Anticipated Problem: How has the science of agriculture helped develop civilization?
I. The science of agriculture is the basis on which all of civilization is built. Before humans began to devise ways to produce their own food, most of their lives were devoted to finding enough to eat. The only available food was the plants and animals that grew wild in the area. Hunting and gathering food were time consuming processes that prevented early humans from settling in one place. If a group stayed in one area too long, most of the wild game and wild plants that provided food would be exhausted. Because gathering food took so much time, these early humans had no time for building homes or cities or developing inventions that might have improved their lives.
A. The very first science was agriculture. Science is knowledge obtained through a systematic study of naturally occurring phenomena. The first systematic study by humans
likely involved devising ways to obtain food, clothing, and shelter. Most anthropologists
agree that agriculture began about 10,000 years ago in what is now known as the Middle
East. When humans began to grow their own food, they no longer needed to wander
about in search of edible plants and animals. Agriculture allowed them to settle in one
place and to develop villages where they could live together as a society.
B. Humans began to search for better ways to produce food. These ways were discovered
through trial and error and passed down from parents to children. All modern agricultural
crops and livestock were developed from the plants and animals tamed and cultured by early humans. As more efficient ways of growing food developed, less time was needed to produce food. Once people had enough food to feed themselves and their family, the surplus food was traded to other people. Because food could be obtained through trading, time could be spent developing skills in building, engineering, literature, and art that led to the great civilizations.
C. As people began to grow their own food, they found it necessary to invent implements
to till the soil. The first tools were very crude and made of wood or stone; later tools
were made from metal. As tools made growing crops and animals more efficient, people
had more time to work on inventing and making additional tools.
D. Some scientists also believe that counting and writing developed from agriculture.
When crops were harvested and surplus remained, people built bins and storage areas.
To indicate ownership, contents, and the amount in the containers, a system of markings
had to be used. As more and more containers had to be marked, a system of written
language developed. This allowed the expansion of trade and barter so that the excess
food could be traded to other people.
Anticipated Problem: What are the various areas of science and agriscience?
II. Today scientific research is classified into two broad areas, basic research and applied
research. Basic researchinvestigates why or how processes occur in plants and animals.
Applied research uses the discoveries made in basic research to help in practical ways. Both types of research take place in all aspects of science. Science can be better understood by breaking it down into several different areas.
A. The four major areas of science are mathematics, physical science, life science, and
social science. Each has many divisions. Differences between them are not always
clearly defined. Most areas of science overlap.
1. Mathematics is the science of numbers. It is important because it involves making
and using observations. Mathematics deals with how numbers can be measured and
changed. Two branches that are used often in agriscience are:
a. Arithmetic—This is the study of numbers and methods of calculating.
b. Geometry—This is a practical area of mathematics. It involves showing mathematical
relationships of points, lines, angles, surfaces, and solids.
c. Mathematics has several other branches. Some of these include: logic, algebra,
calculus, probability, and statistics.
2. Physical scienceis the study of nonliving matter around us. Physical science has
three important areas for agriscience:
a. Earth science is the study of the environment in which plants and animals grow.
This includes soil, water, and the atmosphere. Earth science also has several
b. Geologyis the study of the earth’s composition, structure, and history. The
study of the soil is a part of geology that is important in agriscience.
c. Meteorology is the study of the earth’s atmosphere. It includes studying the
weather and making predictions.
d. Other important areas of physical science are: hydrology, oceanography, and
3. Chemistryis the study of the makeup of materials or matter. Matter is anything that
5. Life scienceis the study of living things. It is sometimes called the biological science
of biology. Major areas of life science are:
a. Botany is the study of plants.
b. Zoology is the study of animals.
6. Social science deals with human society. It is sometimes known as behavioral science.
Anthropology, psychology, sociology, and education are areas of social science.
B. Agriscience is made up of several areas of applied science. These relate to the organization of the agricultural industry and the crops and livestock that are produced. Some areas deal with plants, others with animals. In most cases, plant and animal areas overlap. Several important areas of agriscience include:
1. Agronomydeals with the study of plants and how they relate to the soil. Its purpose
is to improve crop production and conserve natural resources.
2. Horticulture is the science of growing plants for food, comfort, and beauty. The
divisions of horticulture are:
a. Ornamental horticultureis growing and using plants for their beauty.
b. Olericulture deals with growing vegetables.
c. Pomology includes fruit and nut production, harvesting, and marketing.
3. Forestry is the science of growing and using forests.
4. Entomology is the branch of zoology that deals with insects and related small animals.
5. Animal scienceis the area dealing with the production of animals for food.
6. Poultry science is concerned with raising chickens and related fowl.
7. Aquaculture is the science of water farming.
8. Environmental science is the science of wisely using and protecting the earth’s
9. Mechanical technology is the use of machines and equipment to do work.
Anticipated Problem: What advancements have been made through agriscience?
III. There have been several important discoveries made through agriscience research. Each has impacted people in a very significant way. Just a few of these discoveries are:
A. Genetically engineered tomato—Calgene, an agricultural biotechnology firm in Davis,
California, developed a bio-engineered tomato that resists rotting. The new tomato was
developed by turning off the gene that caused the tomato to soften and rot. The new
like a tomato should taste.
B. Bio-diesel from animal fat or soybeans—Excess animal fat that is trimmed from the carcasses of meat animals is a low-value by-product of the meat processing industry. A process has been developed that converts fat to bio-diesel, a product very much like the diesel fuel extracted from crude oil. Another bio-diesel product, soy-diesel, is made from
C. Fire-ant control—Fire ants infest 230 million acres in the southern areas of the United
States. Their presence in the warmer climates of the world is a constant threat to the
well-being of humans and livestock. A new synthetic control for fire ants increases the
ratio of nonproductive drone ants to worker ants. This ratio change gradually weakens
the colony and causes it to die.
D. Bt crops—Crops like corn and cotton require less chemical insecticide to achieve
greater crop yield.
E. BST—A naturally occurring protein hormone that is introduced into cows to improve
the production of milk.
F. Round-Up ready crops—Crops like soybeans are resistant to non-selective herbicides.
G. Genetically engineered potatoes—Genes in potato plants are turned off to help prevent
bruising during the processing of potato products.
H. Golden rice—A genetically engineered rice that produces beta-carotene, a substance
which the body can convert to Vitamin A. The new rice could help cure vitamin A deficiency (VAD), a condition which afflicts millions of people in developing countries,
especially children and pregnant women.
EXPLORING RESEARCH METHODS IN
Part One: Matching
Instructions: Match the word with the correct definition. a. Geology d. Agronomy g. Applied research
b. Pomology e. Botany h. Zoology
c. Olericulture f. Basic research
_______1. Includes fruit and nut production, harvesting, and marketing
_______2. Investigates why or how processes occur in plants and animals
_______3. The study of plants
_______4. The study of the earth’s composition, structure, and history
_______5. The study of animals
_______6. Uses discoveries made in basic research to help in practical ways
_______7. Deals with the study of plants and how they relate to the soil
_______8. Deals with growing vegetables
Part Two: Fill in the Blank
Instructions: Complete the following statements. 1. The FDA stands for the _________________ and ________________ ________________________.
2. The EPA stands for the __________________ _______________________ _______________________.
3. The USDA stands for the ______________________ ____________ ______________________________ of ________________________.
4. FSIS stands for the ____________________ ____________________ and _____________________ ______________________.
1. What agencies or groups conduct research in agriculture?
FDA: Food and Drug Administration—must approve applications to investigate
EPA: Environmental Protection Agency—issues permits for testing of products.
USDA: United States Department of Agriculture—reviews research plans for
FSIS: Food Safety and Inspection Service—performs random tests to ensure
that food products are free of illegal residues.
2. What are the risks and benefits of agricultural research?
Through technological research, agriculture researchers hope to increase the quality
and quantity of foods as well as increase farmers’ profits. Creating new organisms,
altering existing organisms, and developing new products that benefit both plants
and animals will help to accomplish this. Researchers hope to discover procedures which will increase livestock and crop yields, improve farmland productivity, reduce loss due to disease and insects, develop more efficient equipment, and increase overall food quality.
There are, however, risks that go along with the prospective benefits. Some of these
risks include economic loss if the product is not introduced into the market, resistance
to medicines, new diseases, increased need for education as industry becomes
more specialized, and fewer family farms.
3. Howdoes (can) agricultural research affect humans and the environment?
Agricultural research has benefitted humans by developing products that produce
higher yields, are resistant to insects and disease, have an improved food value, and
can be produced economically. Plants that are resistant to diseases and insects do not
require the use of as many pesticides that may be harmful to the environment.
Improved agricultural practices have benefitted the environment by reducing soil
erosion and raising water quality. Technology developed through agricultural research has reduced the number of producers because the efficiency of food and fiber production has increased so dramatically. We have gone from a country in which most people farmed to one in which less than two percent of our population works on farms. Consumers pay less for their food and fiber products and have more money to spend on other items.
4. How does agricultural research use science to produce new technologies?
Through agricultural research, we learn how science works. Presently the amount
of knowledge that we, as a society, possess doubles in fewer than seven months. This
scientific knowledge is translated into technologies that are the methods and applications
of science concepts and principles.
5. What technologies have been produced through agricultural research in
recent years that have made a difference to humans and the environment?
Genetic engineering and cell and tissue culture have been used in recent years in
agricultural research. More nutritious food products are being developed. New
technologies are emerging to make animals resistant to disease, and corn and soybeans
resistant to herbicides and pests. Fuels that burn cleaner are more widely used.
These are just a few examples of technologies being produced with the help of agricultural research.