Agriculture is the practice of farming and animal husbandry (raising plants or animals for human use). The word comes from the Latin ager, meaning "a field," together with the Latin cultura, meaning "cultivation," in the sense of "tillage of the soil." A literal reading of the English word yields: tillage of the soil of a field. 
|Top agricultural products |
by (million metric tons) 2004 data
|Vegetables and melons||866|
|Roots and Tubers||715|
|Fish (2001 estimate)||130|
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
The work of agricultural and food scientists plays an important part in maintaining food supply by ensuring agricultural productivity and food safety. Agricultural scientists study farm crops and animals and develop ways of improving their quantity and quality. They look for ways to improve crop yield with less labor, control pests and weeds more safely and effectively, and conserve soil and water. They research methods of converting raw agricultural commodities into attractive and healthy food products for consumers. Some agricultural scientists look for ways to use agricultural products for fuels.
- Main Article: Biotechnology
In the past two decades, rapid advances in the study of genetics have spurred the growth of biotechnology. Some agricultural and food scientists use biotechnology to manipulate the genetic material of plants and crops, attempting to make these organisms more productive or resistant to disease. Advances in biotechnology have opened up research opportunities in many areas of agricultural and food science, including commercial applications in agriculture, environmental remediation, and the food industry. Interest in the production of biofuels, or fuels manufactured from agricultural derivatives, has also increased. Some agricultural scientists work with biologists and chemists to develop processes for turning crops into energy sources, such as ethanol produced from corn.
Another emerging technology expected to affect agriculture is nanotechnology—a molecular manufacturing technology which promises to revolutionize methods of testing agricultural and food products for contamination or spoilage. Some food scientists are using nanotechnology to develop sensors that can quickly and accurately detect contaminant molecules in food.
Many agricultural scientists work in basic or applied research and development. Basic research seeks to understand the biological and chemical processes by which crops and livestock grow, such as determining the role of a particular gene in plant growth. Applied research uses this knowledge to discover mechanisms to improve the quality, quantity, or safety of agricultural products. Other agricultural scientists manage or administer research and development programs, or manage marketing or production operations in companies that produce food products or agricultural chemicals, supplies, and machinery. Some agricultural scientists are consultants to business firms, private clients, or government.
Depending on the agricultural or food scientist’s area of specialization, the nature of the work performed varies.
Food scientists and technologists usually work in the food processing industry, universities, or the Federal Government to create and improve food products. They use their knowledge of chemistry, physics, engineering, microbiology, biotechnology, and other sciences to develop new or better ways of preserving, processing, packaging, storing, and delivering foods. Some food scientists engage in basic research, discovering new food sources; analyzing food content to determine levels of vitamins, fat, sugar, or protein; or searching for substitutes for harmful or undesirable additives, such as nitrites. Others engage in applied research, finding ways to improve the content of food or to remove harmful additives. They also develop ways to process, preserve, package, or store food according to industry and government regulations. Traditional food processing research into baking, blanching, canning, drying, evaporation, and pasteurization also continues. Other food scientists enforce government regulations, inspecting food processing areas and ensuring that sanitation, safety, quality, and waste management standards are met.
Food technologists generally work in product development, applying the findings from food science research to improve the selection, preservation, processing, packaging, and distribution of food.
- Main Article: Botany
Plant scientists study plants, helping producers of food, feed, and fiber crops to feed a growing population and conserve natural resources. Agronomists and crop scientists not only help increase productivity, but also study ways to improve the nutritional value of crops and the quality of seed, often through biotechnology. Some crop scientists study the breeding, physiology, and management of crops and use genetic engineering to develop crops resistant to pests and drought. Some plant scientists develop new technologies to control or eliminate pests and prevent their spread in ways appropriate to the specific environment. They also conduct research or oversee activities to halt the spread of insect-borne disease.
Soil scientists study the chemical, physical, biological, and mineralogical composition of soils as it relates to plant growth. They also study the responses of various soil types to fertilizers, tillage practices, and crop rotation. Many soil scientists who work for the Federal Government conduct soil surveys, classifying and mapping soils. They provide information and recommendations to farmers and other landowners regarding the best use of land and plants to avoid or correct problems, such as erosion. They may also consult with engineers and other technical personnel working on construction projects about the effects of, and solutions to, soil problems. Because soil science is closely related to environmental science, persons trained in soil science also work to ensure environmental quality and effective land use.
- Main Article: Zoology
Animal scientists work to develop better, more efficient ways of producing and processing meat, poultry, eggs, and milk. Dairy scientists, poultry scientists, animal breeders, and other scientists in related fields study the genetics, nutrition, reproduction, and growth of domestic farm animals. Some animal scientists inspect and grade livestock food products, purchase livestock, or work in technical sales or marketing. As extension agents or consultants, animal scientists advise agricultural producers on how to upgrade animal housing facilities properly, lower mortality rates, handle waste matter, or increase production of animal products, such as milk or eggs.
Origin of Agriculture
The basis for using plants and animals for human purposes is in Genesis 1:26-28
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return. Genesis 3:17-19
The first direct historical record of agriculture is from Genesis 4:1,2 :
Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man." Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.
At this time, man was not yet authorized to eat animal meat, but animals were still raised for other purposes, such as burnt offerings:
In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. Genesis 4:3-5a
It was only after the Global Flood that man was allowed to eat the meat of animals:
"The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything." Genesis 9:2,3
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAOSTAT) 2007-10-11
- Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition: Agricultural and Food Scientists by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.