Portal:Agriculture

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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 crop 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 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...)

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A commercial chicken house raising broiler pullets for meat.
A commercial chicken house raising broiler pullets for meat.
Factory farming is a term referring to the process of raising livestock in confinement at high stocking density, where a farm operates as a factory — a practice typical in industrial farming by agribusinesses. The main product of this industry is meat, milk and eggs for human consumption. However, there have been issues regarding whether factory farming is sustainable and ethical.

Confinement at high stocking density is one part of a systematic effort to produce the highest output at the lowest cost by relying on economies of scale, modern machinery, biotechnology, and global trade. Confinement at high stocking density requires antibiotics and pesticides to mitigate the spread of disease and pestilence exacerbated by these crowded living conditions. In addition, antibiotics are used to stimulate livestock growth by killing intestinal bacteria. There are differences in the way factory farming techniques are practiced around the world. There is a continuing debate over the benefits and risks of factory farming. The issues include the efficiency of food production; animal welfare; whether it is essential for feeding the growing global human population; the environmental impact and the health risks.

The large concentration of animals, animal waste, and the potential for dead animals in a small space poses ethical issues. It is recognized that some techniques used to sustain intensive agriculture can be cruel to animals. As awareness of the problems of intensive techniques has grown, there have been some efforts by governments and industry to remove inappropriate techniques. (Full article...)

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Holstein cows large.jpg
Credit: U.S. Federal Government
Holstein cattle, a breed of cattle known today as the world's highest production dairy animal.

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...

... some kinds of raw beans, especially red and kidney beans, contain a harmful toxin (lectin phytohaemagglutinin) that must be destroyed by cooking? A recommended method is to boil the beans for at least ten minutes; undercooked beans may be more toxic than raw beans.[1]
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  1. ^ "Foodborne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins Handbook: Phytohaemagglutinin". Bad Bug Book. United States Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved 2009-07-11. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

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