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

Agriculture is the science and art 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 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.

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Did you know...

  • ... that the Gut Holzhausen estate is a biodynamic farm and the venue for a festival called Voices?
  • ... that Sumner station was designed to resemble hop kilns, referencing the city's historical agriculture industry?
  • ... that songs and books for children often depict happy farm animals in attractive countryside, glossing over the realities of impersonal, mechanized activities involved in modern intensive farming?
  • ... that the potato stalk borer used to be considered a serious pest of potatoes but modern management practices, such as the burning or removal of crop residues, have reduced its impact?
  • ... that the littleneck clam is harvested for food despite being associated with paralytic shellfish poisoning?
  • ... that the diary of Mary Hardy provides a detailed record of an 18th-century English farming and brewing business?

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