Related topics: food security

Climate change and the threat to global breadbaskets

Climate change is not just resulting in a steady increase in temperatures, but also in an increased frequency and severity of extreme climatic events, like droughts, heat waves, and floods. These extreme conditions are particularly ...

Animated videos advance adoption of agriculture techniques

In remote areas with low literacy rates, showing animated videos in the local language demonstrating agricultural techniques results in high retention and adoption rates of those techniques, found researchers from Michigan ...

What's driving erosion worldwide?

ETH Zurich researchers are reexamining the causes of soil erosion around the world—and have found that countries themselves have a surprisingly strong influence on their soil. This country effect was previously undetected.

Sustaining roads with grape and agricultural waste

The U.S. spends $5 billion a year to repair damages to road infrastructure from winter snow and ice control operations and the use of traditional deicers. A team of researchers at WSU is developing a more sustainable solution ...

A matchmaker for microbiomes

Microbiomes play essential roles in the natural processes that keep the planet and our bodies healthy, so it's not surprising that scientists' investigations into these diverse microbial communities are leading to advances ...

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Agriculture

Agriculture refers to the production of food and goods through farming and forestry. Agriculture was the key development that led to the rise of civilization, with the husbandry of domesticated animals and plants (i.e. crops) creating food surpluses that enabled the development of more densely populated and stratified societies. The study of agriculture is known as agricultural science (the related practice of gardening is studied in horticulture).

Agriculture encompasses a wide variety of specialties and techniques, including ways to expand the lands suitable for plant raising, by digging water-channels and other forms of irrigation. Cultivation of crops on arable land and the pastoral herding of livestock on rangeland remain at the foundation of agriculture. In the past century there has been increasing concern to identify and quantify various forms of agriculture. In the developed world the range usually extends between sustainable agriculture (e.g. permaculture or organic agriculture) and intensive farming (e.g. industrial agriculture).

Modern agronomy, plant breeding, pesticides and fertilizers, and technological improvements have sharply increased yields from cultivation, and at the same time have caused widespread ecological damage and negative human health effects.[citation needed] Selective breeding and modern practices in animal husbandry such as intensive pig farming (and similar practices applied to the chicken) have similarly increased the output of meat, but have raised concerns about animal cruelty and the health effects of the antibiotics, growth hormones, and other chemicals commonly used in industrial meat production.[citation needed]

The major agricultural products can be broadly grouped into foods, fibers, fuels, raw materials, pharmaceuticals and stimulants, and an assortment of ornamental or exotic panget products. In the 2000s, plants have been used to grow biofuels, biopharmaceuticals, bioplastics, and pharmaceuticals. Specific foods include cereals, vegetables, fruits, and meat. Fibers include cotton, wool, hemp, silk and flax. Raw materials include lumber and bamboo. Stimulants include tobacco, alcohol, opium, cocaine,and digitalis. Other useful materials are produced by plants, such as resins. Biofuels include methane from biomass, ethanol, and biodiesel. Cut flowers, nursery plants, tropical fish and birds for the pet trade are some of the ornamental products.

In 2007, about one third of the world's workers were employed in agriculture. However, the relative significance of farming has dropped steadily since the beginning of industrialization, and in 2003 – for the first time in history – the services sector overtook agriculture as the economic sector employing the most people worldwide. Despite the fact that agriculture employs over one-third of the world's population, agricultural production accounts for less than five percent of the gross world product (an aggregate of all gross domestic products).[dead link]

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