2 ObjectivesDistinguish between traditional and modern agricultural techniques.Describe fertile soil.Describe the need for soil conservation.Explain the benefits and environmental impacts of pesticide use.Explain what is involved in integrated pest management.Explain how genetic engineering is used in agriculture.
3 Crops and Soil Arable land is farmland that can be used to grow crops. The Earth has only a limited area of arable land.But, as the human population continues to grow, the amount of arable land per person decreases.
4 Agriculture: Traditional The basic processes of farming include plowing, fertilization, irrigation, and pest control.Traditionally, plows are pushed by the farmers or pulled by livestock. Plowing helps crops grow by mixing soil nutrients, loosening soil particles, and uprooting weeds. Organic fertilizers, such as manure, are used to enrich soil. While fields are irrigated by water flowing through ditches.These traditional techniques have been used since the earliest days of farming.
5 Agriculture: ModernIn most industrialized countries, the basic processes of farming are now carried out using modern agricultural methods.Machinery powered by fossil fuels is now used to plow the soil and harvest crops. Synthetic chemical fertilizers have replaced manure and plant wastes to fertilize soil.A variety of overhead sprinklers and drip systems may be used for irrigation. And synthetic chemicals are used to kill pests.
6 Fertile Soil: The Living Earth Soil that can support the growth of healthy plants is called fertile soil.Topsoil is the surface layer of the soil, which is usually richer in organic matter than the subsoil is.Fertile topsoil is composed of living organisms, rock particles, water, air, and organic matter, such as dead or decomposing organisms. Several layers of soil lie under the topsoil. The bottom layer is bedrock, which is the solid rock from which most soil originally forms.
8 Fertile Soil: The Living Earth Most soil forms when rock is broken down into smaller and smaller fragments by wind, water, and chemical weathering. Chemical weathering happens when the minerals in rock react chemically with substances to form new materials. Temperature changes and moisture can also cause rock to crack and break apart.It can take hundreds or even thousands of years for these geological processes to form a few centimeters of soil.
9 Fertile Soil: The Living Earth Other processes also help to produce fertile topsoil. For example, the rock particles supply mineral nutrients to the soil.Fungi and bacteria live in the soil, and they decompose dead plants as well as organic debris and add more nutrients to the soil.Earthworms, insects, and other small animals help plants grow by breaking up the soil and allowing air and water into it.
11 Soil Erosion: A Global Problem Erosion is a process in which the materials of the Earth’s surface are loosened, dissolved, or worn away and transported from one place to another by a natural agent, such as wind, water, ice, or gravity.In the U.S., about half of the original topsoil has been lost to erosion in the past 200 years.Without topsoil, crops cannot be grown. Yet, almost all farming methods increase the rate of soil erosion.
13 Land DegradationLand degradation happens when human activity or natural processes damage the land so that it can no longer support the local ecosystem. In areas with dry climates, desertification can occur.Desertification is the process by which human activities or climatic changes make arid or semiarid areas more desertlike.This process is causing some of our arable land to disappear.
14 Land DegradationFor example, in the past, people who lived in the drier part of the Sahel region in Africa grazed animals, while people in the wetter part of the region planted crops.The grazing animals were moved from place to place to find fresh grass. The cropland was planted for only a few years, and then allowed to lie fallow, or to remain unplanted, for several years.These methods allowed the land to adequately support the people in the Sahel.
15 Land DegradationBut the population in the region has grown, and the land is being farmed, grazed, and deforested faster than it can regenerate. Crops are planted too frequently and fallow periods are being shortened or eliminated completely.As a result, the soil is losing fertility and productivity. Because of overgrazing, the land has fewer plants to hold the topsoil in place.So, large areas have become desert and can no longer produce food.
16 Soil ConservationThere are many ways of protecting and managing topsoil and reducing erosion.Soil usually erodes downhill, and many soil conservation methods are designed to prevent downhill erosion.For example, soil-retaining terraces can be build across a hillside. On gentler slopes, contour plowing, which consists of plowing across the slope of a hill instead of up and down the slope, can be used.
17 Soil ConservationAn even more effective method of plowing is leaving strips of vegetation across the hillside instead of plowing the entire slope.These strips catch soil and water that run down the hill.Still, many areas of land that have hills are not suited to farming, but may be better used as forest or grazing land.
18 Soil ConservationIn no-till farming, a crop is harvested without turning the soil over, as in traditional farming.Later, the seeds of the next crop are planted among the remains of the previous crop. The remains of the first crop hold the soil in place while the new crop develops.Although this method saves time and reduces soil erosion, it is not suited for all crops. Other disadvantages include soil that is too densely packed and lower crop yields over time.
19 Enriching the SoilSoil was traditionally fertilized by adding organic matter that would decompose, adding nutrients to the soil and improving the soil texture.However, inorganic fertilizers that contain nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium have changed farming methods. Without them, world food production would be less than half of what it is today.If erosion occurs in areas fertilized with inorganic materials, waterways may become polluted.
20 Enriching the SoilOver the past 50 years, the use of such inorganic fertilizers has increased rapidly.
21 Enriching the SoilA modern method of enhancing the soil is to use both organic and inorganic materials by adding compost and chemical fertilizers to the soil.Compost is a mixture of decomposing organic matter, such as manure and rotting plants, that is used as fertilizer and soil conditioner.Many cities and industries now compost yard and crop wastes. This compost is then sold to farmers and gardeners, and the process is saving costly land fill space.
22 SalinizationThe accumulation of salts in the soil is known as salinization.Salinization is a major problem in places that have low rainfall and naturally salty soil.When water evaporates from irrigated land, salts are left behind.Salinization can be slowed if irrigation canals are lined to prevent water from seeping into the soil, or if the soil is watered heavily to wash out salts.
23 Pest ControlWorldwide, pests destroy about one-third of the world’s potential food harvest.A pest is any organism that occurs where it is not wanted or that occurs in large enough numbers to cause economic damage.Humans try to control populations of many types of pests, including plants, fungi, insects, and microorganisms.
24 Pesticides Many farmers rely on pesticides to produce their crops. A pesticide is a poison used to destroy pests, such as insects, rodents, or weeds; examples include insecticides, rodenticides, and herbicides.Pesticides, however, can also harm beneficial plants and insects, wildlife, and even people.
25 Pesticide ResistanceOver time, spraying large amounts of pesticide to get rid of pests usually makes the pest problem worse.Pest populations may evolve resistance, the ability to survive exposure to a particular pesticide.More than 500 species of insects have developed resistance to pesticides since the 1940s.
26 Human Health ConcernsPesticides are designed to kill organisms, so they may also be dangerous to humans.Cancer rates among children in areas where large amounts of pesticides are used on crops are sometimes higher than the national average.People who apply pesticides need to follow safety guidelines to protect themselves from contact with these chemicals.
27 Pollution and Persistence The problem of pesticides harming people and other organisms is especially serious with pesticides that are persistent.A pesticide is persistent if it does not break down easily or quickly in the environment.Persistent pesticides do not break down into harmless chemicals, and they accumulate in the water and soil.Some pesticides have been banned in the United States for decades but can still be detected in the environment.
28 Biological Pest Control Biological pest control is the use of certain organisms by humans to eliminate or control pests.Every pest has enemies in the wild, and these enemies can sometimes be used to control pest populations.Biological pest control includes the use ofpathogens,plant defenses,chemicals from plants,and the disrupting of insect breeding
29 Integrated Pest Management Integrated pest management is a modern method of controlling pests on crops.The goal of integrated pest management is not to eliminate pest populations but to reduce pest damage to a level that causes minimal economic damage.Such programs can include a mix of farming methods, biological pest control, and chemical pest control.
31 Integrated Pest Management Biological methods are the first methods used to control the pest. So, natural predators, pathogens, and parasites of the pest may be introduced.Cultivation controls, such as vacuuming insects off the plants, can also be used.As a last resort, small amounts of insecticides may be used. These insecticides are changed over time to reduce the ability of pests to evolve resistance.
32 Engineering a Better Crop Genetic engineering is a technology in which the genome of a living cell is modified for medical or industrial use.Scientists may use genetic engineering to transfer desirable traits, such as resistance to certain pests, from one organism to another.Plants that result from genetic engineering are called genetically modified (GM) plants.
34 Implications of Genetic Engineering In the United States, we now eat and use genetically engineered agricultural products everyday.Many of these products, however, have not been fully tested for their environmental impacts.Some scientists warn that these products will cause problems in the future.
35 Sustainable Agriculture Farming that conserves natural resources and helps keep the land productive indefinitely is called sustainable agriculture.Sustainable agriculture involves planting productive, pest-resistant crop varieties that require little energy, pesticides, fertilizer, and water.