What does “Agriculture” mean today? Assessing old Questions with new Evidence.
Defining the possibilities and limits for the diffusion of relevant technologies, is one of the essential reasons why agriculture’s diversity is so important to understand. Some crops, like wheat, grow only in temperate areas, therefore relevant advances in breeding or plant productivity might be relatively easy to diffuse across similar agro-ecological environments. However, it will not naturally transfer to tropical environments, where most of the world’s poor reside. Conversely, for example, rice originates in lowland tropical areas and it has historically been relatively easy to adopt farming technologies from one rice-growing region to another. But, again, its diffusion is limited by geography and climate. Meanwhile maize can grow in both temperate and tropical areas, but its unique germinating properties render it difficult to transfer seed technologies across geographies. Given the centrality of agriculture in many crucial global challenges, including the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals recently established for 2030, it is worth unpacking the topic empirically to describe what the term actually means today. This short paper does so with a focus on developing country crops, answering five basic questions: 1. What types of crops does each country grow? 2. Which cereals are most prominent in each country? 3. Which non-cereal crops are most prominent in each country? 4. How common are “cash crops” in each country? 5. How has area harvested been changing recently?