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agriculture

the active production of useful plants or animals in ecosystems that have been created by people. Agriculture has often been conceptualized narrowly, in terms of specific combinations of activities and organisms-wet-rice production in Asia, wheat farming in Europe, cattle ranching in the Americas, and the like-but a more holistic perspective holds that humans are environmental engineers who disrupt terrestrial habitats in specific ways. Anthropogenic disruptions such as clearing vegetation or tilling the soil cause a variety of localized changes; common effects include an increase in the amount of light reaching ground level and a reduction in the competition among organisms. As a result, an area may produce more of the plants or animals that people desire for food, technology, medicine, and other uses.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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