Natural farming is an ecological farming approach established by Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer and philosopher, introduced in his 1975 book The One-Straw Revolution. Fukuoka described his way of farming as 自然農法 in Japanese, it is referred to as "the Fukuoka Method", "the natural way of farming" or "do-nothing farming". The title refers not to the avoidance of manufactured inputs and equipment. Natural farming is related to fertility farming, organic farming, sustainable agriculture, agroforestry and permaculture, but should be distinguished from biodynamic agriculture; the system works along with the natural biodiversity of each farmed area, encouraging the complexity of living organisms—both plant and animal—that shape each particular ecosystem to thrive along with food plants. Fukuoka saw farming both as a means of producing food and as an aesthetic or spiritual approach to life, the ultimate goal of which was, "the cultivation and perfection of human beings", he suggested that farmers could benefit from observing local conditions.
Natural farming is one that demands no human-supplied inputs and mimics nature. Fukuoka's ideas radically challenged conventions. Although natural farming is considered a subset of organic farming, it differs from conventional organic farming, which Fukuoka considered to be another modern technique that disturbs nature. Fukuoka claimed that his approach prevents water pollution, biodiversity loss and soil erosion, while providing ample amounts of food. In principal, practitioners of natural farming maintain that it is not a technique but a view, or a way of seeing ourselves as a part of nature, rather than separate from or above it. Accordingly, the methods themselves vary depending on culture and local conditions. Rather than offering a structured method, Fukuoka distilled the natural farming mindset into five principles: No tillage No fertilizer No pesticides or herbicides No weeding No pruning Though many of his plant varieties and practices relate to Japan and to local conditions in subtropical western Shikoku, his philosophy and the governing principles of his farming systems have been applied around the world, from Africa to the temperate northern hemisphere.
Principally, natural farming minimises human labour and adopts, as as practical, nature's production of foods such as rice, daikon or citrus in biodiverse agricultural ecosystems. Without plowing, seeds germinate well on the surface if site conditions meet the needs of the seeds placed there. Fukuoka used the presence of spiders in his fields as a key performance indicator of sustainability. Fukuoka specifies that the ground remain covered by weeds, white clover, herbaceous legumes, sometimes deliberately sown herbaceous plants. Ground cover is present along with vegetable crops and orchards. Chickens carp populate rice fields. Periodically ground layer plants including weeds may be cut and left on the surface, returning their nutrients to the soil, while suppressing weed growth; this facilitates the sowing of seeds in the same area because the dense ground layer hides the seeds from animals such as birds. For summer rice and winter barley grain crops, ground cover enhances nitrogen fixation. Straw from the previous crop mulches the topsoil.
Each grain crop is sown before the previous one is harvested by broadcasting the seed among the standing crop. This method was reduced to a single direct seeding of clover and rice over the standing heads of rice; the result is a denser crop of smaller, but productive and stronger plants. Fukuoka's practice and philosophy emphasised small scale operation and challenged the need for mechanised farming techniques for high productivity and economies of scale. While his family's farm was larger than the Japanese average, he used one field of grain crops as a small-scale example of his system. Regarded as the leading practitioner of the second-generation of natural farmers, Yoshikazu Kawaguchi is the instigator of Akame Natural Farm School, a related network of volunteer-based "no-tuition" natural farming schools in Japan that numbers 40 locations and more than 900 concurrent students. Although Kawaguchi's practice is based on Fukuoka's principals, his methods differ notably from those of Fukuoka.
He re-states the core values of natural farming as: Do not plow the fields Weeds and insects are not your enemies There is no need to add fertilizers Adjust the foods you grow based on your local climate and conditionsKawaguchi's recognition outside of Japan has become wider after his appearance as the central character in the documentary Final Straw: Food, Happiness, through which his interviews were translated into several languages. He is the author of several books in Japan, though none have been translated into English. Since 2016, Kawaguchi is no longer directly instructing at the Akame school, he is still teaching however, holding open farm days at his own natural farm in Nara prefecture. In ecology, climax ecosystems are mature ecosystems that have reached a high degree of stability and diversity. Natural farmers attempt to mimic those virtues, creating a comparable climax ecosystem, employ advanced techniques such as intercropping, companion planting and integrated pest management.
Natural farming recognizes soils as a fundamental natural asset. Ancient soils possess physical and chemical attributes that render them capable of generating and
A farm is an area of land, devoted to agricultural processes with the primary objective of producing food and other crops. The name is used for specialised units such as arable farms, vegetable farms, fruit farms, dairy and poultry farms, land used for the production of natural fibres and other commodities, it includes ranches, orchards and estates, smallholdings and hobby farms, includes the farmhouse and agricultural buildings as well as the land. In modern times the term has been extended so as to include such industrial operations as wind farms and fish farms, both of which can operate on land or sea. Farming originated independently in different parts of the world, as hunter gatherer societies transitioned to food production rather than, food capture, it may have started about 12,000 years ago with the domestication of livestock in the Fertile Crescent in western Asia, soon to be followed by the cultivation of crops. Modern units tend to specialise in the crops or livestock best suited to the region, with their finished products being sold for the retail market or for further processing, with farm products being traded around the world.
Modern farms in developed countries are mechanized. In the United States, livestock may be raised on rangeland and finished in feedlots and the mechanization of crop production has brought about a great decrease in the number of agricultural workers needed. In Europe, traditional family farms are giving way to larger production units. In Australia, some farms are large because the land is unable to support a high stocking density of livestock because of climatic conditions. In less developed countries, small farms are the norm, the majority of rural residents are subsistence farmers, feeding their families and selling any surplus products in the local market; the word in the sense of an agricultural land-holding derives from the verb "to farm" a revenue source, whether taxes, rents of a group of manors or to hold an individual manor by the feudal land tenure of "fee farm". The word is from the medieval Latin noun firma the source of the French word ferme, meaning a fixed agreement, from the classical Latin adjective firmus meaning strong, firm.
As in the medieval age all manors were engaged in the business of agriculture, their principal revenue source, so to hold a manor by the tenure of "fee farm" became synonymous with the practice of agriculture itself. Farming has been innovated at multiple different places in human history; the transition from hunter-gatherer to settled, agricultural societies is called the Neolithic Revolution and first began around 12,000 years ago, near the beginning of the geological epoch of the Holocene around 12,000 years ago. It was the world's first verifiable revolution in agriculture. Subsequent step-changes in human farming practices were provoked by the British Agricultural Revolution in the 18th century, the Green Revolution of the second half of the 20th century. Farming spread from the Middle East to Europe and by 4,000 BC people that lived in the central part of Europe were using oxen to pull plows and wagons. A farm may be owned and operated by a single individual, community, corporation or a company, may produce one or many types of produce, can be a holding of any size from a fraction of a hectare to several thousand hectares.
A farm may operate under a monoculture system or with a variety of cereal or arable crops, which may be separate from or combined with raising livestock. Specialist farms are denoted as such, thus a dairy farm, fish farm, poultry farm or mink farm; some farms may not use the word at all, hence vineyard, market garden or "truck farm". Some farms may be denoted by their topographical location, such as a hill farm, while large estates growing cash crops such as cotton or coffee may be called plantations. Many other terms are used to describe farms to denote their methods of production, as in collective, intensive, organic or vertical. Other farms may exist for research or education, such as an ant farm, since farming is synonymous with mass production, the word "farm" may be used to describe wind power generation or puppy farm. Dairy farming is a class of agriculture, where female cattle, goats, or other mammals are raised for their milk, which may be either processed on-site or transported to a dairy for processing and eventual retail sale There are many breeds of cattle that can be milked some of the best producing ones include Holstein, Norwegian Red, Brown Swiss, more.
In most Western countries, a centralized dairy facility processes milk and dairy products, such as cream and cheese. In the United States, these dairies are local companies, while in the southern hemisphere facilities may be run by large nationwide or trans-national corporations. Dairy farms sell male calves for veal meat, as dairy breeds are not satisfactory for commercial beef production. Many dairy farms grow their own feed including corn and hay; this is stored as silage for use during the winter season. Additional dietary supplements are added to the feed to improve milk production. Poultry farms are devoted to raising chickens, turkeys and other fowl for meat or eggs. A pig farm is one that specializes in raising pigs or hogs for bacon and other pork products and may be free range, intensive, or both. Farm control and ownership has traditionally been a key indicator of status and power in Medieval European agrarian
An orchard is an intentional planting of trees or shrubs, maintained for food production. Orchards comprise fruit- or nut-producing trees which are grown for commercial production. Orchards are sometimes a feature of large gardens, where they serve an aesthetic as well as a productive purpose. A fruit garden is synonymous with an orchard, although it is set on a smaller non-commercial scale and may emphasize berry shrubs in preference to fruit trees. Most temperate-zone orchards are laid out in a regular grid, with a grazed or mown grass or bare soil base that makes maintenance and fruit gathering easy. Most orchards are planted for a single variety of fruit. While the importance of introducing biodiversity is recognized in forest plantations, it would seem to be beneficial to introduce some genetic diversity in orchard plantations as well by interspersing other trees through the orchard. Genetic diversity in an orchard would provide resilience to diseases just as in forests. Orchards are sometimes concentrated near bodies of water where climatic extremes are moderated and blossom time is retarded until frost danger is past.
An orchard's layout is the technique of planting the crops in a proper system. There are different methods of planting and thus different layouts; some of these layout types include: Square method Rectangular method Quincunx method Triangular method Hexagonal method Contour or terrace methodFor different varieties, these systems may vary to some extent. The most extensive orchards in the United States are apple and orange orchards, although citrus orchards are more called groves; the most extensive apple orchard area is in eastern Washington state, with a lesser but significant apple orchard area in most of Upstate New York. Extensive orange orchards are found in Florida and southern California, where they are more known as'groves'. In eastern North America, many orchards are along the shores of Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario. In Canada and other fruit orchards are widespread on the Niagara Peninsula, south of Lake Ontario; this region is known as Canada Fruitbelt and, in addition to large-scale commercial fruit marketing, it encourages "pick-your-own" activities in the harvest season.
Murcia is a major orchard area in Europe, with citrus crops. New Zealand, China and Chile have extensive apple orchards. Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire has been called The Town in the Orchard, since the 19th century, because it was surrounded by extensive orchards. Today, this heritage is celebrated through an annual Applefest. Streuobstwiese is a German word that means a meadow with scattered fruit trees or fruit trees that are planted in a field. Streuobstwiese, or a meadow orchard, is a traditional landscape in the temperate, maritime climate of continental Western Europe. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Streuobstwiesen were a kind of a rural community orchard that were intended for productive cultivation of stone fruit. In recent years, ecologists have lobbied for state subsidies to valuable habitats and natural landscapes, which are used to preserve old meadow orchards. Both conventional and meadow orchards provide a suitable habitat for many animal species that live in a cultured landscape.
A notable example is the hoopoe that nests in tree hollows of old fruit trees and, in the absence of alternative nesting sites, is threatened in many parts of Europe because of the destruction of old orchards. Orchard in various regions Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts was the residence of American celebrated writer Louisa May Alcott. Fruita, Utah part of Capitol Reef National Park has Mormon pioneer orchards maintained by the United States National Park Service. Historical orchards have mature trees spaced for heavy equipment. Modern commercial apple orchards, by contrast and as one example, are "high-density" and in extreme cases have up to 9000 trees per acre; these plants are no longer trees in the traditional sense, but instead resemble vines on dwarf stock and require trellises to support them. Natural England, through its Countryside Stewardship Scheme, Environmental Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas Scheme, gives grant aid and advice for the maintenance, enhancement or re-creation of historical orchards.
The'Orchard Link' organisation provides advice on how to manage and restore the county of Devon's orchards, as well as enabling the local community to use the local orchard produce. An organisation called. People's Trust for Endangered Species has mapped every traditional orchard within England and Wales and manages the national inventory for this habitat; the UK Biodiversity Partnership lists traditional orchards and a priority UK Biodiversity Action Plan habitat. The Wiltshire Traditional Orchards Project maps and restores traditional orchards within Wiltshire, England. Fruit tree forms Fruit tree pollination Fruit tree propagation Fruit tree pruning Climate-friendly gardening Forest Home Orchard Society Pennsylvania tree fruit production guide. "Orchard". Encyclopædia Britannica. Cambridge University Press
Agriculture is the science and art of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that enabled people to live in cities; the history of agriculture began thousands of years ago. After gathering wild grains beginning at least 105,000 years ago, nascent farmers began to plant them around 11,500 years ago. Pigs and cattle were domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Plants were independently cultivated in at least 11 regions of the world. Industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture in the twentieth century came to dominate agricultural output, though about 2 billion people still depended on subsistence agriculture into the twenty-first. Modern agronomy, plant breeding, agrochemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers, technological developments have increased yields, while causing widespread ecological and environmental damage. Selective breeding and modern practices in animal husbandry have increased the output of meat, but have raised concerns about animal welfare and environmental damage.
Environmental issues include contributions to global warming, depletion of aquifers, antibiotic resistance, growth hormones in industrial meat production. Genetically modified organisms are used, although some are banned in certain countries; the major agricultural products can be broadly grouped into foods, fibers and raw materials. Food classes include cereals, fruits, meat, milk and eggs. Over one-third of the world's workers are employed in agriculture, second only to the service sector, although the number of agricultural workers in developed countries has decreased over the centuries; the word agriculture is a late Middle English adaptation of Latin agricultūra, from ager, "field", which in its turn came from Greek αγρός, cultūra, "cultivation" or "growing". While agriculture refers to human activities, certain species of ant and ambrosia beetle cultivate crops. Agriculture is defined with varying scopes, in its broadest sense using natural resources to "produce commodities which maintain life, including food, forest products, horticultural crops, their related services".
Thus defined, it includes arable farming, animal husbandry and forestry, but horticulture and forestry are in practice excluded. The development of agriculture enabled the human population to grow many times larger than could be sustained by hunting and gathering. Agriculture began independently in different parts of the globe, included a diverse range of taxa, in at least 11 separate centres of origin. Wild grains were eaten from at least 105,000 years ago. From around 11,500 years ago, the eight Neolithic founder crops and einkorn wheat, hulled barley, lentils, bitter vetch, chick peas and flax were cultivated in the Levant. Rice was domesticated in China between 11,500 and 6,200 BC with the earliest known cultivation from 5,700 BC, followed by mung and azuki beans. Sheep were domesticated in Mesopotamia between 11,000 years ago. Cattle were domesticated from the wild aurochs in the areas of modern Turkey and Pakistan some 10,500 years ago. Pig production emerged in Eurasia, including Europe, East Asia and Southwest Asia, where wild boar were first domesticated about 10,500 years ago.
In the Andes of South America, the potato was domesticated between 10,000 and 7,000 years ago, along with beans, llamas and guinea pigs. Sugarcane and some root vegetables were domesticated in New Guinea around 9,000 years ago. Sorghum was domesticated in the Sahel region of Africa by 7,000 years ago. Cotton was domesticated in Peru by 5,600 years ago, was independently domesticated in Eurasia. In Mesoamerica, wild teosinte was bred into maize by 6,000 years ago. Scholars have offered multiple hypotheses to explain the historical origins of agriculture. Studies of the transition from hunter-gatherer to agricultural societies indicate an initial period of intensification and increasing sedentism. Wild stands, harvested started to be planted, came to be domesticated. In Eurasia, the Sumerians started to live in villages from about 8,000 BC, relying on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and a canal system for irrigation. Ploughs appear in pictographs around 3,000 BC. Farmers grew wheat, vegetables such as lentils and onions, fruits including dates and figs.
Ancient Egyptian agriculture relied on its seasonal flooding. Farming started in the predynastic period at the end of the Paleolithic, after 10,000 BC. Staple food crops were grains such as wheat and barley, alongside industrial crops such as flax and papyrus. In India, wheat and jujube were domesticated by 9,000 BC, soon followed by sheep and goats. Cattle and goats were domesticated in Mehrgarh culture by 8,000–6,000 BC. Cotton was cultivated by the 5th-4th millennium BC. Archeological evidence indicates an animal-drawn plough from 2,500 BC in the Indus Valley Civilisation. In China, from the 5th century BC there was a nationwide granary system and widespread silk farming. Water-powered grain mills were in use followed by irrigation. By the late 2nd century, heavy ploughs had been developed with iron mouldboards; these spread westwards across Eurasia. Asian rice was domesticated 8,200–13,500 years ago – depending on the molecular clock estimate, used – on the Pearl River in southern China with a single genetic origin from the wild rice Oryza rufipogon
History of agriculture
The history of agriculture records the domestication of plants and animals and the development and dissemination of techniques for raising them productively. Agriculture began independently in different parts of the globe, included a diverse range of taxa. At least eleven separate regions of the Old and New World were involved as independent centers of origin. Wild grains were collected and eaten from at least 20,000 BC. From around 9500 BC, the eight Neolithic founder crops – emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, hulled barley, lentils, bitter vetch, chick peas, flax – were cultivated in the Levant. Rye may have been cultivated earlier but this remains controversial. Rice was domesticated in China by 6200 BC with earliest known cultivation from 5700 BC, followed by mung and azuki beans. Pigs were domesticated in Mesopotamia around 11,000 BC, followed by sheep between 11,000 BC and 9000 BC. Cattle were domesticated from the wild aurochs in the areas of modern Turkey and Pakistan around 8500 BC. Sugarcane and some root vegetables were domesticated in New Guinea around 7000 BC.
Sorghum was domesticated in the Sahel region of Africa by 5000 BC. In the Andes of South America, the potato was domesticated between 8000 BC and 5000 BC, along with beans, llamas and guinea pigs. Bananas were hybridized in the same period in Papua New Guinea. In Mesoamerica, wild teosinte was domesticated to maize by 4000 BC. Cotton was domesticated in Peru by 3600 BC. Camels were domesticated late around 3000 BC; the Bronze Age, from c. 3300 BC, witnessed the intensification of agriculture in civilizations such as Mesopotamian Sumer, ancient Egypt, the Indus Valley Civilisation of South Asia, ancient China, ancient Greece. During the Iron Age and era of classical antiquity, the expansion of ancient Rome, both the Republic and the Empire, throughout the ancient Mediterranean and Western Europe built upon existing systems of agriculture while establishing the manorial system that became a bedrock of medieval agriculture. In the Middle Ages, both in the Islamic world and in Europe, agriculture was transformed with improved techniques and the diffusion of crop plants, including the introduction of sugar, rice and fruit trees such as the orange to Europe by way of Al-Andalus.
After the voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1492, the Columbian exchange brought New World crops such as maize, sweet potatoes, manioc to Europe, Old World crops such as wheat, barley and turnips, livestock including horses, cattle and goats to the Americas. Irrigation, crop rotation, fertilizers were introduced soon after the Neolithic Revolution and developed much further in the past 200 years, starting with the British Agricultural Revolution. Since 1900, agriculture in the developed nations, to a lesser extent in the developing world, has seen large rises in productivity as human labour has been replaced by mechanization, assisted by synthetic fertilizers and selective breeding; the Haber-Bosch process allowed the synthesis of ammonium nitrate fertilizer on an industrial scale increasing crop yields. Modern agriculture has raised social and environmental issues including water pollution, genetically modified organisms and farm subsidies. In response, organic farming developed in the twentieth century as an alternative to the use of synthetic pesticides.
Scholars have developed a number of hypotheses to explain the historical origins of agriculture. Studies of the transition from hunter-gatherer to agricultural societies indicate an antecedent period of intensification and increasing sedentism. Current models indicate that wild stands, harvested started to be planted, but were not domesticated. Localised climate change is the favoured explanation for the origins of agriculture in the Levant; when major climate change took place after the last ice age, much of the earth became subject to long dry seasons. These conditions favoured annual plants which die off in the long dry season, leaving a dormant seed or tuber. An abundance of storable wild grains and pulses enabled hunter-gatherers in some areas to form the first settled villages at this time. Early people began altering communities of flora and fauna for their own benefit through means such as fire-stick farming and forest gardening early. Exact dates are hard to determine, as people collected and ate seeds before domesticating them, plant characteristics may have changed during this period without human selection.
An example is the semi-tough rachis and larger seeds of cereals from just after the Younger Dryas in the early Holocene in the Levant region of the Fertile Crescent. Monophyletic characteristics were attained without any human intervention, implying that apparent domestication of the cereal rachis could have occurred quite naturally. Agriculture began independently in different parts of the globe, included a diverse range of taxa. At least 11 separate regions of the Old and New World were involved as independent centers of origin; some of the earliest known domestications were of animals. Domestic pigs had multiple centres of origin in Eurasia, including Europe, East Asia and Southwest Asia, where wild boar were first domesticated about 10,500 years ago. Sheep were domesticated in Mesopotamia between 11,000 BC and 9000 BC. Cattle were domesticated from the wild aurochs in the areas of modern Turkey and Pakistan around 8500 BC. Camels were domesticated late around 3000 BC, it was not until after 9500 BC that the eight so-called founder crops of agriculture appear: first emmer and einkorn wheat hulled barley, lenti
Livestock is defined as domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce labor and commodities such as meat, milk, fur and wool. The term is sometimes used to refer to those that are bred for consumption, while other times it refers only to farmed ruminants, such as cattle and goats. Horses are considered livestock in the United States; the USDA uses livestock to some uses of the term “red meat”, in which it refers to all the mammal animals kept in this setting to be used as commodities. The USDA mentions pork, veal and lamb are all classified as livestock and all livestock is considered to be red meats. Poultry and fish are not included in the category; the breeding and slaughter of livestock, known as animal husbandry, is a component of modern agriculture, practiced in many cultures since humanity's transition to farming from hunter-gatherer lifestyles. Animal husbandry practices have varied across cultures and time periods. Livestock were not confined by fences or enclosures, but these practices have shifted to intensive animal farming, sometimes referred to as "factory farming".
Now, over 99% of livestock are raised on factory farms. These practices increase yield of the various commercial outputs, but have led to negative impacts on animal welfare and the environment. Livestock production continues to play a major economic and cultural role in numerous rural communities. Livestock as a word was first used between 1650 and 1660, as a merger between the words "live" and "stock". In some periods, "cattle" and "livestock" have been used interchangeably. Today, the modern meaning of cattle is domesticated bovines. United States federal legislation defines the term to make specified agricultural commodities eligible or ineligible for a program or activity. For example, the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act of 1999 defines livestock only as cattle and sheep, while the 1988 disaster assistance legislation defined the term as "cattle, goats, poultry, equine animals used for food or in the production of food, fish used for food, other animals designated by the Secretary."Deadstock is defined in contradistinction to livestock as "animals that have died before slaughter, sometimes from illness".
It is illegal in many countries, such as Canada, to sell or process meat from dead animals for human consumption. Animal-rearing originated during the cultural transition to settled farming communities from hunter-gatherer lifestyles. Animals are domesticated when their living conditions are controlled by humans. Over time, the collective behaviour and physiology of livestock have changed radically. Many modern farm animals are unsuited to life in the wild; the dog was domesticated early. Goats and sheep were domesticated in multiple events sometime between 11,000 and 5,000 years ago in Southwest Asia. Pigs were domesticated by 8,500 BC in the Near 6,000 BC in China. Domestication of the horse dates to around 4000 BC. Cattle have been domesticated since 10,500 years ago. Chickens and other poultry may have been domesticated around 7000 BC; the term "livestock" is may be defined narrowly or broadly. Broadly, livestock refers to any breed or population of animal kept by humans for a useful, commercial purpose.
This can mean semidomestic animals, or captive wild animals. Semidomesticated refers to animals which are only domesticated or of disputed status; these populations may be in the process of domestication. Traditionally, animal husbandry was part of the subsistence farmer's way of life, producing not only the food needed by the family but the fuel, clothing and draught power. Killing the animal for food was a secondary consideration, wherever possible its products, such as wool, eggs and blood were harvested while the animal was still alive. In the traditional system of transhumance and livestock moved seasonally between fixed summer and winter pastures. Animals can be kept intensively. Extensive systems involve animals roaming at will, or under the supervision of a herdsman for their protection from predators. Ranching in the Western United States involves large herds of cattle grazing over public and private lands. Similar cattle stations are found in South America and other places with large areas of land and low rainfall.
Ranching systems have been used for sheep, ostrich, emu and alpaca. In the uplands of the United Kingdom, sheep are turned out on the fells in spring and graze the abundant mountain grasses untended, being brought to lower altitudes late in the year, with supplementary feeding being provided in winter. In rural locations and poultry can obtain much of their nutrition from scavenging, in African communities, hens may live for months without being fed, still produce one or two eggs a week. At the other extreme, in the more developed parts of the world, animals are intensively managed. In between these two extremes are semi-intensive family run farms where livestock graze outside for much of the year, silage or hay is made to cove
Crop diversity is the variance in genetic and phenotypic characteristics of plants used in agriculture. Over the past 50 years, there has been a major decline in two components of crop diversity. Crop diversity loss threatens global food security, as the world's human population depends on a diminishing number of varieties of a diminishing number of crop species. Crops are grown in monoculture, meaning that if, as in the historic Irish Potato Famine, a single disease overcomes a variety's resistance, it may destroy an entire harvest, or as in the case of the'Gros Michel' banana, may cause the commercial extinction of an entire variety. With the help of seed banks, international organizations are working to preserve crop diversity. Crop diversity is an aspect of biodiversity important for food security; the loss of biodiversity is considered one of today’s most serious environmental concerns by the Food and Agriculture Organization. If current trends persist, as many as half of all plant species could face extinction.
Among the many threatened species are wild relatives of our crops – the wild and weedy cousins of domesticated plants that possess valuable traits for crop breeding, such as pest and disease resistance. Some 6% of wild relatives of cereal crops such as wheat, maize and sorghum are under threat, as are 18% of legumes, the wild relatives of beans and lentils, 13% of species within the botanical family that includes potato, tomato and peppers. In 2016, 29% of wild relative plant species were missing from the world’s genebanks, with a further 24% represented by fewer than 10 samples. Over 70% of all crop wild relative species worldwide were in urgent need of further collecting to improve their representation in genebanks, over 95% were insufficiently represented with regard to the full range of geographic and ecological variation in their native distributions. While the most critical priorities for further collecting were found in the Mediterranean and Near East and Southern Europe and East Asia, South America, crop wild relatives insufficiently represented in genebanks are distributed across all countries worldwide.
Since 1961, human diets across the world have become more diverse in the consumption of major commodity staple crops, with a corresponding decline in consumption of local or regionally important crops, thus have become more homogeneous globally. The differences between the foods eaten in different countries were reduced by 68% between 1961 and 2009; the modern "global standard" diet contains an large percentage of a small number of major staple commodity crops, which have increased in the share of the total food energy, protein and food weight that they provide to the world's human population, including wheat, sugar, soybean, palm oil, sunflower. Whereas nations used to consume greater proportions of locally or regionally important crops, wheat has become a staple in over 97% of countries, with the other global staples showing similar dominance worldwide. Other crops have declined over the same period, including rye, sweet potato, coconut and millets. Within-crop diversity, a specific crop can result from various growing conditions, for example a crop growing in nutrient-poor soil is to have stunted growth than a crop growing in more fertile soil.
The availability of water, soil pH level, temperature influence crop growth. In addition, diversity of a harvested plant can be the result of genetic differences: a crop may have genes conferring early maturity or disease resistance Such traits collectively determine a crop's overall characteristics and their future potential. Diversity within a crop includes genetically-influenced attributes such as seed size, branching pattern, flower color, fruiting time, flavor. Crops can vary in less obvious characteristics such as their response to heat, cold, a drought, or their ability to resist specific diseases and pests. Modern plant breeders develop new crop varieties to meet specific conditions. A new variety might, for example, be higher yielding, more disease resistant or have a longer shelf life than the varieties from which it was bred; the practical use of crop diversity goes back to early agricultural methods of crop rotation and fallow fields, where planting and harvesting one type of crop on a plot of land one year, planting a different crop on that same plot the next year.
This takes advantage of differences in a plant's nutrient needs, but more reduces the buildup of pathogens. Both farmers and scientists must continually draw on the irreplaceable resource of genetic diversity to ensure productive harvests. While genetic variability provides farmers with plants that have a higher resilience to pests and diseases and allows scientists access to a more diverse genome than can be found in selected crops; the breeding of monocultural crops reduces genetic diversity as desirable traits are selected, undesirable traits are removed. Farmers can increase within-crop diversity to some extent by planting mixtures of crop varieties. Agricultural ecosystems function as self-regulating systems provided they have sufficient biodiversity of plants and animals. Apart from producing food and fibre, agroecosystem functions include recycling nutrients, maintaining soil fertility, regulating microclimate, regulating water flow, controlling pests