Agriculture has evolved tremendously over the years. Farmers produce higher yields while being more efficient than ever. Today’s average farmer in the US feeds roughly 155 people annually compared to 61 people in 1960 (USDA). Advancements in technology have been the leading factor in this evolution. From genetics to equipment, it has all improved drastically.
One big reason the US is dominate in agriculture is the improvement of equipment. In the past, farmers used horses to pull plows and planters. Horses were replaced by tractors, which were more efficient. Farmers would have to allow time for
horses to rest and tractors were faster. In the early and mid 1900s, Ford was a major player in the tractor industry. The company’s first model went on the market in the US in 1918 (Gas Engine Magazine). Even though it wasn’t the first or best tractor, it became the most popular. Why is this? It was affordable. Henry Ford, the founder of Ford, found a way to mass produce a tractor that the average farmer could afford. Even though Ford got out of the tractor business, they will always be remembered for how they changed the industry.
Companies have been upgrading tractors ever since. In 1939, the Model B Tractor was produced (Living History Farms). This was a huge improvement. It had an electric starter, rubber tires, and higher horse power. It wasn’t until 1973, tractors came with a sound-guard body (Living History Farms). This protected farmers from weather and dust while providing a panoramic view. It also allowed farmers to listen to the radio. In more recent years, tractors have GPS. This opened the door to several possibilities. This allows tractors to have auto-steer, yield monitors in combines, and many more advantages.
Another area of great improvement has been the evolution of planters. The first planter came out in 1853 (Living History Farms). It was pulled by a horse and planted two rows. The horses were soon replaced by tractors. Before this, farmers had to plant by hand. It wasn’t until the 40s when they started to make planters bigger than 2 rows. Companies started making 4 or 6 row planters. Today, the biggest planter made has 64 rows, but most farmers use 16, 24, or 32 row planters.
It is important for farmers to be very precise when planting. It can ruin the whole season if not done correctly. It is critical to plant each seed at the right depth and consistent distance between each other. If the seed is planted too deep, it’s less likely to emerge. If is planted too shallow, the crop’s roots system won’t develop fully. This can all have a huge impact on yield. Precision planting has allowed planting to become a more precise act. It vacuums the seed to a plate and places it into the ground at the right depth and distance apart. Each row is monitored and gives them the option to adjust them individually. A farmer can see all of this data with the monitor in the cab. This allows the farmer to make changes before it is too late. Auto-steer has made it possible to plant straighter rows. This is where the tractor is steered using GPS until the end of the row when the farmer must turn it around. The auto-steer will then line the tractor up at the proper distance and continue through the field.
These are a couple of the advancements in the farm equipment world. The industry has come so far, but is not done yet. Technology will keep on evolving and find new ways to improve yield and efficiency. It is an exciting time in the agriculture industry.
Hi, my name is Chad French, and I’m a senior at Western Illinois University. I will be graduating in Spring of 2017. My major is in Agriculture Business with a minor in Agronomy. My plan is to find a full time job in the agriculture industry where I can be a part of the evolution in agriculture.
“History of Tractors.” Living History Farms. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.