What is Agriculture? Historical Development And Types Of Crop Practices

Agriculture provides most of the world’s food and fabrics. Cotton, wool, and leather are all agricultural products. Agriculture also provides wood for construction and paper products. These products, as well as the agricultural methods used, may vary from one part of the world to another.

What is Agriculture?

Definition: Agriculture is the art and science of cultivating the soil, growing crops, and raising livestock. It includes the preparation of plant and animal products for people to use and their distribution to markets.

Agriculture is the practice of cultivating plants and livestock. 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.

Modern agronomy, plant breeding, agrochemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers, and technological developments have sharply increased crop 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. Agriculture is both a cause of and sensitive to environmental degradation, such as biodiversity loss, desertification, soil degradation, and global warming, all of which can cause decreases in crop yield. 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 in recent decades, the global trend of a decreasing number of agricultural workers continues, especially in developing countries where smallholding is being overtaken by industrial agriculture and mechanization.

Term Etymology

The word agriculture is a late Middle English adaptation of Latin agricultūra, from ager ‘field’ and cultūra ‘cultivation’ or ‘growing’. While agriculture usually refers to human activities, certain species of ant, termite and beetle have been cultivating crops for up to 60 million years.

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”. Thus defined, it includes arable farming, horticulture, animal husbandry, and forestry, but horticulture and forestry are in practice often excluded.

History Of Agriculture

The history of agriculture records the domestication of plants and animals and the development and dissemination of techniques for raising them productively. Agriculture began independently in different parts of the globe and included a diverse range of taxa. At least eleven separate regions of the Old and New World were involved as independent centers of origin.

Wild grains were collected and eaten from at least 105,000 years ago. However, domestication did not occur until much later. Starting from around 9500 BC, the eight Neolithic founder crops, emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, hulled barley, peas, lentils, bitter vetch, chickpeas, and flax – were cultivated in the Levant.

Rye may have been cultivated earlier, but this claim remains controversial. Rice was domesticated in China by 6200 BC with the earliest known cultivation from 5700 BC, followed by mung, soy, and azuki beans. Pigs have domesticated in Mesopotamia around 11,000 BC, followed by sheep between 11,000 BC and 9000 BC.

Cattle were domesticated from the wild aurochs in the areas of modern Turkey and India around 8500 BC. Sorghum was domesticated in the Sahel region of Africa by 3000 BC. Camels were domesticated late, perhaps around 3000 BC.

In South America, agriculture began as early as 9000 BCE, starting with the cultivation of several species of plants that later became only minor crops. In the Andes of South America, the potato was domesticated between 8000 BC and 5000 BC, along with beans, tomatoes, peanuts, coca, llamas, alpacas, and guinea pigs.

Cassava was domesticated in the Amazon Basin no later than 7000 BC. Maize (Zea mays) found its way to South America from Mesoamerica, where wild teosinte was domesticated about 7000 BC and genetically manipulated to become domestic maize.

Cotton was domesticated in Peru by 4200 BC; another species of cotton was domesticated in Mesoamerica and became by far the most important species of cotton in the textile industry in modern times.

Sugarcane and some root vegetables were domesticated in New Guinea around 7000 BC. Bananas were cultivated and hybridized in the same period in Papua New Guinea. In Australia, agriculture was invented at a currently unspecified period, with the oldest eel traps of Budj Bim dating to 6,600 BC and the deployment of several crops ranging from yams to bananas.

The Bronze Age, from c. 3300 BC, witnessed the intensification of agriculture in civilizations such as Mesopotamian Sumer, ancient Egypt, the Indus Valley Civilisation of the Indian subcontinent, ancient China, and ancient Greece. During the Iron Age and era of classical antiquity, the expansion of ancient Rome, both the Republic and then the Empire.

Throughout the ancient Mediterranean and Western Europe built upon existing systems of agriculture while also establishing the manorial system that became a bedrock of medieval agriculture. In the Middle Ages, both in the Islamic world and in Europe, agriculture was transformed with improved techniques and the diffusion of crop plants, including the introduction of sugar, rice, cotton, and fruit trees such as the orange to Europe by way of Al-Andalus.

After the voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1492, the Columbian exchange brought New World crops such as maize, potatoes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and manioc to Europe, and Old World crops such as wheat, barley, rice, and turnips, and livestock including horses, cattle, sheep, and goats to the Americas.

Irrigation, crop rotation, and fertilizers were introduced soon after the Neolithic Revolution and developed much further in the past 200 years, starting with the British Agricultural Revolution. Since 1900, agriculture in the developed nations, and to a lesser extent in the developing world, has seen large rises in productivity as human labor has been replaced by mechanization, and assisted by synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and selective breeding.

The Haber-Bosch process allowed the synthesis of ammonium nitrate fertilizer on an industrial scale, greatly increasing crop yields. Modern agriculture has raised social, political, and environmental issues including overpopulation, water pollution, biofuels, genetically modified organisms, tariffs, and farm subsidies. In response, organic farming developed in the twentieth century as an alternative to the use of synthetic pesticides.


The development of agriculture enabled the human population to grow many times larger than could be sustained by hunting and gathering. Agriculture began independently in different parts of the globe, and included a diverse range of taxa, in at least 11 separate centers of origin. Wild grains were collected and eaten from at least 105,000 years ago.

From around 11,500 years ago, the eight Neolithic founder crops, emmer and einkorn wheat, hulled barley, peas, lentils, bitter vetch, chickpeas, and flax were cultivated in the Levant. Rice was domesticated in China between 11,500 and 6,200 BC with the earliest known cultivation from 5,700 BC, followed by mung, soy, and azuki beans.

Sheep were domesticated in Mesopotamia between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago. Cattle were domesticated from the wild aurochs in the areas of modern Turkey and Pakistan some 10,500 years ago. Pig production emerged in Eurasia, including Europe, East Asia, and Southwest Asia, where wild boar have first domesticated about 10,500 years ago.

In the Andes of South America, the potato was domesticated between 10,000 and 7,000 years ago, along with beans, coca, llamas, alpacas, and guinea pigs. Sugarcane and some root vegetables were domesticated in New Guinea around 9,000 years ago.

Sorghum was domesticated in the Sahel region of Africa 7,000 years ago. Cotton was domesticated in Peru 5,600 years ago and was independently domesticated in Eurasia.

In Mesoamerica, wild teosinte was bred into maize 6,000 years ago. Scholars have offered multiple hypotheses to explain the historical origins of agriculture. Studies of the transition from hunter-gatherer to agricultural societies indicate an initial period of intensification and increasing sedentism; examples are the Natufian culture in the Levant and the Early Chinese Neolithic in China.

Then, wild stands that had previously been harvested started to be planted and gradually came to be domesticated.


In the Middle Ages, both in the Islamic world and in Europe, agriculture transformed with improved techniques and the diffusion of crop plants, including the introduction of sugar, rice, cotton, and fruit trees (such as the orange) to Europe by way of Al-Andalus.

After 1492 the Columbian exchange brought New World crops such as maize, potatoes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and manioc to Europe, and Old World crops such as wheat, barley, rice and turnips, and livestock (including horses, cattle, sheep, and goats) to the Americas.

Irrigation, crop rotation, and fertilizers advanced from the 17th century with the British Agricultural Revolution, allowing the global population to rise significantly. Since 1900 agriculture in developed nations, and to a lesser extent in the developing world, has seen large rises in productivity as mechanization replaces human labor, and is assisted by synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and selective breeding.

The Haber-Bosch method allowed the synthesis of ammonium nitrate fertilizer on an industrial scale, greatly increasing crop yields and sustaining a further increase in the global population. Modern agriculture has raised or encountered ecological, political, and economic issues including water pollution, biofuels, genetically modified organisms, tariffs, and farm subsidies, leading to alternative approaches such as the organic movement.


Pastoralism involves managing domesticated animals. In nomadic pastoralism, herds of livestock are moved from place to place in search of pasture, fodder, and water. This type of farming is practiced in arid and semi-arid regions of Sahara, Central Asia, and some parts of India.

In shifting cultivation, a small area of forest is cleared by cutting and burning the trees. The cleared land is used for growing crops for a few years until the soil becomes too infertile, and the area is abandoned. Another patch of land is selected and the process is repeated. This type of farming is practiced mainly in areas with abundant rainfall where the forest regenerates quickly. This practice is used in Northeast India, Southeast Asia, and the Amazon Basin.

Subsistence farming is practiced to satisfy family or local needs alone, with a little left over for transport elsewhere. It is intensively practiced in Monsoon Asia and South-East Asia. An estimated 2.5 billion subsistence farmers worked in 2018, cultivating about 60% of the earth’s arable land.

Intensive farming is cultivation to maximize productivity, with a low fallow ratio and high use of inputs (water, fertilizer, pesticide, and automation). It is practiced mainly in developed countries.

Crop cultivation 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 the cultivation of annual and then perennial crops for a period of several years. Then the plot is left fallow to regrow forest, and the farmer moves to a new plot, returning after many more years.

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 led to the use of monocultures when one cultivar is planted on 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 intercropping, when several crops are grown at the same time, are other kinds of annual cropping systems known as polycultures.

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 farming is the dominant agricultural system.

Important categories of food crops include cereals, legumes, forage, fruits, and vegetables. Natural fibers include cotton, wool, hemp, silk, and flax. Specific crops are cultivated in distinct growing regions throughout the world. Production is listed in millions of metric tons, based on FAO estimates.

Livestock production systems

Animal husbandry is the breeding and raising of animals for meat, milk, eggs, or wool, and for work and transport. Working animals, including horses, mules, oxen, water buffalo, camels, llamas, alpacas, donkeys, and dogs, have for centuries been used to help cultivate fields, harvest crops, wrangle other animals, and transport farm products to buyers.

Livestock production systems can be defined based on feed source, as grassland-based, mixed, and landless. As of 2010, 30% of Earth’s ice- and the water-free area was used for producing livestock, with the sector employing approximately 1.3 billion people. Between the 1960s and the 2000s, there was a significant increase in livestock production, both by numbers and by carcass weight, especially among beef, pigs, and chickens, the latter of which had production increased by almost a factor of 10.

Non-meat animals, such as milk cows and egg-producing chickens, also showed significant production increases. Global cattle, sheep, and goat populations are expected to continue to increase sharply through 2050. Aquaculture or fish farming, the production of fish for human consumption in confined operations, is one of the fastest-growing sectors of food production, growing at an average of 9% a year between 1975 and 2007.

During the second half of the 20th century, producers using selective breeding focused on creating livestock breeds and crossbreeds that increased production, while mostly disregarding the need to preserve genetic diversity. This trend has led to a significant decrease in genetic diversity and resources among livestock breeds, leading to a corresponding decrease in disease resistance and local adaptations previously found among traditional breeds.

Grassland-based livestock production relies upon plant material such as shrubland, rangeland, and pastures for feeding ruminant animals. Outside nutrient inputs may be used, however, manure is returned directly to the grassland as a major nutrient source.

This system is particularly important in areas where crop production is not feasible because of climate or soil, representing 30–40 million pastoralists. Mixed production systems use grassland, fodder crops, and grain feed crops as feed for ruminant and monogastric (one stomach; mainly chickens and pigs) livestock. Manure is typically recycled in mixed systems as a fertilizer for crops.

Landless systems rely upon feed from outside the farm, representing the de-linking of crop and livestock production found more prevalently in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries. Synthetic fertilizers are more heavily relied upon for crop production and manure use becomes a challenge as well as a source for pollution.

Industrialized countries use these operations to produce much of the global supplies of poultry and pork. Scientists estimate that 75% of the growth in livestock production between 2003 and 2030 will be in confined animal feeding operations, sometimes called factory farming. Much of this growth is happening in developing countries in Asia, with much smaller amounts of growth in Africa. Some of the practices used in commercial livestock production, including the usage of growth hormones, are controversial.

Production practices

Tillage is the practice of breaking up the soil with tools such as the plow or harrow to prepare for planting, for nutrient incorporation, or for pest control. Tillage varies in intensity from conventional to no-till. It may improve productivity by warming the soil, incorporating fertilizer, and controlling weeds, but also renders soil more prone to erosion, triggers the decomposition of organic matter releasing CO2, and reduces the abundance and diversity of soil organisms.

Pest control includes the management of weeds, insects, mites, and diseases. Chemical (pesticides), biological (biocontrol), mechanical (tillage), and cultural practices are used. Cultural practices include crop rotation, culling, cover crops, intercropping, composting, avoidance, and resistance. Integrated pest management attempts to use all of these methods to keep pest populations below the number which would cause economic loss, and recommends pesticides as a last resort.

Nutrient management includes both the source of nutrient inputs for crop and livestock production and the method of use of manure produced by livestock. Nutrient inputs can be chemical inorganic fertilizers, manure, green manure, compost, and minerals.

Crop nutrient use may also be managed using cultural techniques such as crop rotation or a fallow period. Manure is used either by holding livestock where the feed crop is growing, such as in managed intensive rotational grazing or by spreading either dry or liquid formulations of manure on cropland or pastures.

Water management is needed where rainfall is insufficient or variable, which occurs to some degree in most regions of the world. Some farmers use irrigation to supplement rainfall. In other areas such as the Great Plains in the U.S. and Canada, farmers use a fallow year to conserve soil moisture to use for growing a crop in the following year. Agriculture represents 70% of freshwater use worldwide.

According to a report by the International Food Policy Research Institute, agricultural technologies will have the greatest impact on food production if adopted in combination with each other; using a model that assessed how eleven technologies could impact agricultural productivity, food security, and trade by 2050, the International Food Policy Research Institute found that the number of people at risk from hunger could be reduced by as much as 40% and food prices could be reduced by almost half.

Payment for ecosystem services is a method of providing additional incentives to encourage farmers to conserve some aspects of the environment. Measures might include paying for reforestation upstream of a city, to improve the supply of freshwater.

Read More: Rise Of Fourth Agricultural Revolution: Digital Farming And Artificial Intelligence

Agricultural Machinery

A period of important agricultural development began in the early 1700s for Great Britain and the Low Countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, which lie below sea level). New agricultural inventions dramatically increased food production in Europe and European colonies, particularly the United States and Canada.

One of the most important of these developments was an improved horse-drawn seed drill invented by Jethro Tull in England. Until that time, farmers sowed seeds by hand. Tull’s drill made rows of holes for the seeds. By the end of the 18th century, seed drilling was widely practiced in Europe.

Many machines were developed in the United States. The cotton gin, invented by Eli Whitney in 1794, reduced the time needed to separate cotton fiber from the seed. In the 1830s, Cyrus McCormick’s mechanical reaper helped modernize the grain-cutting process. At about the same time, John and Hiram Pitts introduced a horse-powered thresher that shortened the process of separating grain and seed from chaff and straw.

John Deere’s steel plow, introduced in 1837, made it possible to work the tough prairie soil with much less horsepower. Along with new machines, there were several important advances in farming methods. By selectively breeding animals (breeding those with desirable traits), farmers increased the size and productivity of their livestock.

Cultures have been breeding animals for centuries—evidence suggests Mongolian nomads were selectively breeding horses in the Bronze Age. Europeans began to practice selective breeding on a large scale beginning in the 18th century. An early example of this is the Leicester sheep, an animal selectively bred in England for its quality meat and long, coarse wool.

Plants could also be selectively bred for certain qualities. In 1866, Gregor Mendel’s studies in heredity were published in Austria. In experiments with pea plants, Mendel learned how traits were passed from one generation to the next. His work paved the way for improving crops through genetics.

New crop rotation methods also evolved during this time. Many of these were adopted over the next century or so throughout Europe. For example, the Norfolk four-field system, developed in England, proved quite successful. It involved the yearly rotation of several crops, including wheat, turnips, barley, clover, and ryegrass. This added nutrients to the soil, enabling farmers to grow enough to sell some of their harvests without having to leave any land unplanted.

Most of the world was not affected by these developments, however. Farmers in Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America continued to use old ways of agriculture.

Agricultural science

Agricultural science is a broad multidisciplinary field of biology that encompasses the parts of exact, natural, economic, and social sciences used in the practice and understanding of agriculture. It covers topics such as agronomy, plant breeding and genetics, plant pathology, crop modeling, soil science, entomology, production techniques, and improvement, the study of pests and their management, and the study of adverse environmental effects such as soil degradation, waste management, and bioremediation.

In the early 1900s, an average farmer in the U.S. produced enough food to feed a family of five. Many of today’s farmers can feed that family and a hundred other people. How did this great leap in productivity come about? It happened largely because of scientific advances and the development of new sources of power.

By the late 1950s, most farmers in developed countries were using both gasoline and electricity to power machinery. Tractors had replaced draft animals and steam-powered machinery. Farmers were using machines in almost every stage of cultivation and livestock management.

Electricity first became a power source on farms in Japan and Germany in the early 1900s. By 1960, most farms in the U.S. and other developed countries were electrified. Electricity lit farm buildings and powered such machinery as water pumps, milking machines, and feeding equipment. Today, electricity controls entire environments in livestock barns and poultry houses.

Traditionally, farmers have used a variety of methods to protect their crops from pests and diseases. They have put herb-based poisons on crops, handpicked insects off plants, bred strong varieties of crops, and rotated crops to control insects.

Now, almost all farmers, especially in developed countries, rely on chemicals to control pests. The definition of “pest” ranges from insects to animals such as rabbits and mice, as well as weeds and disease-causing organisms—bacteria, viruses, and fungi. With the use of chemicals, crop losses and prices have declined dramatically.

For thousands of years, farmers relied on natural fertilizer, materials such as manure, wood ash, ground bones, fish or fish parts, and bird and bat waste called guano, to replenish or increase nutrients in the soil.

In the early 1800s, scientists discovered which elements were most essential to plant growth: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Later, fertilizer containing these elements was manufactured in the U.S. and in Europe. Now, many farmers use chemical fertilizers with nitrates and phosphates because they greatly increase crop yields.

However, pesticides and fertilizers have come with another set of problems. The heavy reliance on chemicals has disturbed the environment, often destroying helpful species of animals along with harmful ones. Chemical use may also pose a health hazard to people, especially through contaminated water supplies. Agricultural scientists are looking for safer chemicals to use as fertilizers and pesticides. Some farmers use natural controls and rely less on chemicals.

The scientific study of agriculture began in the 18th century when Johann Friedrich Mayer conducted experiments on the use of gypsum (hydrated calcium sulfate) as a fertilizer. Research became more systematic when in 1843, John Lawes and Henry Gilbert began a set of long-term agronomy field experiments at Rothamsted Research Station in England; some of them, such as the Park Grass Experiment, is still running.

In America, the Hatch Act of 1887 provided funding for what it was the first to call “agricultural science”, driven by farmers’ interest in fertilizers. In agricultural entomology, the USDA began to research biological control in 1881; it instituted its first large program in 1905, searching Europe and Japan for natural enemies of the gypsy moth and brown-tail moth, establishing parasitoids (such as solitary wasps) and predators of both pests in the USA.

Read More: Exploring The Potential For New Green Revolution

Genetic Modification in Agriculture

For centuries, people have bred new types of plants and animals by random experimentation. During the 1950s and 1960s, scientists developed new strains of high-yield wheat and rice. They introduced them into Mexico and parts of Asia. As a result, the production of grain soared in these areas. This bold experiment in agriculture has been called the “Green Revolution.”

With the successes of the Green Revolution came problems. To produce high yields, the new strains required chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation. In many developing countries, independent farmers cannot afford the new technology and big business has taken over agriculture. The new, high-production crops also put stress on native plants and animals.

Later, scientists and farmers understood why the new strains developed. This gave rise to a new green revolution: genetic modification of food.

Inside every cell are genes, material that determines many of the characteristics of an organism. Genetics is the study of what characteristics organisms inherit and how these traits are transmitted.
With greater knowledge of genetics, people can scientifically select characteristics they want to reproduce. New technology has revolutionized the selective breeding process in both plants and animals.

Beginning in the 1970s, scientists found that they could rearrange genes and add new ones to promote disease resistance, productivity, and other desired characteristics in crops and livestock.

These genetically modified organisms (GMOs or GM foods) are now common throughout the developed world. Biotechnology allows scientists to alter the DNA of microbes, plants, and animals. GMOs that have genetic material, or DNA, from other species, are called transgenic organisms.

A gene from an Arctic plant, for example, could be added (spliced) into the DNA of a strawberry plant to increase the strawberry’s resistance to cold and thus extend its growing season. The strawberry would be a transgenic plant.

Businesses sell farmers genetically modified seeds that resist certain pesticides and herbicides produced by the company. (Herbicides kill weeds and other plants that threaten the crop.) With these seeds, farmers can use toxic chemicals without harming the crop.

Biotechnology has brought advances in animal husbandry (ranching, or the raising of domestic animals). Today’s farm animals are larger and grow faster than their ancestors.

Cattle, for example, are grazing animals. Their digestive system has evolved to process grasses and other crops. Corn and other grains cause a cow’s digestive system to become acidic. That makes it easier for dangerous bacteria (such as E.coli) to develop. Bacterial infections can be harmful to the cow, and can also infect their milk and meat consumed by people.

Antibiotics are spliced into the DNA of feed corn to prevent such infection. Antibiotics have been used since the 1950s to stimulate cattle growth. Over time, this practice has led to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in cattle and people. Many cattle are also given anabolic steroids, or growth hormones, to make them get bigger, faster.

The controversies surrounding GM foods are enormous. Farmers who grow GM foods increase production with less labor and less land. Many consumers favor GM foods. Vegetables and fruits last longer and are less likely to bruise. Meats are fattier—more tender and salty.

Critics argue that GM foods have less nutritional value and decrease biodiversity. The organic and “free-range” food industries have grown in opposition to “factory farming.”

Most of the world’s farmers live in developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Many of them cultivate land as their ancestors did hundreds or even thousands of years ago. They do not use agricultural technology involving expensive chemicals or production methods.

These people are subsistence farmers. They use the bulk of the food they produce for themselves and their families, unlike commercial farmers, who only grow crops to sell.

Fight Against Hunger

Food production must keep pace with population growth and distribution methods. This is an enormous agricultural and political challenge.

The challenge is not food shortages but unequal distribution of the world’s food supply. The ratio of population to farmable land has favored some countries more than others. Some experts believe government policies in developed and developing countries have hindered equal food distribution. Droughts, floods, and other disasters continue to cause local food shortages.

Overpopulation also contributes to the unequal distribution of food resources. Much of the population increase over the next 100 years will occur in developing countries, where hunger is already a serious problem.

Exporting food or agricultural technology from countries with surpluses to those with shortages will not solve the problem of world hunger. Poor countries do not have the money to buy all the food they need and do not want to permanently rely on other countries. Many developing countries also regard biodiversity as an important resource and do not want to threaten it with GMOs.

Experts believe that the hunger problem will be solved in two ways. First, citizens of all countries need to have the ability to grow or purchase their own food. Second, citizens of all countries need to have responsible diets and spending habits. What about addressing the problem of overpopulation?

Agricultural science will help countries adjust to healthier methods of food production. 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.

The challenges of feeding the hungry cannot be met unless the world’s land and water are safeguarded. Agricultural practices in developed and developing countries have led to a severe loss of valuable topsoil, water, and other resources.

Many countries need better programs for replanting forests. Overpopulation has pushed a growing number of farmers onto lands too fragile to sustain cultivation. Demand for food has led to increased irrigation worldwide. In some areas, irrigation has caused water tables to drop, rivers to run dry, and wells to go empty. Agricultural chemicals that increase production often contaminate soil and groundwater and disrupt food chains.

Agriculture does not have to harm the environment. By protecting the land, water, and air, and by sharing knowledge and resources, people may yet find solutions for the problem of world hunger.


  1. Agriculture From Wikipedia
  2. Agriculture from National Geographic

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