How technology has changed farming

By Brandie Piper

Published Feb. 7, 2016 on

Agriculture technologies advanced rapidly in the second half of the 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st century. These developments forever changed the way farmers work.

Take a look at how farming technology has changed over the last 50 years.

1960s: Green Revolution
In the mid-1940s U.S. Vice President Henry Wallace spearheaded a program to help developing nations feed their growing populations. The program included four scientists, one of whom was Dr. Norman Borlaug.

Borlaug started a growing process that allowed plants to thrive with new irrigation and crop management techniques. By the 1960s, the benefits of what was nicknamed the “Green Revolution” were apparent when successful new wheat varieties were made available in countries across the globe.

1974: Roundup® agricultural herbicide
Monsanto developed a new herbicide using glyphosate as the active ingredient. Glyphosate-based herbicide is used by farmers to control weeds in their crops. Roundup also made its way into lawn and garden products, which allow landowners to kill weeds along sidewalks, driveways, gardens, and fences.

1975: Rotary combines are introduced
The first twin-rotor system combine was created by Sperry-New Holland. This allowed the crop to be cut and separated in one pass over the field. For corn, it not only separated the husk and ears, but shelled the kernels, and chopped the stalks.

1982: First plant cell is genetically modified
Scientists working at Monsanto Company became the first in the world to genetically modify a plant cell. The team used Agrobacterium to introduce a new gene into the petunia plant and announced their achievement the following year. Within five years, Monsanto researchers planted their first outdoor trials of a genetically modified crop – tomatoes that were resistant to Roundup agricultural herbicide, insects, or viruses. The Agrobacterium method first used in 1982 is still in use today by Monsanto scientists and by other companies’ scientists.

1994: Satellite technology advances farming
For the first time, farmers were able to use satellite technology to see their farms from overhead, allowing for better tracking and planning.

1996: Monsanto’s first GMO crops become commercially available
Monsanto introduced Roundup Ready® soybeans and Bollgard® insect-protected cotton, the first GMO row crops available to farmers. The soybeans provided tolerance to Roundup agricultural herbicide. The GMO traits in cotton provided protection against the cotton bollworm, tobacco budworm, and pink bollworm.

2000s: Software and mobile devices helps farmers have better harvests
Like many people, farmers started carrying mobile devices, which allowed them to stay connected to colleagues while in the field. This also meant they now had access to data needed while on-the-go, including the ability to place orders for seed or fertilizer at any time or in any place.

2015: Data revolutionizes farming potential
Farmers make decisions based on the information they have on-hand, which is why data has helped them harness the power of information to make better-informed decisions that allow them to use resources more sustainably. The Climate Corporation’s Climate FieldView™ is a digital platform that brings together data collection, agronomic modeling, and local weather monitoring, which gives farmers a better understanding of their fields. These tools allow farmers to plan for better harvests and make decisions that are better for the planet.

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