Agriculture is not only growing food for people and animals, but also growing other things like flowers, ornamental plants (plants people use to improve the look of their homes) and nursery plants (plants people buy to grow food on their own farms and land), manure or dung, animal hides (skins or furs), leather, industrial chemicals (starch, ethanol, and plastics), fibers (cotton, wool, hemp, and flax), fuels (methane, biodiesel, biomass), and drugs (biopharmaceuticals, marijuana, opium)
Agriculture started at least 10,000 years ago, but no one knows for sure how old it is. Agriculture and domestication started in the Fertile Crescent, in East Africa, and in the Middle East. The area called Fertile Crescent is now in the countries of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt. Wheat and barley are some of the first crops people grew. People probably started agriculture slowly by planting a few crops, but still gathered many foods from the wild. People may have started farming because the weather and soil began to change. Farming can feed many more people than gathering on the same amount of land.
Farming actually started with the first nations. They might have originally kept tethered animals for extra food. Farmers often help each other out whenever they can.[source?] Scientists have many theories about how farming started but most start with first nations, around the end of the ice age (about ten thousand years ago).
Many people live by doing what is called subsistence agriculture, on a small farm. Only the farmer's family lives on the farm. Subsistence agriculture is growing only enough food to feed the farmer, his family, and his animals. Extra food or animals are sold for money or other things the farmer cannot grow. The yield is the amount of food grown on a given amount of land, and the yield is often low. This is because subsistence farmers are generally less educated, and they have less money to buy equipment. When yields are low, forests are sometimes cut to provide new land to grow more food. This is good in the short term, but can be bad for the country and the surrounding environment over many years.
In rich countries, farms are often much larger. The yield on farms has gotten bigger in the last one hundred years because farmers are able to grow better varieties of plants, use more fertilizer, use more water, and more easily control weeds and pests. Many farms also use machines, which cut down on the number of people needed to farm the land. This results in fewer farmers in rich countries, but the farmers are able to eat more. This kind of intensive agriculture comes with its own set of problems. Farmers use a lot of chemical fertilizers, pesticides (chemicals that kill bugs), and herbicides (chemicals that kill weeds). These chemicals can pollute the soil or the water. They can also create bugs and weeds that are more resistant to the chemicals, causing outbreaks of these pests. The soil can be damaged by erosion (blowing or washing away), salt buildup, or loss of structure. Irrigation (adding water from rivers) can pollute water and lower the water table. Having fewer farmers also changes society and can make a country less able to feed itself in bad times.
Agriculture techniques [change]
Farmers select plants with better yield, taste, and nutritional value. They also choose plants that are more resistant to disease, more tolerant to drought, and easier to harvest. Centuries of careful selection and breeding have had enormous effects on the characteristics of crop plants. The crops produce better yield with other techniques (use of fertilizers, chemical pest control, irrigation).
Some companies have been searching for new plants in poor countries, and genetically modify these plants to improve them. They then try to patent the seeds and sell them back to the poor countries.
It is important for there to be enough food for everyone. The food must also be safe and good. They say it is sometimes not safe, because it contains some chemicals. Other people say intensive agriculture is damaging the environment. For this reason, there are several types of agriculture.
Traditional agriculture is mostly done in poor countries.
Intensive agriculture is mostly done in wealthier countries. It uses pesticides, machinery, chemical fertilizers. Organic farming is using only natural products. Integrated farming is using local resources, and trying to use the waste from one process as a resource in another process.
Agricultural policy focuses on the goals and methods of agricultural production. At the policy level, common goals of agriculture include:
- Food safety: to be sure that the food supply is safe.
- Food security: to be sure there is enough food for everyone.
- Food quality: to be sure the food is of good quality.
Problems in agriculture [change]
There are some serious problems that face people trying to grow food today. These include:
The major crops produced in the world in 2002, are maize (corn), wheat, rice, and cotton.
- Maize 624 millions of metric tons
- Wheat 570 millions of metric tons
- Rice 381.1 millions of metric tons
- Cotton 96.5 millions of metric tons
Other pages [change]
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