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Easy Farming
Easy Farming

Where Did Crops Originate?

Gradual advancement
Over the next 8,500 years, agriculture evolved relatively slowly. Through trial and error, farmers around the world began to breed better plants.
They naturally noticed that not all plants within a species were the same. Some grew larger, tasted better or were easier to grind into meal. They simply began to save seeds from the best plants and sow them for the next year’s harvest.
Over hundreds of generations, this led to the transformation of wild plants into the larger, tastier grains and vegetables we know today.
During the Bronze and Iron Ages, stone and wooden tools were replaced by stronger, more efficient metal tools. However, farming remained a time- and labor-intensive pursuit that involved nearly 80% of the world’s population.

The agricultural revolution
From 800 to 1400 A.D., the tools of farming remained essentially unchanged. The early colonists in North America used plows that were no different or better than the plows used during the Roman Empire.
Then suddenly, during the 18th and 19th centuries, agricultural innovation exploded. Plow design was improved and an Englishman named Jethro Tull invented the world’s first seed drill, a device that allowed seeds to be planted quickly in neat, straight rows. Horse-drawn, mechanized harvesting equipment—like Cyrus McCormick’s reaper—quickly followed.
Farmers could now plant and harvest in a fraction of the time is used to take them. Agricultural productivity soared.

During the 20th century, gasoline-powered machines began to replace traditional, horse-drawn equipment. This, combined with advancements in fertilizer and pesticide technology after World War II, allowed agricultural productivity to take another leap forward.
The new technological efficiencies meant farmers could manage more land. Over time, this led to fewer, larger farms. For developed countries, it also led to a shift in the labor force. In the United States, for example, the percentage of the workforce engaged in farming dropped from 40% (in 1900), to just 2% (in 2000).
Because fewer of us lived on farms, it became easier to forget how crops were grown, processed and shipped. In the more developed countries, at least, food became an available, affordable commodity that came from “somewhere else.”

Between 1900 and 2012, the world’s population grew from 1.6 billion to more than 7 billion. In 1700, only 7% of the earth’s surface was used for agriculture. Today it is more than 40%. And only a portion the land that is left is currently suitable for growing crops.
Clearly, agriculture is at a crossroads. The world needs to produce more food than ever before, while conserving the limited resources we have available. Where we go from here will require the ingenuity and cooperation of farmers, companies, governments, universities and citizens alike.


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