For much of the history of mankind, we were hunters and gatherers. The birth of agriculture can be explained in many ways as the moment when we stop hunting our food and begin to plant it.
While humans have revolutionized agriculture, agriculture has changed human civilization. History of agriculture is really a long story. Through this article, I have covered all the parts about the history of agriculture.
The History Of Agriculture
Without a time machine, it is impossible to know the exact date on which the first human had a seed in his hand and thought: “If I plant this on the ground, I will know exactly where to find food in a few months.”
What we do know is that sometime around the year 8,500 BC, humans in the Fertile Crescent began to plant grain in instead of harvesting them wild. A thousand years later they domesticated the cattle.
In this way, agriculture began to change not only the human diet but also human civilization.
In the following 8,500 years, agriculture evolved slowly. Through trial and error, farmers around the world began to genetically improve plants.
They naturally noted that not all plants within a species were the same. Some grew more, tasted better, or were easier to grind to make flour. They began to store seeds of the best plants and plant them for next year’s harvest.
During the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, stone and wood tools were replaced with more efficient metal tools. However, agriculture continued to be an intense and laborious activity that took up a lot of time and included about 80 percent of the world’s population.
The Agricultural Revolution
From 800 to 1400 AD, agricultural tools remained unchanged. The first settlers in North America used plows that were not different or better than those used during the Roman Empire.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, agricultural innovation soared. The design of the plow improved and an Englishman by the name of Jethro Tull invented the first seeding machine in the world, an apparatus that allowed sowing the seeds in straight and ordered rows. Shortly thereafter the mechanical equipment for harvesting pulled by horses followed, like the reaper of Cyrus McCormick.
Farmers could now sow and harvest in a fraction of the time it took them before. The productivity of agriculture soared.
During the 20th century, gasoline-powered machines began to replace traditional equipment pulled by horses. This, combined with advances in fertilizer and pesticide technology after the Second World War, allowed another jump in agricultural productivity.
Over time, this produced less but larger farms. For developed countries, it also led to a change in the workforce. In the United States, for example, the percentage of the working force engaged in agriculture fell from 40% (in 1900) to only 2% (in 2000).
The Post Industrialization
Between 1900 and 2012, the world population grew from 1,600 million to more than 7 billion. In 1700, only 7% of the land area was used for agriculture. Today, it is more than 40% and only a portion of the land that remains is suitable for cultivation. Obviously, agriculture is at a crossroads. The world needs to produce more food than ever before while conserving the limited resources available to us. Where we are going now will require the ingenuity and cooperation of farmers, companies, governments, universities and citizens alike.