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. (March 2018)
Agricultural science is a broad multidisciplinary field of biology 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.)
In the 18th century, Johann Friedrich Mayer conducted experiments on the use of gypsum (hydrated calcium sulphate) as a fertilizer.
In 1843, John Lawes and Joseph Henry Gilbert began a set of long-term field experiments at Rothamsted Research Station in England, some of which are still running as of 2018.
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.:xxi
Prominent agricultural scientists
Agriculture, agricultural science, and agronomy 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 crops.
Agricultural sciences include research and development on:
- 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)
- Minimizing the effects of pests (weeds, insects, pathogens, mollusks, nematodes) on crop or animal production systems.
- Transformation of primary products into end-consumer products (e.g., production, preservation, and packaging of dairy products)
- Prevention and correction of adverse environmental effects (e.g., soil degradation, waste management, bioremediation)
- Theoretical production ecology, relating to crop production modeling
- Traditional agricultural systems, sometimes termed subsistence agriculture, which feed most of the poorest people in the world. These systems are of interest as they sometimes retain a level of integration with natural ecological systems greater than that of industrial agriculture, which may be more sustainable than some modern agricultural systems.
- Food production and demand on a global basis, with special attention paid to the major producers, such as China, India, Brazil, the US and the EU.
- Various sciences relating to agricultural resources and the environment (e.g. soil science, agroclimatology); biology of agricultural crops and animals (e.g. crop science, animal science and their included sciences, e.g. ruminant nutrition, farm animal welfare); such fields as agricultural economics and rural sociology; various disciplines encompassed in agricultural engineering.