Food is one of the most fundamental things that humans need to sustain their life. Agriculture is the primary method used in the production of food that humans have known for millennia.
Agriculture – Then and Now
In the 1900’s the volume of arable land was quite significant, as were the numbers of people involved in agriculture. However, as the world became more industrialized, the amount of land set aside for agricultural purposes saw a steep decline, as did the number of people who chose to live the farmer’s life.
It has been estimated that at present only 2% of the world’s population is involved in producing food to serve the dietary needs of the planet. However, food yields have increased tremendously, when compared to yields at the start of the century. This has been made largely possible due to the dynamic changes that have taken place in agriculture over the past 100 years.
Technological innovations in agriculture accelerated after the end of World War II. Farmers started to depend on machines rather than on human and animal power to plant and harvest their fields. Highly efficient tractors replaced animals that originally were used to plough and harvest the fields, thus saving time and effort. In 1940 a single farmer would be able to feed 19 people. With the use of new technologies farmers can now feed upwards of 155 people off the same amount of land. In other words, the use of technology has enabled farmers to feed more people with less effort and less manpower. Technological advancements have allowed for the faster incubation of eggs, and specialized machines for milking cows, among many other things.
Improved Plant and Animal Breeding
Another agricultural activity that has seen major changes over the past 100 years is plant and animal breeding. Numerous technological improvements significantly altered the way in which dairy cows and chickens are reared. An increased focus on nutritious feed and secure and comfortable sheltering, have served to protect farmed animals from diseases, which has in turn yielded higher volumes of healthy food and milk.
Technology that is used in the service of seed and farm animal hybridization is known as biotechnology. More resilient seeds are now being produced, seeds that are able to withstand harsher climatic conditions, thus reducing the chances of a low yield. Genetic engineering has made it possible to develop new hybridized seed types. Farmers can now plant a variety of seeds on their land, the result being that different kinds of foods have been added to the human diet. Farmers use pesticides that help in the elimination of pests, thus reducing the damage to crops, and once again increasing yields.
These on-going changes in agriculture are very significant, as the population of the world is increasing every day. Agriculture not only needs to yield more food, but it needs to yield better food, created with less utilization of resources, simply to keep pace with and cater to the growing needs of the population. More technological innovations, sophisticated machinery and agricultural techniques are the order of the day, if farmers are to continue to provide safe, healthy and nutritious food for the population.