Plowing Up New Soil With World Agriculture

.. ton, tobacco, and tea, and production of animal products such as wool and hides. From the 15th to the 19th century the slave trade provided laborers needed to fill the large work force required by colonial plantations. Many early slaves replaced native people who died from diseases carried by the colonists or were killed by hard agricultural labor to which they were unaccustomed. Slaves from Africa worked, for example, on sugar plantations in what would become the southern United States.

Native Americans were practically enslaved in Mexico. Indentured slaves from Europe, especially from the prisons of Great Britain, provided both skills and unskilled labor to many colonies. Both slavery and servility were substantially wiped out in the 19th century (Timelines of the Ancient World). When encountered by the Spanish conquistadors, the more advanced Native Americans in the New Worlds- the Aztec, Inca, and Maya- already had intensive agricultural economies, but no draft or riding animals and no wheeled vehicles. Squash, beans, peas and acorn had long since been domesticated.

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Land was owned by clans and other kinship groups or by ruling tribes that had formed sophisticated governments. The scientific revolution resulting from the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment in Europe encouraged experimentation in agriculture as well as in other fields. Trial-and-error efforts in plant breeding produced improved crops, and a few new strains of cattle and sheep were developed. Most common was the Guernsey cattle breed. Land enclosure was increasingly practiced in the 18th century, enabling individual landowners to determine the disposition of cultivated land and pasture that previously had been subject to common use. Crop rotation was more readily practiced outside the village strip system inherited from the manorial period. In England, where scientific farming was most efficient, enclosure brought about a fundamental reorganization of land ownership.

From 1660 large landowners had begun to aid to their properties, frequently at the expense of small independent farmers. By the mid-19th century the agricultural pattern was based on the relationship between the landowner, dependent on rents; the farmer, producer of crops; and the landed laborers, the hired hand of American farming folklore (What Life Was Like). Drainage brought more land into cultivation and farm machinery was introduced. It is not possible to fix a clear decade of events as the start of the agricultural revolution through technology. Among the important advances were the purposeful selective breeding of livestock and the spreading of limestone on farm soils.

Mechanical improvements in the traditional wooden plow began in the mid- 1600s with the small iron points fastened onto the wood with strips of leather. In 1797, Charles Newbold, a blacksmith in Burlington, New Jersey, introduced the plow in the 1830s and manufactured it in steel. Other notable inventions included the seed drill of English farmers Jethro Tull, developed in the early 1700s and advanced for more than a century; the reaper of American Cyrud McCormick in 1831; and numerous new horse-drawn threshers, cultivators, grain and grass cutters, rakers, and corn shellers. By the late 1800s, steam power was oftentimes used to replace animal power in drawing plows and in operating threshing machinery (Timelines of the Ancient World). The demand for food for urban workers and raw materials for industrial plants produced a realignment of world trade.

Science and technology developed for industrial purposes were adapted for agricultural, eventually resulting in the agribusiness’s of the mid-20th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries the first systematic attempts were made to study and control pests. Before this time, hand picking and spraying were the usual methods of pest control. In the 19th century, poisons of various types were developed for use in sprays, and biological controls such as predatory insects were also used. Resistant plant varieties were cultivated; this was particularly successful with the European grapevine, in which the grape-bearing stems were grafted onto resistant American rootstocks to defeat the Phylloxera aphid (Compton 95). Scientific methods are now exploited to pest control, limiting overuse if insecticides in fungicides and employing more varied and targeted application techniques.

New understanding of significant biological control measures and emphasis on integrated pest management make possible more efficient control of certain kinds of insects. Chemicals for weed control are important for a number of crops, such as cotton and corn. The increasing use of chemicals for the control of insects, diseases, and weeds, however, has resulted in additional environmental problems and regulations that place strong demands on the skill of farmers. In North America, agriculture had progressed significantly before European colonists arrived. There is evidence that corn was cultivated at least as early as 3000 years ago in the southwestern United States. Although few Native Americans relied on domesticated animals, some groups had advanced methods of cultivating food crops.

The Wampanoag people of what is now Massachusetts fertilized their corn seeds by burying fish in the group near the seeds. The Iroquois of the eastern United States exploited the natural relationship between plants to make their crops more productive. They planted corn, beans, and squash together in small groups, so that the corn plants supported the beans, the nitrogen released by the roots of the bean plants fertilized the corn, and the sprawling squash vines reduced the number of weeds. Corn, beans , squash, potatoes, tomatoes, peanuts, chocolate, and many other plants were originally domesticates by Native Americans. Until the 19th century, agriculture in the United States shared the history of European and colonial areas and was dependent on European sources for seed, stocks, livestock, and machinery.

That dependency made American farmers somewhat more ingenious. They were aided by the establishments of societies that lobbied for governmental agencies of agriculture; the voluntary cooperation of farmers through associations; and the increasing use of diverse types of power machinery on the farm. Government policies traditionally encouraged the growth of land settlements. The Homestead Act of 1862 and the resettlement plans of the 1930s were the key agricultural legislative acts of the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 20th century steam, gasoline, diesel, and electrical power came into wide use. Chemical fertilizers were manufactured in greatly increased quantities, and soil analysis was widely employed to determine the components needed by a particular soil to maintain or restore its fertility.

The loss of soil by erosion was broadly combated by the use of cover crops; contour plowing in which the furrows follow the contour of the land and are level; and strip cropping. Selective breeding produced strains of both farm animals and crop plants. Hybrids, offspring of unrelated varieties or species, of desirable characteristics were developed; especially important for food production was the hybridization of corn in the 1930s. New uses for farm products, byproducts, and agricultural wastes were ascertained. Standards of quality, size, and packing were established for various fruits and vegetables to aid in wholesale marketing. Among the first to be standardized were apples, citrus fruits, berries, and tomatoes.

Improvements in storage, processing and transportation also increased the widespread ability of the market farm products. The use of cold storage warehouses and refrigerated railroad cars were complemented by the introduction of refrigerated motor trucks, rapid delivery by airplane, and the quick-freeze process of preservation in which farm produce also reached practical application for many perishable foods. Since the 1970s high technology farming, including new hybrids for wheat, rice, and other grains, better methods of soil conservation and irrigation, and the growing use of improved fertilizers has led to the production of more food per capita. Not only in the United States, but in which of the rest of the world. United States farmers, nevertheless, still have the advantage of superior private and government research facilities to produce and perfect new technologies.

New services of technologies in the 1990s are further improving crop production. Precision farming, site-specific farming, utilizes global positioning systems (GPS) and geographical information systems (GIS) in the satellite collection and transmission of data to create yield maps during harvest. Farmers use the yield maps as they plant and fertilize their crops the following season. This increases crop production while reducing the use of both fertilizers and fuel. GPS also helps farmers observe with environmental regulations when applying fertilizers and pesticides. Biotechnology is also increasing agricultural productivity.

In recent years farmers have begun producing a new, genetically engineered oil seed crop that grows from canola, to yield lauric oil, which comes from coconuts. Since World War II modern farming methods have been spread by national and international organizations. Governments have continuing their traditional role in overseeing and influencing agriculture. Numerous countries and set up development programs and five year plans to improve agriculture, marketing and processing. Many nations have been exceptionally eager to improve their economies at least partly through their agriculture.

Irrigation systems have been built by many countries, notably India, Pakistan, Israel, and Egypt. To improve their agriculture, some of these countries have borrowed money from the World Bank and wealthy countries such as the United States. Farming has become a highly complex and competitive business. Today’s farmers must be a careful businessmen as well as a trained agriculturist. Today in society, there is now the need to understand and use economics, marketing, and several other business-related fields in addition to having a knowledge of agronomy, animal husbandry, breeding techniques, and other fields traditionally related to agriculture.

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