Portal:Agriculture

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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Phaseolus vulgaris seed.jpg
Pictured left: Diversity in dry common beans

"Bean" is a common name for large plant seeds of several genera of the family "fabaceae" (alternately "leguminosae") used for human food or animal feed.

The whole young pods of bean plants, if picked before the pods ripen and dry, are very tender and may be eaten cooked or raw. Thus the term "green beans" means "green" in the sense of unripe (many are in fact not green in color). In some cases, the beans inside the pods of "green beans" are too small to comprise a significant part of the cooked fruit. Beans have significant amounts of fiber and soluble fiber, with one cup of cooked beans providing between nine and 13 grams of fiber. Soluble fiber can help lower blood cholesterol. Beans are also high in protein, complex carbohydrates, folate, and iron.

Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants. Broad beans, with seeds the size of the small fingernail, were gathered in their wild state in Afghanistan and the Himalayan foothills. In a form improved from naturally occurring types, they were grown in Thailand already since the early seventh millennium (BC), predating ceramics. They were deposited with the dead in ancient Egypt. Not until the second millennium BC did cultivated, large-seeded broad beans appear in the Aegean, Iberia and transalpine Europe. In the "Iliad" (late-8th century) is a passing mention of beans and chickpeas cast on the threshing floor. The oldest-known domesticated beans in the Americas were found in Guitarrero Cave, an archaeological site in Peru, and dated to around the second millennium BCE.

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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.