History of agriculture
Overview
Agriculture was developed at least 10,000 years ago, and it has undergone significant developments since the time of the earliest cultivation. The Fertile Crescent
Fertile Crescent
The Fertile Crescent, nicknamed "The Cradle of Civilization" for the fact the first civilizations started there, is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia. The term was first used by University of Chicago...

 of Western Asia, Egypt, and India were sites of the earliest planned sowing and harvesting of plants that had previously been gathered in the wild. Independent development of agriculture occurred in northern and southern China, Africa's Sahel
Sahel
The Sahel is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone of transition between the Sahara desert in the North and the Sudanian Savannas in the south.It stretches across the North African continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea....

, New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

 and several regions of the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

.
Encyclopedia
Agriculture was developed at least 10,000 years ago, and it has undergone significant developments since the time of the earliest cultivation. The Fertile Crescent
Fertile Crescent
The Fertile Crescent, nicknamed "The Cradle of Civilization" for the fact the first civilizations started there, is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia. The term was first used by University of Chicago...

 of Western Asia, Egypt, and India were sites of the earliest planned sowing and harvesting of plants that had previously been gathered in the wild. Independent development of agriculture occurred in northern and southern China, Africa's Sahel
Sahel
The Sahel is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone of transition between the Sahara desert in the North and the Sudanian Savannas in the south.It stretches across the North African continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea....

, New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

 and several regions of the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

. Agricultural practices such as irrigation
Irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

, crop rotation
Crop rotation
Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons.Crop rotation confers various benefits to the soil. A traditional element of crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals...

, fertilizers, and pesticides were developed long ago but have made great strides in the past century. The Haber-Bosch method for synthesizing ammonium nitrate represented a major breakthrough and allowed crop yields to overcome previous constraints.

In the past century, agriculture has been characterized by enhanced productivity, the replacement of human labor by synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, selective breeding
Selective breeding
Selective breeding is the process of breeding plants and animals for particular genetic traits. Typically, strains that are selectively bred are domesticated, and the breeding is sometimes done by a professional breeder. Bred animals are known as breeds, while bred plants are known as varieties,...

, and mechanization. The recent history of agriculture has been closely tied with a range of political issues including water pollution
Water pollution
Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies . Water pollution occurs when pollutants are discharged directly or indirectly into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds....

, biofuel
Biofuel
Biofuel is a type of fuel whose energy is derived from biological carbon fixation. Biofuels include fuels derived from biomass conversion, as well as solid biomass, liquid fuels and various biogases...

s, genetically modified organism
Genetically modified organism
A genetically modified organism or genetically engineered organism is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one...

s, tariff
Tariff
A tariff may be either tax on imports or exports , or a list or schedule of prices for such things as rail service, bus routes, and electrical usage ....

s, and farm subsidies. In recent years, there has been a backlash against the external environmental effects of mechanized agriculture, and increasing support for the organic movement
Organic movement
The organic movement broadly refers to the organizations and individuals involved worldwide in the promotion of organic farming, which is a more sustainable mode of agriculture...

 and sustainable agriculture
Sustainable agriculture
Sustainable agriculture is the practice of farming using principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment...

.

Early history

Scholars have proposed a number of theories to explain the historical development of farming. Most likely, there was an abrupt transition from hunter-gatherer
Hunter-gatherer
A hunter-gatherer or forage society is one in which most or all food is obtained from wild plants and animals, in contrast to agricultural societies which rely mainly on domesticated species. Hunting and gathering was the ancestral subsistence mode of Homo, and all modern humans were...

 to agricultural societies after a period during which some crops had to be deliberately planted to make up for shortages of large game and other foods obtained in the wild. Although localised climate change is the favoured explanation for the origins of agriculture in the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

, the fact that farming was 'invented' at least three times elsewhere, suggests that social reasons may have been instrumental. When major climate change took place after the last ice age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

 (c. 11,000 BC), much of the earth became subject to long dry seasons. These conditions favoured annual plant
Annual plant
An annual plant is a plant that usually germinates, flowers, and dies in a year or season. True annuals will only live longer than a year if they are prevented from setting seed...

s which die off in the long dry season, leaving a dormant
Dormancy
Dormancy is a period in an organism's life cycle when growth, development, and physical activity are temporarily stopped. This minimizes metabolic activity and therefore helps an organism to conserve energy. Dormancy tends to be closely associated with environmental conditions...

 seed
Seed
A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant...

 or tuber
Tuber
Tubers are various types of modified plant structures that are enlarged to store nutrients. They are used by plants to survive the winter or dry months and provide energy and nutrients for regrowth during the next growing season and they are a means of asexual reproduction...

. These plants tended to put more energy into producing seeds than into woody growth. An abundance of readily storable wild grains and pulses enabled hunter-gatherers in some areas to form the first settled villages at this time.

The Oasis Theory was proposed by Raphael Pumpelly
Raphael Pumpelly
Raphael Pumpelly was an American geologist and explorer.-Early life and ancestors:He was born on September 8, 1837 in Oswego, New York, into a family with deep New England roots that trace back to Thomas Welles , who arrived in Massachusetts in 1635 and was the only man in Connecticut's history to...

 in 1908, and popularized by Vere Gordon Childe
Vere Gordon Childe
Vere Gordon Childe , better known as V. Gordon Childe, was an Australian archaeologist and philologist who specialised in the study of European prehistory. A vocal socialist, Childe accepted the socio-economic theory of Marxism and was an early proponent of Marxist archaeology...

 who summarized the theory in his book Man Makes Himself This theory maintains that as the climate got drier, communities contracted to oases where they were forced into close association with animals which were then domesticated together with planting of seeds. The theory has little support from contemporary scholars, as the climate data for the time does not support the theory.

The Hilly Flanks hypothesis, proposed by Robert Braidwood in 1948, suggests that agriculture began in the hilly flanks of the Taurus
Taurus Mountains
Taurus Mountains are a mountain complex in southern Turkey, dividing the Mediterranean coastal region of southern Turkey from the central Anatolian Plateau. The system extends along a curve from Lake Eğirdir in the west to the upper reaches of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in the east...

 and Zagros Mountains
Zagros Mountains
The Zagros Mountains are the largest mountain range in Iran and Iraq. With a total length of 1,500 km , from northwestern Iran, and roughly correlating with Iran's western border, the Zagros range spans the whole length of the western and southwestern Iranian plateau and ends at the Strait of...

, and that it developed from intensive focused grain
GRAIN
GRAIN is a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems. Our support takes the form of independent research and analysis, networking at local, regional and...

 gathering in the region.

The Feasting model by Bryan Hayden suggests that agriculture was driven by ostentatious displays of power, such as throwing feasts to exert dominance. This required assembling large quantities of food which drove agricultural technology.

The Demographic theories were proposed by Carl Sauer and adapted by Lewis Binford
Lewis Binford
Lewis Roberts Binford was an American archaeologist known for his influential work in archaeological theory, ethnoarchaeology and the Paleolithic period...

 and Kent Flannery. They describe an increasingly sedentary population, expanding up to the carrying capacity of the local environment, and requiring more food than can be gathered. Various social and economic factors help drive the need for food.

The evolutionary/intentionality theory, advanced by scholars including David Rindos, is the idea that agriculture is a co-evolutionary adaptation of plants and humans. Starting with domestication by protection of wild plants, followed specialization of location and then domestication.

The domestication theory put forth by Daniel Quinn and others states that first humans stayed in particular areas, giving up their nomadic ways, then developed agriculture and animal domestication.

Neolithic era

Identifying the exact origin of agriculture remains problematic because the transition from hunter-gatherer societies began thousands of years before the invention of writing
Writing
Writing is the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols . It is distinguished from illustration, such as cave drawing and painting, and non-symbolic preservation of language via non-textual media, such as magnetic tape audio.Writing most likely...

.

Anthropological
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 and archaeological
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

 evidence from sites across Southwest Asia
Southwest Asia
Western Asia, West Asia, Southwest Asia or Southwestern Asia are terms that describe the westernmost portion of Asia. The terms are partly coterminous with the Middle East, which describes a geographical position in relation to Western Europe rather than its location within Asia...

 and North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

 indicate use of wild grain
Cereal
Cereals are grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain , composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran...

 (e.g., from the c. 20,000 BC site of Ohalo II in Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, many Natufian sites in the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

 and from sites along the Nile
Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

 in the 10th millennium BC). There is even evidence of planned cultivation and trait selection: grains of rye
Rye
Rye is a grass grown extensively as a grain and as a forage crop. It is a member of the wheat tribe and is closely related to barley and wheat. Rye grain is used for flour, rye bread, rye beer, some whiskeys, some vodkas, and animal fodder...

 with domestic traits have been recovered from Epi-Palaeolithic (10,000+ BC) contexts at Abu Hureyra in Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, but this appears to be a localised phenomenon resulting from cultivation of stands of wild rye, rather than a definitive step towards domestication.

Previously, archaeobotanists
Paleoethnobotany
Paleoethnobotany, also known as archaeobotany in European academic circles, is the archaeological sub-field that studies plant remains from archaeological sites...

/paleoethnobotanists
Paleoethnobotany
Paleoethnobotany, also known as archaeobotany in European academic circles, is the archaeological sub-field that studies plant remains from archaeological sites...

 had traced the selection and cultivation of specific food plant characteristics in search of the origins of agriculture. One notable example is the semi-tough rachis
Rachis
Rachis is a biological term for a main axis or "shaft".-In zoology:In vertebrates a rachis can refer to the series of articulated vertebrae, which encase the spinal cord. In this case the rachis usually form the supporting axis of the body and is then called the spine or vertebral column...

 (and larger seeds) traced to just after the Younger Dryas
Younger Dryas
The Younger Dryas stadial, also referred to as the Big Freeze, was a geologically brief period of cold climatic conditions and drought between approximately 12.8 and 11.5 ka BP, or 12,800 and 11,500 years before present...

 (about 9500 BC) in the early Holocene
Holocene
The Holocene is a geological epoch which began at the end of the Pleistocene and continues to the present. The Holocene is part of the Quaternary period. Its name comes from the Greek words and , meaning "entirely recent"...

 in the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

 region of the Fertile Crescent
Fertile Crescent
The Fertile Crescent, nicknamed "The Cradle of Civilization" for the fact the first civilizations started there, is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia. The term was first used by University of Chicago...

. However, studies have demonstrated monophyletic characteristics attained without any sort human intervention, implying that what some may perceive as domestication among rachis
Rachis
Rachis is a biological term for a main axis or "shaft".-In zoology:In vertebrates a rachis can refer to the series of articulated vertebrae, which encase the spinal cord. In this case the rachis usually form the supporting axis of the body and is then called the spine or vertebral column...

 could have occurred quite naturally. In fact, the timescale insisted upon for rachis domestication (approx. 3000 years) coincidentally has been demonstrated to directly coincide with the statistically generated timeframe numerically modeled that would be required for monophyly to be reached if a population were simply abandoned and left to only natural demands, implying that if any sort of human intervention had occurred at all then the timescale insisted upon should be considerably shorter (than 3000 years).

It was not until after 9500 BC that the eight so-called founder crops
Neolithic founder crops
The Neolithic founder crops are the eight plant species that were domesticated by early Holocene farming communities in the Fertile Crescent region of southwest Asia, and which formed the basis of systematic agriculture in the Middle East, North Africa, India, Persia and Europe...

 of agriculture appear: first emmer and einkorn wheat
Einkorn wheat
thumbnail|150px|left|Wild einkorn, Karadag, central TurkeyEinkorn wheat can refer either to the wild species of wheat, Triticum boeoticum , or to the domesticated form, Triticum monococcum...

, then hulled barley
Barley
Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods...

, pea
Pea
A pea is most commonly the small spherical seed or the seed-pod of the pod fruit Pisum sativum. Each pod contains several peas. Peapods are botanically a fruit, since they contain seeds developed from the ovary of a flower. However, peas are considered to be a vegetable in cooking...

s, lentil
Lentil
The lentil is an edible pulse. It is a bushy annual plant of the legume family, grown for its lens-shaped seeds...

s, bitter vetch, chick peas and flax
Flax
Flax is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. It is native to the region extending from the eastern Mediterranean to India and was probably first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent...

. These eight crops occur more or less simultaneously on PPNB
Pre-Pottery Neolithic B
Pre-Pottery Neolithic B is a division of the Neolithic developed by Dame Kathleen Kenyon during her archaeological excavations at Jericho in the southern Levant region....

 sites in the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

, although the consensus is that wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 was the first to be grown and harvested on a significant scale.

At around the same time (9400 BC), another study argues, parthenocarpic fig
Ficus
Ficus is a genus of about 850 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines, epiphytes, and hemiepiphyte in the family Moraceae. Collectively known as fig trees or figs, they are native throughout the tropics with a few species extending into the semi-warm temperate zone. The Common Fig Ficus is a genus of...

 trees appear to have been domesticated. The simplicity associated with cutting branches off fig trees and replanting them alongside wild cereals owes to the basis of this argument.

By 7000 BC, sowing and harvesting reached Mesopotamia, and there, in the fertile soil just north of the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

, Sumer
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

ians systematized it and scaled it up. By 8000 BC farming was entrenched on the banks of the Nile River. About this time, agriculture was developed independently in the Far East, probably in China, with rice rather than wheat as the primary crop. Maize
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 was first domesticated, probably from teosinte
Teosinte
Zea is a genus of grasses in the family Poaceae. Several species are commonly known as teosintes and are found in Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua....

, in the Americas around 3000-2700 BC, though there is some archaeological evidence of a much older development. The potato
Potato
The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family . The word potato may refer to the plant itself as well as the edible tuber. In the region of the Andes, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species...

, the tomato
Tomato
The word "tomato" may refer to the plant or the edible, typically red, fruit which it bears. Originating in South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown, often in greenhouses in cooler...

, the pepper
Capsicum
Capsicum is a genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family, Solanaceae. Its species are native to the Americas where they have been cultivated for thousands of years, but they are now also cultivated worldwide, used as spices, vegetables, and medicines - and have become are a key element in...

, squash
Squash (fruit)
Squashes generally refer to four species of the genus Cucurbita, also called marrows depending on variety or the nationality of the speaker...

, several varieties of bean, and several other plants were also developed in the New World, as was quite extensive terracing
Terrace (agriculture)
Terraces are used in farming to cultivate sloped land. Graduated terrace steps are commonly used to farm on hilly or mountainous terrain. Terraced fields decrease erosion and surface runoff, and are effective for growing crops requiring much water, such as rice...

 of steep hillsides in much of Andean
Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

 South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

. Agriculture was also independently developed on the island of New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

.

In Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, there is evidence of emmer and einkorn wheat, barley, sheep, goats and pigs that suggest a food producing economy in Greece and the Aegean by 7000 BC. Archaeological evidence from various sites on the Iberian peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

 suggest the domestication of plants and animals between 6000 and 4500 BC. Céide Fields
Céide Fields
The Céide Fields is an archaeological site on the north Mayo coast in the west of Ireland, about 8 kilometres northwest of Ballycastle. The site is the most extensive Stone Age site in the world and contains the oldest known field systems in the world...

 in Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, consisting of extensive tracts of land enclosed by stone walls, date to 5500 BC and are the oldest known field systems in the world. The horse was domesticated
Domestication of the horse
There are a number of hypotheses on many of the key issues regarding the domestication of the horse. Although horses appeared in Paleolithic cave art as early as 30,000 BCE, these were truly wild horses and were probably hunted for meat. How and when horses became domesticated is disputed...

 in Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 around 4000 BC.

In China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, rice and millet
Millet
The millets are a group of small-seeded species of cereal crops or grains, widely grown around the world for food and fodder. They do not form a taxonomic group, but rather a functional or agronomic one. Their essential similarities are that they are small-seeded grasses grown in difficult...

 were domesticated by 8000 BC, followed by the beans mung
Mung bean
The mung bean is the seed of Vigna radiata. It is native to the Indian subcontinent.-Description:They are small, ovoid in shape, and green in color...

, soy and azuki
Azuki bean
The is an annual vine, Vigna angularis, widely grown throughout East Asia and the Himalayas for its small bean. The cultivars most familiar in north-east Asia have a uniform red color, but white, black, gray and variously mottled varieties are also known. Scientists presume Vigna angularis var...

. In the Sahel
Sahel
The Sahel is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone of transition between the Sahara desert in the North and the Sudanian Savannas in the south.It stretches across the North African continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea....

 region of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 local rice and sorghum
Sorghum
Sorghum is a genus of numerous species of grasses, one of which is raised for grain and many of which are used as fodder plants either cultivated or as part of pasture. The plants are cultivated in warmer climates worldwide. Species are native to tropical and subtropical regions of all continents...

 were domestic by 5000 BC. Local crops were domesticated independently in West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

and possibly in New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

 and Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

. Evidence of the presence of wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 and some legumes in the 6th millennium BC have been found in the Indus Valley. Orange
Orange (fruit)
An orange—specifically, the sweet orange—is the citrus Citrus × sinensis and its fruit. It is the most commonly grown tree fruit in the world....

s were cultivated in the same millennium. The crops grown in the valley around 4000 BC were typically wheat, pea
Pea
A pea is most commonly the small spherical seed or the seed-pod of the pod fruit Pisum sativum. Each pod contains several peas. Peapods are botanically a fruit, since they contain seeds developed from the ovary of a flower. However, peas are considered to be a vegetable in cooking...

s, sesame seed, barley
Barley
Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods...

, date
Date Palm
The date palm is a palm in the genus Phoenix, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. Although its place of origin is unknown because of long cultivation, it probably originated from lands around the Persian Gulf. It is a medium-sized plant, 15–25 m tall, growing singly or forming a clump with...

s and mango
Mango
The mango is a fleshy stone fruit belonging to the genus Mangifera, consisting of numerous tropical fruiting trees in the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae. The mango is native to India from where it spread all over the world. It is also the most cultivated fruit of the tropical world. While...

es. By 3500 BC cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 growing and cotton textiles were quite advanced in the valley. By 3000 BC farming of rice
Rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

 had started. Other monsoon crops of importance of the time was cane sugar. By 2500 BC, rice was an important component of the staple diet in Mohenjodaro near the Arabian Sea
Arabian Sea
The Arabian Sea is a region of the Indian Ocean bounded on the east by India, on the north by Pakistan and Iran, on the west by the Arabian Peninsula, on the south, approximately, by a line between Cape Guardafui in northeastern Somalia and Kanyakumari in India...

. By this time the Indians had large cities with well-stocked granaries. Three regions of the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

 independently domesticated corn
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

, squashes, potato
Potato
The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family . The word potato may refer to the plant itself as well as the edible tuber. In the region of the Andes, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species...

 and sunflowers.

Bronze age

By the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

, wild food contributed a nutritionally insignificant component to the usual diet. If the operative definition of agriculture includes large scale intensive cultivation of land, mono-cropping
Mono-cropping
Monocropping is the high-yield agricultural practice of growing a single crop year after year on the same land, in the absence rotation through other crops...

, organized irrigation
Irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

, and use of a specialized labour force, the title "inventors of agriculture" would fall to the Sumer
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

ians, starting c. 5500 BC. Intensive farming allows a much greater density of population than can be supported by hunting and gathering, and allows for the accumulation of excess product for off-season use, or to sell/barter. The ability of farmers to feed large numbers of people whose activities have nothing to do with agriculture was the crucial factor in the rise of standing armies. Sumerian agriculture supported a substantial territorial expansion which along with internecine conflict between cities, made them the first empire
Empire
The term empire derives from the Latin imperium . Politically, an empire is a geographically extensive group of states and peoples united and ruled either by a monarch or an oligarchy....

 builders. Not long after, the Egyptians, powered by farming in the fertile Nile valley
Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

, achieved a population density from which enough warriors could be drawn for a territorial expansion more than tripling the Sumerian empire in area.

In Sumer
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

, barley was the primary crop; wheat, flax, dates, apples, plums, and grapes were grown as well. Mesopotamian agriculture was both supported and limited by flooding from the Tigris
Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

 and Euphrates
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

 rivers, as floods came in late spring or early summer from snow melting from the Anatolian mountains. The timing of the flooding, along with salt deposits in the soil, made farming in Mesopotamia difficult. Sheep and goats were domesticated, kept mainly for meat and milk, butter and cheese being made from the latter. Ur
Ur
Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

, a large town that covered about 50 acres (20 hectares), had 10,000 animals kept in sheepfolds and stables and 3,000 slaughtered every year. The city's population of 6,000 included a labour force of 2,500, cultivated 3,000 acres (12 km²) of land. The labour force contained storehouse recorders, work foremen, overseers, and harvest supervisors to supplement labourers. Agricultural produce was given to temple personnel, important people in the community, and small farmers.

The land was plowed by teams of oxen pulling light unwheeled plows and grain was harvested with sickle
Sickle
A sickle is a hand-held agricultural tool with a variously curved blade typically used for harvesting grain crops or cutting succulent forage chiefly for feeding livestock . Sickles have also been used as weapons, either in their original form or in various derivations.The diversity of sickles that...

s in the spring. Wagons had solid wheels covered by leather tires kept in position by copper nails and were drawn by oxen and the Syrian onager (now extinct). Animals were harnessed by collars, yoke
Yoke
A yoke is a wooden beam, normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs, as oxen usually do; some yokes are fitted to individual animals. There are several types of yoke, used in different cultures, and for different types of oxen...

s, and headstalls. They were controlled by rein
Rein
Reins are items of horse tack, used to direct a horse or other animal used for riding or driving. Reins can be made of leather, nylon, metal, or other materials, and attach to a bridle via either its bit or its noseband.-Use for riding:...

s, and a ring through the nose or upper lip and a strap under the jaw. As many as four animals could pull a wagon at one time. The horse was domesticated in Ukraine around 4000 BC, and was in use by the Sumerians around 2000 BC.

Classical antiquity

In classical antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

, Roman agriculture
Roman agriculture
Agriculture in ancient Rome was not only a necessity, but was idealized among the social elite as a way of life. Cicero considered farming the best of all Roman occupations...

 built off techniques pioneered by the Sumerians, transmitted to them by subsequent cultures, with a specific emphasis on the cultivation of crops for trade and export. Romans laid the groundwork for the manorial economic system, involving serfdom
Serfdom
Serfdom is the status of peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to Manorialism. It was a condition of bondage or modified slavery which developed primarily during the High Middle Ages in Europe and lasted to the mid-19th century...

, which flourished in the Middle Ages. The farm sizes in Rome can be divided into three categories. Small farms were from 18-88 iugera (one iugerum is equal to about 0.65 acre). Medium-sized farms were from 80-500 iugera (singular iugerum). Large estates (called latifundia) were over 500 iugera.

The Romans had four systems of farm management: direct work by owner and his family; slaves doing work under supervision of slave managers; tenant farming or sharecropping
Sharecropping
Sharecropping is a system of agriculture in which a landowner allows a tenant to use the land in return for a share of the crop produced on the land . This should not be confused with a crop fixed rent contract, in which a landowner allows a tenant to use the land in return for a fixed amount of...

 in which the owner and a tenant divide up a farm’s produce; and situations in which a farm was leased to a tenant. There was a great deal of commerce between the provinces of the empire, all the regions of the empire became interdependent with one another, some provinces specialized in the production of grain, others in wine
Ancient Rome and wine
Ancient Rome played a pivotal role in the history of wine. The earliest influences of viticulture on the Italian peninsula can be traced to Ancient Greeks and Etruscans. The rise of the Roman Empire saw an increase in technology and awareness of winemaking which spread to all parts of the empire...

 and others in olive oil
Olive oil
Olive oil is an oil obtained from the olive , a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps...

, depending on the soil type.

Europe

European agriculture underwent a number of significant changes during the Middle Ages. Tools including the scythe and plow were improved from classical versions, a three field system of crop rotation was invented, and the moldboard plow and wheeled plow were increasingly used. Draft horse
Draft horse
A draft horse , draught horse or dray horse , less often called a work horse or heavy horse, is a large horse bred for hard, heavy tasks such as ploughing and farm labour...

s were bred and increasingly used as a working animal
Working animal
A working animal is an animal, usually domesticated, that is kept by humans and trained to perform tasks. They may be close members of the family, such as guide or service dogs, or they may be animals trained strictly to perform a job, such as logging elephants. They may also be used for milk, a...

 in many parts of Europe, while oxen continued to be used for this purpose. Metal horseshoes were widely adopted. Much of Europe had low population densities during this period, to which extensive farming
Extensive farming
Extensive farming or Extensive agriculture is an agricultural production system that uses small inputs of labour, fertilizers, and capital, relative to the land area being farmed....

 was well-suited. In parts of Southern Europe, more intensive farming combined techniques continued from classical Roman agriculture and those transferred from Islamic regions. In the late Middle Ages, the use of manure
Manure
Manure is organic matter used as organic fertilizer in agriculture. Manures contribute to the fertility of the soil by adding organic matter and nutrients, such as nitrogen, that are trapped by bacteria in the soil...

 as fertilizer increased, which in turn decreased the necessity of regular fallowing of fields.

China

Records from the Warring States (481 BC-221 BC), Qin Dynasty
Qin Dynasty
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BC, during the Warring...

 (221 BC-207 BC), and Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 (202 BC-220 AD) provide a picture of early Chinese agriculture which included a nationwide granary
Granary
A granary is a storehouse for threshed grain or animal feed. In ancient or primitive granaries, pottery is the most common use of storage in these buildings. Granaries are often built above the ground to keep the stored food away from mice and other animals.-Early origins:From ancient times grain...

 system, and widespread use of sericulture
Sericulture
Sericulture, or silk farming, is the rearing of silkworms for the production of raw silk.Although there are several commercial species of silkworms, Bombyx mori is the most widely used and intensively studied. According to Confucian texts, the discovery of silk production by B...

. However, the oldest extant Chinese book on agriculture is the Chimin Yaoshu of 535 AD, written by Jia Sixia. Jia's writing style was straightforward and lucid relative to the elaborate and allusive writing typical of the time. Jia's book was also very long, with over one hundred thousand written Chinese characters, and it quoted 160 other Chinese books that were written previously (but no longer survive). The contents of Jia's 6th century book include sections on land preparation, seeding, cultivation, orchard management, forestry, and animal husbandry. The book also includes peripherally related content covering trade and culinary uses for crops. The work and the style in which it was written proved influential on later Chinese agronomist
Agronomist
An agronomist is a scientist who specializes in agronomy, which is the science of utilizing plants for food, fuel, feed, and fiber. An agronomist is an expert in agricultural and allied sciences, with the exception veterinary sciences.Agronomists deal with interactions between plants, soils, and...

s, such as Wang Zhen
Wang Zhen (official)
Wang Zhen was an official of the Yuan Dynasty of China. He is credited with the invention of the first wooden movable type printing in the world, while his predecessor of the Song Dynasty , Bi Sheng , invented the world's first earthenware movable type printing...

 and his groundbreaking Nong Shu of 1313 AD.

For agricultural purposes, the Chinese had innovated the hydraulic-powered trip hammer
Trip hammer
A trip hammer, also known as a helve hammer, is a massive powered hammer used in:* agriculture to facilitate the labor of pounding, decorticating and polishing of grain;...

 by the 1st century BC. Although it found other purposes, its main function to pound, decorticate, and polish grain that otherwise would have been done manually. The Chinese also innovated the square-pallet chain pump by the 1st century AD, powered by a waterwheel or oxen pulling a on a system of mechanical wheels. Although the chain pump found use in public works
Public works
Public works are a broad category of projects, financed and constructed by the government, for recreational, employment, and health and safety uses in the greater community...

 of providing water for urban and palatial pipe systems
Pipeline transport
Pipeline transport is the transportation of goods through a pipe. Most commonly, liquids and gases are sent, but pneumatic tubes that transport solid capsules using compressed air are also used....

, it was used largely to lift water from a lower to higher elevation in filling irrigation
Irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

 canal
Canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

s and channel
Channel (geography)
In physical geography, a channel is the physical confine of a river, slough or ocean strait consisting of a bed and banks.A channel is also the natural or human-made deeper course through a reef, sand bar, bay, or any shallow body of water...

s for farmland
Arable land
In geography and agriculture, arable land is land that can be used for growing crops. It includes all land under temporary crops , temporary meadows for mowing or pasture, land under market and kitchen gardens and land temporarily fallow...

.

Papua

Ancient Papuans are thought to have begun practicing agriculture around 7000 BC. They began domesticating sugarcane
Sugarcane
Sugarcane refers to any of six to 37 species of tall perennial grasses of the genus Saccharum . Native to the warm temperate to tropical regions of South Asia, they have stout, jointed, fibrous stalks that are rich in sugar, and measure two to six metres tall...

 and root crops. Pigs may also have been domesticated around this time. By 3000 BC, Papuan agriculture was characterized by water control for irrigation.

India

Wheat, barley, and jujube
Jujube
Ziziphus zizyphus , commonly called jujube , red date, Chinese date, Korean date, or Indian date is a species of Ziziphus in the buckthorn family Rhamnaceae, used primarily as a fruiting shade tree.-Distribution:Its precise natural distribution is uncertain due to extensive cultivation,...

 were domesticated in the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

 by 9000 BCE; Domestication of sheep and goat soon followed. Barley and wheat cultivation—along with the domestication of cattle, primarily sheep and goat—continued in Mehrgarh culture
Mehrgarh
Mehrgarh , one of the most important Neolithic sites in archaeology, lies on the "Kachi plain" of Balochistan, Pakistan...

 by 8000-6000 BCE. This period also saw the first domestication of the elephant. Agro pastoralism in India included threshing, planting crops in rows—either of two or of six—and storing grain in granaries
Granary
A granary is a storehouse for threshed grain or animal feed. In ancient or primitive granaries, pottery is the most common use of storage in these buildings. Granaries are often built above the ground to keep the stored food away from mice and other animals.-Early origins:From ancient times grain...

. By the 5th millennium BCE agricultural communities became widespread in Kashmir
Kashmir
Kashmir is the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term Kashmir geographically denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range...

. Cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 was cultivated by the 5th millennium BCE-4th millennium BCE.

Archaeological evidence indicates that rice was a part of the Indian diet by 8000 BCE. The Encyclopedia Britannica—on the subject of the first certain cultivated rice—holds that: A number of cultures have evidence of early rice cultivation, including China, India, and the civilizations of Southeast Asia.

Irrigation was developed in the Indus Valley Civilization by around 4500 BCE. The size and prosperity of the Indus civilization grew as a result of this innovation, which eventually led to more planned settlements making use of drainage
Drainage
Drainage is the natural or artificial removal of surface and sub-surface water from an area. Many agricultural soils need drainage to improve production or to manage water supplies.-Early history:...

 and sewers
Sanitary sewer
A sanitary sewer is a separate underground carriage system specifically for transporting sewage from houses and commercial buildings to treatment or disposal. Sanitary sewers serving industrial areas also carry industrial wastewater...

. Archeological evidence of an animal-drawn plough
Plough
The plough or plow is a tool used in farming for initial cultivation of soil in preparation for sowing seed or planting. It has been a basic instrument for most of recorded history, and represents one of the major advances in agriculture...

 dates back to 2500 BC in the Indus Valley Civilization.

Mesoamerica

In Mesoamerica, wild teosinte
Teosinte
Zea is a genus of grasses in the family Poaceae. Several species are commonly known as teosintes and are found in Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua....

 was transformed through human selection into the ancestor of modern maize
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

, more than 6000 years ago. It gradually spread across North America and was the major crop of Native Americans at the time of European exploration. Other Mesoamerican crops include hundreds of varieties of squash and bean
Bean
Bean is a common name for large plant seeds of several genera of the family Fabaceae used for human food or animal feed....

s. Cocoa was also a major crop in domesticated Mexico and Central America. The turkey
Turkey (bird)
A turkey is a large bird in the genus Meleagris. One species, Meleagris gallopavo, commonly known as the Wild Turkey, is native to the forests of North America. The domestic turkey is a descendant of this species...

, one of the most important meat birds, was probably domesticated in Mexico or the U.S. Southwest.

In Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

, the Aztec
Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

s were active farmers and had an agriculturally focused economy. The land around Lake Texcoco
Lake Texcoco
Lake Texcoco was a natural lake formation within the Valley of Mexico. The Aztecs built the city of Tenochtitlan on an island in the lake. The Spaniards built Mexico City over Tenochtitlan...

 was fertile, but not large enough to produce the amount of food needed for the population of their expanding empire. The Aztecs developed irrigation systems, formed terraced
Terrace (agriculture)
Terraces are used in farming to cultivate sloped land. Graduated terrace steps are commonly used to farm on hilly or mountainous terrain. Terraced fields decrease erosion and surface runoff, and are effective for growing crops requiring much water, such as rice...

 hillsides, and fertilized their soil. However, their greatest agricultural technique was the chinampa
Chinampa
Chinampa is a method of ancient Mesoamerican agriculture which used small, rectangle-shaped areas of fertile arable land to grow crops on the shallow lake beds in the Valley of Mexico.-Description:...

s, or artificial islands, also known as "floating gardens". These were used to make the swampy areas around the lake suitable for farming. To make chinampas, canals were dug through the marshy islands and shores, then mud was heaped on huge mats made of woven reeds
Phragmites
Phragmites, the Common reed, is a large perennial grass found in wetlands throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world. Phragmites australis is sometimes regarded as the sole species of the genus Phragmites, though some botanists divide Phragmites australis into three or four species...

. The mats were anchored by tying them to posts driven into the lake bed and then planting trees at their corners that took root and secured the artificial islands permanently. The Aztecs grew corn, squash, vegetables, and flowers on chinampas.

South America

In the Andes region of South America the major domesticated crop was potatoes, domesticated perhaps 5000 years ago. Large varieties of beans were domesticated, in South America, as well as animals, including llamas, alpacas, and guinea pigs. Coca
Coca
Coca, Erythroxylum coca, is a plant in the family Erythroxylaceae, native to western South America. The plant plays a significant role in many traditional Andean cultures...

, still a major crop, was also domesticated in the Andes.

The Andean civilizations were predominantly agricultural societies; the Incas took advantage of the ground, conquering the adversities like the Andean area and the inclemencies of the weather. The adaptation of agricultural technologies that already were used previously, allowed the Incas to organize the production a diversity of products of the coast, mountain and jungle, so them could be able to redistribute to villages that did not have access to other regions. The technological achievements reached to agricultural level, had not been possible without the workforce that was at the disposal of the Sapa Inca, as well as the road system that was allowing to store adequately the harvested resources and to distribute them for all the territory.

Eastern North America

The indigenous people of the Eastern U.S. appear to have domesticated numerous crops. Sunflowers, tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

, varieties of squash and Chenopodium
Chenopodium
Chenopodium is a genus of about 150 species of perennial or annual herbaceous flowering plants known as the goosefoots, which occur almost anywhere in the world. It is placed in the family Amaranthaceae in the APG II system; older classifications separate it and its relatives as Chenopodiaceae, but...

, as well as crops no longer grown, including marshelder and little barley, were domesticated. Other wild foods may have undergone some selective cultivation, including wild rice
Wild rice
Wild rice is four species of grasses forming the genus Zizania, and the grain which can be harvested from them. The grain was historically gathered and eaten in both North America and China...

 and maple sugar
Maple sugar
Maple sugar is a traditional sweetener in the northeastern United States and Canada, prepared from the sap of the sugar maple tree.-Preparation:...

. The most common varieties of strawberry
Garden Strawberry
The garden strawberry, Fragaria × ananassa, is a hybrid species that is cultivated worldwide for its fruit, the strawberry. The fruit is widely appreciated for its characteristic aroma, bright red color, juicy texture, and sweetness...

 were domesticated from Eastern North America. Two major crops, pecan
Pecan
The pecan , Carya illinoinensis, is a species of hickory, native to south-central North America, in Mexico from Coahuila south to Jalisco and Veracruz, in the United States from southern Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana east to western Kentucky, southwestern Ohio, North Carolina, South...

s and Concord grapes, were utilized extensively in prehistoric times but do not appear to have been domesticated until the 19th century.

Islamic world

From the 8th century, the medieval Islamic world
Islamic Golden Age
During the Islamic Golden Age philosophers, scientists and engineers of the Islamic world contributed enormously to technology and culture, both by preserving earlier traditions and by adding their own inventions and innovations...

 underwent a transformation in agricultural practice which has been described by some as the "Arab Agricultural Revolution". This transformation was driven by a number of factors including the diffusion of many crops and plants along Muslim trade routes, the spread of more advanced farming techniques, and an agricultural-economic system which promoted increased yields and efficiency. The shift in agricultural practice led to significant changes in economy, population distribution, vegetation cover, agricultural production, population levels, urban growth
Urbanization
Urbanization, urbanisation or urban drift is the physical growth of urban areas as a result of global change. The United Nations projected that half of the world's population would live in urban areas at the end of 2008....

, the distribution of the labour force, cooking and diet, clothing, and numerous other aspects of life in the Islamic world.

Muslim traders covered an expansive area of the Old World
Old World
The Old World consists of those parts of the world known to classical antiquity and the European Middle Ages. It is used in the context of, and contrast with, the "New World" ....

, and these trade routes enabled the diffusion of many crops, plants and farming techniques across the Islamic world, as well as the adaptation of crops, plants and techniques from beyond the Islamic world. Historian Andrew Watson has argued that this diffusion introduced a number of crops of major importance to Europe by way of Al-Andalus
Al-Andalus
Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to a nation and territorial region also commonly referred to as Moorish Iberia. The name describes parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania governed by Muslims , at various times in the period between 711 and 1492, although the territorial boundaries...

, along with the techniques for their cultivation. Important crops involved in this transfer included sugar cane, rice, and cotton. A number of additional fruit trees, nut trees, and vegetables were also transferred.

Agricultural technologies that were widely adopted during this period included intensive irrigation systems, crop rotation
Crop rotation
Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons.Crop rotation confers various benefits to the soil. A traditional element of crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals...

 systems, and use of agricultural manuals. A sophisticated system of irrigation made use of noria
Noria
A noria is a machine for lifting water into a small aqueduct, either for the purpose of irrigation or, in at least one known instance, to feed seawater into a saltern....

s, water mills, water raising machines, dams and reservoirs. Some irrigation infrastructure and technology was continued from Roman times, and some introduced by Muslims.

Britain

Between the 16th century and the mid-19th century, Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 saw a massive increase in agricultural productivity and net output. New agricultural practices like enclosure
Enclosure
Enclosure or inclosure is the process which ends traditional rights such as mowing meadows for hay, or grazing livestock on common land. Once enclosed, these uses of the land become restricted to the owner, and it ceases to be common land. In England and Wales the term is also used for the...

, mechanization
Mechanization
Mechanization or mechanisation is providing human operators with machinery that assists them with the muscular requirements of work or displaces muscular work. In some fields, mechanization includes the use of hand tools...

, four-field crop rotation and selective breeding
Selective breeding
Selective breeding is the process of breeding plants and animals for particular genetic traits. Typically, strains that are selectively bred are domesticated, and the breeding is sometimes done by a professional breeder. Bred animals are known as breeds, while bred plants are known as varieties,...

 enabled an unprecedented population growth, freeing up a significant percentage of the workforce, and thereby helped drive the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

. By the early 19th century, agricultural practices, particularly careful selection of hardy strains and cultivars, had so improved that yield per land unit was many times that seen in the Middle Ages and before.

The 18th and 19th centuries also saw the development of glasshouses, or greenhouses, initially for the protection and cultivation of exotic plants imported to Europe and North America from the tropics. Experiments on Plant Hybridization
Experiments on Plant Hybridization
Written in 1865 by Gregor Mendel, Experiments on Plant Hybridization was the result after years spent studying genetic traits in pea plants. Mendel read his paper to the Natural History Society of Brünn on February 8 and March 8, 1865...

 in the late 19th century yielded advances in the understanding of plant genetics, and subsequently, the development of hybrid crops. Increasing dependence upon monoculture crops lead to famines and food shortages, most notably the Irish Potato Famine (1845–1849)
Irish Potato Famine (1845–1849)
In Ireland, the Great Famine was a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration between 1845 and 1852. It is also known, mostly outside Ireland, as the Irish Potato Famine...

. Storage silo
Storage silo
A silo is a structure for storing bulk materials. Silos are used in agriculture to store grain or fermented feed known as silage. Silos are more commonly used for bulk storage of grain, coal, cement, carbon black, woodchips, food products and sawdust. Three types of silos are in widespread use...

s and grain elevator
Grain elevator
A grain elevator is a tower containing a bucket elevator, which scoops up, elevates, and then uses gravity to deposit grain in a silo or other storage facility...

s appeared in the 19th century.

Age of Discovery

The history of agriculture in the Age of Discovery
Age of Discovery
The Age of Discovery, also known as the Age of Exploration and the Great Navigations , was a period in history starting in the early 15th century and continuing into the early 17th century during which Europeans engaged in intensive exploration of the world, establishing direct contacts with...

 and Early modern era was closely tied to the processes of European exploration and colonization. After 1492 the world's agricultural patterns were shuffled in the widespread exchange of plants and animals known as the Columbian Exchange
Columbian Exchange
The Columbian Exchange was a dramatically widespread exchange of animals, plants, culture, human populations , communicable disease, and ideas between the Eastern and Western hemispheres . It was one of the most significant events concerning ecology, agriculture, and culture in all of human history...

. Crops and animals that were previously only known in the Old World were now transplanted to the New and vice versa. Perhaps most notably, the tomato
Tomato
The word "tomato" may refer to the plant or the edible, typically red, fruit which it bears. Originating in South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown, often in greenhouses in cooler...

 became a favorite in European cuisine, and maize
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 and potato
Potato
The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family . The word potato may refer to the plant itself as well as the edible tuber. In the region of the Andes, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species...

es were widely adopted. Other transplanted crops include pineapple
Pineapple
Pineapple is the common name for a tropical plant and its edible fruit, which is actually a multiple fruit consisting of coalesced berries. It was given the name pineapple due to its resemblance to a pine cone. The pineapple is by far the most economically important plant in the Bromeliaceae...

, cocoa, and tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

. In the other direction, several wheat strains quickly took to western hemisphere soils and became a dietary staple even for native North, Central and South Americans. Agriculture was a key element in the Atlantic slave trade
Atlantic slave trade
The Atlantic slave trade, also known as the trans-atlantic slave trade, refers to the trade in slaves that took place across the Atlantic ocean from the sixteenth through to the nineteenth centuries...

, Triangular trade
Triangular trade
Triangular trade, or triangle trade, is a historical term indicating among three ports or regions. Triangular trade usually evolves when a region has export commodities that are not required in the region from which its major imports come...

, and the expansion by European powers into the Americas. In the expanding Plantation economy
Plantation economy
A plantation economy is an economy which is based on agricultural mass production, usually of a few staple products grown on large farms called plantations. Plantation economies rely on the export of cash crops as a source of income...

, large plantations producing crops including sugar, cotton, and indigo
Indigo dye
Indigo dye is an organic compound with a distinctive blue color . Historically, indigo was a natural dye extracted from plants, and this process was important economically because blue dyes were once rare. Nearly all indigo dye produced today — several thousand tons each year — is synthetic...

, were heavily dependent upon slave labor.

Industrialization

With the rapid rise of mechanization
Mechanised agriculture
Mechanized agriculture is the process of using agricultural machinery to mechanize the work of agriculture, massively increasing farm output and farm worker productivity...

 in the late 19th century and 20th century, particularly in the form of the tractor
Tractor
A tractor is a vehicle specifically designed to deliver a high tractive effort at slow speeds, for the purposes of hauling a trailer or machinery used in agriculture or construction...

, and later the Combine harvester
Combine harvester
The combine harvester, or simply combine, is a machine that harvests grain crops. The name derives from the fact that it combines three separate operations, reaping, threshing, and winnowing, into a single process. Among the crops harvested with a combine are wheat, oats, rye, barley, corn ,...

, farming tasks could be done with a speed and on a scale previously impossible. These advances, joined to science-driven innovations in methods and resources, have led to efficiencies enabling certain modern farms in the United States, Argentina, Israel, Germany and a few other nations to output volumes of high quality produce per land unit at what may be the practical limit. The development of rail and highway networks and the increasing use of container shipping
Containerization
Containerization is a system of freight transport based on a range of steel intermodal containers...

 and refrigeration
Refrigeration
Refrigeration is a process in which work is done to move heat from one location to another. This work is traditionally done by mechanical work, but can also be done by magnetism, laser or other means...

 in developed nations have also been essential to the growth of mechanized agriculture, allowing for the economical long distance shipping of produce.

While chemical fertilizer
Fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...

 and pesticide
Pesticide
Pesticides are substances or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.A pesticide may be a chemical unicycle, biological agent , antimicrobial, disinfectant or device used against any pest...

 have existed since the 19th century, their use grew significantly in the early 20th century. Until the development of chemical fertilizers, Guano
Guano
Guano is the excrement of seabirds, cave dwelling bats, and seals. Guano manure is an effective fertilizer due to its high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen and also its lack of odor. It was an important source of nitrates for gunpowder...

 was widely used as a fertilizer, though expensive. The Haber-Bosch method
Haber process
The Haber process, also called the Haber–Bosch process, is the nitrogen fixation reaction of nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas, over an enriched iron or ruthenium catalyst, which is used to industrially produce ammonia....

 for synthesizing ammonium nitrate represented a major breakthrough and allowed crop yields to overcome previous constraints. It was first patented by German chemist Fritz Haber
Fritz Haber
Fritz Haber was a German chemist, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918 for his development for synthesizing ammonia, important for fertilizers and explosives. Haber, along with Max Born, proposed the Born–Haber cycle as a method for evaluating the lattice energy of an ionic solid...

. In 1910 Carl Bosch
Carl Bosch
Carl Bosch was a German chemist and engineer and Nobel laureate in chemistry. He was a pioneer in the field of high-pressure industrial chemistry and founder of IG Farben, at one point the world's largest chemical company....

, while working for German chemical company BASF
BASF
BASF SE is the largest chemical company in the world and is headquartered in Germany. BASF originally stood for Badische Anilin- und Soda-Fabrik . Today, the four letters are a registered trademark and the company is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, London Stock Exchange, and Zurich Stock...

, successfully commercialized the process and secured further patents. Norman Borlaug
Norman Borlaug
Norman Ernest Borlaug was an American agronomist, humanitarian, and Nobel laureate who has been called "the father of the Green Revolution". Borlaug was one of only six people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal...

 and other scientists began developing crops for increased yields in the 1940s in Mexico. Their work lead to the Green Revolution
Green Revolution
Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production around the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s....

, which applied western advances in fertilizer and pesticide use to farms worldwide, with varying success. Other applications of scientific research since 1950 in agriculture include gene manipulation, Hydroponics
Hydroponics
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient solution only or in an inert medium, such as perlite, gravel, mineral wool, or coconut husk.Researchers discovered in the 18th...

, and the development of economically viable biofuel
Biofuel
Biofuel is a type of fuel whose energy is derived from biological carbon fixation. Biofuels include fuels derived from biomass conversion, as well as solid biomass, liquid fuels and various biogases...

s such as Ethanol
Ethanol fuel
Ethanol fuel is ethanol , the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. It is most often used as a motor fuel, mainly as a biofuel additive for gasoline. World ethanol production for transport fuel tripled between 2000 and 2007 from 17 billion to more than 52 billion litres...

.

Organic farming

Though the intensive farming practices pioneered and extended in recent history generally led to increased outputs, they have also led to the destruction of farmland, most notably in the dust bowl
Dust Bowl
The Dust Bowl, or the Dirty Thirties, was a period of severe dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands from 1930 to 1936...

 area of the United States following World War I. As global population increases, agriculture continues to replace natural ecosystems with monoculture crops. Since the 1970s, western farmers and consumers have become increasingly aware of, and in some cases critical of, widely used intensive agriculture practices. This growing awareness has led to increased interest in such areas of agriculture as organic farming
Organic farming
Organic farming is the form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and control pests on a farm...

, permaculture
Permaculture
Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that is modeled on the relationships found in nature. It is based on the ecology of how things interrelate rather than on the strictly biological concerns that form the foundation of modern agriculture...

, Heirloom plant
Heirloom plant
An heirloom plant, heirloom variety, or heirloom vegetable is a cultivar that was commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but which is not used in modern large-scale agriculture...

s and biodiversity
Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

, the growth of the Slow Food
Slow Food
Slow Food is an international movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986. Promoted as an alternative to fast food, it strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. It was the first established part of...

 movement, and an ongoing discussion surrounding the potential for sustainable agriculture
Sustainable agriculture
Sustainable agriculture is the practice of farming using principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment...

.

Agricultural revolutions

  • Neolithic Revolution
    Neolithic Revolution
    The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution. It was the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicates that various forms of plants and animal domestication evolved independently in 6 separate locations worldwide circa...

  • Muslim Agricultural Revolution
    Muslim Agricultural Revolution
    The Arab Agricultural Revolution is a term coined by the historian Andrew Watson in his influential 1974 paper postulating a fundamental transformation in agriculture from the 8th century to the 13th century in the Muslim...

  • British Agricultural Revolution
    British Agricultural Revolution
    British Agricultural Revolution describes a period of development in Britain between the 17th century and the end of the 19th century, which saw an epoch-making increase in agricultural productivity and net output. This in turn supported unprecedented population growth, freeing up a significant...

  • Green Revolution
    Green Revolution
    Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production around the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s....


See also

  • Agricultural machinery
    Agricultural machinery
    Agricultural machinery is machinery used in the operation of an agricultural area or farm.-Hand tools:The first person to turn from the hunting and gathering lifestyle to farming probably did so by using his bare hands, and perhaps some sticks or stones. Tools such as knives, scythes, and wooden...

  • History of agriculture in the United States
    History of agriculture in the United States
    The history of agriculture in the United States covers the period from the first settlers to the present day. In Colonial America agriculture fund a livelihood for 90 percent of the population; most towns were shipping points for the export of agricultural products. Most farms were geared toward...

  • History of fertilizer
    History of fertilizer
    The history of fertilizer has largely shaped political, economic, and social circumstances in their traditional uses. Subsequently, there has been a radical reshaping of environmental conditions following the development of chemically synthesized fertilizers....

  • Hoe-farming
    Hoe-farming
    Hoe-farming is a collective term for certain forms of agriculture. In the farming of some early societies, and in some traditional cultures of the recent times or the near past, the tillage was done with simple manual tools like digging sticks or hoes, for example seeding was done manually by...

  • Rural history
    Rural history
    Rural history is historical research into rural life. Agricultural history handles the economic and technological dimensions, while rural history handles the social dimension...

  • Seeds of Change: Five Plants That Transformed Mankind
    Seeds of Change: Five Plants That Transformed Mankind
    Seeds of Change: Five plants that transformed mankind is a 1985 book by Henry Hobhouse, formerly a journalist for The Economist, News Chronicle, Daily Express, and the Wall Street Journal, consultant to the Quincentenary of Columbus Exhibition, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, and Chairman...

    (book)
  • Timeline of genetically modified organisms
    Timeline of genetically modified organisms
    This is a timeline of noteworthy genetically modified organisms created in labs, including genetically modified foods and other transgenic species and products .- 1972- 1973 :...


Europe

  • Ambrosoli, Mauro. The Wild and the Sown: Botany and Agriculture in Western Europe, 1350-1850 (1997). 460 pp.
  • Bakels, C. C. The Western European Loess Belt: Agrarian History, 5300 BC - AD 1000 (2009)
  • Brown, Jonathan. Agriculture in England: A Survey of Farming, 1870-1947 (1987)
  • Dovring, Folke, ed. Land and labor in Europe in the twentieth century: a comparative survey of recent agrarian history . 1965. 511 pp
  • Gras, Norman. A history of agriculture in Europe and America, (1925). free online edition
  • Harvey, Nigel. The Industrial Archaeology of Farming in England and Wales (1980). 232 pp.
  • Herr, Richard, ed. Themes in Rural History of the Western World (1993). 277 pp.
  • Hoffman, Philip T. Growth in a Traditional Society: The French Countryside, 1450-1815 (1996). 361 pp.
  • Isager, Signe and Jens Erik Skydsgaard. Ancient Greek Agriculture: An Introduction (Routledge, 1995)
  • Kussmaul, Ann. A General View of the Rural Economy of England, 1538-1840 (1990). 216 pp.
  • Langdon, John. Horses, Oxen and Technological Innovation: The Use of Draught Animals in English Farming from 1066 to 1500 (1986). 331 pp.
  • McNeill, William H. "The Introduction of the Potato into Ireland," Journal of Modern History 21 (1948): 218–21. in JSTOR
  • Murray, Jacqueline. The First European Agriculture (1970)
  • Slicher van Bath, B. H. The agrarian history of Western Europe, AD 500-1850
  • Thirsk, Joan, et al. The Agrarian History of England and Wales (8 vol 1978)
  • Williamson, Tom. Transformation Of Rural England: Farming and the Landscape 1700-1870 (2002)

United States

  • Cochrane, Willard W. The Development of American Agriculture: A Historical Analysis (1993)
  • Fite, Gilbert C. American Farmers: The New Minority (1981)
  • Gras, Norman. A history of agriculture in Europe and America, (1925). online edition
  • Gray, L.C. History of agriculture in the southern United States to 1860 (1933) Volume I online; Volume 2 online
  • Hart, John Fraser. The Changing Scale of American Agriculture. U. of Virginia Press, 2004. 320 pp.
  • Hurt, R. Douglas. American Agriculture: A Brief History (2002)
  • Mundlak, Yair. "Economic Growth: Lessons from Two Centuries of American Agriculture." Journal of Economic Literature 2005 43(4): 989-1024. Issn: 0022-0515 Fulltext: in Ebsco
  • Robert, Joseph C. The story of tobacco in America (1949) online edition
  • Russell, Howard. A Long Deep Furrow: Three Centuries of Farming In New England (1981)
  • Schafer, Joseph. The social history of American agriculture (1936) online edition
  • Schlebecker John T. Whereby we thrive: A history of American farming, 1607-1972 (1972)
  • Weeden, William Babcock. Economic and Social History of New England, 1620-1789 (1891) 964 pages; online edition
  • Yeargin, Billy. North Carolina Tobacco: A History (2008)

External links

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