Short History of Agriculture

Agriculture appeared about 10 000 years ago in one of the regions of the Middle East: south of Palestine, north of Syria and Mesopotamia. In the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, primitive long-fallow (slash-and-burn) agriculture was replaced by three-field agriculture; in the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, the modern industrial (high-input) agriculture appeared in many countries. The history of agriculture is, first of all, the history of restoration and improvement of soil fertility. At first, it was restored by natural processes during the fallow stage; then, due to the application of organic fertilizers; and presently, at the expense of mineral and organic fertilizers and other inputs. These changes made it possible to increase agricultural production from 25 to 145 x 109Jha-1yr-1 and more (Table 1). But this increase has been accompanied by a decrease in agricultural effectiveness (the output/input ratio). This phenomenon can be referred to as 'the ecology-energy law of agricultural development'.

In the middle of the twentieth century, the 'green revolution' - the rapid development of agricultural technologies, irrigation, the selection of new effective strains of plant and animal species, and the increasing application of fertilizers and pesticides - led to a considerable growth of agricultural productivity. For example, in 1952-72, wheat yields in Mexico increased by 3 times (from 0.88 to 2.72 tha-1).

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