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Did you know...

... with plant tissue culture it's possible to grow a complete plant out of a single plant cell?
Other "Did you know" facts... Read more...

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