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Arable farming

Arable farmland in Arizona, USAArable farmland in Arizona, USA People first started to grow crops about 12,000 years ago. They discovered that certain wild plants, which produced seeds that were ground for flour to make bread, could be made to grow in fields. Crop, or arable, farming had begun. Today, huge swathes of land that were once natural grasslands or woodlands are under cultivation. Finding new land to farm is sometimes so important that tropical rainforest, desert and wetlands are turned into farmland. Even land under the sea has been claimed to find more room for crops.

Intensive cultivation of maizeIntensive cultivation of maize

Intensive farming

In developed countries, intensive arable farming is practised: farmers use modern machines and methods to produce better crop yields—more grain from a certain size of field. This includes mechanical ploughing and planting, along with the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and irrigation where rainfall is inadequate. Breeding new crops in the laboratory, often involving genetic engineering to produce types that are, for example, more resistant to pests or tolerant of drought, also improves yields.

A circular water sprinkling systemA circular water sprinkling system

Rapeseed, a Rapeseed, a "break" crop used in rotation

Sustainable agriculture

Around 30% of the world's farmland is used for arable farming—the rest is used for planting permanent crops such as trees and vines, and for pastures and meadows.

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