Agriculture portal

Ploughing rice paddies with water buffalo, in Indonesia.
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.

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, 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 centuries.

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Sow with piglet.jpg
The domestic pig (also swine, in some areas hog) is a domesticated animal that traces its ancestry to the wild boar, and is considered a subspecies of the wild boar or a distinct species in its own right. It is likely the wild boar was domesticated as early as 13,000 BC in the Tigris River basin. Pigs are farmed for the consumption of their flesh, but some cultures have religious dietary laws that forbid the consumption of pig meat. The animal's bones, hide, and bristles have been fashioned into items for human use such as brushes, and pigs have been kept as pets, especially the pot bellied pig. Miss Piggy, Babe, and Porky the Pig represent the domestic pig in entertainment and "The Three Little Pigs", Charlotte's Web, and The Sheep-Pig are prominent examples of the domestic pig in literature.

Most domestic pigs have rather sparse hair covering on their skin, although woolly coated breeds, such as the Mangalitsa, are raised. Archaeological evidence suggests that pigs were domesticated from wild boar as early as 13,000–12,700 BC in the Near East in the Tigris Basin being managed in the wild in a way similar to the way they are managed by some modern New Guineans. Remains of pigs have been dated to earlier than 11,400 BC in Cyprus that must have been introduced from the mainland which suggests domestication in the adjacent mainland by then. There was also a separate domestication in China.

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The poultry of the world, 1868.jpg
Credit: Chromolithograph by L. Prang & Co., Boston, circa 1868

The poultry of the world. Portraits of all known valuable breeds of fowl. Fifty-two types of identified chickens.

Sustainable agriculture

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.[2] 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.[3]

  1. ^ Gold, M. (July 2009). What is Sustainable Agriculture?. United States Department of Agriculture, Alternative Farming Systems Information Center.
  2. ^ Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (FACTA), Public Law 101-624, Title XVI, Subtitle A, Section 1603
  3. ^ Organic and non-GMO Report. New certification programs aim to encourage sustainable farming.

Categories: Sustainable agriculture, Sustainability

Did you know...

...the indigenous Gunditjmara people in Victoria, Australia may have raised eels as early as 6000 BC? There is evidence that they developed about 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi) of volcanic floodplains in the vicinity of Lake Condah into a complex of channels and dams, that they used woven traps to capture eels, and that capturing and smoking eels supported them year round.[1][2]
Other "Did you know" facts... Read more...

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  1. ^ Aborigines may have farmed eels, built huts ABC Science News, 13 March 2003.
  2. ^ Lake Condah Sustainability Project. Retrieved 18 February 2010.