Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Agriculture

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Biology

Agriculture is the production of food, feed and various other useful produce from the growth and nurturing of domesticated animals and plants. Maximising efficiency and output in agriculture is essential in meeting the demands of the human population.

Agriculture and its effect on biodiversity

Farmers use only certain species to maximise efficiency and output of produce, which often leads to a limited genes pool (the abundance and variation of genes in a population), meaning that the farm animals and crops are susceptible to disease. Monocultures are often created to protect the wanted crops from foreign species.

A monoculture is farming a single crop or animal in a specific area.

Farmlands are harmful to species diversity in the surrounding area in the following ways:

  • Pesticides kill any unwanted crops, and pests on the desirable crops can thrive. This rapidly reduces the biodiversity in the surrounding area and the gene pool of all the crops in the field.
  • Overgrazing of land (normally by cattle and sheep) leads to the destruction of certain sepcies’ habitats which will often not grow back. The soil is often exposed and can be eroded by harsh winds and rainfall.
  • Removal of trees, shrubs, stumps, hedgerows (a strip of dense shrubbery that acts as a natural fence), and the draining of ponds and marshes also removes the homes for many species and ecosystems.
  • Minimal use of intercropping (planting different species in the spaces between rows of crops) and crop rotation (planting different species alternately in the same field) leads to lessened biodiversity.
  • The use of fertilisers can lead to eutrophication in nearby rivers and lakes.
  • Minimal use of intercropping (planting different species in the spaces between rows of crops) and crop rotation (planting different species alternately in the same field) leads to lessened biodiversity.
  • The release of effluent (liquid waste) into nearby bodies of water can be harmful to the wildlife that lives there and can also decrease soil quality.

Eutrophication is when a body of water is enriched with nutrients because of runoff from land, leading to increased growth in aquatic plants. These plants then deplete the light, oxygen, and other nutrients in the body of water.

Conservation of biodiversity in agriculture

There are methods that farmers can employ to minimise agriculture-related biodiversity loss on their land.

The methods include:

  • The practice of intercropping, undersowing (planting a crop that will start growing as soon as the crop the farmers are interested in has been harvested), and crop rotation to increase the genetic diversity in the crop fields.

  • Pest management strategies different from pesticides can be used, such as introducing the natural enemy to the pest in the field.

  • Refraining from draining boggy sections of the field or leaving some marshy sections for the various species that thrive here.

  • Preserve hedgerows in between fields rather than erecting fences.

  • Only cut field edges once seed dispersal has occurred.

  • Introduce areas where the use of pesticides is limited so that wild plants and animals can breed.

  • Increased crop yield in the long term as increased biodiversity in the field will increase the gene pool available to the crops, meaning that they are less susceptible to disease.
  • Through crop rotation and intercropping, soil quality will increase because of the wide range of nutrients it receives.
  • Without burning fossil fuels, the pollution resulting from industrial farming methods decreases.

The United Nations and associated governments convened in 2021 at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) and Land-Use Day to discuss urgent requirements to make agriculture more sustainable worldwide. Policy reforms, innovation, and investment in research are just a few ways countries have committed to changing the agricultural landscape.

Sustainable agriculture

Sustainable agriculture aims to implement methods of growing crops and livestock that are reproducible in the long term while also having minimal effect on the environment. This is done by considering the global need for food production and the consequences of agriculture and global warming.

Goals associated with sustainable agriculture are the promotion of biodiversity in wildlife and crops, conserving freshwater, and reducing chemical pesticide and fertiliser use. Common farming strategies employed to achieve sustainable agriculture include:

  • Natural fertilisers - plants that produce the nutrients that they or other plants around them require can be extremely useful in reducing fertiliser use.

  • Crop rotation - mixing crops and crop rotation can help reduce pesticides as the pests will not grow accustomed to the crops in this area.

  • Natural pesticides - crops that exhibit defences that kill certain pests can be introduced to help other regularly attacked plants.

  • Renewable energy sources - the use of renewable energy sources in agriculture reduces the need for burning fossil fuels, which is a huge factor impacting global warming.

Agricultural occupancy condition

An agricultural occupancy condition is a law that limits who can occupy land in the countryside so that the maximum possible space can be used for agricultural purposes. It usually requires that the person living in the particular settlement is either working or retired from working in agricultural practices in the local area. Often called an agricultural tie, they were introduced to allow farmers to easily build houses on their land without being opposed.

Regenerative agriculture

Regenerative agriculture is a practice used by farmers that focuses on soil health while also monitoring water management and fertiliser use. This is done in the following ways:

  • By using crop rotation and intercropping, farmers can increase plant diversity and improve the health of the soil. Different plants release varying types and amounts of carbohydrates into the soil, broken down by microbes that return many nutrients to the plant and the soil. If the soil only receives certain carbohydrates for an extended period, it can suffer if it requires some absent carbohydrates.
  • Bare soil will erode over time, so farmers can use the technique of cover cropping (planting crops that cover the soil and won’t necessarily be harvested) so that the soil is protected and receives all the necessary nutrients and organic matter.
  • By minimising till practices, farmers can reduce physical disturbance to the soil, reducing the loss of organic matter or soil microbes and other species.

    Tillage refers to soil preparation on farms by mechanical agitation such as digging, overturning, and stirring.

  • Overapplication and misuse of fertilisers and pesticides can be detrimental to soil health, so most farmers usually refrain from this.

Agricultural engineering

Farmers can often produce a more desirable result from their crops or animals using genetic engineering. Genetic engineering involves the removal of the desired gene from one organism and the insertion of this gene into the target organism. This is an intentional modification of the characteristics of a plant or an animal. The introduced gene typically ensures that the organism grows faster, bigger or has a characteristic not normally present in its species.

There are ethical concerns around genetically modifying animals, but livestock is still widely genetically engineered to make animals grow faster or have a higher fat to muscle ratio. Crops are more regularly engineered, often increasing their resistance to pests, making them grow larger or faster, or increasing their vitamin content.

An instance where farmers engineer crops is breeding corn to contain more beta-carotene. It is known that beta-carotene is a valuable source of vitamin A, so producing corn to contain more of it could be used to tackle vitamin A deficiency in developing countries.

Agricultural revolution

The (British) agricultural revolution concerns the changes that began to occur in Britain that only really concluded towards the start of the 19th century. This included many technical improvements to the traditional methods of farming. Some of these technical improvements were:

  • Modern, more efficient machinery. For example, tractors, dragged teeth (called shanks) that pierce the soil, and rotatory motion of disks and teeth.

  • New techniques of farming to increase yield, such as intercropping and under sowing.

  • Better drainage, often by the installation of subsurface drainage pipes.

  • Scientific methods of breeding, such as the previously mentioned breeding, promote beta-carotene levels.

  • Smarter water management. This can be done by improving irrigation systems and climate-smart farming methods.

  • Steam engine ploughs could plough ten times faster than a plough dragged by horses.

Agriculture - Key takeaways

  • Agriculture is the controlled growth and nurturing of domesticated crops and livestock to produce essential food and other materials for the human population.

  • Sustainable agriculture aims to minimise the impact of farming on the environment while also sustainably producing the most feed possible in the long term.

  • Regenerative agriculture focuses on soil health while maintaining good water management and minimal fertiliser usage.

  • The agricultural revolution resulted in innovative farming methods, which completely transformed the way farms are run to this day.

Agriculture

Agriculture is the controlled growth and nurturing of domesticated plants and animals to produce essential products that can be distributed around the world.

Heavy machinery using fossil fuels, methane produced from farm animals (mostly cows), and transportation of products all contribute to climate change.

An agricultural occupancy condition is a law that tells you that the person who lives on the land either works in agriculture or is retired from agricultural work.

The agricultural revolution was the transformation in agricultural methods from the 19th century onwards, in concordance with the Industrial Revolution.

Agricultural land is used to build farms which are then used to grow crops and livestock.

To exhibit a desired characteristic that they wouldn't naturally have, such as resistance to pests or faster growth.

Natural pesticides are a natural (non-artificial) enemy to a pest that is aggravating a certain crop.

More efficient machinery and drainage systems, innovative techniques such as intercropping and under sowing, and scientific methods of breeding.

Crop rotation seves the purpose of avoiding pests getting accustomed to the crops in a certain area, hence difficulting their invasion.

Fertiliser runoff causes eutrophication in nearby bodies of water, harming marine wildlife that lives there. Pesticides kill many organisms that are not desired.

Final Agriculture Quiz

Question

Name three ways in which agriculture negatively impacts biodiversity?


Show answer

Answer

  • Overgrazing of land
  • Release of effluent into nearby bodies of water
  • Removal of hedgerows.

Show question

Question

Name three agricultural methods which conserve biodiversity?


Show answer

Answer

  • Intercropping and crop rotation
  • Maintaining marshy patches of land
  • Absence of pesticides in certain areas.

Show question

Question

What is regenerative agriculture?


Show answer

Answer

Regenerative agriculture focuses on maintaining soil health and sustainable water management, while also minimising fertiliser and pesticide usage.

Show question

Question

Why is agricultural engineering used?


Show answer

Answer

To maximise the growth or expression of a certain aspect of a crop or animal.

Show question

Question

What is sustainable agriculture?


Show answer

Answer

Sustainable agriculture aims to produce the same output from farming over a long period of time, while also taking into account the effect it has on the environment.

Show question

Question

In what ways does agriculture affect global warming?

Show answer

Answer

Heavy machinery and the transportation of produce involves the burning of fossil fuels releasing CO2, and cows release substantial amounts of methane into the atmosphere.


Show question

Question

How does crop rotation maintain soil health?

Show answer

Answer

The soil receives different nutrients from different plants, rather than exhausting the same ones.

Show question

Question

What is a hedgerow?

Show answer

Answer

A strip of dense shrubbery that acts like a natural fence.

Show question

Question

What is involved in genetic engineering?

Show answer

Answer

The unwanted gene is removed from the animal or crop, and the gene with the desired characteristic is inserted.

Show question

Question

Why are crops genetically engineered?


Show answer

Answer

To exhibit a desired characteristic, such as resistance to pests or faster growth.


Show question

Question

What is a natural pesticide?


Show answer

Answer

Natural pesticides are the natural enemy to a pest that is aggravating a certain crop.


Show question

Question

What are some of the methods introduced in the agricultural revolution?


Show answer

Answer

  • More efficient machinery and drainage systems
  • Innovative techniques such as intercropping and undersowing
  • Scientific methods of breeding


Show question

Question

What is the purpose of crop rotation?


Show answer

Answer

The purpose of crop rotation is so pests do not get accustomed to the positioning of the same crops in a certain area.


Show question

Question

How does the use of fertilisers and pesticides reduce biodiversity?


Show answer

Answer

Fertiliser runoff causes eutrophication in nearby bodies of water, harming marine wildlife that lives there. Pesticides kill many organisms that are not desired.


Show question

Question

What are the aims of conservational agriculture?

Show answer

Answer

Conservational agriculture aims to increase biodiversity in the surrounding area, reduce water usage, and reduce the use of artificial pesticides and fertilisers.

Show question

More about Genetic Information
60%

of the users don't pass the Agriculture quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.