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Agricultural science

Agricultural science is a broad multidisciplinary field that encompasses the parts of exact, natural, economic and social sciences that are used in the practice and understanding of agriculture. (Veterinary science, but not animal science, is often excluded from the definition.)

Agriculture and agricultural science

The two terms are often confused. However, they cover different concepts:

  • Agriculture is the set of activities that transform the environment for the production of animals and plants for human use. Agriculture concerns techniques, including the application of agronomic research.
  • Agronomy is research and development related to studying and improving plant-based agriculture.

Agricultural sciences include research and development on:

  • Production techniques (e.g., irrigation management, recommended nitrogen inputs)
  • Improving agricultural productivity in terms of quantity and quality (e.g., selection of drought-resistant crops and animals, development of new pesticides, yield-sensing technologies, simulation models of crop growth, in-vitro cell culture techniques)
  • Transformation of primary products into end-consumer products (e.g., production, preservation, and packaging of dairy products)
  • Prevention and correction of adverse

Agricultural science: a local science

With the exception of theoretical agronomy, research in agronomy, more than in any other field, is strongly related to local areas. It can be considered a science of ecoregions, because it is closely linked to soil properties and climate, which are never exactly the same from one place to another. Many people think an agricultural production system relying on local weather, soil characteristics, and specific crops has to be studied locally. Others feel a need to know and understand production systems in as many areas as possible, and the human dimension of interaction with nature.

History of agricultural science

Agricultural science began with Gregor Mendel's genetic work, but in modern terms might be better dated from the chemical fertilizer outputs of plant physiological understanding in eighteenth century Germany. In the United States, a scientific revolution in agriculture began with the Hatch Act of 1887, which used the term "agricultural science". The Hatch Act was driven by farmers' interest in knowing the constituents of early artificial fertilizer. The Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 shifted agricultural education back to its vocational roots, but the scientific foundation had been built. After 1906, public expenditures on agricultural research in the US exceeded private expenditures for the next 44 years.

Intensification of agriculture since the 1960s in developed and developing countries, often referred to as the Green Revolution, was closely tied to progress made in selecting and improving crops and animals for high productivity, as well as to developing additional inputs such as artificial fertilizers and phytosanitary products.

As the oldest and largest human intervention in nature, the environmental impact of agriculture in general and more recently intensive agriculture, industrial development, and population growth have raised many questions among agricultural scientists and have led to the development and emergence of new fields. These include technological fields that assume the solution to technological problems lies in better technology, such as integrated pest management, waste treatment technologies, landscape architecture, genomics, and agricultural philosophy fields that include references to food production as something essentially different from non-essential economic 'goods'. In fact, the interaction between these two approaches provide a fertile field for deeper understanding in agricultural science.

New technologies, such as biotechnology and computer science (for data processing and storage), and technological advances have made it possible to develop new research fields, including genetic engineering, agrophysics, improved statistical analysis, and precision farming. Balancing these, as above, are the natural and human sciences of agricultural science that seek to understand the human-nature interactions of traditional agriculture, including interaction of religion and agriculture, and the non-material components of agricultural production systems.

Prominent agricultural scientists