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Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the development of civilization. The study of agriculture is known as agricultural science. The history of agriculture dates back thousands of years, and its development has been driven and defined by greatly different climates, cultures, and technologies. However, all farming generally relies on techniques to expand and maintain the lands or water areas suitable for raising domesticated species. For plants, this sometimes requires a form of irrigation, although much agriculture is rainfed, and there are methods of dryland farming; pastoral herding on rangeland is still the most common means of raising livestock. In the developed world, industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture has become the dominant system of modern farming, although there is growing support for sustainable agriculture. The major agricultural products can be broadly grouped into foods, fibers, fuels, and raw materials.
Pictured left: Cage-reared fish, My Tho, Mekong delta, Vietnam
Fish farming is the principal form of aquaculture, while other methods may fall under mariculture. Fish farming involves raising fish commercially in tanks or enclosures, usually for food. A facility that releases young (juvenile) fish into the wild for recreational fishing or to supplement a species' natural numbers is generally referred to as a fish hatchery. The most common fish species raised by fish farms are salmon, carp, tilapia, European seabass, catfish and cod.
There is an increasing demand for fish and fish protein, which has resulted in widespread overfishing in wild fisheries. Fish farming offers fish marketers another source. However, farming carnivorous fish, such as salmon, does not always reduce pressure on wild fisheries, since carnivorous farmed fish are usually fed fishmeal and fish oil extracted from wild forage fish. In this way, the salmon can consume in weight more wild fish than they weigh themselves. The global returns for fish farming recorded by the FAO in 2008 totalled 33.8 million tonnes worth about $US 60 billion.
Sustainable agriculture is the practice of farming using principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. It has been defined as "an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will last over the long term:
Sustainable agriculture in the United States was addressed by the 1990 farm bill. More recently, as consumer and retail demand for sustainable products has risen, organizations such as Food Alliance and Protected Harvest have started to provide measurement standards and certification programs for what constitutes a sustainably grown crop.
Categories: Sustainable agriculture, Sustainability
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