In simplest terms, agriculture Is an effort by man to move Beyond the limits set by nature.
In Ethiopia, 1985: thousands of People were starving. Lack of rain combined with soil Degradation and war had Caused a major crop failure For the 2 nd time in 15 years.
Finally the rains came… And washed away millions of Tons of soil in the rivers. That year 6000 square miles Were added to the north African desert.
For the most part, People farm and eat corn, Wheat and rice. It is dangerous to rely on only A few plants, if something Happens to them, then Millions will go hungry.
People need roughly 1300 Calories per day to stay Healthy. These come in the form of Carbohydrates, Proteins and lipids.
But even if people consume Enough Calories in the Food they eat, they may Suffer from malnutrition. Malnutrition is a condition In which people do not Consume enough nutrients Necessary for life.
As a result, About 1 in every 3 people on Earth are malnourished, Mostly women and children. Because the world’s population Is increasing rapidly, More food is needed each year.
However, if everyone in the world Today was given an equal amount Of food produced, No one would have enough To stay strong and healthy. As a result, the food produced Is not evenly spread out And many people die Of starvation.
Grain production per person Has dropped in recent years.
Droughts are periods when Rainfall is less than average. This contributes to starvation By causing crop failure. Famine is a food shortage so Widespread that it Causes malnutrition In many people.
In an effort to increase crop Yields, new varieties of grain Were introduced in many Developing countries. This was called the Green revolution.
These new varieties had a Much greater yield than the Old varieties, and more Nutrients. The green revolution only Worked on large farms Because it required lots Of water and fertilizers.
The earth has a limited amount Of arable land, fertile land That can be plowed To grow crops. This amount is decreasing Each year. This shortage of fertile Agricultural land threatens our Ability to feed the population.
The basic techniques of farming Have not changed: Plowing, fertilization, Irrigation and pest control. They have just grown to Bigger scales.
Soil that has taken a long Time to form is being lost To erosion at an alarming rate. Erosion is the wearing away of Topsoil by wind and water. In the US, about half of the Topsoil has been lost in The last 200 years.
The loss of topsoil occurs All over the world. In dry areas the soil is lost to Desertification, This is when the land Becomes desert like.
Without water, Topsoil is easily Moved by wind. The dust Bowl
New ways of doing old Things are changing farming. in no till farming, the seeds of The next crop are planted in Slits that are cut into the soil, Straight through the remains Of the previous crops.
Low input farming is farming Without using a lot of Energy, pesticides, Fertilizer or water. This helps to stop salinization, When the soil is full of salt From over-irrigation.
Scientists are studying old Plants in hopes that they Will make our future better. Amaranth can grow with Little water and create a High protein grain. Glasswort grows in salty Soils and can even be Irrigated with salt water.
In North America, insects Destroy 13% of all crops.
An insect is just one kind Of pest. A pest is any organism that Occurs where you Don’t want it, or in large Enough numbers to cause damage.
Wild plants have more Protection from pests than Do crops. So people use pesticides To control them. A pesticide is a substance that Kills pests.
Unfortunately, the pesticides Affect a lot more than just The pest they are designed to Kill, many harm people. And, pest populations eventually Evolve resistance to many Pesticides.
So many farmers are turning To biological pest control. They are using living organisms To naturally control pests. But the problem with these Living organisms is that they Might disrupt an entire ecosystem
So now many farmers, and Very profitable companies, Have turned to genetically Engineered plants.