Agricultural science is a broad multidisciplinary field that encompasses the parts of exact, natural, economic and social sciences that are used in the practice and understanding of agriculture. (Veterinary science, but not animal science, is often excluded from the definition.)
Agriculture and agricultural scienceThe two terms are often confused. However, they cover different concepts:
- Agriculture is the set of activities that transform the environment for the production of animals and plants for human use. Agriculture concerns techniques, including the application of agronomic research.
- Agronomy is research and development related to studying and improving plant-based agriculture.
Agricultural sciences include research and development on:
- Production techniques (e.g., irrigation management, recommended nitrogen inputs)
- Improving agricultural productivity in terms of quantity and quality (e.g., selection of drought-resistant crops and animals, development of new pesticides, yield-sensing technologies, simulation models of crop growth, in-vitro cell culture techniques)
- Transformation of primary products into end-consumer products (e.g., production, preservation, and packaging of dairy products)
- Prevention and correction of adverse environmental effects (e.g., soil degradation, waste management, bioremediation)
- Theoretical production ecology, relating to crop production modeling
- traditional agricultural systems, sometime termed subsistence agriculture, which feed most of the poorest people in the world. These systems are of interest as they sometimes retain a level of integration with natural ecological greater than that of industrial agriculture, which in may be more sustainable than some modern agricultural systems
- Food production and demand on a global basis, with special attention paid to the major producers, such as China, India, Brazil and the USA.
Agricultural science: a local science
With the exception of theoretical agronomy, research in agronomy, more than in any other field, is strongly related to local areas. It can be considered a science of ecoregions, because it is closely linked to soil properties and climate, which are never exactly the same from one place to another. Many people think an agricultural production system relying on local weather, soil characteristics, and specific crops has to be studied locally. Others feel a need to know and understand production systems in as many areas as possible, and the human dimension of interaction with nature.
History of agricultural science
Agricultural science is seen by some to have began with Mendel's genetic work, but in modern terms might be better dated from the chemical fertilizer outputs of plant physiological understanding in eighteenth century Germany. Today it is very different from what it was even in 1950. Intensification of agriculture since the 1960s in developed and developing countries, often referred to as the Green Revolution, was closely tied to progress made in selecting and improving crops and animals for high productivity, as well as to developing additional inputs such as artificial fertilizers and phytosanitary products.
As the oldest and largest human intervention in nature, the environmental impact of agriculture in general and more recently intensive agriculture, industrial development, and population growth have raised many questions among agricultural scientists and have led to the development and emergence of new fields. These include technological fields that assume the solution to technological problems lies in better technology, such as integrated pest management, waste treatment technologies, landscape architecture, genomics, and agricultural philosophy fields that include references to food production as something essentially different from non-essential economic 'goods'. In fact, the interaction between these two approaches provide a fertile field for deeper understanding in agricultural science.
New technologies, such as biotechnology and computer science (for data processing and storage), and technological advances have made it possible to develop new research fields, including genetic engineering, agrophysics, improved statistical analysis, and precision farming. Balancing these, as above, are the natural and human sciences of agricultural science that seek to understand the human-nature interactions of traditional agriculture, including interaction of religion and agriculture, and the non-material components of agricultural production systems.
Prominent agricultural scientists
Agricultural science and agriculture crisisAgriculture sciences seek to feed the world's population while preventing biosafety problems that may affect human health and the environment. This requires promoting good management of natural resources and respect for the environment, and increasingly concern for the psychological wellbeing of all concerned in the food production and consumption system.
Economic, environmental, and social aspects of agriculture sciences are subjects of ongoing debate. Recent crises (such as Avian Flu, mad cow disease and issues such as the use of genetically modified organisms) illustrate the complexity and importance of this debate.
Fields or related disciplines
- Agricultural economics
- Agricultural engineering
- Agricultural philosophy
- Agricultural plant science
- Soil science
- Biosystems engineering
- Environmental science
- Food science
- Irrigation and water management
- Animal science
- Plant fertilization, animal and human nutrition
- Plant protection and animal health
- Water science
- Biotechnology, genetic engineering, and microbiology
- Waste management
- Theoretical production ecology
- Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)
- Indian Council of Agricultural Research
- International Institute of Tropical Agriculture
- International Livestock Research Institute
- The National Agricultural Library (NAL) - The most comprehensive agricultural library in the world.
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- Russell E. Walter, Soil conditions and plant growth, Longman group, London, New York 1973
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- Smil Vaclav, General energetics. Energy in the biosphere and civilisation, Wiley, New York 1991
- Vavilov Nicolai I. (Starr Chester K. editor), The Origin, Variation, Immunity and Breeding of Cultivated Plants. Selected Writings, in Chronica botanica, 13: 1-6, Waltham, Mass., 1949-50
- Vavilov Nicolai I., World Resources of Cereals, Leguminous Seed Crops and Flax, Academy of Sciences of Urss, National Science Foundation, Washington, Israel Program for Scientific Translations, Jerusalem 1960
- Winogradsky Serge, Microbiologie du sol. Problèmes et methodes. Cinquante ans de recherches, Masson & c.ie, Paris 1949
agriculturalist in Bulgarian: Аграрни науки
agriculturalist in Danish: Agronomi
agriculturalist in German: Agrarwissenschaft
agriculturalist in French: Agronomie
agriculturalist in Indonesian: Agronomi
agriculturalist in Italian: Agronomia
agriculturalist in Hebrew: אגרונומיה
agriculturalist in Dutch: Landbouwkunde
agriculturalist in Japanese: 農学
agriculturalist in Polish: Agronomia
agriculturalist in Russian: Агрономия
agriculturalist in Finnish: Maataloustiede
agriculturalist in Swedish: Lantbruksvetenskap
agriculturalist in Thai: เกษตรศาสตร์
agriculturalist in Chinese: 农业科学