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Agriculture History
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Oliver 522522003 Hi Crop 2WD Tractor
Agriculture includes farming, breeding, and raising livestock, as well as dairying. All these industries have existed for centuries, but have grown exponentially since the Agricultural Revolution of the 18th century.


[edit] History

[edit] Origins

The origins of agriculture date back more than 10,000 years. For centuries, farming techniques were rudimentary and carried out by hand or simple tools. In fact, agriculture changed very little until the 18th century and the introduction of mechanization.[1]

Initially, little was understood about the fertility of land. Farmers worked a field until it no longer yielded crops and then moved on. However, as population increased, land became less available, which forced farmers to develop new processes to extend the life of their land.

The first civilizations were established near lakes, rivers, and oceans because they provided reliable water sources for irrigation, which allowed farming to continue year-round. The first large-scale irrigation system was built in Egypt in 3000 B.C. The first wooden plows were developed around the same time.

[edit] New Crops and Techniques

During the Roman Empire, farms became specialized and developed new advanced techniques like two-field crop rotation. Every year, half of the field was left fallow, meaning nothing was grown on it. During that time the fallow half would store nutrients and moisture to prepare for next years crops. The following year, the two halves of the field would rotate, with the other side remaining fallow. As crop rotation spread across Europe it was replaced with the three-field system, which only left one-third of the field fallow every year.

In 900 A.D., a new animal harness was developed that allowed plows to hitch to horses, which were three to four times faster than oxen.[2] Horses soon replaced oxen as the chief source of power on the farm.

European farmers conducted selective breeding with both plants and livestock. They developed a special breed of dairy cow, called a Guernsey, which produced especially rich milk for butter.

Throughout the 1400s, as explorers sailed around the world, new crops were discovered and brought back to Europe: potatoes from Peru, and cocoa beans, corn, peanuts, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, tobacco, and tomatoes from the Americas.

1993 Bourgault 8800 52 ft. Medium Duty Cultivator

[edit] Agricultural Revolution

The Agricultural Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries produced improved crop-growing methods, advances in livestock breeding and the invention of new agricultural equipment.[3]

In the early 1700s, an English politician named Charles Townshend developed the four-field crop rotation, which used specific crops to add nutrients back into the soil. Each crop provided different types and amounts of nutrients, which meant that none of the farmland was left fallow. However, his system was not widely adopted until Thomas Coke, an English nobleman, used it successfully in the late 1700s. Both Townsend and Coke lived in Norfolk, England, so the four-field system became known as the Norfolk system.

The Norfolk system allowed increased production of forage crops, which helped the livestock industry. Animals fed year-round meant the industry could produce fresh meat throughout the year.

Robert Bakewell, an English farmer, introduced new types of livestock breeding. He illustrated how animals could be improved by intensively breeding animals with desirable traits. This created better breeds of cattle, horses, and sheep. He was even able to develop a type of sheep that could be raised for both meat and wool.

However, the biggest advancement for agriculture was the development of new mechanized equipment. The first successful seeder was patented by English farmer Jethro Tull. Eli Whitney, from the U.S., invented the cotton gin, which enabled large-scale cotton production. Cyrus McCormick patented the first successful harvesting machine. Hiram and John Pitts created the first combine, and John Deere invented the steel plow.

[edit] Science and Technology

Advancements continued well after the agricultural revolution ended due to the development of science and technology. Steam tractors arrived in the mid-1800s, but were too expensive and difficult to operate for most farmers. Gasoline tractors were introduced in the early 1890s, but were not powerful enough for most farm work.[4] Tractors eventually became the main source of farm power by the 20th century, with the first all-purpose tractor arriving in the 1920s.

Scientific research led to the development of synthetic chemicals to be used for fertilizer, insecticides, herbicides, and to control plant and animal diseases. A few of these chemicals proved to be harmful to both humans and other animal life.

Meanwhile, livestock breeders have introduced intensive selection techniques to speed genetic production. Nutrition specialists designed better feed for animals, and veterinarians improved health care methods so animals can grow faster on less food.

Annual milk production has constantly increased.[5]

[edit] Processes and Tool Development

[edit] Farming

Essentially, farming can be subdivided into five basic processes: plowing, cultivating, planting, reaping, and threshing. The development of these processes resulted in the introduction of new agricultural machinery, tools and techniques. 

Plowing loosens the soil and brings fresh nutrients to the surface. The earliest plowing tools were nothing more than forked sticks. Eventually, a heavy plow machine was developed, capable of ripping into the ground with greater force. These plows were initially pushed by hand, before being towed by horses and tractors. 

Cultivating is done before or after plowing. It involves the breaking up of large chunks of soil to prepare for seeding. This process was originally done by hand or with sticks, spades, or rakes. A machine called a harrow was eventually introduced. It was a square machine with large spikes towed by horses or oxen. The cultivator later replaced the harrow for more heavy-duty tasks, while the harrow continued to specialize in breaking up soil chunks into fine pieces.

Planting seeds as a process has changed considerably over the years, greatly increasing crop production. Initially, seeds were planted by hand, being thrown randomly, which made the crop difficult to harvest. One of the first changes to this process was the introduction of a dibber board. The dibber had a series of evenly spaced holes through which a farmer would push a stick and plant a seed. This would space the crops more evenly to aid in harvesting. This process was effective, but time consuming.[6] Eventually, planting was mechanized with the introduction of the seed drill. Invented by Jethro Tull in 1701, the seeder cut small channels in the soil, dropping seeds in. It increased production and decreased waste. 

Reaping is the process of cutting grain stalks. Initially carried out by hand using a flint blade, scythe or sickle, this process was also mechanized. The earliest reapers cut the stalks, but gathering and bundling them was done manually. A sail reaper was capable of piling stalks on the side of the machine, but they still had to be bundled by hand. Eventually, a reaper machine was developed with the capabilities of cutting, piling, and binding the stalks. 

2003 New Holland CX 840 Conventional Combine
Threshing separates the grain from the stalks. Different techniques were used to achieve this result. Initially, the stalks were hit with a tool called a flail, and then the separated grain was tossed into the air to separate it from the chaff. Another technique involved placing the stalks on the ground and trampling them by foot. As with every other agriculture process, threshing was eventually mechanized. Early threshers were stationary machines capable of accomplished four tasks: removing the grain from the stalk, separating it from the cob or husk, cleaning the grain, and gathering or stacking it. However, these machines were considered too expensive for the average farmer, so instead they were only used for custom operations, traveling from farm to farm.

A machine called a combine harvester combined reaping and threshing into one process carried out by one machine. It was invented by Hiram Moore in 1838, but took several decades before the general farming public adopted it. These machines were very large, requiring 16 or more horses to tow it. However, the introduction of the steam traction engine to tow it aided in its success.

The steam traction engine was invented in the late 1700s, but suffered decades of limited usability because of its size. High-pressure boilers were introduced in the 1850s, which lightened the weight of the engine. Their popularity in the agricultural industry was highest from 1885 to 1914.[7]

Internal combustion engines replaced steam power in the mid-1910s with the introduction of Fordson tractors.

The next area of development was the undercarriage of these tractors. The wide, heavy, metal wheels of early tractors were replaced by rubber pneumatic tires with improved traction or crawler tracks. This enabled the machine to travel about the field with greater ease.

[edit] Organic Farming

Farming changed dramatically after World War II with the introduction of petroleum-based chemicals used for fertilizer and pesticides. These chemicals quickly helped to produce more profitable crops, but some would argue they also produced “social detriments” such as pesticide pollution and insect pest resistance.[8]

Organic agriculture is a distinct reaction to the use of those chemicals. It aims to provide profitable crops without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

[edit] Livestock

Livestock includes cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, and any other domesticated farm animal that is bred for food, labor, or sale.

[edit] Dairying

Dairying, or dairy farming, is the withdrawing of milk from cows, goats, or any other milk-producing animal. That milk is then processed, packaged and sold.

[edit] Equipment List

[edit] Used & Unused Agriculture Equipment for Sale

Search for agriculture equipment and farm machinery being sold at Ritchie Bros. unreserved public auctions.

[edit] References

  1. Story of Farming. Historylink 101. 2008-09-30.
  2. World Book Online Reference Center. 2008-09-30.
  3. World Book Online Reference Center. 2008-09-30.
  4. World Book Online Reference Center. 2008-09-30.
  5. World Book Online Reference Center. 2008-09-30.
  6. Story of Farming. History Link 101. 2008-09-30.
  7. Story of Farming. Historylink 101. 2008-09-30.
  8. History. IA State. 2008-09-30.