Science &Technology

A BRIEF HISTORY OF AGRICULTURE & TECHNOLOGY

By Dennis J Choruma

Technology has forever changed the way farmers work. Over the last 50 years, many technological changes have revolutionized the way we produce our food. While farming began as long back as 8500 BC in the Neolithic revolution, technological improvements have significantly shaped the development of human settlements through increasing agricultural production. Here is a brief history of how technology has influenced agricultural production over the centuries.


1960s – The Green revolution

Spearheaded in the United States, an agricultural program was developed to help developing countries feed their growing populations. One leading scientist was Dr Norman Borlaug, who started a crop growing process that allowed plants to thrive with improved irrigation and crop management strategies. By the 1960s crop production had significantly improved and nicknamed the Green Revolution. This period saw the introduction of new wheat varieties in many countries in Africa.


1974 – Roundup Herbicide released

Many farmers might know the herbicide Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate and used to control weeds. Although this has now been banned in many countries and replaced with other herbicides, the introduction of glyphosate significantly improved crop yields by reducing damage caused by weeds. Glyphosate was not only used by farmers but also became a popular garden product used to kill weeds along fences and driveways.

1975 – Rotary combine harvesters are introduced

In 1975, the first twin-rotor system combine harvester was created by Sperry-New Holland. The invention of the combined harvester allowed the crop to be cut and separated in one pass over the field. The new machines combined three separate harvesting operations — reaping, threshing, and winnowing — into a single process. For corn, it not only separated the husk and ears, but shelled the kernels, and chopped the stalks. Combine harvesters quickly became one of the essential farm machines economically because they reduced labour costs and the time taken during harvesting operations.

1982 – The first Genetically modified plant cell

A team of scientists working at Monsanto Company in Missouri became the first team of scientists to modify a plant cell genetically. The Monsanto team used Agrobacterium to introduces a new gene into the plant Petunia and within five years, planted the first outdoor trials of genetically modified tomatoes that were resistant to Roundup, certain insects, and viruses.

1994 – Use of Satellite technology in farming

This period saw farmers being able to see their farms from overhead, allowing for better planning and tracking. Satellites could identify crop conditions for thousands of square kilometres reducing the time taken by the farmer to inspect crops. Farmers can use satellite data to determine soil and crop conditions and characteristics, monitor growth, assess soil and irrigation requirements.

1994 – Use of Satellite technology in farming

This period saw farmers being able to see their farms from overhead, allowing for better planning and tracking. Satellites could identify crop conditions for thousands of square kilometres reducing the time taken by the farmer to inspect crops. Farmers can use satellite data to determine soil and crop conditions and characteristics, monitor growth, assess soil and irrigation requirements.

1996 – Genetically modified crops

Monsanto’s Soybeans and cotton varieties became the first genetically modified row crops to farmers. The soybeans were tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate, and the genetically modified traits in cotton provided protection against the cotton bollworm, tobacco budworm and pink bollworm.

2000 – Mobile devices


Mobile devices became popular among many people, including farmers. Mobile devices, in particular, allowed farmers to stay connected to other farmers while in the field. Farmers could easily exchange information on weather, fertiliser prices and planting dates.

2015 – Big data in agriculture

The more information farmers have, the better decisions they can make. The advent of computers and the internet allowed the collection of a wide variety of farming data and the storage and easy retrieval of farming data. For example, The Climate Corporation’s Climate Field View platform is a digital platform that brings together data collection, agronomic modelling, and local weather monitoring, which gives farmers a better understanding of their fields. These tools allow farmers to plan for better harvests and make decisions that are better for the planet.

2020 – Present

Today, modern agriculture regularly uses sophisticated technologies such as drones, robots, temperature and moisture sensors. This modern agriculture, known as precision agriculture, has transformed the farming business and allowed farming to be more profitable, efficient, safer, and more environmentally friendly. History shows that technology has been an important part of agricultural production, and farmers should invest in technologies that can help boost agricultural production in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.

Contact vaMudhumeni today at vamudhumeni.management@gmail.com to find out how you can use technology to boost farm production and become more profitable in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

References

Bayer Data Science

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