Meaning of Agriculture

Agriculture is the most comprehensive word. It means the many ways in which crop plants and domestic animals sustain the global human population by providing food and other products. Thus, The English word agriculture came from the Latin ager (field) and colo (cultivate). And when you combine them, the Latin agricultura: means field or land tillage.

Describing Agriculture

But the word has come to be a very wide spectrum of activities. And are integral to agriculture and have their own descriptive terms. This terms are cultivation, domestication, horticulture, arboriculture, and vegeculture. As well as forms of livestock management such as mixed crop-livestock farming, pastoralism, and transhumance.

Also,  words such as incipient, proto, shifting, extensive, and intensive frequently qualified the term agriculture. The precise meaning of which is not self-evident. Many different attributes define particular forms of Agriculture. Like such terms as soil type, frequency of cultivation, and principal crops or animals. The term agriculture is occasionally restricted to crop cultivation. Because it excluded the raising of domestic animals. Although it usually implies both activities.

Other definitions

The Oxford English Dictionary (1971) defines agriculture very broadly as. “The science and art of cultivating the soil. Including the allied pursuits of gathering of the crops and rearing of livestock (sic), tillage, husbandry, farming. (in the widest sense).”

Types of Agriculture


This an activity of the humans. Where they directly take part in the management of the lives and life cycles of certain plants. In abstract terms, this is the change from a largely extractive approach to subsistence (collecting). Towards a highly regulative one (Ellen 1994), with seasonal scheduling of labor for delayed returns and storable product. So, In practice cultivation involves manipulation of soil, water, and other components of the plant environment. Thus, At its most basic, it involves sowing of seeds into soil which has been clear of other vegetation. In low-intensity systems, this may come about through burning of vegetation (slash and burn). Or by taking advantage of fresh deposits of silt by river floods. (e.g., décrue agriculture; Harlan & Pasquereau 1969). It usually involves preparation of the soil by tillage. Tillage methods and tools vary from simple handheld devices (digging sticks, spades, hoes) to team-employed tools, such as the Andean “foot-plough,” to animal-powered and true ploughs (Steensburg 1986). Other important variables include the addition of nutrients to the soil e.g by manuring, multiple cropping with nitrogen-fixing species (usually legumes of the family Fabaceae), or using crop rotations with legumes or fallow periods. This represents an important component of cultivation, i.e., scheduling the seasons of sowing and harvesting and inter-annual patterns in crop rotation and fallowing.


Domestication is a biological phenomenon, that is, by traits in crops that result from adaptation to cultivation and by which they differ from close wild relatives. Agriculturist recognized Several recurrent “domestication syndromes” as sets of characters that define domesticated crops and characterized domestication as a form of convergent evolution under cultivation (Fuller 2007). The domestication syndrome differs for different kinds of crop plants, according primarily to how they are reproduced, by seed or by cuttings, and what plant organ is the target of selection (grain, fruit, or tuber).

Mixed Crop-Livestock Farming

One of the most significant variables in the historical differentiation of agricultural systems is whether the farmers fully integrated the domestic livestock with the processes of crop cultivation as beasts of burden and agents of soil fertilization as well as producers of food. Such systems of “mixed farming” or “agro pastoralism” that the farmers developed early in only a few regions.

They did so most comprehensively in Southwest Asia (and later in Europe) where they domesticate herd animals – cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs – and raised them in close conjunction with wheat, barley, and other cereal and pulse crops as producers of meat, milk, hides, hair, wool, and dung and as traction animals used for ploughing, load-bearing, and other purposes (Harris 2002). A comparable system of mixed farming evolved in East and Southeast Asia where water buffaloes became an integral component of the system of wet-rice (padi) cultivation (Hoffpauir 2000), although this may have been millennia after rice had spread throughout China and much of Southeast Asia (Fuller et al. 2011).


Horticulture has two contrasted connotations in the literature on traditional agricultural systems and the origins of agriculture. The first relates directly to the origin of the word from the Latin hortus, meaning garden (juxtaposed to ager, field), and in this literal sense it refers to the cultivation of plots of land adjacent or quite close to the houses of the cultivators. Such gardens are normally smaller than fields. But which are usually located farther from their associated settlements.


The term arboriculture, from arbor the Latin for tree, is used to specify agricultural systems which focus exclusively or largely on the cultivation of trees and shrubs for the production of fruits and seeds and, in some species, also for ancillary products such as wood for construction and leaves for thatch, fiber, etc. The term, which is sometimes equated with agroforestry, refers mainly to the specialized cultivation of fruit- and nut-bearing trees and shrubs in single- or mixed-species orchards and plantations. It can refer also to plantations of trees for timber production, although this process is more usually described as forestry.


The word vegeculture describe agricultural systems that produce mainly root and tuber Crops. These are Crops with underground storage organs consisting of starch-rich roots, root and stem tubers, corms, and rhizomes.

The process of vegeculture

A farmer can reproduce these crops asexually by planting pieces of a parent plant. The piece should be like part of tubers, stem cuttings, or sprouts, rather than being grown from seed. Vegetative reproduction made possible the domestication of tuberous plants by replicating the characteristics of parent clones and then selecting and multiplying useful phenotypic variations that arose in planted stock, such as unusually large or smooth-skinned tubers. The process did not involve directional genotypic change from wild progenitor to domesticate as occurred in seed-crop domestication. Root and tuber domestication has taken place within the limits of phenotypic variation determined by an unaltered genotype, but morphological changes under domestication have nevertheless been substantial, for example, decreased flowering and in tubers changes towards greater size and starch content and reduction in bitterness and in the numbers and length of thorns.



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