The Art and Science of Agriculture:-The art and science of cultivating the soil, growing crops, and raising livestock are known as agriculture.
The art and science of cultivating the soil, growing crops, and raising livestock is known as agriculture. It involves preparing plant and animal items for human consumption and distributing them to marketplaces.
Most of the food and textiles in the world are produced by agriculture. Agriculture produces leather, wool, and cotton. Agriculture also produces paper and timber for construction.
These goods, as well as the agricultural, practices employed, may differ from region to region.
Start of Agriculture
Agriculture’s expansion over the years has aided in the development of civilizations.
Prior to the widespread adoption of agriculture, humans spent the majority of their time obtaining food through wild animal hunting and plant gathering. People began to develop their knowledge of growing grain and root crops around 11,500 years ago, and they eventually adapted to a life based on farming.
A large portion of Earth’s population was reliant on agriculture by 2,000 years ago. Although researchers are unsure of the exact cause, climate change may have played a role.
When humans started cultivating crops, they also started domesticating and breeding wild animals. Domestication is the process of modifying wild plants and animals for human consumption.
It’s likely that rice or corn was the first domesticated plant. Farmers in early as 7500 BCE.
Dogs were the first animals to be domesticated, and they were employed for hunting. The next domesticated animals were likely sheep and goats. Cattle and pigs were also tamed by humans. Many of these creatures had originally been targeted for their flesh and hides. Many of them are currently suppliers of milk, cheese, and butter as well. Over time, people started using tamed animals like oxen for transporting, hauling, and plough work.
People were able to generate extra food thanks to agriculture. When harvests failed, they might consume the extra food or exchange it for other products. People were able to work on jobs unrelated to farming thanks to food surpluses.
Agriculture enabled the establishment of permanent communities by keeping once-nomadic people close to their land. Trade brought these together. In some regions, new economies were so prosperous that cities and civilizations flourished. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq and Iran) and the Nile River in Egypt were the sites of the oldest civilizations built on intense agriculture.
The advancement of agriculture was extremely gradual for thousands of years. The fire was one of the first tools used in agriculture. Native Americans employed fire to regulate the growth of berry-producing plants since they were aware that these plants expanded rapidly following a wildfire. Axes were used to remove trees from tiny areas of land while digging tools were used to break up and till the soil. Improved farming implements made of bone, stone, bronze, and iron were created over time. New storage techniques emerged. As a precaution against food shortages, people started storing food in jars and pits walled with clay. They also started creating clay pots and other cooking and transporting utensils.
Mesopotamian farmers created primitive irrigation systems around 5500 BCE. Farmers were able to establish themselves in regions that were earlier considered unsuitable for agriculture by diverting water from streams onto their fields. People organized themselves and collaborated to create and maintain better irrigation systems in Mesopotamia, and later in Egypt and China.
Early farmers also created better plant varieties. For instance, a new kind of wheat emerged in South Asia and Egypt circa 6000 BCE. Its hulls were simpler to remove, it was stronger than earlier cereal grains, and it could be used to make bread.
The greatest agricultural practices of the people they conquered were adopted by the Romans as they grew their empires. They wrote manuals about the farming techniques they observed in Africa and Asia and adapted them to land in Europe.
Additionally, the Chinese adopted farming equipment and practices from neighboring civilizations. Vietnamese rice was of a fast-ripening kind that enabled farmers to harvest many crops in a single growing season. The popularity of this rice spread swiftly throughout China.
Farmers in medieval Europe frequently planted in open fields. Three fields would be planted: one in the spring, one in the fall, and one that would remain barren. The crop production was increased by this system’s preservation of soil nutrients.
Agriculture was turned into a science by the rulers of the Islamic Golden Age, which peaked about the year 1000 in North Africa and the Middle East. Farmers in the Islamic Golden Age learned crop rotation.
Explorers brought new plants and agricultural products to Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. They brought back coffee, tea, and indigo, a plant used to manufacture blue dye, from Asia. They imported plants from the Americas, including tobacco, potatoes, tomatoes, corn (maize), beans, and peanuts. Some of these extended people’s diets and became staples.
The early 1700s saw the start of a significant period of agricultural development in Great Britain and the Low Countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, which lie below sea level). The United States and Canada in particular saw a significant boost in food production because of new agricultural innovations.
Jethro Tull of England created an improved horse-drawn seed drill, which was among the most significant of these innovations. Farmers have previously planted seeds by hand. For the seeds, Tull’s drill created rows of holes. Europe had adopted the practise of seed drilling by the end of the 18th century.
In the US, numerous machines were created. Eli Whitney created the cotton gin in 1794, which shortened the time required to separate cotton fiber from the seed. Cyrus McCormick’s motorized reaper contributed to the modernization of the grain-cutting process in the 1830s. A horse-powered thresher developed by John and Hiram Pitts during the same period sped up the process of separating grain and seed from chaff and straw. The introduction of the steel plough by John Deere in 1837,
allowed for significantly lower horsepower to be used to plough the difficult grassland soil. There were several significant improvements in farming practices in addition to new machines. Farmers enhanced the number and production of their livestock by selectively breeding animals (breeding those with favorable features).
Animal breeding has been practiced by cultures for ages; evidence reveals that Mongolian nomads selectively bred horses during the Bronze Age. Beginning in the 18th century, selective breeding was widely used by Europeans. The Leicester sheep, which was selectively bred in England for its high-quality meat and long, coarse fleece, is a prime example of this.
Additionally, plants could be grown specifically for particular traits. Gregor Mendel’s heredity studies were published in Austria in 1866. In studies using pea plants
Mendel discovered how qualities were passed down via generations. His work paved the path for genetically modifying crops.
During this time, new crop rotation techniques also developed. Over the course of the following century or so, many of these were adopted across Europe. For instance, the England-developed Norfolk four-field layout was highly effective. It featured rotating a number of crops, including wheat, turnips, barley, clover, and ryegrass, on an annual basis. Farmers were able to grow enough food to sell some of their harvests without having to clear any area for planting because this improved the soil’s nutrient content.
However, these events had little impact on the majority of the world. Farmers in South America, Africa, Australia, and Asia continued to practice traditional agricultural methods.
An average American farmer in the early 1900s produced enough food to sustain a family of five. Many farmers today are capable of feeding that family and 100 additional people. How did this significant increase in output occur? It occurred in great part as a result of technological advancements and the creation of new power sources.
The majority of farmers in developed nations were using both gasoline and electricity to operate equipment by the late 1950s. Draft animals and steam-powered equipment had been supplanted by tractors. In practically every stage of crop and livestock management, farmers used machinery.
Early in the 20th century, farms in Germany and Japan started using electricity as a power source. In the United States and other affluent nations, the majority of farms had electricity by 1960.
Electricity provided lighting for agricultural structures and drove machinery including water pumps, milking systems, and feeding apparatus. Today, the entire environment in chicken coops and livestock barns is controlled by electricity.
Farming in Water
Aquaculture and hydroponics are two examples of agricultural cultivation. Both involve aquaculture.
The study of growing plants in nutrient solutions is known as hydroponics. More than 50 times as much lettuce may be produced from a single acre of fertilizer solution as from the same quantity of soil.
Aquaculture, or basically the farming of fish and shellfish, was performed thousands of years ago in China, India, and Egypt. The ocean, lakes, ponds, and other bodies of water now use it all over the world. Shrimp farming is one type of aquaculture that has developed into a significant industry in many Asian and Latin American nations.
Freshwater and ocean fisheries are changing as a result of climate change and advancements in technology. Warm-water species have been pushed toward the poles by global warming, while cold-water species’ habitats have shrunk. The amount of fish is declining for traditional fishing communities in both developed and developing nations.
Ocean habitats have been damaged by bottom trawling. Huge nets are suspended from fishing vessels and dragged at the ocean’s bottom in bottom trawling. Halibut and squid are caught in the nets, but they also stir up silt at the ocean’s bottom. The plankton and algae, which make up the base of the food chain, are disturbed by this.
Through random experimentation, humanity has developed new species of plants and animals for ages. Scientists created new strains of high-yield wheat and rice in the 1950s and 1960s. They brought them to Mexico and several regions of Asia. Grain production increased dramatically in certain areas as a result. The term “Green Revolution” has been used to describe this daring agricultural endeavor.
Problems followed the Green Revolution’s successes. The new cultivars needed irrigation, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers to achieve great yields. Independent farmers in many developing nations are unable to purchase new technologies, and big business has taken over agriculture. Native plants and animals are also under stress as a result of the new, high-production crops.
Later, researchers and farmers discovered the causes of the new strains.
A new form of the green revolution emerged as a result: food genetic manipulation.
Genes, the genetic material that controls many aspects of an organism, are found inside every cell. Genetics is the study of how qualities are passed down through generations and what traits organisms inherit.
People can choose the traits they want to reproduce scientifically if they have a better understanding of genetics. Both plants and animals now undergo selective breeding thanks to new technology.
Beginning in the 1970s, researchers discovered that they could rearrange genes and add new ones to crops and livestock to enhance disease resistance, production, and other desired traits.
Methods of Cultivation
Globally, agricultural practices frequently differ greatly based on climate, geography, customs, and technological capabilities.
Permanent crops or food grown on the ground that is not replaced after each harvest, are a feature of low-tech farming. Permanent crops include coffee plants and citrus trees. Crop rotation, which is a more advanced farming technique, calls on an understanding of arable land. In addition to crop rotation and irrigation, academics and engineers also plant crops in accordance with the season, type of soil, and quantity of water required.
Farmers, who are typically women, sow corn in coastal West Africa just after the first rains of the growing season. They frequently employ slash-and-burn clearing, an age-old technique.
The farmer starts by clearing all the brush off her land. She starts a fire when this foliage dries out. The soil is made easily turnable by the fire’s heat, and the fertilized soil is a result of the burned plants. The farmer then plants corn kernels that were stored from the harvest the year before.
The African farmer puts other basic crops like peas or root vegetables like yams in between rows of corn. Intercropping is the process of producing multiple crops on the same land. Intercropping stops soil erosion from seasonal rains and moisture loss by covering the majority of the ground with vegetation.
Billions of domesticated animals around the world are raised and cared for in a variety of ways, from alpacas in Peru to zebus in India. Domesticated animals are a significant source of food in many nations.
For instance, the Fulani people have been nomads for a very long time in Nigeria. They go from one grazing location to another with their herds of cattle. The cattle graze on bushes and grasses on unproductive soil. Cattle are important to the Fulani because they provide milk, yet they are rarely killed for meat.
Beef cattle are bred all throughout the United States to develop quickly and produce a lot of fatty meat. The animals are transported to feedlots when they are five to twelve months old.
In the developing world, the two methods of producing livestock are in competition with one another. The long, curving horns of Ankole cattle, which have been raised in Uganda, help disperse heat, and their digestive systems have evolved to cope with malnutrition and a lack of water. However, the demand for milk in Uganda has compelled many farmers there to import Holstein cattle. Northern Europe is the breed’s original home. In an equatorial area, a lot of antibiotics, vaccinations, and other chemicals are needed to keep them healthy. The Ankole, which has thinner meat and less milk production, might go extinct within the next century.
Free-range poultry farming is a common practice among farmers worldwide. The birds hunt for food in yards or farms, consuming whatever they come across, including seeds, insects, scraps, and household items.
Fight Against Hunger
The distribution of food and the growth of the population must keep up with each other. A huge political and agricultural issue exists here.
Not a lack of food, but an uneven distribution of the food supply around the world, is the problem. Some nations have benefited more than others from the population to arable land ratio. According to some analysts, government practices in wealthy and developing nations have made it more difficult to distribute food equally. Local food shortages are still a result of disasters like floods and droughts.
Overpopulation also contributes to the unequal distribution of food resources. Over the next 100 years, a large portion of the population growth will take place in developing nations, where hunger is already a significant issue.
The issue of world hunger cannot be resolved by exporting food or agricultural technologies from nations with surpluses to those with shortages. Poor nations do not have the money to buy all the food they require and do not wish to rely on other nations indefinitely. A lot of poor nations see biodiversity as a valuable resource and do not want to endanger it with GMOs.
The hunger issue will be resolved, according to experts, in two ways. First and foremost, a nation’s citizens must be able to grow or buy their own food. Second, people everywhere need to practice sensible spending and eating habits. How about addressing the overpopulation issue?
Agriculture science will assist nations in converting to more wholesome food production techniques scientists are developing new high-yield varieties of crops that require fewer fertilizers or pesticides. Such crops reduce the need for using costly chemicals and trade.
Better programs for replanting trees are required in many nations. A growing number of farmers are being forced into lands that are too fragile to support farming due to overpopulation. Worldwide irrigation has expanded as a result of the food need. In some places, irrigation has led to a decline in water levels, the drying up of rivers, and the depletion of wells. Chemicals used in agriculture to boost productivity frequently damage groundwater, soil, and food systems.
Environmental damage is not always a result of agriculture. People may yet develop ways to end world hunger by preserving the land, water, and air, as well as by exchanging information and resources.