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1

Farming: The Roots of Civilization

Farming is as old as human history. One of the first traits that early man acquired, along with the ability to walk upright and use tools, was the ability to grow crops. When Homo sapiens emerged in Africa 200,000 years ago, they were distinguished by the fact that they used a variety of tools, cultivated crops, and began to domesticate animals. Although it is hard to say exactly when these practices began, we know that, as human ancestors gained more control over the environment, they began to produce more food. In fact, soon societies, such as Mesopotamia, which appeared around 5300 BC, were able to grow more food than they needed to support themselves.

2

agriculture

The development of agriculture, the activities involved in the production of plants and animals, as well as their supply, service, mechanics, products, and processing, also gave societies the ability to trade and expand. (Basically any activity that has to do with getting food from a farm to your dinner table is part of the field of agriculture.) While intentionally growing crops was an important aspect of agricultural development, so was the domestication of animals. This also began in the Middle East and North Africa as sheep, goats, and pigs were domesticated between 8500 and 7000 BC.

3

droughts

extended periods without rain

4

one of the main causes of the French Revolution was?

For example, one of the main causes of the French Revolution was food shortage, so agriculture has shaped the course of history. When people cannot meet their basic needs, they are much more likely to revolt, and this holds true today where many nations struggle to feed their people. In fact, in the Middle Ages, it was part of local government’s responsibility to keep enough food on hand to feed peasants if war or poor harvests reduced the food supply.

5

nutrients

Giving part of the field a break actually produced more crops because nutrients, i.e., vitamins, minerals, and other energy-providing elements, were not constantly being stripped from the soil. While this growth could not stop cultural setbacks like the Black Plague, which spread from China to Europe, it did allow for the population increase that supported the Industrial Revolution and built modern society.

6

What Is Agriscience?

In the simplest terms, agriscience is the application of scientific principles and new technologies to agriculture. Although the medieval monks who started increasing yield through crop rotation were actually practicing agriscience, scholars did not begin applying scientific methods to agriculture until the 1700s. Today, agriscience is a major in many American colleges and universities, and the science of efficient farming is a global concern.

7

fertilizer

fertilizer, which is any organic (meaning it comes from living organisms or is natural) or inorganic (that which comes from non-living things) material added to soil to help plants grow. One of the first to advocate for the uses of fertilizer was German agriculturalist Johann Friedrich Mayer (1719–1798). He understood that an expanding population would need more food, so he researched ways to increase production.

8

sustainable farming

This kind of efficiency is known as sustainable farming, meaning that resources are used in a way that does not permanently harm them or create long-term damages. Thus, the planting of clover is good for the soil and the cows, and it produces better crops in other fields, making it a win-win for the farmer. Sustainable agriculture is a major concern of agriculture today, so agriscientists are still looking for the best ways to use resources to benefit the crops, animals, and the planet.

9

“Father of Fertilizer”

Perhaps going down in history as the “Father of Fertilizer” is not everyone’s ambition, but it is the claim to fame of Justus von Liebig (1803–1873), the German chemist who figured out that the chemical elements nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous are essential to plant growth. This discovery not only helped create more effective fertilizer, but it also ultimately spawned an entire industry. English scientist Sir John Bennet Lawes (1814–1900) is credited with developing superphosphates, the combination of rock phosphates and sulfuric acid that is the basis for chemical fertilizer, adding yet another dimension to agriscience and the fertilizer industry.

10

superphosphates

the combination of rock phosphates and sulfuric acid that is the basis for chemical fertilizer,

11

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

the government body responsible for regulating agriculture, these are the most produced crops in the United States (excluding citrus, root crops, and vegetables).

12

aquaculture

the growth and management of living things in the water. This science helps bring farmed fish and capers to your dinner table. There are limitless opportunities for those who work in agriscience.