Primary production: Agricultural production
Agriculture is the cultivation of crops or the husbandry of livestock in pure or integrated crop/animal production systems for the main purpose of food production, but also for the provision of biomass for material and energetic use. Together with forestry, agricultural production represents the main activity of resource production and supply in the bioeconomy and the major activity delivering food as well as starch, sugar and vegetable oil resources. Today, 33% (about 4900 Mha) of the Earth’s land surface is used for agricultural production, providing a living for 2.5 billion people. Agriculture shapes cultural landscapes but, at the same time, is associated with degradation of land and water resources and deterioration of related ecosystem goods and services, is made responsible for biodiversity losses and accounts for 13.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions (IPCC 2006). In the future bioeconomy, agriculture needs to be performed sustainably. ‘Sustainable intensification’ aims at shaping agricultural production in such a way that sufficient food and biomass can be produced for a growing population while, at the same time, maintaining ecosystem functions and biodiversity. Sustainable intensification can partly be achieved by the development and implementation of innovative production technologies, which allow a more efficient use of natural resources, including land and agricultural inputs. Its implementation requires a knowledge- based approach, in which farmers are made aware of the requirements of sustainable production and trained in the implementation of sustainable agricultural production systems. The planning of bio-based value chains and sustainable bioeconomic development demands an understanding of the mechanisms of biomass production and supply (as described in this chapter) for the entire global agricultural sector.