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Did You Know?

Agriculture: Did You Know?

In this module, you’ll learn about the history of agriculture, the importance it has in the developing world, and the impact that climate change will have on it. Find helpful hints on sustainable agriculture and ways to increase crop yields.

Most people know that agriculture is the production of foods and goods through farming. But you may be unaware of how important agriculture has been to human civilization. Going back several thousand years, humans have used agriculture to grow plants and vegetables, raise and domesticate livestock, and trade with other neighboring civilizations. As trade in the ancient world grew, humans discovered new worlds, and begun to establish colonies around the globe. As these civilizations grew more powerful, new ways of technology were discovered to help yield greater amounts of crops to feed their growing populations. This is how many of the today’s agricultural techniques were born. Techniques were developed for both plants and animals.

There are a wide variety of techniques that one can learn about farming and increasing the yield of your crops. Most importantly, one needs to understand that different types of plants and vegetables grow better in different climates. There are many variables that one must understand before choosing the right crop for your region; including, access to sunlight and rainfall, nutrients in the soil, pest control (if needed) and how often the crops need to be tended to. Also, some crops yield more money at the market than others so it is important to do your research to see what may be the most efficient crop for you to choose.

When it comes to livestock, one cannot forget that in ancient times, humans bred animals to make them bigger, stronger and more suitable to provide sustenance to their owners. In today’s world they play just as big of a part as they help cultivate fields, transport crops to markets, as well as produce sustenance on their own. We should not forget that they also provide nutrients to the soil to help crops grow.

With this, we see that agriculture plays a very important role in countries all over the world; especially in small rural communities. There are many opportunities for farmers in these communities to make a living by maximizing crop yields by using techniques designed for different types of climate and crops.

Lesser-Known Facts

  1. Make sure to conserve water by using drip irrigation or trapping water from your roof and storing it.
  2. Join a farmers’ cooperative to pull together resources that will benefit everyone in your community.
  3. Make hardpan and dried out soil productive again by planting grain in small pits.
  4. Rotate crops annually to maximize the use of your soil and farmland. By planting different crops on a 4 to 5 year schedule, you will be able to use your plot of land continually.
  5. Soil erosion is the washing away of the top soil and/or the sub soil by either wind or water. It is the most destructive form of soil loss.
  6. Climate change will affect Africa and Asia harsher than other regions and cause more unpredictable weather such as flooding and drought.
  7. Brazil’s cerrado was once deemed undesirable by farmers until scientists dumped large amounts of phosphorus and lime. Now it is the home of Brazil’s booming agricultural industry.
  8. It is estimated that the amount of land transformed by humans for agricultural use is estimated by be anywhere between 39 and 50%.
  9. In 2009, the top 5 countries in agricultural output were China, The European Union, India, The United States, Brazil, and Japan.
  10. Livestock production occupies 70% of all land used for agriculture, or 30% of the land surface of the planet. It is also responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  11. Scientists have begun designing crops, seeds, and plant species to grow better in harder conditions; to help increase crop yields for the growing population.
  12. The European Union currently requires all Genetically Modified Organisms, such as plants and crops to be labeled, unlike the U.S. which does not.
  13. Pesticide use has increased since 1950 to 2.5 million tons annually, yet crop loss from pests has remained relatively constant.
  14. Biofuels, which are the broken down components of plant materials, are increasingly being used as fuel for transportation. Many countries around the world have begun growing crops to be used for this purpose.
  15. In terms of arable and permanent cropland, the top 5 countries respectively are the U.S. India, China, Russia, and Brazil.
  16. Over the past decade, the UN records, nearly 8 million hectares of forest a year were allowed to regrow or were planted anew.
  17. Recently, foreign governments have begun to acquire fertile lands in Africa and South America to use as sources of agricultural as the world’s commodity markets have become highly volatile.
  18. The European Union has recently mandated that biofuels make up 10% of member states’ transport fuels by 2020.
  19. Countries such as Indonesia, Brazil, Tanzania and Malaysia have begun to cater towards the E.U and its biofuel industry.
  20. Three out of every four poor people in developing countries live in rural areas-2.1 billion living on less than $2 a day and 880 million on less than $1 a day-and most depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.
  21. Animal husbandry and selective breeding practices have increased the output of meat, but have also raised concerns about the use of antibiotics and other chemicals.
  22. In 2007, one third of the world’s workers were employed in agriculture.
  23. Agriculture production accounts for less than five percent of the gross world product.
  24. As of December 2007, 37 countries faced food crises, and 20 had imposed some sort of food price controls.
  25. Zero-grazing means keeping animals in a stall, and bringing fodder to them instead of allowing them to graze outside. It is also sometimes called “cut-and-carry”.


Jane Goodall Institute
Sustainable agriculture is the key to the future.
Sustainable agriculture is the key to the future.
In some places, watering is still done by hand.
In some places, watering is still done by hand.
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