Food and agriculture
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Food and Agriculture. History and Types of Agriculture. Demand-based agriculture - production determined by economic demand and limited by classical economic supply and demand theory. This approach became common during the industrial revolution.

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Food and Agriculture

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Food and agriculture

Food and Agriculture

History and types of agriculture

History and Types of Agriculture

Demand-based agriculture - production determined by economic demand and limited by classical economic supply and demand theory. This approach became common during the industrial revolution.

Resource-based agriculture - production determined by resource availability; economic demand usually exceeds production. This approach was the original type of farming 10,000 years ago. Modern approaches are very high tech and somewhat more expensive.

Plant food sources

Plant Food Sources

  • 250,000 plant species Þ

  • 3000 tried as crops Þ

  • 300 grown for food Þ

  • 100 species used on large scale for food Þ

  • 15 to 20 species provide vast majority (90%) of man’s food needs

  • It takes about 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of edible meat

  • Largest crop volumes provided by: wheat, rice, corn, potatoes, barley

    • Wheat and rice supply ~60% of human caloric intake

Other plant food sources



Sweet Potato

Cassava (source of tapioca)






Other Plant Food Sources

  • Peanut

  • Watermelon

  • Cabbage

  • Onion

  • Bean

  • Pea

  • Sunflower Seed

  • Mango

  • Millet

  • Banana

  • Tomato

  • Sugar Beet

  • Rye

  • Orange

  • Coconut

  • Cottonseed

  • Apple

  • Yam

Types of crops

Types of Crops

  • Cash crops vs. subsistence crops

    • cash crops may provide non-food products (latex)

    • provide products which do not make up our primary nutrition (tea, coffee)



  • Ecosystem created by agricultural practices

    • characterized by low

      • Genetic diversity

      • Species diversity

      • Habitat diversity



Agroecosystems differ from natural ecosystems in five major ways:

  • Farming attempts to stop ecological succession

  • Species diversity is low

    • farmers usually practice monoculture

    • monoculture tends to ß soil fertility

  • Farmers plant species (crops) in an orderly fashion - this can make pest control more difficult

  • Food chains are far more simple in agroecosystems

  • Plowing is like no other natural disturbance

    • plowing can Ý erosion

    • cause more nutrient loss (which is replaced by fertilizer)

World food supply and the environment

World Food Supply and the Environment

  • Our current food problem is the result of our human population

  • Food production depends upon favorable environmental conditions

  • Agriculture changes the environment - such changes can be detrimental

  • Food supply can be adversely affected by social unrest that influence agriculture

Grain production

Grain Production

  • Grain production increased from 631 to 1780 million metric tons from 1950 to 1990.

  • Has leveled off since then

  • Top five countries in order of producing the most amount of grain are:

    • China

    • United States

    • India

    • Canada

    • Ukraine



·domesticated livestock (sheep, pigs, chickens, cattle) are an important food source for humans

·ruminants (four-chambered stomachs) contain bacteria that can convert plant tissue to animal protein/fat Þ hence, plant material originally unusable for man is converted into food sources that can be ingested by man

Food and agriculture

Wilkes, Angela. My first word board book. (1999) DK Publishing, NY.

Meat sources

Meat Sources

  • About 90% of all meat and milk are consumed by United States, Europe and Japan which constitute only 20% of world population

  • About 90% of the grain grown in the United States is used for animal feed

  • 16 kg of grain Þ 1 kg of meat

    • By eating grain instead would get 20 times the calories and 8 times the protein

Malnutrition and famines

Malnutrition and Famines

  • One quarter of the human population is malnourished

    • Sub-Saharan Africa (~225 million)

    • East and Southeast Asia (~275 million)

    • South Asia (~250 million)

    • Parts of Latin America

Malnutrition famines


  • Stem from not enough calories per day in addition to not getting the necessary amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, lipids (fats), minerals, and vitamins

  • Generally diets are high in starches

  • Famine conditions

    • Major droughts-- Political instability

    • Population sizes-- Land Seizures

    • Massive immigration-- Pestilence

    • Floods-- Distribution breakdown

    • Wars--Panic buying

    • Chaos in economy-- Hoarding

Limits on food production

Limits on Food Production

·arable land



·Climate change

Methods to increase food supply

Methods to Increase Food Supply

  • Improved irrigation and utilization of water

    • Drip irrigation

  • Increasing arable land

    • Difficult because of precipitation and temperature

  • Eating lower on the food chain

    • Most rangeland is not arable and humans cannot utilize grass/hay as food; therefore, this argument is not considered valid

Methods to increase food supply1

Methods to Increase Food Supply

  • Food distribution modification

    • Today distribution of food is a major problem in Africa/Asia

    • Best solution: teach locals how to best utilize their land with appropriate technology so they can attempt to support themselves and not rely on others.

Food and agriculture

New vs. Old


Soil resources

Soil Resources

  • What is Soil?

  • Ways We Use and Abuse Soil

  • Erosion

How much land is arable

How much Land is Arable?

Pests and pesticides

Pests and Pesticides

The problem with chemicals

The problem with chemicals

  • Groundwater contamination

  • Effects of low concentrations?

  • Bioaccumulation and Biomagnification

Pesticides pro and con

Kill unwanted pests that carry disease (rats, mosquitoes, Tse-Tse flies)

Increase food supplies

More food means food is less expensive

Effective and fast-acting

Newer pesticides are safer, more specific

Reduces labor costs on farms

Food looks better

Agriculture is more profitable

Accumulate in food chain

Pests develop resistance – 500 species so far

Resistance creates pesticide treadmill

Estimates are $5-10 in damage done for $1 spent on pesticide

Pesticide runoff

Destroy bees - $200 million

Threaten endangered species

Affect egg shell of birds

5% actually reach pest

~20,000 human deaths/year

Pesticides Pro and Con

Types of pesticides

Types of Pesticides

  • Biological – Ladybugs, parasitic wasps, etc.

  • Carbamates effect nervous system of pests more water soluble than chlorinated hydrocarbons

    • Aldicarb, aminocarb, carbaryl (Sevin), carbofuran, Mirex

  • Chlorinated Hydrocarbons affect nervous system –

    • Aldrin, Chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, lindane and paradichlorobenzene

  • Fumigants are used to sterilize soil and prevent grain infestation

Types of pesticides1

Types of Pesticides

  • Inorganic – arsenic, copper, lead, mercury

    • Highly toxic and bioaccumulation

  • Organic or natural – derived from plants such as tobacco and chrysanthemum

  • Organophosphates – extremely toxic, low persistence

    • Malathion, parthion, chlophyrifos, acepate, propetamphos and trichlofon

Pesticide protection laws in the u s

Pesticide Protection Laws in the U.S.

  • Government regulation has banned a number of harmful pesticides but some scientists call for strengthening pesticide laws.

    • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate the sales of pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

    • The EPA has only evaluated the health effects of 10% of the active ingredients of all pesticides.

Food and agriculture

What Can You Do?

Reducing Exposure to Pesticides

• Grow some of your food using organic methods.

• Buy organic food.

• Wash and scrub all fresh fruits, vegetables, and wild foods you pick.

• Eat less or no meat.

• Trim the fat from meat.

Fig. 13-30, p. 299

Integrated pest management

Integrated Pest Management

  • Some practices for preventing pest damage may include

    • inspecting crops and monitoring crops for damage

    • using mechanical trapping devices

    • natural predators (e.g., insects that eat other insects)

    • insect growth regulators

    • mating disruption substances (pheromones)

    • if necessary, chemical pesticides

Parts of ipm

Parts of IPM

Polyculture instead of monoculture

Intercropping – alternate rows of crops that have different pests

Planting pest-repellent crops

Mulch to control weeds

Natural insect predators – ladybugs, preying mantis, birds

Rotating crops to disrupt insect cycles

Using Pheromones to attract insects to traps

Releasing sterilized insects

Food and agriculture


Sustainable Organic Agriculture



High-yield polyculture

Soil erosion

Soil salinization

Organic fertilizers

Aquifer depletion

Biological pest control



Integrated pest management

Loss of biodiversity

Efficient irrigation

Loss of prime cropland

Perennial crops

Food waste

Crop rotation

Subsidies for unsustainable farming and fishing

Water-efficient crops

Soil conservation

Population growth

Subsidies for sustainable farming and fishing


Fig. 13-33, p. 302

Sustainable agriculture

Sustainable Agriculture

  • Results of 22 year study comparing organic and conventional farming.

Figure 13-34

Food and agriculture


Organic Farming

Improves soil fertility

Reduces soil erosion

Retains more water in soil during drought years

Uses about 30% less energy per unit of yield

Lowers CO2 emissions

Reduces water pollution from recycling livestock wastes

Eliminates pollution from pesticides

Increases biodiversity above and below ground

Benefits wildlife such as birds and bats

Fig. 13-34, p. 302

Food and agriculture

What Can You Do?

Sustainable Organic Agriculture

• Waste less food

• Eat less or no meat

• Feed pets balanced grain foods instead of meat

• Use organic farming to grow some of your food

• Buy organic food

• Eat locally grown food

• Compost food wastes

Fig. 13-35, p. 303

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