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|The term "farming" covers the wide spectrum of agricultural practices. On one end of the spectrum is the subsistence farmer, who farms a small area with limited resource inputs, and produces only enough food to meet the needs of his/her family. At the other end is commercial intensive agriculture, including industrial agriculture. Such farming involves large fields and/or numbers of animals, large resource inputs (pesticides, fertilizers, etc.), and a high level of mechanization. These operations generally attempt to maximize financial income from grain, produce, or livestock. Modern agriculture extends well beyond the traditional production of food for humans and animal feeds. Other agricultural production goods include timber, fertilizers, animal hides, leather, industrial chemicals (starch, sugar, ethanol, alcohols and plastics), fibers (cotton, wool, hemp, and flax), fuels (methane from biomass, biodiesel), cut flowers, ornamental and nursery plants, tropical fish and birds for the pet trade, and both legal and illegal drugs (biopharmaceuticals, tobacco, marijuana, opium, cocaine).|
Developed independently by geographically distant populations, systematic agriculture first appeared in Southwest Asia in the Fertile Crescent, particularly in modern-day southern Iraq and Syria. Around 9500 BC, proto-farmers began to select and cultivate food plants with desired characteristics. Though there is evidence of earlier sporadic use of wild cereals, it was not until after 9500 BC that the eight so-called founder crops of agriculture appear: first emmer and einkorn wheat, then hulled barley, peas, lentils, bitter vetch, chick peas and flax.
By the early 1800s, agricultural techniques, implements, seed stocks and cultivars had so improved that yield per land unit was many times that seen in the Middle Ages. With the rapid rise of mechanization in the late 19th and 20th centuries, particularly in the form of the tractor, farming tasks could be done with a speed and on a scale previously impossible. These advances have led to efficiencies enabling certain modern farms in the United States, Argentina, Israel, Germany, and a few other nations to output volumes of high quality produce per land unit at what may be the practical limit.
In 2005, China was the largest producer of agricultural output with almost one-sixth world share followed by the EU, India and the USA, reports the International Monetary Fund.
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