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Agriculture is the gathering of plants and animals for consumption. Agriculture is diverse and vast in terms of its scope and diversity. This broad area of activity spans across a number of countries and sectors. Agriculture is one of the pillars on which economies are built. The country with the highest per capita income levels in the world are the agriculture based economies. These countries include: India, China, Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines, the United States, Thailand, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Agriculture includes two broad sectors: crop production and farm forestry. Crop production refers to the production of food crops such as grains, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, oilseeds and forests; while farm forestry is the creation of buildings, equipment, tools used in agricultural production and landscapes. Almost all the food crops are grown on farms. Some of the main crops are wheat, maize, rice, tea, coffee, citrus fruits and tobacco.
Agriculture has played a crucial role in shaping the world economy. Agriculture has created a substantial amount of employment opportunities in the developing countries. In addition, it has generated employment opportunities in the developed countries as well where the majority of the world’s food supply is produced. Agriculture has been an important player in the climate change mitigation. Forestation, farming, livestock rearing and fishing have helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Agriculture, forestry and fishing together have created a great impact on water retention. Water retention is a critical issue in drought prone areas. The agricultural regions in the developing countries face serious limitations in water and use. The role of agriculture in water retention is critical in helping to conserve water, thereby affecting water tables, and thus impacting agriculture and forestry.
Agriculture has a major role in soil fertility. The increase in population is pushing more pressure to improve soil fertility. One of the major problems in agriculture is soil erosion. The main problem in soil fertility is the lack of suitable soils due to lack of adequate tillage and fertilization.
Trees are an important part of soil fertility as they are the major source of organic matter. Organic matter is responsible for carrying nutrients to the plants. Trees take away carbon dioxide from the air and add carbon to the soil, while fertilizing the plants, all in one step. In the process of transporting carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water to the roots of the tree, they release other vital nutrients in the form of oxygen and other micronutrients.
Forest farming is a key player in reducing CO2 emissions and enhancing soil fertility. It is estimated that forest farming is the largest single source of bio-diversity improvement. Increased planting of trees and shrubs will increase the capacity of the global food market by ensuring improved nutrition and more stable climate conditions.
Agriculture and forestry are closely connected with one another. Agriculture needs forests to produce food, while at the same time ensuring a stable climate environment for the growing crops. Forests are also essential for ecological management, such as carbon and nitrogen cycling, water management, pollution clean-up and energy supply. Global warming can be avoided if more efforts are made to develop integrated systems within the agricultural sector to improve the nutrient content and ecological quality of the soils.
Agriculture’s contribution to global food security is vast. Agriculture produces almost two-thirds of the world’s edible protein and around 85% of the world’s primary vegetables. A variety of crops, ranging from dairy, beef, grain and sugarcanes to fruit trees and palms, are grown on agricultural land to provide us with food and a stable climate. Agriculture relies on a diverse set of biological and physical processes to transform the land into a rich mixture of nutrients and biodiversity.
The major aim of agriculture is to improve food production, create economic development and reduce poverty. Agriculture has become an important part of the global supply chain, contributing to improved crop yields, soil fertility and increased food security. Agriculture, forestry and fishery have contributed significantly towards achieving these aims. However, agriculture still faces many challenges and difficulties and till date, very few farmers have fully realized the benefits of this multi-faceted ecosystem.
Organic matter in agroforestry systems provides food for wildlife, improves water quality and prevents soil erosion. This organic matter also provides vital medicines and other substances that can fight against several diseases. In fact, a recent study suggests that a major cause for global warming is inappropriate soil fertility. Thus, we can see that agriculture and forestry are not only important for creating food, but also for fighting disease and maintaining the health of people.