History of Agriculture;10 Facts You Must Know

Early man depended on hunting, fishing and food gathering. To this day, some groups still pursue this simple way of life and others have continued as roving herdsmen. However, as various groups of men undertook deliberate cultivation of wild plants and domestication of wild animals, agriculture came into being. Cultivation of crops, notably grains such as wheat, rice, barley and millets, encouraged settle- ment of stable farm communities, some of which grew into a town or city in various parts of the world. Early agricultural implements-digging stick, hoe, scythe and plough-developed slowly over the centu- ries and each innovation caused profound changes in human life. From early times too, men created indigenous systems of irrigation especially in semi-arid areas and regions of periodic rainfall.

Farming was intimately associated with landholding and therefore with political organization. Growth of large estates involved the use of slaves and bound or semi-free labourers. As the Middle Ages wanted increasing communications, the commercial revolution and the steady rise of cities in Western Europe tended to turn agriculture away from subsistence farming towards the growing of crops for sale outside the community i.e., commercial agricultural revolution. Exploration and intercontinental trade as well as scientific investigations led to the development of agricultural knowledge of various crops and the exchange of mechanical devices such as the sugar mill and Eli Whitney’s cotton gin helped to support the system of large plantations based on a single crop.

The industrial revolution, after the late 18th century, swelled the population of towns and cities and increasingly forced agriculture into greater integration with general economic and financial patterns. The era of mechanized agriculture began with the invention of such farm machines as the reaper, cultivator, thresher, combine harvesters and tractors, which continued to appear over; the years leading to a new type of large scale agriculture. Modern science has also revolutionized food processing.

Breeding programmes have developed highly specialized animal, plant and poultry varieties thus increasing production efficiency greatly. All over the world, agricultural colleges and government agen- cies attempt to increase output by disseminating knowledge of improved agricultural practices through the release of new plant and animal types and by continuous intensive research into basic and applied scientific principles relating to agricultural production and economics.

Shifting Cultivation

A primitive form of agriculture in which people working with the crudest of tools, cut down a part of the forest, burnt the underneath growth and started new garden sites. After few years, when these plots lost their fertility or became heavily infested with weeds or soil-borne pests, they shifted to a new site. This is also known as Assartage system (cultivating crops till the land is completely worn-out) contrary to the fallow system. Fallow system means land is allowed for a resting period without any crop. In India, shifting cultivation existed in different states, with different names as jhum cultivation in Assam, podu in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, kumari in Western Ghats, walra in south east Rajasthan, penda bewar in Madhya Pradesh and slash and burn in Bihar.

Subsidiary Farming 

Rudimentary system of settled farming, which includes cultivation, gathering and hunting. People in 
groups started settling down near a stream or river as permanent village sites and started cultivating in 
the same land more continuously, however the tools, crops and cropping methods were primitive. 

C. Subsistence Farming 

Advanced form of primitive agriculture i.e., agriculture is considered as a way of life based on the 
principle of "Grow it and eat it" instead of growing crops on a commercial basis. Hence, it is referred 
as raising the crops only for family needs. 

D. Mixed Farming 

It is the farming comprising of crop and animal components. Field crop-grass husbandry (same field 
was used both for cropping and later grazing) was common. It is a stage changing from food gathering 
to food growing. 

E. Advanced Farming 

Advanced farming practices includes selection of crops and varieties, seed selection, green manuring 
with legumes, crop rotation, use of animal and crop refuse as manures, irrigation, pasture management, 
rearing of milch animals, bullocks, sheep and goat for wool and meat, rearing of birds by stall feeding 

F. Scientific Agriculture (19th Century) 

During 18th century, modern agriculture was started with crop sequence, organic recycling, introduc- 
tion of exotic crops and animals, use of farm implements in agriculture etc. During 19th century, 
research and development (R&D) in fundamental and basic sciences were brought under applied 
aspects of agriculture. Agriculture took the shape of a teaching science. Laboratories, farms, research 
stations, research centres, institutes for research, teaching and extension (training and demonstration) 
were developed. Books, journals, popular and scientific articles, literatures were introduced. New media, 
and audio-visual aids were developed to disseminate new research findings and information to the rural 

G. Present Day Agriculture (21st Century) 

Today agriculture is not merely production oriented but is becoming a business consisting of various 
enterprises like livestock (dairy), poultry, fishery, piggery, sericulture, apiary, plantation cropping etc. 

Now, a lot of developments on hydrological, mechanical, chemical, genetical and technological 
aspects of agriculture are in progress. Governments are apportioning a greater share of national budget 
for agricultural development. Small and marginal farmers are being supplied with agricultural inputs on 
subsidy. Policies for preserving, processing, pricing, marketing, distributing, consuming, exporting and 
importing are strengthening. Agro-based small scale industries and crafts are fast developing. Need 
based agricultural planning, programming and execution are in progress. 

1.3.2 Global Agriculture 

Advancement of civilization is closely related to agriculture, which produces food to satisfy hunger. 
The present food production must double to maintain the status quo. However, nearly one billion people 
are living below poverty line and civilized society should ensure food for these people. Some allowance 
should be made for increased consumption as a consequence of raising incomes in third would countries. 
Therefore, the increased food production should aim at trebling food production in the next century.
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