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AGRICULTURE IN GENERAL
Agriculture is the world´s most important industry. It provides us with almost all our food. It also supplies materials for two other basic human needs — clothing and shelter. In addition, agriculture provides materials used in making many industrial products, such as paints and medicines. About half the world´s workers are employed in agriculture - far more than in any other industry.
Food is the most important farm product. But farms also provide many other products, from natural fibres to ornamental flowers and trees. Some crops are used only to feed livestock. These forage crops include alfalfa, clover and many grasses. Forage crops are important because they make commercial livestock production possible.
Farms provide almost all the world’s food, including some fish and game. Most food products come from crops. The rest come from animals, especially cattle, hogs, poultry, sheep, and other livestock.
The world’s farmers grow about 85 major food crops. They can be divided into eight groups. The main group is cereal grains. Grain is grown on half the world´s cropland and supplies much of the nourishment in the human diet. The chief grains are barley, com, millet, oats, rice, rye, sorghum, and wheat.
Various root crops make up the second most important group of food crops. Like cereal grains, root crops are grown throughout the world and are a basic food for many people. The leading root crops are potatoes, beets and sweet potatoes.
The six remaining groups of major food crops are: (1) pulses, which consist mainly of beans and peas; (2) fruits and vegetables; (3) oil-bearing crops, such as soybeans and coconuts; (4) sugar-bearing crops, especially sugarcane and sugar beets; (5) nuts; and (6) cocoa beans, coffee and tea.
Cattle, chickens, goats, hogs, sheep, turkeys, and other livestock are the main animals raised for food. Livestock are raised in every country and supply nearly all the world’s meat, eggs, and milk. Farmers also raise other animals for food. For example, many farmers keep bees for honey. Farmers on fish farms raise freshwater food fish, such as carp and trout, and saltwater shellfish, such as mussels and oysters.
Natural fibres come from a variety of plants and animals raised on farms. Factories use the fibres to make fabrics, yam, and other textile products. Cotton and flax together with some tropical plants are the chief plant fibres. Wool, the principal animal fibre, comes mainly from sheep but also from such animals as goats and members of the camel family. Silk fibres are obtained from the cocoons of silkworms. However the development of synthetic fibres has reduced the demand for natural fibres in some countries.
Many farms provide other raw materials for industry besides fibres. These materials include natural rubber; animal hides which are used to make leather; and such vegetable oils as castor oil and linseed oil. These oils are used in a variety of products, from paints to medicines. Many farmers raise tobacco. Others grow ornamental flowers, trees and shrubs. A few farmers raise such animals as foxes and mink for their fur.