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Agriculture is the cultivation of land and breeding of animals and plants to provide food, fiber, medicinal plants and other products to sustain and enhance life. 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 study of agriculture is known as agricultural science. The history of agriculture dates back thousands of years; people gathered wild grains at least 105,000 years ago and began to plant them around 11,500 years ago before they became domesticated. Pigs, sheep, and cattle were domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Crops originate from at least 11 regions of the world. Industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture has in the past century come to dominate agricultural output, though about 2 billion people worldwide still depend on subsistence agriculture.
Modern agronomy, plant breeding, agrochemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers, and technological developments have sharply increased yields from cultivation, but at the same time have caused 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 through contributions to global warming, depletion of aquifers, deforestation, antibiotic resistance, and growth hormones in industrially produced meat. Genetically modified organisms are widely used, although they are banned in several countries.
The major agricultural products can be broadly grouped into foods, fibers, fuels, and raw materials (such as rubber). Classes of foods include cereals (grains), vegetables, fruits, oils, meat, milk, fungi and eggs. Over one-third of the world's workers are employed in agriculture, second only to the service sector, although the number of agricultural workers in developed countries has decreased significantly over the past several centuries.
|Pictured left: A European honey bee carrying pollen back to the beehive
Honey bees are a subset of bees in the genus Apis, primarily distinguished by the production and storage of honey and the construction of perennial, colonial nests out of wax. Honey bees are the only extant members of the tribe Apini, all in the genus Apis. Currently, there are only seven recognised species of honey bee with a total of 44 subspecies, though historically, anywhere from six to eleven species have been recognised. Honey bees represent only a small fraction of the approximately 20,000 known species of bees. Some other types of related bees produce and store honey, but only members of the genus Apis are true honey bees.
Honey bees as a group appear to have their centre of origin in South and South East Asia (including the Philippines), as all but one of the extant species are native to that region, notably the most plesiomorphic living species (Apis florea and Apis andreniformis). The first Apis bees appear in the fossil record at the Eocene–Oligocene boundary, in European deposits. The origin of these prehistoric honey bees does not necessarily indicate that Europe is where the genus originated, only that it occurred there at that time. There are few known fossil deposits in the suspected region of honey bee origin, and fewer still have been thoroughly studied. There is only one fossil species documented from the New World, Apis nearctica, known from a single 14-million-year old specimen from Nevada.
Sustainable agriculture is the practice of farming using principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. It has been defined as "an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will last over the long term:
Sustainable agriculture in the United States was addressed by the 1990 farm bill. More recently, as consumer and retail demand for sustainable products has risen, organizations such as Food Alliance and Protected Harvest have started to provide measurement standards and certification programs for what constitutes a sustainably grown crop.
Categories: Sustainable agriculture, Sustainability
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