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Agriculture !

Agriculture has played a key role in the development of human civilization.Until the Industrial Revolution, the vast majority of the human population labored in agriculture.The type of agriculture they developed was typically subsistence agriculture in which farmers raised most of their crops for consumption on farm, and there was only a small portion left over for the payment of taxes, dues or trade.In subsistence agriculture cropping decisions are made with an eye to what the family needs for food and to make clothing and not the world marketplace. Development of agricultural techniques has steadily increased agricultural productivity and the widespread diffusion of these techniques during a time period is often called an agricultural revolution.

A remarkable shift in agricultural practices has occurred over the past century in response to new technologies and the development of world markets. This also led to technological improvements in agricultural techniques such as the Haber-Bosch method for synthesizing ammonium nitrate which made the traditional practice of recycling nutrients with crop rotation and animal manure less necessary. Synthetic nitrogen, along with mined rock phosphate pesticides and mechanization have greatly increased crop yields in the early 20th century. Increased supply of grains has led to cheaper livestock as well.Further global yield increases were experienced later in the 20th century when high-yield varieties of common staple grains such as rice wheat, and corn (maize) were introduced as a part of the Green Revolution.The Green Revolution exported the technologies (including pesticides and synthetic nitrogen) of the developed world to the developing world.Thomas Malthus famously predicted that the Earth would not be able to support its growing population but technologies such as the Green Revolution have allowed the world to produce a surplus of food.Norman Borlaug, father of the Green Revolution is often credited with saving over a billion people worldwide from starvation.Many governments have subsidized agriculture to ensure an adequate food supply.

.These agricultural subsidies are often linked to the production of certain commodities such as wheat corn (maize) rice soybeans and milk.These subsidies especially when instituted by developed countries have been noted as protectionist inefficient and environmental damaging.In late 2007 several factors pushed up the price of grains consumed by humans as well as used to feed poultry and dairy cows and other cattle causing higher prices of wheat (up 58%) soybean (up 32%)and maize (up 11%) over the year. Food riots took place in several countries across the world. Contributing factors included drought in Australia and elsewhere increasing demand for grain-fed animal products from the growing middle classes of countries such as China and India diversion of food grain to bio-fuel production and trade restrictions imposed by several countries.An epidemic of stem rust on wheat caused by race Ug99 is currently spreading across Africa and into Asia and is causing major concern.Approximately 40% of the world agricultural land is seriously degraded.In Africa if current trends of soil degradation continue the continent might be able to feed just 25% of its population by 2025 according to UNU Ghana-based Institute for Natural Resources in Africa.

History

Agricultural practices such as irrigation, crop rotation, fertilizers and pesticides were developed long ago but have made great strides in the past century.The history of agriculture has played a major role in human history, as agricultural progress has been a crucial factor in worldwide socio-economic change.Division of labor in agricultural societies made commonplace specializations rarely seen in hunter-gatherer cultures.So too are arts such as epic literature and monumental architecture as well as codified legal systems.When farmers became capable of producing food beyond the needs of their own families others in their society were freed to devote themselves to projects other than food acquisition.Historians and anthropologists have long argued that the development of agriculture made civilization possible.The total world population probably never exceeded 15 million inhabitants before the invention of agriculture.Indian agriculture began by 9000 BC as a result of early cultivation of plants and domestication of crops and animals.Settled life soon followed with implements and techniques being developed for agriculture.Double monsoons led to two harvests being reaped in one year. Indian products soon reached the world via existing trading networks and foreign crops were introduced to India. Plants and animals-considered essential to their survival by the Indians-came to be worshiped and venerated.The middle ages saw irrigation channels reach a new level of sophistication in India and Indian crops affecting the economies of other regions of the world under Islamic patronage.Land and water management systems were developed with an aim of providing uniform growth.Despite some stagnation during the later modern era the independent Republic of India was able to develop a comprehensive agricultural program.

Agriculture in India

Today India ranks second worldwide in farm output. Agriculture and allied sectors like forestry and logging accounted for 16.6% of the GDP in 2007 employed 52% of the total workforce and despite a steady decline of its share in the GDP is still the largest economic sector and plays a significant role in the overall social-economic development of India. India is the largest producer in the world of fresh fruit, anise, fennel badian coriander tropical fresh fruit jute pigeon peas pulses spices millets castor oil seed sesame seeds safflower seeds lemons limes cow milk dry chillies and peppers chick peas cashew nuts okra ginger turmeric guavas mangoes goat milk and buffalo milk and meat.India is also the largest producer of millets like Jowar Bajra and Ragi.It is second only to China in the production of rice.India is the 6th largest coffee producer in the world.

It also has the world largest cattle population (281 million).It is the second largest producer of cashews cabbages cotton seed and lint fresh vegetables garlic egg plant goat meat silk nutmeg.mace cardamom onions wheat rice sugarcane lentil dry beans groundnut, tea green peas cauliflowers potatoes pumpkins squashes gourds and inland fish.It is the third largest producer of tobacco sorghum rapeseed coconuts hen eggs and tomatoes.India accounts for 10% of the world fruit production with first rank in the production of mangoes papaya banana and sapota. India population is growing faster than its ability to produce rice and wheat.

Crop production systems

Cropping systems vary among farms depending on the available resources and constraints geography and climate of the farm government policy economic social and political pressures and the philosophy and culture of the farmer.Shifting cultivation (or slash and burn) is a system in which forests are burnt, releasing nutrients to support cultivation of annual and then perennial crops for a period of several years.Then the plot is left fallow to re-grow forest and the farmer moves to a new plot returning after many more years (10-20).This fallow period is shortened if population density grows requiring the input of nutrients (fertilizer or manure) and some manual pest control.

Annual cultivation is the next phase of intensity in which there is no fallow period. This requires even greater nutrient and pest control inputs.Further industrialization lead to the use of monoculture when one cultivar is planted on a large acreage.Because of the low biodiversity nutrient use is uniform and pests tend to build up necessitating the greater use of pesticides and fertilizers.Multiple cropping in which several crops are grown sequentially in one year, and inter cropping when several crops are grown at the same time are other kinds of annual cropping systems known as poly-cultures. In tropical environments all of these cropping systems are practiced.In subtropical and arid environments the timing and extent of agriculture may be limited by rainfall, either not allowing multiple annual crops in a year, or requiring irrigation.In all of these environments perennial crops are grown (coffee chocolate) and systems are practiced such as agroforestry.In temperate environments where ecosystems were predominantly grassland or prairie highly productive annual cropping is the dominant farming system.