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The art and science of crop and livestock production. In its broadest sense, agriculture comprises the entire range of technologies associated with the production of useful products from plants and animals, including soil cultivation, crop and livestock management, and the activities of processing and marketing. The term agribusiness has been coined to include all the technologies that mesh in the total inputs and outputs of the farming sector. In this light, agriculture encompasses the whole range of economic activities involved in manufacturing and distributing the industrial inputs used in farming; the farm production of crops, animals, and animal products; the processing of these materials into finished products; and the provision of products at a time and place demanded by consumers.

Many different factors influence the kind of agriculture practiced in a particular area. Among these are climate, soil, water availability, topography, nearness to markets, transportation facilities, land costs, and general economic level. Climate, soil, water availability, and topography vary widely throughout the world. This variation brings about a wide range in agricultural production enterprises. Certain areas tend toward a specialized agriculture, whereas other areas engage in a more diversified agriculture. As new technology is introduced and adopted, environmental factors are less important in influencing agricultural production patterns. Continued growth in the world's population makes critical the continuing ability of agriculture to provide needed food and fiber.

The primary agricultural products consist of crop plants for human food and animal feed and livestock products. The crop plants can be divided into 10 categories: grain crops (wheat, for flour to make bread, many bakery products, and breakfast cereals; rice, for food; maize, for livestock feed, syrup, meal, and oil; sorghum grain, for livestock feed; and oats, barley, and rye, for food and livestock feed); food grain legumes (beans, peas, lima beans, and cowpeas, for food; and peanuts, for food and oil); oil seed crops (soybeans, for oil and high-protein meal; and linseed, for oil and high-protein meal); root and tuber crops (principally potatoes and sweet potatoes); sugar crops (sugarbeets and sugarcane); fiber crops (principally cotton, for fiber to make textiles and for seed to produce oil and high-protein meal); tree and small fruits; nut crops; vegetables; and forages (for support of livestock pastures and range grazing lands and for hay and silage crops). The forages are dominated by a wide range of grasses and legumes, suited to different conditions of soil and climate.

Livestock products include cattle, for beef, tallow, and hides; dairy cattle, for milk, butter, cheese, ice cream, and other products; sheep, for mutton (lamb) and wool; pigs, for pork and lard; poultry (chiefly chickens but also turkeys and ducks) for meat and eggs; and horses, primarily for recreation.

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From McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Environmental Science. The Content is a copyrighted work of McGraw-Hill and McGraw-Hill reserves all rights in and to the Content. The Work is © 2008 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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