Artificial Selection: The unnatural selection of plants with favorable traits to produce more disease-resistant plants with better quality and higher yield.The Rise Of The Banana: Not all bananas were the same. Some were thinner, some less seedy and some sweeter. Years ago, people collected seeds from sweeter, thinner bananas to breed better bananas suited for human consumption.
Not because annuals were better, but because Neolithic farmers rapidly made them better, for example, enlarging their seeds, through selective breeding, by replanting the ones from thriving plants, year after year. As perennials did not benefit from that kind of selective breeding, because they don't need to be replanted, this natural advantage became a handicap to the perennials, causing humans to favor annuals instead. Perennials do not have a high yield. We pay a steep price for our reliance on high yields and shallow roots as annual root crops mostly tap into only the top foot or so of soil such that that layer gets depleted, forcing farmers to rely on large amounts of fertilizers to maintain high yields. Annuals also promote heavy use of pesticides or tillage because they leave the ground bare much of the year which allows weeds to invade. Above all, leaving the ground bare after harvest and plowing it in planting season erodes the soil. Perennial grains would help with all these problems. They would keep the ground covered, reducing erosion and the need for pesticides, and their deep roots would stabilize the soil and make the grains more suitable for marginal lands. Perennials capture water and nutrients 10 or 12 feet down in the soil, 11 months of the year, as the deep roots and ground cover would also hold on to fertilizer—reducing the cost to the farmer as well as to the environment.
Hybridization - Classical plant breeding uses deliberate interbreeding (crossing) of closely or distantly related individuals to produce new crop varieties or lines with desirable properties. Plants are crossbred to introduce traits/genes from one variety or line into a new genetic background. For example, a mildew-resistant pea may be crossed with a high-yielding but susceptible pea, the goal of the cross being to introduce mildew resistance without losing the high-yield characteristics. Progeny from the cross would then be crossed with the high-yielding parent to ensure that the progeny were most like the high-yielding parent, (backcrossing). The progeny from that cross would then be tested for yield and mildew resistance and high-yielding resistant plants would be further developed. Plants may also be crossed with themselves to produce inbred varieties for breeding.
Hybridization is the process of crossing two genetically different individuals to result in a third individual with a different, often preferred, set of traits (yellow watermelon). Cross pollination – pollen from one flower is transferred from another (by insect – bees; by wind; or by human). Graftinghorticultural technique whereby tissues from one plant are inserted into those of another so that the two sets of vascular tissues may join together. Plant an orange or apple seed and it might grow into a tree with tasty fruit. It also might grow into a tree with fruit whose taste is unacceptable. With grafting you can plant the same seed, and then, at the right time, cut the top off and attach a piece of a desirable orange or apple that grows into an exact copy of the desirable parent, complete with tasty fruit.
Paradigm – we had wild diversity, we’ve lost 97% of that diversity through GE, monocultures, and some selective breeding, but they say that selective breeding for new crops will increase diversity and stabilize our food system? What do you think?Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production around the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s. It forms a part of the 'neo-colonial' system of agriculture wherein agriculture was viewed as more of a commercial sector than a subsistence one. Began with high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers.
Seeds were bred to specifically to respond to chemical use so that they would yield more highly – bigger, faster, better complex that Joel Salatin described. Locally adapted crops were replaced by genetically nondiverse hybrid varieties. Six types of corn now occupy 71 percent of the acreage in the US while two types of peas occupy 96 percent of the national acreage. Not only have destroyed natural diversity, have increase the requirements for chemical manipulation and energy expense. Nine crops account for over ¾ of the plants consumed by humans. As Wes Jackson said in “Farming in Nature’s Image,” “Diversity provides the system with built-in resilience to change and cycles in climate, water, insects, and pests, grazers and other natural disturbances. “
Blight disease damaged more than $1 billion dollars of corn in 1970 – monoculture vulnerability; Open pollinated crops lead to massive biological contamination of nonengineered seed by gene-altered varieties – bioengineered Starlink variety which was not approved for human use. Unapproved corn found its way into dozens of popular food products in supermarkets around the country, cuasing one of the largest food recalls in recent history.
Industrial ag has transformed the potato, the ultimate symbol of the earth’s bounty into a human health and environmental nightmare known as the French fry.
“Tomatoes could not be grown commercially at all without the resistance they have developed from wild species.”
Mother Earth News: If traditional selective breeding is like two people with two different sets of genes being paired up by a matchmaker who thinks they’ll have pretty, healthy kids together, then modern high-tech GM breeding is like Victor Frankenstein slicing ‘superior’ body parts out of fifteen different corpses and using them to sew together his powerful, yet frighteningly unpredictable, monster. Director of The Nature Institute, Craig Holdrege - explains that the most critical difference between natural and GM breeding is that natural breeding crosses only organisms that are already closely related—two varieties of corn, for example—whereas, in contrast, GM breeding slaps together genes from up to 15 wildly different sources. OR Joe Mendelson, Director of Center for Food Safety - The difference is pretty large. In regular cross pollination, the species being crossed have to be related . . . basically respecting their common evolutionary origin. But with GMOs, you can take any gene from any species and splice it into a crop. So you get fish genes in tomatoes or the like.
Within 5 years, homesteaders required to build a house and cultivate a percentage of the property for agriculture. Many homesteaders forced to give up in the face of inadequate 160 acre plots, drought, hail, and insects. Still families were determined to use the land and the Homestead Act was responsible for the settlement of nearly 10% of all the land in the United States and Alaska.
The plow “shattered the myth of the Great American Desert.”
Authorized the President of the United States to survey Indian tribal land and divide it into allotments for individual Indians. It was a form of removal whereby the US government would uproot the natives from their current locations to positions to areas in the region beyond the Mississippi River; this would enable settlement by European Americans in the Southeast in turn opening up new placement for the new white settlers and at the same time protecting them from the corrupt “evil” ways of the subordinate natives. A head of family would receive a grant of 160 acres. Every Indian who receives a land allotment "and has adopted the habits of civilized life.
1890, Fall: To help support the Sioux during the period of transition into the five smaller units, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), was delegated the responsibility of supplementing the Lakota with food and hiring Euro American farmers as teachers for the people. The farming plan failed to take into account the difficulty Lakota farmers would have in trying to cultivate crops in the semiarid region of South Dakota. By the end of the 1890 growing season, a time of intense heat and low rainfall, it was clear that the land was unable to produce substantial agricultural yields. At this same time, the government, fed up with what they saw as Indian laziness, cut rations to the Lakota in half. The Lakota had no options available to escape starvation. Increased performances of the Ghost Dance ritual ensued…
Agree or Disagree with Buffalo for the Broken Heart – “The Plains tribes had established a kind of balance between themselves, their enemies, and the buffalo, but that balance almost certainly was not a result of high environmental ethic, as is often suggested.” Did state the fact that ‘Indians use almost every part of the buffalo for something.” “There are many reports of Indians killing buffalo for their tongues. In fact, it was from the Indians of the northern plains that white men got that idea.”From Lakota site – “The buffalo is our source of food, it was asked to sacrifice its life for our survival. When it was taken, everything was used. The horns for utensils, the hides for robes and blankets, the sinew and bones for needles and thread, the hair was used in our pillows, and even the marrow from its bones was put into the meat to moisten it. Ceremonies were performed before the hunt to ask the buffalo for its sacrifice and processing the buffalo meat was again done in a ceremonial fashion out of respect for the animals sacrifice. Its meat became our meat, its spirit become ours upon eating it. In this, the oneness remained intact. In this, nature remained in perfect balance in its complexity and simplicity. Even nature’s horrors of storms were recognized as part of the necessary balance that sustained all life.”
Some scholars argue that extermination of the buffalo was an official policy of the US government in order to achieve extermination of the Native Americans, particularly those living in the Western Plains.
Late 1800s - The largest and best known of the "bonanza" farms was the Dalrymple Farm, located 20 miles west of Fargo, consisting of 11,000 acres. This was, at one time, the largest cultivated farm in the world.
45 HP Minneapolis double tandem compound steamer pulling 14 14 -inch breakers on virgin psod, John Deere plow, Jack Anderson owner operator. Notice there are 3 men operating this rig, one running the plow, one fireman and a driver. I've shown this picture to several farmers I know and they say few if any modern tractors could pull a plow that size in virgin praire, although with smaller plows they could plow a lot more acres in less time.The steam traction engines started coming into more common use in the 1880's. Wheat farming on a large scale scale on the great plains came about after the Civil War for several reasons, one of course was there was a market for cheap flour. The second was with the coming of the railroads which allowed the cheap flour to be shipped to where the market was. Another reason was the industrial revaluation was going full throttle, along with inventors having ideas for labor saving devices of all kinds, including but not limited to agriculture. Another recent invention coming in from Central Europe was the roller mill method of grinding flour. This had a lot of advantages over the older stone grinding methods, to most significant being as long as everything was working right, wheat could go in one end and flour could come out the other end, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if one desired. Stone grinding required stops to move the product along the line.The availability of cheap land also made this possible, we've seen how a person could get 480 acres from the government, but the railroads also had large amounts of land for sale cheap. The railroads sent land agents all over Europe for buyers of their land, they brought in a lot of folks who were looking for farm land and had a hard time finding it in their home countries.
A total of ninety-one farms, ranging from 3,000 to 100,000 acres, qualified as bonanzas. Nearly all of them were located within forty miles of the Red River. To achieve maximum efficiency, they specialized in the continuous cropping of wheat, which was well suited to the area. By concentrating on one crop, a limited number of implements were needed–plows, harrows, seeders, binders, and threshing machines. Over time the land was exhausted and the great farms were no longer profitable. The investors sold or rented the land to smaller farmers until, by the 1920s, the last remnants of the bonanza period faded away. Changing world conditions and a surplus of wheat, which caused a decline in prices, made the bonanzas less profitable. New tax laws discriminated against them. Migrant seasonal labor became less plentiful and more costly.
Large farms of the 1800's led the way to modern agriculture.
New plows - — to turn rough soil easily without breaking
Increase in technology; continuous cheaper labor; continuation of monocultures; government policies to support commodities and paybacks; synthetic fertilizers…
Week 3 - Western Expansion and Homestead Act
ALL food crops come from domesticated varieties
10,000 years ago – man first chose plants based on
Domestication = process of bringing wild species under
human management (artificial selection)
Creates a dependence on enhanced environments for
Primitive plant breeding - Selection leads to “better”
plants than wild ones
Unknowingly and knowingly
Human migration brought new cultivated plant species
Wild Bananas Domesticated
Peppered with large,
Small and oval
Thick, tough skin
Need a knife to peel it
Easy to chew
Easy to hold (length)
Easy to peel
Wild Mustard The Brassicas Family
Grow as weeds
either tasteless or bitter
Cauliflower – flower sterility
Cabbage – terminal leaf bud
Kale – enlarged leaves
Kohlrabi – stem
Broccoli – flower buds
Humans chose annuals for domestication
Annuals – sprout from seed, produce new seed, and die
Nature is mostly perennials
Reliance on high yields and shallow roots!
Leave ground bare – soil erosion and weeds!
Why did humans cultivate annuals and not perennials?
Deep, dense root system fuel’s plants rebirth each spring
Resilient and resource efficient
Ground cover and soil stabilization
TODAY - closely related wild plants (crop-wild
relatives) are still used to improve
modern cultivars = reliance on nature
Selective Breeding – deliberately
changing the genetics of plants
in order to produce desired traits
Gardeners, farmers, professionals,
gov’t institutions, universities,
In US –7,000 kinds of apples; 2,500 kinds of pears
grown in the last century (we had diversity)
GE Crops & Monocultures threaten diversity
Hybridization & Selective Breeding – increase diversity?
What so special about seed variety?
Storehouse of important genetic info
History of coevolution with
Enhances characteristics of pest and
disease resistance, adaptability,
Belief breeding new crops is essential
for ensuring food security =
new varieties, higher yields
Is this diversity? What method –
monoculture or polyculture?
Increased crop yields
Increased tolerance to environmental
pressures (drought, salinity, temp…)
Resistance to pests, viruses, fungi,
Increased tolerance to herbicides
The rise to GMOs (The Green Revolution)
Traditional Ag with Diversity Monoculture
Hybrid seeds in WWII – reliance on
fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides
TODAY - All processed food made from –
corn, wheat, rice, and potatoes
Over 97% of varieties available in 1900 are now extinct
American Consumer’s =
Illusion of choice
Wide variety of brand
names & logos
Complete loss of biological
Varieties lost from 1903 to 1983:
Field corn 90.8%
Sweet corn 96.1%
Maize was historically selected for
varying leaves, heights, colors, &
Now corn is grown for animal
feed, ethanol, or sweeteners
GE – withstand herbicides & own
Open air pollination = contamination
Golden Delicious & Red Delicious
Varieties lost from 1903 to 1983: 86.2%
At turn of last century, there were 7,000
different apply varieties grown in the US
21st Century – over 85% or 6,000 varieties
have become extinct
Big AG is interested in varieties that are:
uniform in appearance
Able to survive cross-country & international
Varieties lost from 1903 to 1983: 92.8%
Most lettuce produces in US is head
Can remain on the shelf for weeks
Thousands of varieties used to exist with:
Flavors -sweet, bitter, nutty, piquant, anise, grassy, citrus…
Leaves –long, lacy, ribbed, sleek, frilly, fan-shaped…
Potato varieties world wide – 5,000
Major commercial varieties grown - 4
Devolution of the potato – Burbank
potato in 1872
1953 – J.R. Simplot the Burbank’s length,
high solids, and low sugar into the perfect
frozen French fry
1965 – Ray Kroc, genius behind McDonald’s mass
marketed the fry to the rest of the world
Today – typical American eats 30 pounds a year
Monsanto GE Burbank with pesticide gene – not labeled
Varieties lost from 1903 to 1983: 80.6%
Listed among international seed orgs. as
among the most genetically threatened
of all earth’s crops
Wild varieties have provided resistance for 19
disorders including leaf mold, tobacco mosaic virus
Extinction of the wild varieties could ultimately
mean disappearance of the entire plant species
What is the DIFFERENCE
between selective breeding
techniques that farmers have been
doing for centuries and genetic
modification (i.e. GE and GMO)?
Homestead Act was a law developed in 1862
to promote settlement of the Great Plains.
Allowed 160 acres of land if family
“improved” it in five years
Facilitated the migration of 500,000 settlers
to the west to start new lives.
Agriculture was largely expanded and
revolutionized by Homestead Act
Many homesteaders forced to give up -
land was extremely difficult to farm
Black sod of the prairies (Kansas) developed with special
plows – land extremely fruitful
Railroads allowed for profitable marketing of crops
Improved irrigation techniques – “deserts bloomed”
Imported tough, cold-tolerant wheat from Russia
Flour-milling – increased
demand for grain
Barbed-wire invented (1874)-
Protection against cattle &
Negotiate treaties to sell land to US
Americanization or assimilation
Individual land ownership
Take away food source to force to
Reservations = tracks of land
US Native Indian Policy
Americanization - Mainstreamed and
absorbed into US society
Abandon tribe, culture and become
Male claimed 160 acres of land
Children would be sent to Indian
Farm land for 25 years.
1924 gain citizenship and right to vote
Failed policy - Indian resistance and
Dawes Act of 1887
A 1911 ad offering
land" for sale.
Act in 1889 split Great Sioux Reservation into 5 smaller
Reservations –family units on 320 acre plots
Forced to farm, raise livestock, and send children to
boarding school (traditional culture forbidden)
Supplemented Lakota with food
Euro American farmers hired to teach Lakota farming
Unable to farm– cut food rations to Lakota
Ghost Dance – new religion/movement
Extinguish Euro Americans
Return the buffalo
Return to former way of life
1871 to 1875, the
of 11 million
Take away the
and they will
be forced to
go to the
Large-scale farm operations growing and harvesting
Made possible by:
New farming machinery of the 1870s
Cheap abundant land from the Homestead Act
Growth of eastern markets in the US
Transportation – completion of most major railroads
Many owned by companies and run like factories
Red River valley – Dakota and Minnesota mid 1870’s
Pioneered development of farm technology & economics
Steam engines, plows, combine harvesters
Migrant labor was necessary for bonanza farming
Planting and harvesting – between 500 and 1000 extra
workers needed on farm
Weather and market conditions good – large profits
Drought and low wheat prices – profits fell
Mexican migrant labor distinguished farms from local
Family farms – fewer workers and less equipment costs
survived the “boom-and-bust cycles”
By 1890’s – bonanza farms broken up into smaller farms
Large landowners / larger farms
Crop rotation techniques
New crops such as turnips and potatoes
New drainage techniques – swamp and marshland use
New breeding techniques – meatier animals, harvested earlier
Manure from livestock used for soil fertilization
Horses replace oxen for powering plows and farm equipment
Chemical fertilizers -widespread use was immediate
Mechanical seed drills used
Wooden plows replaced with iron, then steel
Steam powered threshing machines – the tractor
How come large-scale
agriculture of the 1900’s
were able to overcome the
demise of the bonanza
farms in the late 1800’s?
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