Agriculture Explained

Agriculture refers to the production of food and goods through farming and forestry. Agriculture was the key development that led to the rise of civilization, with the husbandry of domesticated animals and plants (i.e. crops) creating food surpluses that enabled the development of more densely populated and stratified societies. The study of agriculture is known as agricultural science (the related practice of gardening is studied in horticulture).

Agriculture encompasses a wide variety of specialties. Cultivation of crops on arable land and the pastoral herding of livestock on rangeland remain at the foundation of agriculture. In the past century a distinction has been made between sustainable agriculture (e.g. permaculture or organic agriculture) and intensive farming (e.g. industrial agriculture).

Modern agronomy, plant breeding, pesticides and fertilizers, and technological improvements have sharply increased yields from cultivation, and at the same time have caused widespread ecological damage and negative human health effects. Selective breeding and modern practices in animal husbandry such as intensive pig farming (and similar practices applied to the chicken) have similarly increased the output of meat, but have raised concerns about animal cruelty and the health effects of the antibiotics, growth hormones, and other chemicals commonly used in industrial meat production.

The major agricultural products can be broadly grouped into foods, fibers, fuels, raw materials, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs, and an assortment of ornamental or exotic products. In the 2000s, plants have been used to grow biofuels, biopharmaceuticals, bioplastics,[1] and pharmaceuticals.[2] Specific foods include cereals, vegetables, fruits, and meat. Fibers include cotton, wool, hemp, silk and flax. Raw materials include lumber and bamboo. Drugs include tobacco, alcohol, opium, cocaine,and digitalis. Other useful materials are produced by plants, such as resins. Biofuels include methane from biomass, ethanol, and biodiesel. Cut flowers, nursery plants, tropical fish and birds for the pet trade are some of the ornamental products.

In 2007, about one third of the world's workers were employed in agriculture. However, the relative significance of farming has dropped steadily since the beginning of industrialization, and in 2003 – for the first time in history – the services sector overtook agriculture as the economic sector employing the most people worldwide.[3] Despite the fact that agriculture employs over one-third of the world's population, agricultural production accounts for less than five percent of the gross world product (an aggregate of all gross domestic products).[4]

Etymology

The word agriculture is the English adaptation of Latin agricultūra, from ager, "a field",[5] and cultūra, "cultivation" in the strict sense of "tillage of the soil".[6] Thus, a literal reading of the word yields "tillage of a field / of fields".

Overview

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. 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. In particular, the Haber-Bosch method for synthesizing ammonium nitrate 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 out 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.[7]

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 done by developed countries have been noted as protectionist, inefficient, and environmentally damaging.[8] In the past century agriculture has been characterized by enhanced productivity, the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, selective breeding, mechanization, water contamination, and farm subsidies. Proponents of organic farming such as Sir Albert Howard argued in the early 1900s that the overuse of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers damages the long-term fertility of the soil. While this feeling lay dormant for decades, as environmental awareness has increased in the 2000s there has been a movement towards sustainable agriculture by some farmers, consumers, and policymakers. In recent years there has been a backlash against perceived external environmental effects of mainstream agriculture, particularly regarding water pollution[9], resulting in the organic movement. One of the major forces behind this movement has been the European Union, which first certified organic food in 1991 and began reform of its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2005 to phase out commodity-linked farm subsidies[10], also known as decoupling. The growth of organic farming has renewed research in alternative technologies such as integrated pest management and selective breeding. Recent mainstream technological developments include genetically modified food.

As of late 2007, several factors have pushed up the price of grain 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.[11] [12] Food riots have recently taken place in many countries across the world.[13] [14] [15] An epidemic of stem rust on wheat caused by race Ug99 is currently spreading across Africa and into Asia and is causing major concern.[16] [17] [18] Approximately 40% of the world's agricultural land is seriously degraded.[19] 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's Ghana-based Institute for Natural Resources in Africa.[20]

History

See main article: History of agriculture.

Since its development roughly 10,000 years ago, agriculture has expanded vastly in geographical coverage and yields. Throughout this expansion, new technologies and new crops were integrated. 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. Wealth-concentration and militaristic specializations rarely seen in hunter-gatherer cultures are commonplace in societies which practice agriculture. 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.

Ancient origins

See also: Neolithic Revolution.

The Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, Egypt, and India were sites of the earliest planned sowing and harvesting of plants that had previously been gathered in the wild. Independent development of agriculture occurred in northern and southern China, Africa's Sahel, New Guinea and several regions of the Americas. The eight so-called Neolithic founder crops of agriculture appear: first emmer wheat and einkorn wheat, then hulled barley, peas, lentils, bitter vetch, chick peas and flax.

By 7000 BC, small-scale agriculture reached Egypt. From at least 7000 BC the Indian subcontinent saw farming of wheat and barley, as attested by archaeological excavation at Mehrgarh in Balochistan. By 6000 BC, mid-scale farming was entrenched on the banks of the Nile. About this time, agriculture was developed independently in the Far East, with rice, rather than wheat, as the primary crop. Chinese and Indonesian farmers went on to domesticate taro and beans including mung, soy and azuki. To complement these new sources of carbohydrates, highly organized net fishing of rivers, lakes and ocean shores in these areas brought in great volumes of essential protein. Collectively, these new methods of farming and fishing inaugurated a human population boom dwarfing all previous expansions, and is one that continues today.

By 5000 BC, the Sumerians had developed core agricultural techniques including large scale intensive cultivation of land, mono-cropping, organized irrigation, and use of a specialized labour force, particularly along the waterway now known as the Shatt al-Arab, from its Persian Gulf delta to the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates. Domestication of wild aurochs and mouflon into cattle and sheep, respectively, ushered in the large-scale use of animals for food/fiber and as beasts of burden. The shepherd joined the farmer as an essential provider for sedentary and semi-nomadic societies. Maize, manioc, and arrowroot were first domesticated in the Americas as far back as 5200 BC. [21] The potato, tomato, pepper, squash, several varieties of bean, tobacco, and several other plants were also developed in the New World, as was extensive terracing of steep hillsides in much of Andean South America. The Greeks and Romans built on techniques pioneered by the Sumerians but made few fundamentally new advances. Southern Greeks struggled with very poor soils, yet managed to become a dominant society for years. The Romans were noted for an emphasis on the cultivation of crops for trade.

Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, Muslim farmers in North Africa and the Near East developed and disseminated agricultural technologies including irrigation systems based on hydraulic and hydrostatic principles, the use of machines such as norias, and the use of water raising machines, dams, and reservoirs. They also wrote location-specific farming manuals, and were instrumental in the wider adoption of crops including sugar cane, rice, citrus fruit, apricots, cotton, artichokes, aubergines, and saffron. Muslims also brought lemons, oranges, cotton, almonds, figs and sub-tropical crops such as bananas to Spain.The invention of a three field system of crop rotation during the Middle Ages, and the importation of the Chinese-invented moldboard plow, vastly improved agricultural efficiency.

Modern era

See also: British Agricultural Revolution and Green Revolution.

After 1492, a global exchange of previously local crops and livestock breeds occurred. Key crops involved in this exchange included the tomato, maize, potato, cocoa and tobacco going from the New World to the Old, and several varieties of wheat, spices, coffee, and sugar cane going from the Old World to the New. The most important animal exportation from the Old World to the New were those of the horse and dog (dogs were already present in the pre-Columbian Americas but not in the numbers and breeds suited to farm work). Although not usually food animals, the horse (including donkeys and ponies) and dog quickly filled essential production roles on western hemisphere farms.

By the early 1800s, agricultural techniques, implements, seed stocks and cultivated plants selected and given a unique name because of its decorative or useful characteristics had so improved that yield per land unit was many times that seen in the Middle Ages. With the rapid rise of mechanization in the late 19th and 20th centuries, particularly in the form of the tractor, farming tasks could be done with a speed and on a scale previously impossible. These advances have led to efficiencies enabling certain modern farms in the United States, Argentina, Israel, Germany, and a few other nations to output volumes of high quality produce per land unit at what may be the practical limit.The Haber-Bosch method for synthesizing ammonium nitrate represented a major breakthrough and allowed crop yields to overcome previous constraints. In the past century agriculture has been characterized by enhanced productivity, the substitution of labor for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, selective breeding, mechanization, water pollution, and farm subsidies. In recent years there has been a backlash against the external environmental effects of conventional agriculture, resulting in the organic movement.

Agricultural exploration expeditions, since the late nineteenth century, have been mounted to find new species and new agricultural practices in different areas of the world. Two early examples of expeditions include Frank N. Meyer's fruit and nut collecting trip to China and Japan from 1916-1918 [22] and the Dorsett-Morse Oriental Agricultural Exploration Expedition to China, Japan, and Korea from 1929-1931 to collect soybean germplasm to support the rise in soybean agriculture in the United States. [23]

In 2005, the agricultural output of China was the largest in the world, accounting for almost one-sixth world share followed by the EU, India and the USA, according to the International Monetary Fund. Economists measure the total factor productivity of agriculture and by this measure agriculture in the United States is roughly 2.6 times more productive than it was in 1948.[24]

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.[25] [26] 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 regrow 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 monocultures, when one cultivar is planted on a large acreage. Due to the low biodiversity, nutrient use is uniform, and pests tend to build up, necessitating the greater use of pesticides and fertilizers.[26] 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.[27]

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.[27]

The last century has seen the intensification, concentration and specialization of agriculture, relying upon new technologies of agricultural chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides), mechanization, and plant breeding (hybrids and GMO's). In the past few decades, a move towards sustainability in agriculture has also developed, integrating ideas of socio-economic justice and conservation of resources and the environment within a farming system.[28] [29] This has led to the development of many responses to the conventional agriculture approach, including organic agriculture, urban agriculture, community supported agriculture, ecological or biological agriculture, integrated farming, and holistic management.

Crop statistics

Important categories of crops include grains and pseudograins, pulses (legumes), forage, and fruits and vegetables. Specific crops are cultivated in distinct growing regions throughout the world. In millions of metric tons, based on FAO estimates.

colspan=2Top agricultural products, by crop types
(million metric tons) 2004 data
Cereals2,263
Vegetables and melons866
Roots and Tubers715
Milk619
Fruit503
Meat259
Oilcrops133
Fish (2001 estimate)130
Eggs63
Pulses60
Vegetable Fiber30
colspan=2Source:
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
[30]
colspan=2Top agricultural products, by individual crops
(million metric tons) 2004 data
Sugar Cane1,324
Maize721
Wheat627
Rice605
Potatoes328
Sugar Beet249
Soybean204
Oil Palm Fruit162
Barley154
Tomato120
colspan=2Source:
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Livestock production systems

See main article: Livestock.

Animals, including horses, mules, oxen, camels, llamas, alpacas, and dogs, are often used to help cultivate fields, harvest crops, wrangle other animals, and transport farm products to buyers. Animal husbandry not only refers to the breeding and raising of animals for meat or to harvest animal products (like milk, eggs, or wool) on a continual basis, but also to the breeding and care of species for work and companionship.Livestock production systems can be defined based on feed source, as grassland - based, mixed, and landless.[31] 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 due to climate or soil, representing 30-40 million pastoralists.[27] Mixed production systems use grassland, fodder crops and grain feed crops as feed for ruminant and monogastic (one stomach; mainly chickens and pigs) livestock. Manure is typically recycled in mixed systems as a fertilizer for crops. Approximately 68% of all agricultural land is permanent pastures used in the production of livestock.[32] Landless systems rely upon feed from outside the farm, representing the de-linking of crop and livestock production found more prevalently OECD member countries. In the U.S., 70% of the grain grown is fed to animals on feedlots.[27] Synthetic fertilizers are more heavily relied upon for crop production and manure utilization becomes a challenge as well as a source for pollution.

Production practices

Tillage is the practice of plowing soil to prepare for planting or 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.[33] [34]

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, compost, 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.[35]

Nutrient management includes both the source of nutrient inputs for crop and livestock production, and the method of utilization of manure produced by livestock. Nutrient inputs can be chemical inorganic fertilizers, manure, green manure, compost and mined minerals.[36] Crop nutrient use may also be managed using cultural techniques such as crop rotation or a fallow period.[37] [38] Manure is utilized 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 where rainfall is insufficient or variable, which occurs to some degree in most regions of the world.[27] Some farmers use irrigation to supplement rainfall. In other areas such as the Great Plains in the U.S., farmers use a fallow year to conserve soil moisture to use for growing a crop in the following year.[39] Agriculture represents 70% of freshwater use worldwide.[40]

Processing, distribution, and marketing

In the United States, food costs attributed to processing, distribution, and marketing have risen while the costs attributed to farming have declined. From 1960 to 1980 the farm share was around 40%, but by 1990 it had declined to 30% and by 1998, 22.2%. Market concentration has increased in the sector as well, with the top 20 food manufacturers accounting for half the food-processing value in 1995, over double that produced in 1954. As of 2000 the top 6 supermarkets had 50% of sales compared to 32% in 1992. Although the total effect of the increased market concentration is likely increased efficiency, the changes redistribute economic surplus from producers (farmers) and consumers, and may have negative implications for rural communities.[41]

Crop alteration and biotechnology

See main article: Plant breeding.

Crop alteration has been practiced by humankind for thousands of years, since the beginning of civilization. Altering crops through breeding practices changes the genetic make-up of a plant to develop crops with more beneficial characteristics for humans, for example, larger fruits or seeds, drought-tolerance, or resistance to pests. Significant advances in plant breeding ensued after the work of geneticist Gregor Mendel. His work on dominant and recessive alleles gave plant breeders a better understanding of genetics and brought great insights to the techniques utilized by plant breeders . Crop breeding includes techniques such as plant selection with desirable traits, self-pollination and cross-pollination, and molecular techniques that genetically modify the organism [42] .Domestication of plants has, over the centuries increased yield, improved disease resistance and drought tolerance, eased harvest and improved the taste and nutritional value of crop plants. Careful selection and breeding have had enormous effects on the characteristics of crop plants. Plant selection and breeding in the 1920s and 1930s improved pasture (grasses and clover) in New Zealand. Extensive X-ray an ultraviolet induced mutagenesis efforts (i.e. primitive genetic engineering) during the 1950s produced the modern commercial varieties of grains such as wheat, corn (maize) and barley .[43] [44] .

The green revolution popularized the use of conventional hybridization to increase yield many folds by creating "high-yielding varieties". For example, average yields of corn (maize) in the USA have increased from around 2.5 tons per hectare (t/ha) (40 bushels per acre) in 1900 to about 9.4 t/ha (150 bushels per acre) in 2001. Similarly, worldwide average wheat yields have increased from less than 1 t/ha in 1900 to more than 2.5 t/ha in 1990. South American average wheat yields are around 2 t/ha, African under 1 t/ha, Egypt and Arabia up to 3.5 to 4 t/ha with irrigation. In contrast, the average wheat yield in countries such as France is over 8 t/ha. Variations in yields are due mainly to variation in climate, genetics, and the level of intensive farming techniques (use of fertilizers, chemical pest control, growth control to avoid lodging)).[45] [46] [47] .

Genetic Engineering

See main article: Genetic Engineering. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are organisms whose genetic material has been altered by genetic engineering techniques generally known as recombinant DNA technology. Genetic engineering has expanded the genes available to breeders to utilize in creating desired germlines for new crops. After mechanical tomato-harvesters were developed in the early 1960s, agricultural scientists genetically modified tomatoes to be more resistant to mechanical handling. More recently, genetic engineering is being employed in various parts of the world, to create crops with other beneficial traits.

Herbicide-tolerant GMO Crops

Roundup-Ready seed has a herbicide resistance gene implanted into its genome that allows the plants to tolerate exposure to glyphosate. Roundup is a trade name for a glyphosate based product, which is a systemic, non-selective herbicide used to kill weeds. Roundup-Ready seeds allow the farmer to grow a crop that can be sprayed with glyphosate to controle weeds without harming the resistant crop. Herbicide-tolerant crops are used by farmers worldwide. Today, 92% of soybean acreage in the US is planted with genetically-modified herbicide-tolerant plants[48] . With the increasing use of herbicide-tolerant crops, comes an increase in the use of glyphosate based herbicide sprays. In some areas glyphosate resistant weeds have developed, causing farmers to switch to other herbicides.[49] [50] Some studies also link widespread glyphosate usage to iron deficiencies in some crops, which is both a crop production and a nutritional quality concern, with potential economic and health implications.[51]

Insect-Resistant GMO Crops

Other GMO crops utilized by growers include insect-resistant crops, which have a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which produces a toxin specific to insects; insect-resistant crops protect plants from damage by insects, one such crop is Starlink. Another is Bt cotton, which accounts for 63% of US cotton acreage[52]

Some believe that similar or better pest-resistance traits can be acquired through traditional breeding practices, and resistance to various pests can be gained through hybridization or cross-pollination with wild species. In some cases, wild species are the primary source of resistance traits; some Tomato cultivars that have gained resistance to at least nineteen diseases, did so, through crossing with wild populations of tomatoes.[53]

Costs and Benefits of GMOs

Genetic engineers may someday develop transgenic plants which would allow for irrigation, drainage, conservation, sanitary engineering, and maintaining or increasing yields while requiring fewer fossil fuel derived inputs than conventional crops.[22] Such developments would be particularly important in areas which are normally arid and rely upon constant irrigation, and on large scale farms.However, genetic engineering of plants has proven to be controversial. Many issues surrounding food security and environmental impacts have risen regarding GMO practices. For example, GMOs are questioned by some ecologists and economists concerned with GMO practices such as terminator seeds,[54] [55], which is a genetic modification that creates sterile seeds. Terminator seeds are currently under strong international opposition and face continual efforts of global bans[56] .Another controversial issue is the patent protection given to companies that develop new types of seed using genetic engineering. Since companies have intellectual ownership of their seeds, they have the power to dictate terms and conditions of their patented product. Currently, ten seed companies control over two-thirds of the global seed sales[57] . Vandana Shiva argues that these companies are guilty of biopiracy by patenting life and exploiting organisms for profit[58] Farmers using patented seed are restricted from saving seed for subsequent plantings, which forces farmers to buy new seed every year. Since seed saving is a traditional practice for many farmers in both developing and developed countries, GMO seeds legally bind farmers to change their seed saving practices to buying new seed every year[59] [60] .

Locally adapted seeds are an essential hertitage that has the potential to be lost with current hybridized crops and GMOs. Locally adapted seeds, also called land races or crop eco-types, are important because they have adapted over time to the specific microclimates, soils, other environmental conditions, field designs, and ethnic preference indigenous to the exact area of cultivation[61] Introducing GMOs and hybridized commercial seed to an area brings the risk of cross-pollination with local land races Therefore, GMOs pose a threat to the sustainability of land races and the ethnic heritage of cultures. Once seed contains transgenic material, it becomes subject to the conditions of the seed company that owns the patent of the transgenic material[62]

There is also concern that GMOs will cross-pollinate with wild species and permanently alter native populations’ genetic integrity; there are already identified populations of wild plants with transgenic genes. GMO gene flow to related weed species is a concern, as well as cross-pollination with non-transgenic crops. Since many GMO crops are harvested for their seed, such as rapeseed, seed spillage in is problematic for volunteer plants in rotated fields, as well as seed-spillage during transportation[63] .

Food safety and labeling

Food security issues also coincide with food safety and food labeling concerns. Currently a global treaty, the BioSafety Protocol, regulates the trade of GMOs. The EU currently requires all GMO foods to be labeled, whereas the US does not require transparent labeling of GMO foods. Since there are still questions regarding the safety and risks associated with GMO foods, some believe the public should have the freedom to choose and know what they are eating and require all GMO products to be labeled[64] .

Environmental impact

Agriculture imposes external costs upon society through pesticides, nutrient runoff, excessive water usage, and assorted other problems. A 2000 assessment of agriculture in the UK determined total external costs costs for 1996 of 2343 million British pounds or 208 pounds per hectare.[65] A 2005 analysis of these costs in the USA concluded that cropland imposes approximately 5 to 16 billion dollars ($30 to $96 per hectare), while livestock production imposes 714 million dollars.[66] Both studies concluded that more should be done to internalize external costs, and neither included subsidies in their analysis, but noted that subsidies also influence the cost of agriculture to society. Both focused on purely fiscal impacts. The 2000 review included reported pesticide poisonings but did not include speculative chronic effects of pesticides, and the 2004 review relied on a 1992 estimate of the total impact of pesticides.

Livestock issues

A senior UN official and co-author of a UN report detailing this problem, Henning Steinfeld, said "Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems."[67] Livestock production occupies 70% of all land used for agriculture, or 30% of the land surface of the planet.[68] It is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases, responsible for 18% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalents. By comparison, all transportation emits 13.5% of the CO2. It produces 65% of human-related nitrous oxide (which has 296 times the global warming potential of CO2,) and 37% of all human-induced methane (which is 23 times as warming as CO2). It also generates 64% of the ammonia, which contributes to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems. Livestock expansion is cited as a key factor driving deforestation, in the Amazon basin 70% of previously forested area is now occupied by pastures and the remainder used for feedcrops.[68] Through deforestation and land degradation, livestock is also driving reductions in biodiversity.

Land transformation and degradation

Land transformation, the use of land to yield goods and services, is the most substantial way humans alter the Earth's ecosystems, and is considered the driving force in the loss of biodiversity. Estimates of the amount of land transformed by humans vary from 39–50%.[69] Land degradation, the long-term decline in ecosystem function and productivity, is estimated to be occurring on 24% of land worldwide, with cropland overrepresented.[70] The UN-FAO report cites land management as the driving factor behind degradation and reports that 1.5 billion people rely upon the degrading land. Degradation can be deforestation, desertification, soil erosion, mineral depletion, or chemical degradation (acidification and salinization).[27]

Eutrophication

Eutrophication, excessive nutrients in aquatic ecosystems resulting in algal blooms and anoxia, leads to fish kills, loss of biodiversity, and renders water unfit for drinking and other industrial uses. Excessive fertilization and manure application to cropland, as well as high livestock stocking densities cause nutrient (mainly nitrogen and phosphorus) runoff and leaching from agricultural land. These nutrients are major nonpoint pollutants contributing to eutrophication of aquatic ecosystems.[71]

Pesticides

Pesticide use has increased since 1950 to 2.5 million tons annually worldwide, yet crop loss due to pests has remained relatively constant.[72] The World Health Organization estimated in 1992 that 3 million pesticide poisonings occur annually, causing 220,000 deaths.[73] Pesticides select for pesticide resistance in the pest population, leading to a condition termed the 'pesticide treadmill' in which pest resistance warrants the development of a new pesticide.[74] An alternative argument is that the way to 'save the environment' and prevent famine is by using pesticdes and intensive high yield farming, a view exemplified by a quote heading the Center for Global Food Issues website: 'Growing more per acre leaves more land for nature'.[75] [76] However critics argue that a tradeoff between the environment and a need for food is not inevitable,[77] and that pesticides simply replace good agronomic practices such as crop rotation.[74]

Climate Change

Climate change has the potential to affect agriculture through changes in temperature and moisture regimes.[27] Agriculture can both mitigate or worsen global warming. Some of the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere comes from the decomposition of organic matter in the soil, and much of the methane emitted into the atmosphere is due to the decomposition of organic matter in wet soils such as rice paddies.[78] Further, wet or anaerobic soils also lose nitrogen through denitrification, releasing the greenhouse gas nitric oxide.[79] Changes in management can reduce the release of these greenhouse gases, and soil can further be used to sequester some of the CO2 in the atmosphere.[78]

Distortions in modern global agriculture

Differences in economic development, population density and culture mean that the farmers of the world operate under very different conditions.

A US cotton farmer may receive US$230[80] government subsidies per acre planted (as in 2003), farmers in Mali and other third world countries do without. When prices decline, the heavily subsidised US farmer is not forced to reduce his output, hence making it difficult for cotton prices to rebound, his Mali counterpart may go broke in the meantime.

A livestock farmer in South Korea can calculate with a (highly subsidized) salesprice of US$1300 for a calf produced[81] . A South American Mercosur country rancher calculates with a calf’s salesprice of US$120-200 (both 2008 figures)[82] .With the former, scarcety and high cost of land is compensated with public subsidies, the latter compensates absence of subsedies with economics of scale and low cost of land.

In PR China a rural household`s productive asset may be one hectare of farmland[83] .In Brazil, Paraguay and other countries where local legislature allows such purchases, international investors buy thousands of hectares of farmland or raw land at prices of a few hundred US$ per hectare[84] [85] [86] .

Agriculture and petroleum

Since the 1940s, agriculture has dramatically increased its productivity, due largely to the use of petrochemical derived pesticides, fertilizers, and increased mechanization (the so-called Green Revolution). Between 1950 and 1984, as the Green Revolution transformed agriculture around the globe, world grain production increased by 250%.[87] [88] This has allowed world population to grow more than double over the last 50 years. However, every energy unit delivered in food grown using modern techniques requires over ten energy units to produce and deliver, [89] although this statistic is contested by proponents of petroleum-based agriculture.[90] The vast majority of this energy input comes from fossil fuel sources. Because of modern agriculture's current heavy reliance on petrochemicals and mechanization, there are warnings that the ever decreasing supply of oil (the dramatic nature of which is known as peak oil[91] [92] [93] [94] [95]) will inflict major damage on the modern industrial agriculture system, and could cause large food shortages.[96]

Modern or industrialized agriculture is dependent on petroleum in two fundamental ways: 1) cultivation--to get the crop from seed to harvest and 2) transport--to get the harvest from the farm to the consumer's refrigerator. It takes approximately 400 gallons of oil a year per citizen to fuel the tractors, combines and other equipment used on farms for cultivation or 17 percent of the nation's total energy use.[97] Oil and natural gas are also the building blocks of the fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides used on farms. Petroleum is also providing the energy required to process food before it reaches the market. It takes the energy equivalent of a half-gallon of gasoline to produce a two-pound bag of breakfast cereal.[98] And that still does not count the energy needed to transport that cereal to market; it is the transport of processed foods and crops that consumes the most oil. The kiwi from New Zealand, the asparagus from Argentina, the melons and broccoli from Guatemala, the organic lettuce from California-most food items on the consumer's plate travel average of 1,500 miles just to get there.[99]

Oil shortages could interrupt this food supply. The consumer's growing awareness of this vulnerability is one of several factors fueling current interest in organic agriculture and other sustainable farming methods. Some farmers using modern organic-farming methods have reported yields as high as those available from conventional farming (but without the use of fossil-fuel-intensive artificial fertilizers or pesticides. However, the reconditioning of soil to restore nutrients lost during the use of monoculture agriculture techniques made possible by petroleum-based technology will take time.[100] [101] [102] [103] The dependence on oil and vulnerability of the U.S. food supply has also led to the creation of a conscious consumption movement in which consumers count the "food miles" a food product has traveled. The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture defines a food mile as: "...the distance food travels from where it is grown or raised to where it is ultimately purchased by the consumer or end-user." In a comparison of locally-grown food and long-distance food, researchers at the Leopold Center found that local food traveled an average of 44.6 miles to reach its destination compared with 1,546 miles for conventionally-grown and shipped food.[104]

Consumers in the new local food movement who count food miles call themselves "locavores" LINK; they advocate a return to a locally-based food system where food comes from as close as possible, whether or not it is organic. Locavores argue that an organically-grown lettuce from California that is shipped to New York is still an unsustainable food source because of dependence on fossil fuels to ship it. In addition to the "locavore" movement, concern over dependence on oil-based agriculture has also dramatically increased interest in home and community gardening.LINK

Farmers have also begun raising crops such as corn (maize) for non-food use in an effort to help mitigate peak oil. This has contributed to a 60% rise in wheat prices recently, and has been indicated as a possible precursor to "serious social unrest in developing countries." Such situations would be exacerbated in the event of future rises in food and fuel costs, factors which have already impacted the ability of charitable donors to send food aid to starving populations.

One example of the chain reactions which could possibly be caused by peak oil issues involves the problems caused by farmers raising crops such as corn (maize) for non-food use in an effort to help mitigate peak oil. This has already lowered food production.[105] This food vs fuel issue will be exacerbated as demand for ethanol fuel rises. Rising food and fuel costs has already limited the abilities of some charitable donors to send food aid to starving populations. In the UN, some warn that the recent 60% rise in wheat prices could cause "serious social unrest in developing countries."[105] [106] In 2007, higher incentives for farmers to grow non-food biofuel crops[107] combined with other factors (such as over-development of former farm lands, rising transportation costs, climate change, growing consumer demand in China and India, and population growth)[108] to cause food shortages in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Mexico, as well as rising food prices around the globe.[109] [110] As of December 2007, 37 countries faced food crises, and 20 had imposed some sort of food-price controls. Some of these shortages resulted in food riots and even deadly stampedes.[14] [13] [111]

Another major petroleum issue in agriculture is the effect of petroleum supplies will have on fertilizer production. By far the biggest fossil fuel input to agriculture is the use of natural gas as a hydrogen source for the Haber-Bosch fertilizer-creation process.[112] Natural gas is used because it is the cheapest currently available source of hydrogen.[113] [114] When oil production becomes so scarce that natural gas is used as a partial stopgap replacement, and hydrogen use in transportation increases, natural gas will become much more expensive. If the Haber Process is unable to be commercialized using renewable energy (such as by electrolysis) or if other sources of hydrogen are not available to replace the Haber Process, in amounts sufficient to supply transportation and agricultural needs, this major source of fertilizer would either become extremely expensive or unavailable. This would either cause food shortages or dramatic rises in food prices.

Mitigation of effects of petroleum shortages

One effect oil shortages could have on agriculture is a full return to organic agriculture. In light of peak oil concerns, organic methods are much more sustainable than contemporary practices because they use no petroleum-based pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. Some farmers using modern organic-farming methods have reported yields as high as those available from conventional farming.[115] [116] [117] [118] Organic farming may however be more labor-intensive and would require a shift of work force from urban to rural areas.[119]

It has been suggested that rural communities might obtain fuel from the biochar and synfuel process, which uses agricultural waste to provide charcoal fertilizer, some fuel and food, instead of the normal food vs fuel debate. As the synfuel would be used on site, the process would be more efficient and may just provide enough fuel for a new organic-agriculture fusion.[120] [121]

It has been suggested that some transgenic plants may some day be developed which would allow for maintaining or increasing yields while requiring fewer fossil fuel derived inputs than conventional crops.[122] The possibility of success of these programs is questioned by ecologists and economists concerned with unsustainable GMO practices such as terminator seeds,[123] [124] and a January 2008 report shows that GMO practices "fail to deliver environmental,social and economic benefits."[125] While there has been some research on sustainability using GMO crops, at least one hyped and prominent multi-year attempt by Monsanto has been unsuccessful, though during the same period traditional breeding techniques yielded a more sustainable variety of the same crop.[126] Additionally, a survey by the bio-tech industry of subsistence farmers in Africa to discover what GMO research would most benefit sustainable agriculture only identified non-transgenic issues as areas needing to be addressed.[127] Nonetheless, some governments in Africa continue to view investments in new transgenic technologies as an essential component of efforts to improve sustainability.[128]

Policy

See main article: Agricultural policy. Agricultural policy focuses on the goals and methods of agricultural production. At the policy level, common goals of agriculture include:

Agriculture safety and health

United States

Agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries.[131] Farmers are at high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries, work-related lung diseases, noise-induced hearing loss, skin diseases, and certain cancers associated with chemical use and prolonged sun exposure. Farming is one of the few industries in which the families (who often share the work and live on the premises) are also at risk for injuries, illness, and death. In an average year, 516 workers die doing farm work in the U.S. (1992-2005). Of these deaths, 101 are caused by tractor overturns. Every day, about 243 agricultural workers suffer lost-work-time injuries, and about 5% of these result in permanent impairment.[132]

Agriculture is the most dangerous industry for young workers, accounting for 42% of all work-related fatalities of young workers in the U.S. between 1992 and 2000. Unlike other industries, half the young victims in agriculture were under age 15. [133] For young agricultural workers aged 15–17, the risk of fatal injury is four times the risk for young workers in other workplaces [134] Agricultural work exposes young workers to safety hazards such as machinery, confined spaces, work at elevations, and work around livestock.

An estimated 1.26 million children and adolescents under 20 years of age resided on farms in 2004, with about 699,000 of these youth performing work on the farms. In addition to the youth who live on farms, an additional 337,000 children and adolescents were hired to work on U.S. farms in 2004. On average, 103 children are killed annually on farms (1990-1996). Approximately 40 percent of these deaths were work-related. In 2004, an estimated 27,600 children and adolescents were injured on farms; 8,100 of these injuries were due to farm work.[132]

See also

Main lists: List of basic agriculture topics and List of agriculture topics

Lists

References

Bibliography

External links

Notes and References

  1. Marketwatch (2007) Plastics are Green in More Ways Than One.
  2. BIO (n.d.) Growing Plants for Pharmaceutical Production vs. for Food and Feed Crops.
  3. [International Labour Organization]
  4. Web site: [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/xx.html#Econ https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/xx.html#Econ].
  5. http://catholic.archives.nd.edu/cgi-bin/lookup.pl?stem=ager&ending= Latin Word Lookup
  6. http://catholic.archives.nd.edu/cgi-bin/lookup.pl?stem=cultura&ending= Latin Word Lookup
  7. New York Times (2005) Sometimes a Bumper Crop is Too Much Of a Good Thing
  8. New York Times (1986) Science Academy Recommends Resumption of Natural Farming
  9. The World Bank (1995) Overcoming Agricultural Water Pollution in the European Union
  10. European Commission (2003) CAP Reform
  11. New York Times (2007 September) At Tyson and Kraft, Grain Costs Limit Profit
  12. http://www.financialpost.com/story.html?id=213343 Forget oil, the new global crisis is food
  13. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/dec/04/china.business Riots and hunger feared as demand for grain sends food costs soaring
  14. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3500975.ece Already we have riots, hoarding, panic: the sign of things to come?
  15. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/feb/26/food.unitednations Feed the world? We are fighting a losing battle, UN admits
  16. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/apr/22/food.foodanddrink Millions face famine as crop disease rages
  17. Billions at risk from wheat super-blight. New Scientist Magazine. 2007-04-03. 2007-04-19. issue 2598. 6–7.
  18. Leonard, K.J. Black stem rust biology and threat to wheat growers, USDA ARS
  19. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/aug/31/climatechange.food Global food crisis looms as climate change and population growth strip fertile land
  20. http://news.mongabay.com/2006/1214-unu.html Africa may be able to feed only 25% of its population by 2025
  21. http://www.ucalgary.ca/news/feb2007/early-farming/ Farming older than thought | University of Calgary
  22. USDA NAL Special Collections. South China explorations : typescript, July 25, 1916-September 21, 1918
  23. USDA NAL Special Collections. Dorsett-Morse Oriental Agricultural Exploration Expedition Collection
  24. USDA ERS. Agricultural Productivity in the United States
  25. U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Rome, Italy. "Analysis of farming systems." Accessed on December 7, 2008.
  26. Acquaah, G. 2002. Agricultural Production Systems. pp. 283-317 in "Principles of Crop Production, Theories, Techniques and Technology". Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  27. Chrispeels, M.J. and D.E. Sadava. 1994. Farming Systems: Development, Productivity, and Sustainability. pp. 25-57 in "Plants, Genes, and Agriculture". Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Boston, MA.
  28. Gold, M.V. 1999. USDA National Agriculture Library. Beltsville, MD. "Sustainable Agriculture: Definitions and Terms" Accessed on December 7, 2008
  29. Earles, R. and P. Williams. 2005. ATTRA National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. Fayetville, AR. "Sustainable Agriculture:An Introduction" Accessed on December 7, 2008.
  30. Web site: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAOSTAT). 2007-10-11.
  31. Sere, C., H. Steinfeld and J. Groeneweld. 1995. U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Rome, Italy. "Description of Systems in World Livestock Systems - Current status issues and trends" Accessed on December 7, 2008.
  32. FAO Database, 2003
  33. Brady, N.C. and R.R. Weil. 2002. Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils. Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  34. Acquaah, G. 2002. Land Preparation and Farm Energy pp.318-338 in "Principles of Crop Production, Theories, Techniques and Technology". Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  35. Acquaah, G. 2002. Pesticide Use in U.S. Crop Production pp.240-282 in "Principles of Crop Production, Theories, Techniques and Technology". Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  36. Acquaah, G. 2002. Soil and Land pp.165-210 in "Principles of Crop Production, Theories, Techniques and Technology". Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  37. Chrispeels, M.J. and D.E. Sadava. 1994. Nutrition from the Soil pp.187-218 in "Plants, Genes, and Agriculture". Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Boston, MA.
  38. Brady, N.C. and R.R. Weil. 2002. Practical Nutrient Management pp.472-515 in Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils. Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  39. Acquaah, G. 2002. Plants and Soil Water pp211-239 in "Principles of Crop Production, Theories, Techniques and Technology". Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  40. Pimentel, D., B. Berger, D. Filberto, M. Newton, B. Wolfe, E. Karabinakis, S. Clark, E. Poon, E. Abbett, and S. Nandagopal. 2004. Water Resources: Agricultural and Environmental Issues. Bioscience 54:909-918.
  41. Sexton RJ. 2000. Industrialization and Consolidation in the US Food Sector: Implications for Competition and Welfare. American Journal of Agricultural Economics. 82. 5. 1087–1104. 10.1111/0002-9092.00106.
  42. http://www.cls.casa.colostate.edu/TransgenicCrops/history.html|History of Plant Breeding
  43. Stadler. L. J.. Lewis Stadler. G. F. Sprague. Genetic Effects of Ultra-Violet Radiation in Maize. I. Unfiltered Radiation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 22. 10. 572–578. US Department of Agriculture and Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station. 1936-10-15. PDF. 2007-10-11.
  44. Book: Berg, Paul. Maxine Singer. George Beadle: An Uncommon Farmer. The Emergence of Genetics in the 20th century. Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory Press. 2003-08-15. 0-87969-688-5.
  45. Ruttan. Vernon W.. Biotechnology and Agriculture: A Skeptical Perspective. AgBioForum. 2. 1. 54–60. December. 1999. 2007-10-11.
  46. Cassman. K.. Ecological intensification of cereal production systems: The Challenge of increasing crop yield potential and precision agriculture. Proceedings of a National Academy of Sciences Colloquium, Irvine, California. University of Nebraska. 1998-12-05. 2007-10-11.
  47. Conversion note: 1 bushel of wheat = 60 pounds (lb) ≈ 27.215 kg. 1 bushel of maize = 56 pounds ≈ 25.401 kg
  48. http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/BiotechCrops/adoption.htm| Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the US: Extent of Adoption
  49. http://www.rafiusa.org/pubs/Farmers_Guide_to_GMOs.pdf| Farmers Guide to GMOs
  50. http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/feb2008/db20080212_435043.htm| Report Raises Alarm over 'Super-weeds'
  51. Ozturk, et. al., Glyphosate inhibition of ferric reductase activity in iron deficient sunflower roots, New Phtologist 177:899-906, 2008.
  52. http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/BiotechCrops/adoption.htm
  53. Kimbrell, A. Faltal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture, Island Press, Washington, 2002.
  54. Genetically modified crops: risks and promise. Conway, G.. 2000. Conservation Ecology. 4(1): 2.
  55. Journal of Economic Integration. Volume 19, Number 2. June. 2004. . R. Pillarisetti and Kylie Radel. Economic and Environmental Issues in International Trade and Production of Genetically Modified Foods and Crops and the WTO. 332–352.
  56. http://www.twnside.org.sg/title/twr118a.htm| UN biodiversity meet fails to address key outstanding issues
  57. http://www.etcgroup.org/en/materials/publications.html?pub_id=706 Who Owns Nature?
  58. Shiva, Vandana, Biopiracy, South End Press, Cambridge, MA, 1997.
  59. Shiva, Vandana, Biopiracy, South End Press, Cambridge, MA, 1997.
  60. http://www.rafiusa.org/pubs/Farmers_Guide_to_GMOs.pdf| Farmers Guide to GMOs
  61. Nabhan, Gary Paul, Enduring Seeds, The University of Arizona Press, Tuscon, 1989.
  62. Shiva, Vanadana,Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply South End Press, Cambrdge, MA, 2000, pg. 90-93.
  63. Chandler, S., Dunwell, JM, Gene flow, risk assessment and the environmental release of transgenic plants, Critical Reviews in Plant Science, Vol. 27, pg25-49, 2008.
  64. Shiva, Vandana, Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace, Sourth End Press, Cambridge, MA, 2005.
  65. Pretty et al.. 2000. An assessment of the total external costs of UK agriculture. Agricultural Systems. 65. 2. 113–136. 10.1016/S0308-521X(00)00031-7.
  66. Tegtmeier. E.M.. Duffy. M.. 2005. External Costs of Agricultural Production in the United States. The Earthscan Reader in Sustainable Agriculture.
  67. http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html
  68. Steinfeld, H., P. Gerber, T. Wassenaar, V. Castel, M. Rosales, and C. de Haan. 2006. U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Rome, Italy "Livestock's Long Shadow - Environmental issues and options." Retrieved December 5, 2008
  69. Vitousek, P.M., H.A. Mooney, J. Lubchenco and J.M. Melillo. 1997. Human Domination of Earth's Ecosystems. Science 277:494-499.
  70. Bai, Z.G., D.L. Dent, L. Olsson, and M.E. Schaepman. 2008. Global assessment of land degradation and improvement 1:identification by remote sensing. Report 2008/01, FAO/ISRIC - Rome/Wageningen. Retrieved on December 5, 2008 from "Land degradation on the rise"
  71. Carpenter, S.R., N.F. Caraco, D.L. Correll, R.W. Howarth, A.N. Sharpley, and V.H. Smith. 1998. Nonpoint Pollution of Surface Waters with Phosphorus and Nitrogen. Ecological Applications 8:559-568.
  72. Pimentel, D. T.W. Culliney, and T. Bashore. 1996. "Public health risks associated with pesticides and natural toxins in foods in Radcliffe's IPM World Textbook" Accessed on December 7, 2008
  73. WHO. 1992. Our planet, our health: Report of the WHU commission on health and environment. Geneva: World Health Organization.
  74. Chrispeels, M.J. and D.E. Sadava. 1994. Strategies for Pest Control pp.355-383 in "Plants, Genes, and Agriculture". Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Boston, MA.
  75. Avery, D.T. 2000. Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic: The Environmental Triumph of High-Yield Farming. Hudson Institute, Indianapolis, IN.
  76. Center for Global Food Issues. Churchville, VA. "Center for Global Food Issues." Accessed on December 7, 2008.
  77. Lappe, F.M., J. Collins, and P. Rosset. 1998. Myth 4: Food vs. Our Environment pp. 42-57 in "World Hunger, Twelve Myths", Grove Press, New York, NY.
  78. Brady, N.C. and R.R. Weil. 2002. Soil Organic Matter pp.353-385 in Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils. Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  79. Brady, N.C. and R.R. Weil. 2002. Nitrogen and Sulfur Economy of Soils pp.386-421 in Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils. Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  80. News: Cotton subsidies squeeze Mali. BBC News, Africa. 2009-02-18.
  81. News: Republic of Korea Livestock and Products Annual 2008. TheBeefSite.com. 2009-02-18.
  82. News: mercado de faena. Spanish. megaagro.com.uy. 2009-02-18.
  83. News: China: Feeding a Huge Population. Kansas-Asia (ONG). average farming household in China now cultivates about one hectare. 2009-02-18.
  84. News: Paraguay farmland real estate. Peer Voss. 2009-02-18.
  85. News: Cada vez más Uruguayos compran campos Guaranés (..no hay tierras enel mundo que se compren a los precios de Paraguay…). Spanish. Consejo de Educacion Secundaria de Uruguay. 26 June 2008.
  86. News: Brazil frontier farmland. AgBrazil. 2009-02-18.
  87. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/6496585.stm The limits of a Green Revolution?
  88. http://www.energybulletin.net/19525.html The Real Green Revolution
  89. Web site: Food, Land, Population and the U.S. Economy, Executive Summary. Pimentel, David and Giampietro, Mario. 1994-11-21. Carrying Capacity Network. 2008-07-08.
  90. Carrying capacity: the tradition and policy implications of limits. Abernethy, Virginia Deane. pdf. Ethics in science and environmental politics. 2001-01-23. 9. 18.
  91. Web site: Current Events - Join us as we watch the crisis unfolding. 2007-01-19. Princeton University: Beyond Oil. Kenneth S. Deffeyes.
  92. Web site: Yes, We're in Peak Oil Today. Raise the Hammer. 2007-10-22. Ryan McGreal.
  93. Web site: Crude Oil: The Supply Outlook. PDF. Energy Watch Group. 2007-10. Dr. Werner Zittel, Jorg Schindler.
  94. Web site: The Perfect Storm. Dave Cohen. ASPO-USA. 2007-10-31.
  95. Web site: World Production and Peaking Outlook. PDF. Stichting Peakoil Nederland. Rembrandt H.E.M. Koppelaar. 2006-09.
  96. (a list of over 20 published articles and books supporting this thesis can be found here in the section: "Food, Land, Water, and Population")
  97. David Pimentel, Marcia Pimentel, and Marianne Karpenstein-Machan, "Energy use in Agriculture: An Overview," dspace.library.cornell.edu/bitstream/1813/118/3/Energy.PDF.
  98. Richard Manning, "The Oil We Eat: Following the Food Chain Back to Iraq," Harper's Magazine, February 2004.
  99. Barbara Kingsolver, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life," New York: HarperCollins, 2007. and Michael Pollan, "The Omnivore's Dilemma," New York: Penguin Books, 2007, and Rich Pirog, Timothy Van Pelt, Kamyar Enshayan, and Ellen Cook, "Food, Fuel, and Freeways: An Iowa perspective on how far food travels, fuel usage, and greenhouse gas emissions," Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University, June 2001.
  100. http://www.biotech-info.net/Alex_Avery.html Realities of organic farming
  101. http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/organicag/researchreports/nk01ltar.pdf
  102. http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/~christos/articles/cv_organic_farming.html Organic Farming can Feed The World!
  103. http://www.terradaily.com/news/farm-05c.html Organic Farms Use Less Energy And Water
  104. Rich Pirog, Timothy Van Pelt, Kamyar Enshayan, and Ellen Cook, "Food, Fuel, and Freeways: An Iowa perspective on how far food travels, fuel usage, and greenhouse gas emissions," Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University, June 2001.
  105. http://www.finfacts.com/irelandbusinessnews/publish/article_1011078.shtml Record rise in wheat price prompts UN official to warn that surge in food prices may trigger social unrest in developing countries
  106. Web site: A New, Global Oil Quandary: Costly Fuel Means Costly Calories. Keith Bradsher. January 19, 2008. New York Times.
  107. http://www.sundayherald.com/news/heraldnews/display.var.2104849.0.2008_the_year_of_global_food_crisis.php 2008: The year of global food crisis
  108. http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0118/p08s01-comv.html The global grain bubble
  109. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/7284196.stm The cost of food: Facts and figures
  110. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1717572,00.html The World's Growing Food-Price Crisis
  111. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/feb/26/food.unitednations Feed the world? We are fighting a losing battle, UN admits
  112. Raw Material Reserves - International Fertilizer Industry Association http://www.fertilizer.org/ifa/statistics/indicators/ind_reserves.asp
  113. Integrated Crop Management-Iowa State University January 29, 2001 http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/icm/2001/1-29-2001/natgasfert.html
  114. The Hydrogen Economy-Physics Today Magazine, December 2004 http://www.physicstoday.org/vol-57/iss-12/p39.html
  115. http://www.biotech-info.net/Alex_Avery.html Realities of organic farming
  116. http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/organicag/researchreports/nk01ltar.pdf
  117. http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/~christos/articles/cv_organic_farming.html Organic Farming can Feed The World!
  118. http://www.terradaily.com/news/farm-05c.html Organic Farms Use Less Energy And Water
  119. Strochlic, R.; Sierra, L. (2007). Conventional, Mixed, and “Deregistered” Organic Farmers: Entry Barriers and Reasons for Exiting Organic Production in California. California Institute for Rural Studies.
  120. http://www.rsnz.org/topics/energy/ccmgmt.php#2 "Carbon cycle management with increased photo-synthesis and long-term sinks" (2007) Royal Society of New Zealand
  121. Greene, Nathanael How biofuels can help end America's energy dependenc e December 2004.
  122. The Electronic Journal of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 7. June. 2008. Srinivas et al. Reviewing The Methodologies For Sustainable Living. 2993–3014.
  123. Genetically modified crops: risks and promise. Conway, G.. 2000. Conservation Ecology. 4(1): 2.
  124. Journal of Economic Integration. Volume 19, Number 2. June. 2004. . R. Pillarisetti and Kylie Radel. Economic and Environmental Issues in International Trade and Production of Genetically Modified Foods and Crops and the WTO. 332–352.
  125. Web site: Who Benefits from GM Crops?. Friends of the Earth International. January. 2008. Juan Lopez Villar & Bill Freese. pdf.
  126. Monsanto's showcase project in Africa fails. New Scientist. 7 February 2004. 2008-04-18. Vol 181 No. 2433.
  127. Web site: Genetically Modified Crops in Africa: Implications for Small Farmers. Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN). August. 2002. Devlin Kuyek. pdf.
  128. Web site: Genetically Modified Crops in Africa: Implications for Small Farmers. BBC. 30 May 2008. Jeremy Cooke. 2008-06-06.
  129. http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0724/p01s01-wogi.html Rising food prices curb aid to global poor
  130. http://www.finfacts.com/irelandbusinessnews/publish/article_1011078.shtml Record rise in wheat price prompts UN official to warn that surge in food prices may trigger social unrest in developing countries
  131. Web site: NIOSH- Agriculture. 2007-10-10. United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
  132. Web site: NIOSH- Agriculture Injury. 2007-10-10. United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
  133. NIOSH [2003]. Unpublished analyses of the 1992–2000 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Special Research Files provided to NIOSH by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (includes more detailed data than the research file, but excludes data from New York City). Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Safety Research, Surveillance and Field Investigations Branch, Special Studies Section. Unpublished database.
  134. BLS [2000]. Report on the youth labor force. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, pp. 58–67.