Agriculture

Harvesting wheat with a combine harvester accompanied by a tractor and trailer

Agriculture is the science and art of cultivating plants and livestock.[1] 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.

Etymology and scope

The word agriculture is a late Middle English adaptation of Latin agricultūra, from ager, "field", which in its turn came from Greek αγρός, and cultūra, "cultivation" or "growing".[2] While agriculture usually refers to human activities, certain species of ant, termite and ambrosia beetle also cultivate crops.[3] Agriculture is defined with varying scopes, in its broadest sense using natural resources to "produce commodities which maintain life, including food, fiber, forest products, horticultural crops, and their related services".[4] Thus defined, it includes arable farming, horticulture, animal husbandry and forestry, but horticulture and forestry are in practice often excluded.[4]