Agriculture is the practice and science of cultivating land and raising crops, animals and fungi to sustain human life. Agriculture is practiced for a variety of purposes including raising animals and crops for food, textiles, fiber and biofuel. The terms “farming” and “agriculture” are closely related.
Agricultural practices first arose 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent. At that time, humans began developing and implementing irrigation, domestication, crop rotation and fertilization. During the Middle Ages, Muslims greatly expanded upon these practices by developing farming machines, writing farming manuals, and bringing crops to Europe. With the advent of steam power and pragmatic farming techniques, the Industrial Revolution expanded the size, scope, technology and productivity of farms. This paved the way for major strides in agricultural advancement in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Agriculture is strongly intertwined with the world economy, livelihood of the world’s poor and biodiversity conservation. Agriculture uses more than half of the Earth’s habitable land, employs more than one billion people and produces goods worth one trillion dollars annually. It’s also the biggest user of water, accounting for almost 70% of global withdrawals, and up to 95% in developing countries (FAO, 2006). Furthermore, pesticide and fertilizer use on agricultural crops lead to widespread ecological degradation. Estimates indicate that up to 40,000 lives are lost around the world each year due to improper pesticide application and handling (WHO, 2002).
Today, India ranks second worldwide in farm output. Agriculture and allied sectors like forestry and fisheries accounted for 16.6 % of the GDP in 2009, about 50 % of the total workforce. The economic contribution of agriculture to India’s GDP is steadily declining with the country’s broad-based economic growth. Still, agriculture is demographically the broadest economic sector and plays a significant role in the overall socio-economic fabric of India.