AGRICULTURE

Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi, and other life forms for food, fiber, biofuel, medicinal and other products used to sustain and enhance human life. Agriculture was the key development 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 that are suitable for raising domesticated species. For plants, this usually requires some form of irrigation, although there are methods of dryland farming. Livestock are raised in a combination of grassland-based and landless systems, in an industry that covers almost one-third of the world's ice- and water-free area. 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, including permaculture and organic agriculture.

 

Agriculture plays an important role in Africa. It is the principal source of livelihood for majority of the population in the country, provides bulk of wage goods required by non-agriculture sectors and most of the raw materials for the industries sector. Due to the dominant position of Agriculture in the African economy, collection and maintenance of Agricultural statistics assumes special importance, particularly, in respect of statistics relating to the agricultural holdings.

Types of Agriculture

Agro-ecology

Broadly stated, it is the study of the role of agriculture in the world. It is the study of the relation of agricultural crops and environment. Agro-ecology provides an interdisciplinary framework with which to
study the activity of agriculture. In this framework, agriculture does not exist as an isolated entity, but as part of an ecology of contexts. Agro-ecology draws upon basic ecological principles for its conceptual framework.

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Agriculture refers to the ability of a farm to produce food indefinitely, without causing severe or irreversible damage to ecosystem health.
Two key issues are biophysical (the long-term effects of various practices on soil properties and processes essential for crop productivity) and socio-economic (the long-term ability of farmers to obtain inputs and manage resources such as labor).
We integrate three main goals: environmental stewardship, farm profitability, and prosperous farming communities.

Urban Agriculture

Urban agriculture is the practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in, or around (peri-urban), a village, town or city. Urban farming is generally practiced for income-earning or food-producing activities though in some communities the main impetus is recreation and relaxation.
Urban agriculture contributes to food security and food safety in two ways: first, it increases the amount of food available to people living in cities, and, second, it allows fresh vegetables and fruits and meat products to be made available to urban consumers.

Organic Agriculture

Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.

Conservation Agriculture

Conservation Agriculture is a concept for resource-saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment. The first key principle in CA is practicing minimum mechanical soil disturbance which is essential to maintaining minerals within the soil, stopping erosion, and preventing water loss from occurring within the soil. The second key principle in CA is much like the first principle in dealing with protecting the soil. The principle of managing the top soil to create a permanent organic soil cover can allow for growth of organisms within the soil structure. This growth will break down the mulch that is left on the soil surface.

Industrial agriculture

Industrial agriculture is a form of modern farming that refers to the industrialized production of livestock, poultry, fish, and crops. The methods of industrial agriculture are technoscientific, economic, and political. They include innovation in agricultural machinery and farming methods, genetic technology, techniques for achieving economies of scale in production, the creation of new markets for consumption, the application of patent protection to genetic information, and global trade. These methods are widespread in developed nations and increasingly prevalent worldwide. Most of the meat, dairy, eggs, fruits, and vegetables available in supermarkets are produced using these methods of industrial agriculture.

Bio-dynamic Agriculture/ecological agriculture

Biodynamic agriculture, a method of organic farming that has its basis in a spiritual world-view treats farms as unified and individual organisms, emphasizing balancing the holistic development and interrelationship of the soil, plants, animals as a closed, self-nourishing system. Regarded by some proponents as the first modern ecological farming system, biodynamic farming includes organic agriculture's emphasis on manures and composts and exclusion of the use of artificial chemicals on soil and plants. Methods unique to the biodynamic approach include the use of fermented herbal and mineral preparations as compost additives and field sprays and the use of an astronomical sowing and planting calendar.

Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is a direct marketing alternative for small-scale growers. In a CSA, the farmer grows food for a group of shareholders (or subscribers) who pledge to buy a portion of the farm's crop that season. This arrangement gives growers up-front cash to finance their operation and higher prices for produce, since the middleman has been eliminated. Besides receiving a weekly box or bag of fresh, high-quality produce, shareholders also know that they're directly supporting a local farm.

Slash and Burn Agriculture

Slash and burn consists of cutting and burning of forests or woodlands to create fields for agriculture or pasture for livestock, or for a variety of other purposes. It is sometimes part of shifting cultivation agriculture, and of transhumance livestock herding. Burning removes the vegetation and may release a pulse of nutrients to fertilize the soil. Ash also increases the pH of the soil, a process which makes certain nutrients (especially phosphorus) more available in the short term. Burning also temporarily drives off soil microorganisms, pests, and established plants long enough for crops to be planted in their ashes. Before artificial fertilizers were available, fire was one of the most widespread methods of fertilization.

Program

Though many agricultural workers who work directly on a farm or ranch learn their skills through on-the-job training, undergraduate agriculture programs can prepare students for more advanced positions, such as agricultural and food science technician. These programs can include internships that provide hands-on training and often have a high concentration of courses that focus on the biological sciences. Careers in management or as agricultural scientists require more specialized training that is usually found in graduate-level programs. These programs often include lab work and focus on original research.

Some common program fields include:
1 Agribusiness
2 Agricultural Science
3 Sustainable Agriculture
4 Agriculture Education
5 Agricultural Resource Management

Courses

Natural Resources

A natural resources course covers topics pertaining to forestry, soils and wildlife. Students learn about power sources, such as electric motors and combustion engines, as well as government regulations and programs that relate to natural resource conservation. The effects that current power sources have on the agriculture industry and what it means for the future of natural resources and power are also addressed.

Basic Horticulture

Horticulture is a science that studies plants, gardening and natural growth. This course helps develop skills in controlling plant growth and development. Specific topics of study may include plant production, pruning, regulations of plant growth and storage processes. Horticulture courses may also cover marketing concepts in horticulture.

Animal Science

Depending on the focus of the agriculture program, animal science classes may focus on all animals or be specific to horses, cows, and other farm animals. Students learn about animal development from a biological standpoint. Specific topics in animal products, animal feeding and animal breeding are also covered. During an animal science course, students learn the history of the animal industry, animal disease and current trends in animal rearing as well.

Soils and Pesticides

You learn about soils and pesticides to understand the chemical make-up and effect that these elements have on crop growth. A soils and pesticides course covers conservation of water and soil, fertilizer use and soil formation. It is a course that is delivered in lecture and lab format so that students may apply their skills to live scenarios. This course that may also cover soil types specific to the state in which the agriculture program is taught.

Food Systems

Whether providing crop or animal food, farmers and others in the agriculture business need a strong understanding of the food system and processes. In this course you learn about food system as it relates to the current economy, health factors and regulatory laws. Specific topics of study may include political systems, health, environment, food retailing and international food regulations.