what is agriculture, definition of agriculture

There are many online queries on what is agriculture although its history started more than 10,000 years ago. I used to think that this is quite amazing because the word agriculture is of common usage.

On second thought, I now realize that this seemingly high interest in clarifying the term is justified in view of its large coverage, its varied application as a science, practice, business, and for other purposes including legal matters, and with new technologies and specialized fields continuously added into its fold.

I use one definition as a compressed answer to that main question What is Agriculture? It is thus described as both an art and a science (needs skill and founded on scientifically verified facts) and thus includes specialized disciplines; the words “growing” and “raising” are descriptive of enterprise, activity or practice. It has two main divisions: plant or crop production and animal or livestock production; and it’s ultimate purpose is for food production, other human needs such as clothing, medicines, tools, artistic display, dwelling, and feed for animals, or for economic gain or profit. 

Here's the definition:

"Agriculture is the art and science of growing plants and other crops and raising animals for food, other human needs, or economic gain." 

The whole structure combines two descriptive introductory clauses: (1) "the art and science of growing plants and other crops" and (2) "the art and science of raising animals". The purpose clause "for food, other human needs, or economic gain" applies to both divisions of agriculture.

What is agriculture? It is many things, in the same way that farming has many meaning.There can be no exacting definition for everyone. Photo of a portion of a large pineapple plantation shows that agriculture is a business too.

Review of Other Definitions of Agriculture

It is admitted that no definition can be exacting for everybody and for all purposes. Nevertheless, I find this elucidation on what is agriculture specially convenient where its coverage is limited to crop production (agronomy and horticulture) and livestock production even knowing that some definitions include fisheries, forestry, and other activities. Further, the science of agriculture is dynamic.

Considering that the simplest way to answer the question What is Agriculture? is to provide a definition, here are some from various authorities:

Definitions of Agriculture from Book Authors

1. Agriculture is the systematic raising of useful plants and livestock under the management of man (Rimando, T.J.. 2004. Crop Science 1: Fundamentals of Crop Science. U.P. Los Baños: University Publications Office. p. 1).

2. Agriculture is the growing of both plants and animals for human needs (Abellanosa, A.L. and H.M. Pava. 1987. Introduction to Crop Science. Central Mindanao University, Musuan, Bukidnon: Publications Office. p. 238).

3. Agriculture is the deliberate effort to modify a portion of Earth's surface through the cultivation of crops and the raising of livestock for sustenance or economic gain. (Rubenstein, J.M. 2003. The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography. 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. p. 496).

Legal Meanings and Scope

4. Agriculture includes farming in all branches and, among other things, includes the cultivation and tillage of soil, dairying, the production, cultivation, growing and harvesting of any agricultural and horticultural commodities, the raising of livestock or poultry, and any practices performed by a farmer on a farm as an incident to or in conjunction with such farming operations, but does not include the manufacturing or processing of sugar, coconuts, abaca, tobacco, pineapple or other farm products. (Art. 97 (d), Chapter I, Title II, Labor Code of the Philippines).

5. Agriculture, Agricultural Enterprise or Agricultural Activity means the cultivation of the soil, planting of crops, growing of fruit trees, including the harvesting of such farm products, and other farm activities and practices performed by a farmer in conjunction with such farming operations done by persons whether natural or juridical. (Sec. 3b, Chapter I, Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 (R.A. No. 6657 as amended by R. A. 7881), Philippines. Retrieved September 2, 2010 from http://www.chanrobles.com/legal4agrarianlaw. htm.

More on What is Agriculture: Definitions from Court Decisions

6. “Farming” or “agriculture” shall include farming in all of its branches and the cultivation and tillage of the soil, dairying, the production, cultivation, growing and harvesting of any agricultural, aquacultural, floricultural or horticultural commodities, the growing and harvesting of forest products upon forest land, the raising of livestock including horses, the keeping of horses as a commercial enterprise, the keeping and raising of poultry, swine, cattle and other domesticated animals used for food purposes, bees, fur-bearing animals, and any forestry or lumbering operations, performed by a farmer, who is hereby defined as one engaged in agriculture or farming as herein defined, or on a farm as an incident to or in conjunction with such farming operations, including preparations for market, delivery to storage or to market or to carriers for transportation to market. (Sec. 1a, Chapter 128, M.G.L. Retrieved September 2, 2010 from http://www.mass.gov/legis/mgl/128-1a. htm).

7. Agricuture is the science of cultivating the soil, harvesting crops, and raising livestock and also as the science or art of the production of plants and animals useful to man and in varying degrees the preparation of such products for man's use and their disposal. Miller v. Dixon, 176 Neb. 659, 127 N.W.2d 203, 206 (Black, HC. 1990. Black's Law Dictionary: Definitions of the Terms and Phrases of American and English Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modern. 6th ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing Co. p. 68).

8. Agriculture includes farming in all its branches and among other things includes the cultivation and tillage of the soil, dairying, the production, cultivation, growing, and harvesting of any agricultural or horticultural commodities, the raising of livestock or poultry, and any practices performed by a farmer on a farm as an incident to or in conjunction with some farming operations, but does not include the manufacturing or processing of sugar, coconuts, abaca, tobacco, pineapples or other farm products. (Rileco, Inc. v. Mindanao Congress of Labor-Ramie United Workers’ Assn., 26 SCRA 224 [1968]. It also includes production activities involving the use of saltbeds. (Lapina v. CAR, 21 SCRA 194 [1967]). (Agpalo, R.E. 1997. Agpalo’s Legal Words and Phrases. Mla., Phils.: Rex Book Store. pp. 33-34).

Summation on the Meaning and Concept of Agriculture

The first 3 are scientific and practical definitions while numbered 4 to 8 are legal definitions and meaning of agriculture. These last 5 give more details on what is agriculture by enumerating the activities covered by the enterprise or practice. That contending parties have found the necessity to elevate to the Court controversies in relation to what is agriculture only underscores the uncertainty relating to the term. The following conclusion can be derived from these definitions and statement of scope:

1. Agriculture is an enterprise or business, activity or practice. It is synonymous to farming.

2. The practice of agriculture is based on systematized body of knowledge (science) and requires skill (art).

3. Agriculture often involves the cultivation of the soil to grow plants and the raising of animals for human needs. The words “crops” and “livestock” are also used. However, both words are special or technical terms. “Crops" should clearly mean plants (with exceptions, as in mushroom) which are useful to man (read Agricultural Crops Classifications) while “livestock” applies to both domesticated animals and poultry. However, cultivation which essentially involves disturbing the soil does not apply to crop production systems using soil-less media, as in hydroponics.

4. Agriculture is practiced for the purpose of producing food and other human needs such as clothing, shelter, medicines, weapons, tools, ornaments, and indefinitely many more including livestock feed. It is likewise practiced as a business for economic gain. The ultimate purpose is essentially important in clarifying what is agriculture.

The above enumerated dissect should provide the conceptual answer to the question What is Agriculture?

Big Revamp on What is Agriculture

This page may be one, if not the most, important content of this site. After all, this site is about agriculture or farming. This page is the very foundation of this site. It has to stand erect, robust and strong to be able to carry the heavy load of content that it carries. It has to withstand the ravages of time and remain unblemished for eternity. It ought to remain alive and proud even with the lapse of its maker. 

I've thought of this page, therefore, since the making of this site. I've thought in particular of that question What is agriculture? It's the same as asking What is cropsreview.com? And also, Who and What is its maker?

And so I've thought what indeed should be the right definition of agriculture? For I confess, that definition I gave above bothers me. Yes it bothers me no end. There's something there which does not appeal exacting to my senses.

It bothers me too that changing it may injure the reputation I worked so hard to achieve. But no, my practice of self criticism even convinced me to be more honest, more revealing. For educators should be more humble and always try to correct what has been done wrong if there be any. Or seek betterment.

I've thought of this modified definition for months. And now, at this very moment before the day changes, I finally decide that it is so much better, more concise, more inclusive of scope, more easier to comprehend, and more properly syntaxed without making any conceptual change.

For those who did read this long page in its entirety with complete diligence, for you who spent so much of your precious time engaging in a strenuous descent, for you who finally managed to arrive at this very bottom truly searching for knowledge, congratulations! Welcome and be refreshed with this proposed definition of agriculture:

Agriculture is the science and practice of producing plants, other crops, and animals for food, other human needs, or economic gain. 

(Ben G. Bareja 2010, edited Apr. 26, 2019)

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