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Web Directory  - Article Details

Agriculture and Science

Date Added: May 15, 2010 02:59:53 PM
Author: Raghuraman
Category: Science Directory: Agriculture

Agriculture is the process of producing food, feed, fiber and many other desired products by the cultivation of certain plants and the raising of domesticated animals. The practice of agriculture is also known as "farming", although this term is sometimes used for plant agriculture only, while scientists, inventors and others devoted to improving farming methods and implements are also said to be engaged in agriculture. More people in the world are involved in agriculture as their primary economic activity than in any other, yet it only accounts for four percent of the world's GDP. Agriculture sometimes refers to subsistence agriculture, the production of enough food to meet just the needs of the farmer/agriculturalist and his/her family. It may also refer to industrial agriculture, often referred to as factory farming, long prevalent in developed nations. Agriculture is also short for the study of the practice of agriculture which is more formally known as agricultural science. Agricultural students are known as Aggies. Increasingly, in addition to food for humans and animal feeds, agriculture produces goods such as cut flowers, ornamental and nursery plants, timber or lumber, fertilizers, animal hides, leather, industrial chemicals like starch, sugar, ethanol, alcohols & plastics, fibers like cotton, wool, hemp, & flax, fuels like methane from biomass, biodiesel and both legal and illegal drugs like biopharmaceuticals, tobacco, marijuana, opium, cocaine, etc. Genetically engineered plants and animals produce specialty drugs. In recent years some aspects of industrial intensive agriculture have been the subject of increasing discussion. The widening sphere of influence held by large seed and chemical companies, meat packers and food processors has been a source of concern both within the farming community and for the general public. There has been increased activity of some people against some farming practices, raising chickens for food being one example. There has also been concern because of the disastrous effect that intensive agriculture has on the environment. In the US, for example, fertilizer has been running off into the Mississippi for years and has caused a dead spot in the Gulf of Mexico, where the Mississippi empties. Intensive agriculture also depletes the fertility of the land over time and the end effect is that which happened in the Middle East, were some of the most fertile farmland in the world was turned into a desert by intensive agriculture. The patent protection given to companies that develop new types of seed using genetic engineering has allowed seed to be licensed to farmers in much the same way that computer software is licensed to users. This has changed the balance of power in favor of the seed companies, allowing them to dictate terms and conditions previously unheard of. Some argue these companies are guilty of bio piracy. Soil conservation and nutrient management have been important concerns since the 1950s, with the best farmers taking a stewardship role with the land they operate. However, increasing contamination of waterways and wetlands by nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus are of concern in many countries. Increasing consumer awareness of agricultural issues has led to the rise of community supported agriculture, local food movement, slow food, and commercial organic farming, though these yet remain fledgling industries.

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