Advancements in Agriculture

The first line of the FFA Creed wrote by E.M. Tiffany states, “I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds.” The future of agriculture is not only important to farmers but to the world population. The world is an ever-growing population with more and more mouths to feed. There have been thousands of causes to advancements in agriculture, some of them increase production and some solve problems faced by the farmers in their task as a producer. The most notable advancements are the ones that solve the problems faced by farmers that have improved Kansas farming. Kansas agriculture has advanced in many ways, through the impact of the Dust Bowl on conservation, new irrigation technology to improve crop production, and finally precision agriculture technology such as GPS to improve accuracy on farms.

A huge advancement in agriculture took place in the 1870s, the first self-propelled steam engine was created (Dove). Then in 1892, the John Froelich gasoline-powered engine/tractor was invented (“The Froelich Tractor”). The Froelich tractor was a vertical one-cylinder tractor (“The Froelich Tractor”). From John Froelich’s success with his tractor, he formed the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company (“The Froelich Tractor”). Another invention that had a huge impact on agriculture was the plow. There is evidence of this equipment since 3500 BCE, Egyptians were turning soil with an iron-tipped wooden wedge (Dove). During the 1800s a cast iron plow was used by farmers across America (Dove).

In 1837, John Deere made the steel plow because the steel blades did not gum up with soil (Dove). During 1855 alone, John Deere sold nearly 13,000 of his steel plows (Dove). In 1886, the first self-propelled combine was patented (Dove). This large thresh holding machine could harvest 100 acres a day (Dove). Genetically Modified Organisms have had a huge impact on farming. GMOs have been used to increase yield, shorten life cycles, and increase pest control in crops grown (Dove). The Kansas Department of Agriculture has played a huge role in protecting farmers. In 1855, the first meeting of territorial legislative laws was passed (“Kansas Department of Agriculture”). The Kansas State Legislature created the Kansas State Agriculture Society on March 5, 1862 (“Kansas Department of Agriculture”). Then in 1872, Kansas Legislature created the State Board of Agriculture to look into the future of agriculture (“Kansas Department of Agriculture”).

Kansas Department of Agriculture has played a huge roll in accomplishing all of this in support of farmers (“Kansas Department of Agriculture”). Along with the many advancements in agriculture, it has allowed farmers to take care of more land and increase their farm size. Although farm sizes have increased the number of farmers have decreased due to the rough lifestyle of a farmer and the difficulty of making a profit. In 1910, there was a total of 32,077,000 people living on farms (Spielmaker). Farmers were 31% of the workforce in the United States (Spielmaker). The average farm size at the time was 138 acres (Spielmaker). Nearly 100 years later the population increased by 230,000,000 (Spielmaker). At that time, farmers were only 2.6% of the workforce (Spielmaker). The average farm size was 435 acres (Spielmaker).

One of the biggest events to have a major impact on central United States agriculture was the Dust bowl. The Dust Bowl can be described as profound shifts in Earth’s land, climate, and water system (Holleman). The climate change, land degradation, and freshwater scarcity were contributed by many different things but the number one impact was farmers and farming practices used at the time (Holleman). Soil conservation is preventing soil erosion or degradation (“Soil Conservation- What do I Need to Know About it?

Learn About it’s Important”). Causes of soil degradation include human and nature aspects (Holleman). Industrial agriculture has expanded agriculture and heavy wind or rain have added to the destruction (Holleman). Several techniques have been adopted to improve soil conservation. This includes crop rotation, no-till, terrace farming, windbreaks, and earthworms (“Soil Conservation- What do I Need to Know About it? Learn About it’s Important”). The Dust Bowl took place in the 1930s and is described as, “The most spectacular mass sacrifice to strictly commercial mores in the history of mankind” (Holleman). The Dust Bowl occurred due to soil erosion and land degradation (Holleman). The event caused climate change and freshwater scarcity (Holleman). Industrial agriculture was a major cause, this included heavy tilling and multiple harvests (Holleman). The heavy tilling resulted in farmers changing to different techniques such as no-till, terrace farming, and windbreaks (“Soil Conservation- What do I Need to Know About it? Learn About it’s Important”). Other practices include pasture rotation, limit burning, and prevent overgrazing (Holleman).

Farmers were not supposed to have the ground constantly broken up (“Soil Conservation- What do I Need to Know About it? Learn About it’s Important”). The grassland lost due to the Dust Bowl included 43% of the native and 75% of sahara (Torres-Alves). In general, the highly affected area was the central United States (Torres-Alves). It affected more than 100,000,000 acres in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas (Torres-Alves).

Irrigation has made a major impact on agriculture and the crops grown across the United States. In the 1930s, there was a total of 6,295,000 farms with an average size of 157 acres (Spielmaker). At the time 1,633,252 acres irrigated in the United States (Spielmaker). In the 1990s, the total amount of farms was 2,143,150 with an average size of 461 acres (Spielmaker). There were roughly 49,404,000 acres farmed and an astounding 14,633,252 acres irrigated (Spielmaker). A huge part of irrigation in the central United States is the Ogallala aquifer. Most irrigation setups in the central United States pull water from the Ogallala Aquifer. The aquifer is 225,000 square miles under the Great Plains region (Dridi). The Great Plains region covers Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska (Dridi).

Due to a large amount of irrigation, water is being pulled out faster than the aquifer is refueling (Dridi). There are two options for irrigation setups. The first is traditional technology such as furrowing irrigation and the second option is modern technology such as sprinkler and drip (Dridi). The most common style is a pivot, also known as a sprinkler/drip (Dridi). Irrigation is used to water crops to increase yield or to use in time of drought (Dridi). No matter the use of irrigation it has been stressed to be used efficiently and effectively (Dridi). Irrigation improves the yield of the crops being grown, meaning you will have a much more plentiful harvest (Dridi). Irrigation has had a major impact on agriculture and the Ogallala Aquifer so we must take it upon our selves to prevent depletion of the aquifer by limiting our use of it (Dridi).

Precision agriculture is making everything on the farm more accurate and in control by the farmer (National Research Council 1). Precision ag includes both crops and raising livestock but a huge part is GPS (Moscovici). GPS is an old technology that has been advanced and modified to fit the needs of farmers. GPS stands for Global Positioning System (Moscovici). GPS is a radio navigation system that allows land, sea, and airborne users to determine location, speed, and weather conditions (National Research Council 2). The GPS became free to public users on May 1, 2000 (Moscovici). It was originally developed in 1970 by the US Ministry of Defense (Moscovici). This technology reached farming about the same time as it reached the public (Moscovici). GPS helps maximize productively, better controls the product being put into the ground like seed or fertilizer, and maximizes profit for the farmer (Moscovici). The tracking system prevents overlapping so you do no use any more product than what you need (National Research Council 2). With this technology, productivity is increased with rough working conditions such as fog (Moscovici). The GPS has advanced from simply being a monitor to completely controlling the tractor so that it does not have a driver seat (Moscovici).

There have been many advancements in agriculture during the last 100 years. Those advancements have played a huge role in soil conservation, increasing yield, and solving everyday problems for farmers. It is very notable that Kansas agriculture has and will continue to advance in many ways, the most notable impacts of the past were the Dust Bowl’s effect on conservation, increasing yield through new irrigation technology, and finally precision agriculture improving accuracy on farms. The FFA Creed shows farmers dedication to producing food to help feed the world, even through advancements. The last paragraph states, “I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.”

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