How Modern Agriculture Developed

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The Evolution of Modern Agriculture: From the Industrial Revolution to Today

The development of modern agriculture has been a gradual process that has taken place over several centuries. It has been shaped by various factors, including technological advancements, changes in society, and shifts in economic and political systems. In this article, we will explore how modern agriculture evolved from the industrial revolution in the 1800s to today.

1800 – 1900: The Industrial Revolution and the Emergence of Modern Agricultural Methods

The industrial revolution in the 1800s marked a significant turning point in the history of agriculture. Before this period, most people were peasant farmers who relied on traditional methods of cultivation. However, the growth of factories and urbanization led to a decline in the number of farmers, which created a need for increased productivity in agriculture.

One of the most significant developments during this period was the invention of the steel plow, which made it possible for farmers to till heavier soils at a much faster pace. However, larger farmlands led the way to many of the modern agricultural methods still in use today.

Agricultural improvements between 1800-1900 included large landowners/larger farms, crop rotation resulting in soil recovering fertility, new crops such as turnips and potatoes, new drainage techniques resulting in swamp and marshland use, new breeding techniques, and the use of new agricultural inventions such as mechanical seed drills, iron and steel plows, and steam-powered threshing machines.

In addition to food, raw materials such as cotton needed to be grown on farms and supplied to factories in the cities. The United States became the world’s largest supplier of cotton after 1800, as the southern states provided the ideal climate for growing cotton.

1900 – 1950: The Emergence of Scientific Farming and Agricultural Education

The early 1900s saw the emergence of scientific farming and agricultural education, which aimed to improve productivity through the use of scientific methods. The establishment of agricultural colleges and the introduction of agricultural extension services played a significant role in disseminating knowledge to farmers.

The use of fertilizers and pesticides became widespread during this period, leading to increased yields and more efficient production. The development of hybrid crops also contributed to higher yields and better disease resistance.

1950 – Present: The Green Revolution and Sustainable Agriculture

The period after World War II saw the emergence of the Green Revolution, which aimed to increase food production through the use of modern agricultural technologies. This period saw the development of high-yield crop varieties, modern irrigation systems, and the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

However, concerns about the environmental and health impacts of these methods led to the emergence of sustainable agriculture in the 1980s. Sustainable agriculture emphasizes the use of natural and organic methods to improve soil health and reduce the use of chemical inputs.


Modern agriculture has evolved significantly over the past few centuries, driven by changes in society, economics, and technology. The development of modern agriculture has led to increased productivity, which has made it possible to feed a growing population. However, it has also raised concerns about the environmental and health impacts of modern agricultural methods. The emergence of sustainable agriculture offers a way forward, emphasizing the use of natural and organic methods to improve soil health and reduce the use of chemical inputs.

Fact Sources:

“The Industrial Revolution.” Mark Twain Media, Inc., Publishers.

“The Green Revolution: History, Impact, and Future Implications.” American Society of Agronomy.

“Sustainable Agriculture.” United States Department of Agriculture.

“The Evolution of Agricultural Education and Extension in the United States.” United States Department of Agriculture.