A History of agriculture


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Presentation concerning the history of agriculture.

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  • Interest approach:
    Ask, “What is the first thing you think of when agriculture is mentioned?”
  • The Natufian culture existed in the Mediterranean region of the Levant. It was an Epipalaeolithic culture, but unusual in that it established permanent settlements even before the introduction of agriculture. The Natufians are likely to have been the ancestors of the builders of the first Neolithic settlements of the region, which may have been the earliest in the world. There is also evidence that the Natufians themselves had already begun deliberate cultivation of cereals. They were certainly making use of wild grasses.
    Epipalaeolithic (or Epi-Palaeolithic, Epipaleolithic, or Epi-Paleolithic) was a period in the development of human technology that immediately precedes the neolithic period, as an alternative to mesolithic. Epipalaeolithic hunters and gatherers made relatively advanced tools made from small flint or obsidian blades, known as microliths that were hafted in wooden implements. They were hunters and gatherers and generally nomadic, although the Natufian culture of the Levant established permanent settlements.
  • Wheat (Triticum spp.) is a grass that is cultivated around the world. Globally, it is the second-largest cereal crop behind maize; the third being rice. Wheat grain is a staple food used to make flour, livestock feed and as an ingredient in the brewing of beer. The husk can be separated and ground into bran. Wheat is also planted strictly as a forage crop for livestock and as a hay. Wheat was first domesticated in prehistoric times, probably in the Fertile Crescent area of the Middle East.
    Domesticated animals, plants, and other organisms are those whose collective behavior, life cycle, or physiology has been altered as a result of their breeding and living conditions being under human control for multiple generations. Humans have brought these populations under their care for a wide range of reasons: for help with various types of work, to produce food or valuable commodities (such as wool, cotton, or silk), and to enjoy as pets or ornamental plants.
  • The Fertile Crescent has an impressive record of past human activity. As well as possessing many sites with the skeletal and cultural remains of both pre-modern and early modern humans (e.g. at Kebara Cave in Israel), later Pleistocene hunter-gatherers and Epipalaeolithic semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers (the Natufians), this area is most famous for its sites related to the origins of agriculture. The western zone around the Jordan and upper Euphrates rivers gave rise to the first known Neolithic farming settlements (referred to as Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA)), which date to around 9,000 BC (and includes sites such as Jericho). This region, alongside Mesopotamia (which lies to the east of the Fertile Crescent, between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates), also saw the emergence of early complex societies during the succeeding Bronze Age. There is also early evidence from this region for writing, and the formation of state-level societies. This has earned the region the nickname "The Cradle of Civilization.”
    Most importantly, the Fertile Crescent possessed the wild progenitors of the eight Neolithic founder crops important in early agriculture (i.e. wild progenitors to emmer, einkorn, barley, flax, chick pea, pea, lentil, bitter vetch), and four of the five most important species of domesticated animals - cows, goats, sheep, and pigs - and the fifth species, the horse, lived nearby.
    The Neolithic founder crops (or 'primary domesticates') are the eight species of plant that were domesticated by early Holocene (Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and B) farming communities in the Fertile Crescent region of Southwest Asia. They consist of flax, three cereals and four pulses, and are the first known domesticated plants in the world. CerealsEmmer (Triticum dicoccum, descended from the wild T. dicoccoides) Einkorn (Triticum monococcum, descended from the wild T. boeoticum) Barley (Hordeum vulgare/sativum, descended from the wild H. spontaneum) PulsesLentil (Lens culinaris) Pea (Pisum sativum) Chick pea (Cicer arietinum) Bitter vetch (Vicia ervilia)OtherFlax
  • The Fertile Crescent is highlighted in green.
  • Jacques Le Moyne traveled through Florida in 1564-65 and drew this picture of Native American agriculture there. To prepare the ground, the men used hoes of fishbone attached to wooden handles, and the women dug neatly spaced holes and dropped seeds into them. However, the early agriculture of these people consisted mainly of hunting and gathering to meet their food, clothing, and shelter needs.
  • Rice (genus Oryza) is a plant of the grass family which is a dietary staple of more than half of the world's human population. Rice cultivation is well suited to countries with low labor costs and high rainfall, as it is very labor-intensive to cultivate and requires plenty of water for irrigation. However, it can be grown practically anywhere, even on steep hillsides. Rice is the world's third largest crop, behind maize (corn) and wheat. Although its species are native to South Asia and certain parts of Africa, centuries of trade and exportation has made it commonplace in many cultures. The modern English word "rice" originates from ancient Greek word "arizi" ((μαγειρ) ρύζι which in turn was borrowed from the Tamil word of the same pronunciation, strongly indicating trade relationship between ancient Greeks and Tamils.
    Agricultural grasses grown for human food production are called cereals. Cereals constitute the major source of food energy for humans and perhaps the major source of protein, and include rice in South and Southeast Asia, maize in Central and South America, and wheat and barley in the Americas and North Eurasia. Many other grasses are also grown for forage and fodder for animal food, particularly for sheep and cattle. Some commonly known grass plants are:▪maize▪wheat▪rice▪rye▪ryegrass▪sugarcane▪barley▪bamboo
  • This is a rice paddy in Java (Indonesia).
  • Cattle are raised as livestock for meat (called beef and veal), dairy products (milk), leather and as draught animals (pulling carts, plows and the like). In some countries, such as India, they are subject to religious ceremonies and respect. It is estimated that there are 1.3 billion head of cattle in the world today [1].
    Cattle were originally identified by Carolus Linnaeus as three separate species. These were Bos taurus, the European cattle, including similar types from Africa and Asia; Bos indicus, the zebu; and the extinct Bos primigenius, the aurochs. The aurochs is ancestral to both zebu and European cattle.
    More recently these three have increasingly been grouped as one species, sometimes using the names Bos primigenius taurus, Bos primigenius indicus and Bos primigenius primigenius. Complicating the matter is the ability of cattle to interbreed with other closely related species. Hybrid individuals and even breeds exist, not only between European cattle and zebu but also with yaks, banteng, gaur, and American bison, a cross-genera hybrid. For example, genetic testing of the Dwarf Lulu breed, the only humpless "Bos taurus-type" cattle in Nepal, found them to be a mix of European cattle, zebu and yak. Cattle cannot successfully be bred with water buffalo or African buffalo.
  • Rice is intimately involved in the culture as well as the food ways and economy of many societies. For example, folklore tells us that when the Kachins of northern Myanmar (Burma) were sent forth from the center of the Earth, they were given the seeds of rice and were directed to a wondrous country where everything was perfect and where rice grew well. Rice is an integral part of their creation myth and remains today as their leading crop and most preferred food. In Bali, it is believed that the Lord Vishnu caused the Earth to give birth to rice, and the God Indra taught the people how to raise it. In both tales, rice is considered a gift of the gods, and even today in both places, rice is treated with reverence, and its cultivation is tied to elaborate rituals.
    Chinese myth, by contrast, tells of rice being a gift of animals rather than of gods. China had been visited by an especially severe period of floods. When the land had finally drained, people came down from the hills where they had taken refuge, only to discover that all the plants had been destroyed and there was little to eat. They survived through hunting, but it was very difficult, because animals were scarce. One day the people saw a dog coming across a field, and hanging on the dog's tail were bunches of long, yellow seeds. The people planted these seeds, rice grew, and hunger disappeared. Throughout China today, tradition holds that "the precious things are not pearls and jade but the five grains", of which rice is first.
    According to Shinto belief, the Emperor of Japan is the living embodiment of Ninigo-no-mikoto, the god of the ripened rice plant. While most modern Japanese may intellectually dismiss this supernatural role, they cannot deny the enormous cultural importance of rice on life in their country - and so it is in much of the rice world.
    Origin and Diffusion of Rice
    The origins of rice have been debated for some time, but the plant is of such antiquity that the precise time and place of its first development will perhaps never be known. It is certain, however, that the domestication of rice ranks as one of the most important developments in history, for this grain has fed more people over a longer period of time than has any other crop. The earliest settlements of those persons responsible for domestication undoubtedly were in areas offering a wide range of plant and animal associations within a limited geographical area. Such sites offered a variety of food sources over a span of seasons to societies dependent on hunting and gathering for their food supply. These earliest settlements might well have been near the edge of the uplands, but on gently rolling topography and close to small rivers that provided a reliable water supply. For centuries, humans maintained themselves by fishing in the rivers, hunting in the forests, and gathering edible plant products. The earliest agriculture, a simple form of swidden, may have developed by accident when women of the settlement recognized that the mix of plant life growing around the midden was especially rich in edible forms. The earliest agriculture was probably focused on plants that reproduced vegetatively, but the seeds of easily shattering varieties of wild rice such as Oryza fatua may have found their way to the gardens at an early date. If these assumptions are correct, then domestication most likely took place in the area of the Korat or in some sheltered basin area of northern Thailand, in one of the longitudinal valleys of Myanmar's Shan Upland, in southwestern China, or in Assam.
    As a result of Europe's great Age of Exploration, new lands to the west became available for exploitation. Rice cultivation was introduced to the New World by early European settlers. The Portuguese carried it to Brazil, and the Spanish introduced its cultivation to several locations in Central and South America. The first record for North America dates from 1685, when the crop was produced on the coastal lowlands and island of what is now South Carolina. The crop may well have been carried to that area by slaves brought from Madagascar. Early in the 18th century, rice spread to Louisiana, but not until the 20th century was it produced in California's Sacramento Valley. The introduction in the latter area corresponded almost exactly with the timing of the first successful crop in Australia's New South Wales.
  • Horseback Riders May Have First Appeared on the Ukrainian Steppes - 4,000 BC
    While it had long been accepted that humans harnessed horses prior to riding them, new archeological research in Eurasia now may push the date for the first horseback riding back to approximately 4,000 BC Excavations in the Ukrainian steppes have unearthed horse teeth from this period which show possible signs of bit wear.
    This would mean that man became mounted shortly after domestication - some 3,000 years prior to significant horseback riding in the "civilized" Near East. As these people had no written language, were nomadic, and utilized materials which have not survived, little more is known of their early riding efforts. It would be more than 3,000 years before their legacy, the mounted Sythian cavalry, would make their presence felt in the "civilized" world around 670 BC.
  • Here, workers use a team of oxen to break the ground in preparation to plant seed.
  • (left) A baker.
    (right) Slab for grinding grain.
    (bottom) Bread.
  • Note how some very basic tasks have remained essentially unchanged. Here we see a wall painting found in Egypt showing workers scattering seeds after having plowed the fields. To the right, a man does the same work, but this pictures was taken in the 1930s. While this means of planting is no longer common in the United States, (thanks to modern machinery) throughout the world, much work is still done by hand, as illustrated here.
  • Archaeologists trace the first inhabitants as far back as 10,000 BC, when hunters and gatherers established settlements on the southern coast and in the central highlands. By 3,200 BC three distinct agricultural-based civilizations had emerged, producing some of the hemisphere's oldest known pottery. They developed trade routes with nearby Peru, Brazil, and Amazonian tribes. Culture continued to thrive and diversify, and by 500 BC large cities had been established along the coast. Their inhabitants had sophisticated metalworking and navigational skills and they traded with Mexico's Maya.
  • (Left) Gallus gallus spadiceus, the Red Junglefowl, considered by some to be the ancestor of domesticated chickens.
    (Right) A domesticated variant. The Japanese developed many chicken breeds from a variety called shokoku. The government has designated 17 varieties, including shokoku, as protected breeds. In Japan, chickens like these were initially kept as pets.
  • (Left) Araucana, discovered in South America.
    (Upper Right) Standard and Bantam Light Brahmas.
    (Lower Right) The Leghorn Breed.
  • When agriculture was first developed, simple hand held digging sticks or hoes would have been used in highly fertile areas, such as the banks of the Nile where the annual flood rejuvenates the soil, to create furrows wherein seeds could be sown. In order to regularly grow crops in less fertile areas, the soil must be turned to bring nutrients to the surface. The domestication of oxen in Mesopotamia (southwest Asia), perhaps as early as the 6th millennium BC, provided mankind with the pulling power necessary to develop the plough. The very earliest ploughs were simple scratch-ploughs and consisted of a frame holding a vertical wooden stick that was dragged through the topsoil. These were much later developed into mouldboard ploughs (American spelling: moldboard) that turned the soil in one run across the field, depositing the weeds and undecomposed remains of the previous crop under the soil and raising the rain-percolated nutrients back to the surface. This plough also allowed for ploughing while the ground was wet. The water was drained due to channels formed under the overturned earth. This important innovation, introduced into Europe around 600AD, allowed the heavy northern soils to be worked.
  • First known discovery of coffee berries. Legend of goat herder Kaldi of Ethiopia who notices goats are friskier after eating red berries of a local shrub. Experiments with the berries himself and begins to feel happier.
    Coffee berries were transported from Ethiopia to the Arabian peninsula, and were first cultivated in what today is the country of Yemen. From there, coffee traveled to Turkey where coffee beans were roasted for the first time over open fires. The roasted beans were crushed, and then boiled in water, creating a crude version of the beverage we enjoy today. Coffee first arrived on the European continent by means of Venetian trade merchants. Once in Europe this new beverage fell under harsh criticism from the Catholic church. Many felt the pope should ban coffee, calling it the drink of the devil. To their surprise, the pope, already a coffee drinker, blessed coffee declaring it a truly Christian beverage. Coffee houses spread quickly across Europe becoming centers for intellectual exchange. Many great minds of Europe used this beverage, and forum, as a springboard to heightened thought and creativity. In the 1700's, coffee found its way to the Americas by means of a French infantry captain who nurtured one small plant on its long journey across the Atlantic. This one plant, transplanted to the Caribbean Island of Martinique, became the predecessor of over 19 million trees on the island within 50 years. It was from this humble beginning that the coffee plant found its way to the rest of the tropical regions of South and Central America. Coffee was declared the national drink of the then colonized United States by the Continental Congress, in protest of the excessive tax on tea levied by the British crown.
  • Corn is thought to have been domesticated in southern Mexico some 9,000 years ago
    The plant Zea maize, for example, was developed through millennia of breeding by Americans Indians.An ancestor is a grasslike grain from Mexico that bears little resemblance to modern corn. From there, it traveled north and south from one agricultural tribe to another, each altering the plant to better produce in their local climate and growing sites.Each of these groups selected dozens of strains and systematically changed them to produce larger, more productive ears. They ate corn fresh as we do in the "milk stage," but most of the crop was dried to store for grinding into cornmeal. The ears were not picked until the plants turned brown.
  • Zea mays ssp. parviglumis plants growing in a ravine near Teloloapan in the Balsas river drainage, Guererro, Mexico (photo by Hugh Iltis)
  • Teosinte ear (Zea mays ssp mexicana) on the left, maize ear on the right, and ear of their F1 hybrid in the center (photo by John Doebley)
    Evolution of Maize Agriculture Corn or maize (zea mays) is a domesticated plant of the Americas. Along with many other indigenous plants like beans, squash, melons, tobacco, and roots such as Jerusalem artichoke, European colonists in America quickly adopted maize agriculture from Native Americans. Crops developed by Native Americans quickly spread to other parts of the world as well. Over a period of thousands of years, Native Americans purposefully transformed maize through special cultivation techniques. Maize was developed from a wild grass (Teosinte) originally growing in Central America (southern Mexico) 7,000 years ago. The ancestral kernels of Teosinte looked very different from today's corn. These kernels were small and were not fused together like the kernels on the husked ear of early maize and modern corn. By systematically collecting and cultivating those plants best suited for human consumption, Native Americans encouraged the formation of ears or cobs on early maize. The first ears of maize were only a few inches long and had only eight rows of kernels. Cob length and size of early maize grew over the next several thousand years which gradually increased the yields of each crop.Eventually the productivity of maize cultivation was great enough to make it possible and worthwhile for a family to produce food for the bulk of their diet for an entire year from a small area. Although maize agriculture permitted a family to live in one place for an extended period of time, the commitment to agriculture involved demands on human time and labor and often restricted human mobility.
    The genetic alterations in teosinte changed its value as a food resource and at the same time affected the human scheduling necessary for its effective procurement.Maize in New England As the lifeways of mobile hunting and gathering were often transformed into sedentary agricultural customs, very slowly the cultivation of maize, along with beans and squash, was introduced into the southwestern and southeastern parts of North America. The practice of maize agriculture did not reach southern New England until about a thousand years ago.A Penobscot man described the transformation of maize for the shorter growing season of northern New England. Maize was observed to grow in a series of segments, like other members of the grass family, which took approximately one phase of the moon to form, with approximately seven segments in all, from which ears were produced only at the joints of the segments. Native Americans of northern New England gradually encouraged the formation of ears at the lower joints of the stalk by planting kernels from these ears. Eventually, as ears were regularly produced at the lower joints of the cornstalk, the crop was adapted to the shorter growing season of the north and matured within three months of planting.Native Americans of New England planted corn in household gardens and in more extensive fields adjacent to their villages. Fields were often cleared by controlled burning which enriched not only the soil but the plant and animal communities as well. Slash and burn agriculture also helped create an open forest environment, free of underbrush, which made plant collecting and hunting easier.Agricultural fields consisted of small mounds of tilled earth, placed a meter or two apart sometimes in rows and other times randomly placed. Kernels of corn and beans were planted in the raised piles of soil to provide the support of the cornstalk for the bean vine to grow around. The spaces in between the mounds were planted with squash or mellon seeds. The three crops complemented each other both in the field and in their combined nutrition.Native Americans discovered that, unlike wild plants and animals, a surplus of maize could be grown and harvested without harming their environment. Tribes in southern New England harvested great amounts of maize and dried them in heaps upon mats. The drying piles of maize, usually two or three for each Narragansett family, often contained from 12 to 20 bushels of the grain. Surplus maize would be stored in underground storage pits, ingeniously constructed and lined with grasses to prevent mildew or spoiling, for winter consumption of the grain.The European accounts of Josselyn in 1674, indicate Native Americans used bags and sacks to store powdered cornmeal, "which they make use of when stormy weather or the like will not suffer them to look out for their food". Parched cornmeal made an excellent food for traveling. Roger Williams in 1643, describes small traveling baskets: "I have travelled with neere 200. of them at once, neere 100. miles through the woods, every man carrying a little Basket of this [Nokehick] at his back, and sometimes in a hollow Leather Girdle about his middle, sufficient for a man three or foure daies". Cornhusk bed mat; Iroquois. Rolled husks sewn with basswood cord. Braided Edge.Cornhusk foot mat; Seneca. Braided and sewn in a coil. Fringe from spliced cornhusks left on one side.Native American Origins of Maize Many Native American traditions, stories and ceremonies surround corn, one of the "three sisters" (maize, beans and squash). Even in New England there are many variations on how maize was brought or introduced to Native Americans here. Generally in southern New England, maize is described as a gift of Cautantowwit, a deity associated with the southwestern direction; that kernels of maize and beans were delivered by the crow, or in other versions the black-bird. Responsible for bringing maize, the crow would not be harmed even for damaging the cornfield. Other Algonquian legends recount maize brought by a person sent from the Great Spirit as a gift of thanks. Cornhusk, wool and basswood cord twined bag; Narragansett (made in 1675).Cornhusk moccasin; Seneca. Two-strand twined construction.New England tribes from the Mohegan in Connecticut to the Iroquois in the Great Lakes region had rituals and ceremonies of thanksgiving for the planting and harvesting of corn. One ceremony, the Green Corn ceremony of New England tribes, accompanies the fall harvest. Around August Mahican men return from temporary camps to the village to help bring in the harvest and to take part in the Green Corn ceremony which celebrates the first fruits of the season. Many tribes also had ceremonies for seed planting to ensure healthy crops as well as corn testing ceremonies once the crops were harvested.
  • Crops grown by the Powhatan Indians – corn, beans and squash – were adopted by European colonists of the Jamestown Settlement, who also brought plants such as radishes, cucumbers, lettuce and cabbage to the New World.
  • The development of the seed drill was one of the major innovations in pre-1900 farming technology. Before 1900, most farmers seeded by broadcasting. Broadcast seeding, however, had its shortcomings. Much of the seed remained on the surface where it never germinated or germinated prematurely, only to be killed by frost. On the surface, it was also vulnerable to being eaten by birds or carried away on the wind. The invention of the seed drill dramatically improved germination. The seed drill employed a series of runners spaced at the same distance as the ploughed furrows. These runners, or drills, opened the furrow to a uniform depth before the seed was dropped. Behind the drills were a series of presses, metal discs which cut down the sides of the trench into which the seeds had been planted, covering them over. This innovation permitted farmers to have precise control over the depth at which seeds were planted. This greater measure of control meant that fewer seeds germinated early or late, and that seeds were able to take optimum advantage of available soil moisture in a prepared seed bed. The result was that farmers were able to use less seed, and at the same time experience larger yields than under the broadcast methods. Over the years, seed drills became larger and more sophisticated, but the technology remained substantially the same. Early drills were small enough to be pulled by a single horse, and many of these remained in use into the 1930s. The availability of steam, and later gasoline tractors, however, saw the development of larger and more efficient drills that allowed farmers to seed ever larger tracts in a single day.
  • Seed, or grain, drill.
  • Eli Whitney was the inventor of the cotton gin and a pioneer in the mass production of cotton. Whitney was born in Westboro, Mass., on Dec. 8, 1765, and died on Jan. 8, 1825. He graduated from Yale College in 1792. By April 1793, Whitney had designed and constructed the cotton gin, a machine that automated the separation of cottonseed from the short-staple cotton fiber. Eli Whitney's machine could produce up to 23 kg (50 lb) of cleaned cotton daily, making southern cotton a profitable crop for the first time, but Whitney failed to profit from his invention, imitations of his machine appeared, and his 1794 patent was not upheld until 1807.
    Background on the Cotton Gin
    The cotton gin is a device for removing the seeds from cotton fiber. Simple devices for that purpose have been around for centuries, an East Indian machine called a charka was used to separate the seeds from the lint when the fiber was pulled through a set of rollers. The charka was designed to work with long-staple cotton, but American  cotton is a short-staple cotton. The cottonseed in Colonial America was removed by hand, usually the work of slaves. Eli Whitney's machine was the first to clean short-staple cotton. His cotton engine consisted of spiked teeth mounted on a boxed revolving cylinder which, when turned by a crank, pulled the cotton fiber through small slotted openings so as to separate the seeds from the lint -- a rotating brush, operated via a belt and pulleys, removed the fibrous lint from the projecting spikes. The gins later became horse-drawn and water-powered gins and cotton production increased, along with lowered costs. Cotton soon became the number one selling textile. After the invention of the cotton gin, the yield of raw cotton doubled each decade after 1800. Demand was fueled by other inventions of the Industrial Revolution, such as the machines to spin and weave it and the steamboat to transport it. By mid-century America was growing three-quarters of the world's supply of cotton, most of it shipped to England or New England where it was manufactured into cloth. During this time tobacco fell in value, rice exports at best stayed steady, and sugar began to thrive, but only in Louisiana. At mid-century the South provided three-fifths of America's exports, most of it in cotton.
  • Before the Frenchman became known for his inventions, Nicholas Appert tried his hand at many occupations. He began as a hotelkeeper, became a brewer, switched to chef and later was a confectioner in Paris.Appert’s most famous invention was mind boggling for his time and took him possibly 15 years to perfect. He discovered the process that kept foods from spoiling. This invention was prompted by Napoleon Bonaparte’s offer of 12,000 francs to the man who could invent a useful way of preserving food for his army. At the time, food spoiled easily and because of this, the soldiers suffered. Nicholas Appert experimented with various packaging techniques and eventually found that food wouldn’t go “bad” when sealed in an airtight container and soaked in hot water for a few hours. He closed the bottles or jars with cork, wire, and sealing wax in order to keep air out of his bottles. After Nicholas discovered to key to protecting food, he sent bottles of partridges, vegetables, and gravy to Napoleon’s army. Napoleon awarded Appert with the money when his troops tasted the freshness of Appert’s successful invention. After sending the bottled food, Appert reportedly said “every one of which had retained its freshness, and not a single substance had undergone the least change at sea.” Napoleon said, “ an army marches on its stomach.” Apparently this was true because the troops were able to march longer distances and eat better with Appert’s bottled food.After receiving his award money, Nicholas Appert built a bottling factory so that he could easily supply others with preserved food. His factory burned down in 1814 during Napoleon’s Wars.
    Originally, scientists thought canning worked by eliminating oxygen in the container.  But sufficient heating amounts to sterilization, which destroys the bacteria and enzymes that can cause spoiling.   Hermetically sealing the food in glass or metal prevents new air or other organisms from contaminating it.
  • Cyrus Hall McCormick (1809-1884) conceived plans for his reaper, built and tested it, and then remodled it for public trial, all within six weeks time.
    (He was influenced by his father’s work on the reaper.)
    McCormick worked far into the night to complete the world's first reaper for the harvest of 1831. McCormick had always been a keen inventor. In 1824, at age 15, Cyrus invented a lightweight cradle for harvesting grain. Cyrus' father, Robert, had worked in the farm's blacksmith shop intermittently since about 1815 on a horse-drawn reaper, but was never successful in perfecting it. He finally abandoned the project at the beginning of the 1831 harvest. Cyrus picked up where his father had left off and added several key features to his father's design.
    By the end of the same 1831 harvest, Cyrus had the first successful demonstration of his reaper. Cyrus further refined his reaper, and finally took out a patent in 1834.
    McCormick's reaper spread - slowly at first, but then at a pace that quickly outstripped his ability to produce the machines at the Walnut Grove blacksmith shop. In 1847, he moved to Chicago to serve the vast prairie grain fields of the Midwest. Shortly thereafter he sent for his brothers William and Leander, who became partners with Cyrus. By 1856, Cyrus was famous the world over. McCormick's "Virginia Reaper" hastened the westward expansion of the United States, and this expansion produced new markets for the reaper. In 1851, the reaper won the highest award of the day, the Gold Medal at London's Crystal Palace Exhibition, and Cyrus McCormick became a world celebrity.
    McCormick's success was partly due to his mechanical inventiveness. But he also was a pioneer in business techniques: easy credit to enable farmers to pay for machines from increased harvests; written performance guarantees; and advertising to convince farmers to buy his reaper. He helped make farmers mechanically minded and willing to try new ideas. That willingness, in turn, made American farmers the most efficient in the world.
    The reaper and other farm machines, which came from the McCormick company and subsequent companies (International Harvester and now Tenneco's J.I. Case affiliate), allowed fewer and fewer people to produce more and more food and fiber. In the process, our society was transformed. Instead of 90 percent of the population farming to meet the nation's needs, as was the case in 1831, today fewer than 2 percent of the US population are directly involved in farming. Freed from the soil, people turned their energies to industry, science, arts, and other ways to improve the quality of life in this country and around the world.
  • A reaper in use.
  • This steel plow was John Deere's answer to the heavy, sticky soils of the American prairies. Deere was a Vermont blacksmith who, in the mid-1830s, headed west and eventually settled in Grand Detour, IL. There, he found that the wood and cast-iron plow that was used in the eastern United States was not suited to the Midwest. Deere began experimenting. In 1836, he invented the first steel plow that could till prairie soil without clogging.
    The steel plow, invented by Deere made it easier to cultivate the rich prairie soil. Crucial to a pioneer family's survival, the plow also came to symbolize national prosperity and the "civilizing" of the West. From early on, many Americans associated the family farm and frontier life with ideals of democracy and independence. These ideals, along with dreams of a prosperous new life and the availability of western lands, enticed settlers across the continent throughout the 1800s. As they pushed westward, pioneers fought to claim land from Mexicans, Indians, other settlers, and from the wilderness itself.
  • Modern plough at work.
  • Mendelian inheritance (or Mendelian genetics or Mendelism) is a set of primary tenets that underlie much of genetics developed by Gregor Mendel in the latter part of the 19th century. Mendel (1822-1884), an Austrian monk, was interested in understanding variances in plants, and between 1856 and 1863 cultivated and tested some 28,000 pea plants.
    His experiments brought forth two generalizations which later became known as Mendel's Laws of Heredity or Mendelian inheritance. These are described in his paper "Experiments on Plant Hybridization" that was read to the Natural History Society of Brunn on February 8 and March 8, 1865, and was published in 1866.Before Gregor Mendel formulated his theories of genetics in 1865, the prevailing theory of biological inheritance was that of blending inheritance, in which the sperm and egg of parent organisms contained a sampling of the parent's "essence" and that they somehow blended together to form the pattern for the offspring.
    This theory accounted for the fact that offspring tended to resemble their parents without all members of a population eventually averaging themselves out.Mendel proposed instead a theory of particulate inheritance, in which characteristics were determined by discrete units of inheritance that were passed intact from one generation to the next. These units would later come to be known as genes, though Mendel did not coin the term himself. Mendel based his theory on experiments involving the cross-pollination between two plants or self-pollinatation with a single plant. Based on many years of careful, tedious breeding experiments, Mendel developed several fundamental laws of Mendelian inheritance.
    Mendel's findings allowed other scientists to simplify the emergence of traits to mathematical probability. A large portion of Mendel's spectacular findings can be traced to his choice to start his experiments only with true breeding plants. He also only measured absolute characteristics such as color, shape, and position of the offspring. His data was expressed numerically and subjected to statistical analysis. This method of data reporting and the large sampling size he used gave credibility to his data. He also had the foresight to look through several successive generations of his pea plants and record their variations. Without his careful attention to procedure and detail, Mendel's work could not have had the impact it made on the world of genetics.
  • Pasteurization is the process of heating food for the purpose of killing harmful organisms such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa, molds, and yeasts. The process was named after its inventor, French scientist Louis Pasteur. The first pasteurization test was completed by Pasteur and Claude Bernard on April 20, 1862. Unlike sterilization, pasteurization is not intended to kill all microorganisms in the food. Compare with appertization invented by Nicolas Francois Appert. Instead, pasteurization aims to achieve a "log reduction" in the number of viable organisms, reducing their number so they are unlikely to cause disease (assuming the pasteurized product is refrigerated and consumed before its expiration date). Commercial scale sterilization of food is not common, because it adversely affects the taste and quality of the product.
  • A pesticide is a chemical, or sometimes biological agent such as a virus or bacteria, used to control, to repel, to attract, or to kill pests, which are organisms, including insects, weeds, birds, mammals, fish, and microbes, that compete with humans for food, destroy property, spread disease, or are considered a nuisance.
  • Genetic engineering, genetic modification (GM), and gene splicing (once in widespread use but now deprecated) are terms for the process of manipulating genes in an organism, usually outside of the organism's normal reproductive process.It often involves the isolation, manipulation and reintroduction of DNA into model organisms, usually to express a protein. The aim is to introduce new characteristics to an organism to increase its usefulness such as, increasing the yield of a crop species, introducing a novel characteristic, or producing a new protein or enzyme.
    Examples are the production of human insulin through the use of modified bacteria and the production of new types of experimental mice like the OncoMouse, (cancer mouse) for research, through genetic redesign.Since a protein is specified by a segment of DNA called a gene, future versions of that protein can be modified by changing the gene's underlying DNA. One way to do this is to isolate the piece of DNA containing the gene, precisely cut the gene out, and then reintroduce the gene (splice) into a different DNA segment.
    Daniel Nathans and Hamilton Smith received the 1978 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their isolation of restriction endonucleases, which are able to cut DNA at specific sites. Together with ligase, which can join together fragments of DNA, restriction enzymes formed the initial basis of recombinant DNA technology.
  • A History of agriculture

    1. 1. A History of Agriculture Eric Stormer Virginia Cooperative Extension
    2. 2. Terms To Know • • • • • • • • • Agriculture Industry Agriculture Agribusiness Aquaculture Biotechnology Domestication Farming Forestry Inventions • Natural Resources • Ornamental Horticulture • Suburban Farming • Technology
    3. 3. What is Agriculture, and how does it influence our lives? • Agriculture is the science of growing crops and raising animals to meet the needs of humans. • The agriculture industry includes all of the activities needed to provide people with food, clothing and shelter. It includes farm and non-farm operations.
    4. 4. Defining Agribusiness • Agribusiness is all of the nonfarm work in the agriculture industry. The two main areas of agribusiness are: • Supplies and Services • Marketing and Processing
    5. 5. What is Farming? • Farming is using the land and other resources to grow crops, and raise animals. • Suburban Farming is using small areas of land in residential and business areas to produce crops and animals. • Aquaculture is farming in water. Aquaculture includes production of fish as well as plants such as water cress and water chestnuts.
    6. 6. What is Farming, Cont’d. • Forestry is the production and use of trees. • The agriculture industry also includes items that make the lives of people better. • Ornamental Horticulture is producing plants for their beauty. • Natural resources are all of the things found in nature, including living organisms, minerals, soil, water and air.
    7. 7. 12,000 BC • People of the Natufian culture, living in the Southwest Asia (Middle East) begin to cultivate cereals; grasses grown for their edible seeds. • (Ceres - the Roman goddess of grain.)
    8. 8. 9,800 BC • Earliest evidence for domesticated wheat is found at sites in the Middle East.
    9. 9. 8,500 BC • People across the Fertile Crescent begin growing domestic wheat, barley, chickpeas, peas, beans, flax and bitter vetch.
    10. 10. 8500 BC • Sheep and Goats are domesticated.
    11. 11. The Fertile Crescent
    12. 12. 7,000 BC • Native Americans - Indians, Hawaiians and Eskimos - begin simple farming.
    13. 13. 6,800 BC • Rice is domesticated in Southeast Asia.
    14. 14. 6,500 BC • Evidence that cattle are domesticated in Turkey.
    15. 15. 4,000 BC, Cont’d • Evidence that rice is domesticated in northwestern Thailand.
    16. 16. 4,000 BC, Cont’d.
    17. 17. Plowing the Fields
    18. 18. 4,000 BC • Egyptians discover how to make bread using yeast.
    19. 19. What Similarities Exist Here?
    20. 20. 3,500 BC • First agriculture in the Americas, around Ecuador.
    21. 21. 2,000 BC • Evidence of the domestication of chickens around India. (Some sources state that this may have happened earlier in other parts of the world.)
    22. 22. Chicken Breeds
    23. 23. 600 • The moldboard plough is invented in eastern Europe.
    24. 24. 850 • Use of coffee is known in Arabia.
    25. 25. 1,000 • Corn is being raised by Native Americans in large plots.
    26. 26. Ancestor to Modern Corn
    27. 27. 1607 • Indians show the Plymouth Rock colonists how to grow crops such as corn, pumpkins, squash and beans.
    28. 28. 1611 • A shipment of livestock arrived in the colony of Jamestown, Virginia. This shipment became the foundation for livestock production in colonies of the southeast.
    29. 29. 1701 • Jethro Tull invents the seed drill.
    30. 30. Modern Seed Drill
    31. 31. 1793 • Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin.
    32. 32. 1809 • Nicholas Appert invents canning for food preservation.
    33. 33. 1834 • Cyrus McCormick invents the reaper.
    34. 34. The McCormick Reaper
    35. 35. The McCormick Reaper
    36. 36. 1837 • John Deere invents the steel plow.
    37. 37. A Horse Drawn Plough
    38. 38. A Modern Plough
    39. 39. 1855 • Gregor Mendel publishes his paper describing Mendelian Inheritance.
    40. 40. 1871 • Louis Pasteur invents pasteurization.
    41. 41. 2000s • Improved varieties of corn are developed. These varieties exhibit additional resistance to pests and diseases.
    42. 42. 2000s • Development of new pesticides.
    43. 43. 2000s • Genetically modified organisms are cultivated around the world.
    44. 44. 2000s • Computers are developed and begin to be widely used in agriculture.
    45. 45. 2000s • Biotechnology, the science to change organisms or their environment, or to get products from organisms, begins to be used.