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Agriculture is the cultivation and breeding of animals and plants to provide food, fiber, medicinal plants and other products to sustain and enhance life. 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 study of agriculture is known as agricultural science. The history of agriculture dates back thousands of years; people gathered wild grains at least 105,000 years ago, and began to plant them around 11,500 years ago, before they became domesticated. Pigs, sheep, and cattle were domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Crops originate from at least 11 regions of the world. Industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture has in the past century become the dominant agricultural method.
Modern agronomy, plant breeding, agrochemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers, and technological developments have sharply increased yields from cultivation, but at the same time have caused widespread ecological 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 through contributions to global warming, depletion of aquifers, deforestation, antibiotic resistance, and growth hormones in industrially produced meat. Genetically modified organisms are widely used, although they are banned in several countries.
The major agricultural products can be broadly grouped into foods, fibers, fuels, and raw materials. Classes of foods include cereals (grains), vegetables, fruits, oils, and meat. 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 past several centuries.
(Pictured left: Soy field in Argentina's fertile pampas. The versatile legume makes up about half the nation's crop production and a fourth of its exports.)
Agriculture is one of the bases of Argentina's economy. Argentine agriculture is relatively capital intensive, today providing about 7% of all employment and, even during its period of dominance around 1900, accounting for no more than a third of all labor. Having accounted for 20% of GDP as late as 1959, it adds, directly, less than 10% today; however, agricultural goods, whether raw or processed, still earn over half of Argentina's foreign exchange and, arguably, remain an indispensable pillar of the country's social progress and economic prosperity. An estimated 10-15% of argentinian farmland is foreign owned.
In 2007, more than one fifth of Argentine exports of about US$56 billion were composed of unprocessed agricultural primary goods, mainly soybeans, wheat and maize. A further one third were composed of processed agricultural products, such as animal feed, flour and vegetable oils. The national governmental organization in charge of overseeing agriculture is the Secretariat of Agriculture, Cattle Farming, Fishing and Food (Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Pesca y Alimentos, SAGPyA).
Argentine beef and other meats are some of the most important agricultural export products of Argentina. Nearly 5 million tonnes of meats (not including seafood) are produced in Argentina, long the world's leading beef consumer on a per capita basis. Beef accounts for 3.2 million tonnes (not counting 500.000 tonnes of edible offal). Then, following in importance: chicken, with 1.2 million tonnes; pork, with 265,000 and mutton (including goat meat), over 100,000. Cattle is mainly raised in the provinces of Buenos Aires and Santa Fe. Additional significant agricultural commodities include cereals, oilseeds, fruit, vegetables, sugar cane, dairy products and fish/seafood.
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. 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.
Categories: Sustainable agriculture, Sustainability
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