When we think about agriculture, we think about the land, the crops, and our farmers that helped make it all happen. 

A brief history

Also known as farming, agriculture is the production of food. Animal feed, fiber, and other goods are made by growing and harvesting plants and animals. Farming or agriculture is practiced across the globe and some of the earliest records of farming come from ancient Mesopotamia. In fact, farming was so great back there, people called it the “Fertile Crescent”.

People started farming by using their hands to dig holes in the ground. This eventually led to hand-held digging sticks to tree branches which eventually turned into ploughs that were either pulled by hand or by oxen (or any other beast of burden that they had around). 

Milestones and inventions

From sticks and stones, farm machinery has grown throughout the ages. These advancements and innovations have helped farmers cultivate more land in a more efficient manner. Here are some notable inventions and innovations:

  • Crop rotation – crop rotation is the practice of planting different crops sequentially on the same plot of land. This is done to return the nutrients to the soil and will lead better soil quality, less weeds and pests. 

The ancient Roman, African, and Asian cultures were already practicing crop rotation. In Europe, during the Middle Ages, farmers commonly rotated planting rye or winter wheat in the first year, followed by barley or spring oats for the second year, while they left the land  bare in the third year in order for it to recover.

  • Hay press – the hay press or stationary baler was invented around the 1850s and gained popularity in the 1870s.  Before its invention, hay was cut by hand by using sickles and scythes.  In 1936, the automatic baler for hay was invented in Iowa by a man known as Innes.
  • Reaper –  if a wheelbarrow and a chariot had a baby, you would get the reaper. A man named Cyrus H. McCormick developed the first commercially successful reaper in 1831 which was a cross between a wheelbarrow and a chariot. This horse-drawn machine was to be capable of cutting six acres in a single afternoon – the equivalent of 12 people using scythes.
  • Tractor – the first tractors were said to have showed up in the early 19th century. In 1812, Richard Thervithick invented the first portable steam engine used for agriculture. He called his invention the “Barn Engine” and it was mainly used for driving a corn threshing machine. 

As the years passed, several improvements to engines began to emerge – one such notable improvement happened in 1903 where Charles W. Hart and Charles H. Parr built the first American tractor using a two-cylinder gasoline engine.  The two successfully continued to build more tractors and their 14,000 pound tractor (deemed as the oldest surviving internal combustion engine tractor in the US) can be found on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

Tractors are now a common site across farms in the country and across the world, and are still continuously evolving.

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So now that we know how agriculture has come a long way and how much it has improved (thanks to the many innovations and inventions), getting into farming is not that as daunting, thanks to the many tools and equipment ready at hand.

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