This has resulted in plentiful production but has come at a huge and unsustainable environmental cost to the planet. Unlike other sectors, agriculture is both a victim of and a contributor to climate change.
Climate change is causing a rise in temperatures and the frequency of droughts and unseasonal floods, which threaten crop productivity and heighten the risk of crop failure. The US Department of Agriculture estimates crop yield is diminishing by 2.5 per cent each decade due to climate change.
Many countries pledged to reduce methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 at the latest COP26 meeting in Glasgow.
Agriculture contributes almost 45 per cent of methane emissions, 80 per cent of nitrous oxide emissions and about 30 per cent of total GHG emissions. Emissions are highly concentrated in methane from livestock, manure management and rice farming.
Nitrous oxide emissions come primarily from fertiliser usage. The World Resources Institute estimates global agri-emissions will increase to 15 billion tonnes by 2050 from the current level of 10.7 billion tonnes unless systems change.
The challenge is to produce sufficient food to feed the growing population whilst reducing total emissions. Some estimates forecast another 2 billion people will be added to the global population by 2050 with Africa and Asia accounting for 83 per cent of total growth.
That suggests food demand will increase on 2010 levels by as much as 60 per cent by 2050. Reducing emissions from the agriculture sector will be tough compared to other sectors as we need to ensure food security, biodiversity and the viability of farming communities.