The 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, art and practice 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.

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. Agriculture is also very sensitive to environmental degradation, such as biodiversity loss, desertification, soil degradation and global warming, which cause decrease in crop yield. 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 in recent decades, the global trend of a decreasing number of agricultural workers continues, especially in developing countries where smallholding is being overtaken by industrial agriculture and mechanization. Creating a global sustainable food systems which provides food security with sustainable agriculture practices is an international policy priority articulated in Sustainable Development Goal 2: "Zero hunger". (Full article...)

Selected article

Butter sold in a London market, salted (right) and unsalted (left)
Butter sold in a London market, salted (right) and unsalted (left)
Butter is a dairy product made from the fat and protein components of milk or cream. It is a semi-solid emulsion at room temperature, consisting of approximately 80% butterfat. It is used at room temperature as a spread, melted as a condiment, and used as an ingredient in baking, sauce making, pan frying, and other cooking procedures.

Most frequently made from cow's milk, butter can also be manufactured from the milk of other mammals, including sheep, goats, buffalo, and yaks. It is made by churning milk or cream to separate the fat globules from the buttermilk. Salt and food colorings are sometimes added to butter. Rendering butter, removing the water and milk solids, produces clarified butter or ghee, which is almost entirely butterfat.

Butter is a water-in-oil emulsion resulting from an inversion of the cream, where the milk proteins are the emulsifiers. Butter remains a firm solid when refrigerated, but softens to a spreadable consistency at room temperature, and melts to a thin liquid consistency at 32 to 35 °C (90 to 95 °F). The density of butter is 911 grams per litre (0.950 lb per US pint). It generally has a pale yellow color, but varies from deep yellow to nearly white. Its natural, unmodified color is dependent on the source animal's feed and genetics, but the commercial manufacturing process commonly manipulates the color with food colorings like annatto or carotene. (Full article...) (Full article...)

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A cow milking machine in action. This photo was taken on March 7, 2003
at the Salon de l'agriculture (Salon of agriculture) in Paris, France.

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

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