The Agriculture Portal

Ploughing rice paddies with water buffalo, in Indonesia.

Agriculture or farming is the 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. Sheep, goats, pigs 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.

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, cooking oils, meat, milk, eggs, and fungi. 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 that brings an enormous crop yield increase.

Modern agronomy, plant breeding, agrochemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers, and technological developments have sharply increased crop yields, but cause 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 other agricultural pollution. Agriculture is both a cause of and sensitive to environmental degradation, such as biodiversity loss, desertification, soil degradation, and global warming, all of which can cause decreases in crop yield. Genetically modified organisms are widely used, although some are banned in certain countries. (Full article...)

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Mechanical harvesting of dates in Israel
Mechanical harvesting of dates in Israel
Agriculture in Israel is a highly developed industry: Israel is a major exporter of fresh produce and a world-leader in agricultural technologies despite the fact that the geography of Israel is not naturally conducive to agriculture. More than half of the land area is desert, and the climate and lack of water resources do not favor of farming. Only 20% of the land area is naturally arable. Today agriculture represents 2.5% of total GDP and 3.6% of exports. While agricultural workers make up only 3.7% of the work force, Israel produces 95% of its own food requirements, supplementing this with imports of grain, oil seeds, meat, coffee, cocoa and sugar.

Israel is home to two unique types of agricultural communities, the kibbutz and moshav, which developed as Jews from all over the world immigrated to the country and embarked on a pioneering enterprise.

The importance of agriculture in Israel's economy has fallen over time, accounting for decreasing values of GDP. In 1979, it accounted for just under 6% of GDP, in 1985 5.1%, and today, 2.5%. In 1995, there were 43,000 farm units with an average size of 13.5 hectares. 19.8% of these were smaller than 1 hectare, 75.7% were 1 to 9 hectares in size, 3.3% were between 10 and 49 hectares, 0.4% were between 50 and 190 hectares, and 0.8% were larger than 200 hectares. Of the 380,000 hectares under cultivation in 1995, 20.8% was under permanent cultivation and 79.2% under rotating cultivation. Farm units included 160,000 hectares used for activities other than cultivation. Cultivation was based mainly in the northern coastal plains, the hills of the interior, and the upper Jordan Valley. (Full article...)

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Oranges in Boumalne du Dades, Dadès Gorges, Morocco

Did you know...

... with plant tissue culture it's possible to grow a complete plant out of a single plant cell?
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