Topic 3: Agriculture

Additional resources and information about the Agriculture topic for the University of Adelaide Young Scientist of the Year video competition

Agriculture means the science and practice of managing the land and domesticating plants and animals for human use or consumption. Agriculture, or farming, is as old as human civilisation itself – it’s how we have been able to feed our growing population without every one of us having to spend our time hunting and gathering for food (so some of us can spend our time doing other things like being engineers, or teachers, or conservation biologists!).

Agriculture Young Scientist of the Year video competition university adelaide
Agricultural activities contribute 17% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Image: Shutterstock

The challenge is how to farm sustainably, so we can keep feeding ourselves for generations to come, even as our population continues to grow faster than ever.

This means finding ways to use less water and land, to produce not just the same but a growing output of food and other non-food crops like cotton, hemp and wool.

Some of the big goals of sustainable agriculture are to reduce habitat destruction and environmental impact (for example caused by land clearing, top soil degradation, and the use of pesticides and herbicides), to use less energy and water, and at the same time increase crop yields and remain economically viable.

And with developments in science and technology, we are making headway – from the development of precision agriculture using drones and Artificial Intelligence, to advances in genetics and molecular biology making crops more climate resilient.

But we have a long way to go. According to an OECD report, agricultural activities generate 17% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (and an additional 7-14% through land use changes). Then there’s pollution, destruction of habitat, degradation of soil, water and air quality that can come from farming.

Your video challenge: 

  • Describe an environmental problem that affects Australian agriculture and suggest your own idea for solving the challenge, or
  • Describe the science that’s coming up with solutions.

Video resources

Start your research into this topic with these video resources:

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