The Agricultural Revolution in the 20th Century
Length: 824 words (2.4 double-spaced pages)
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Development of Agricultural Tools and Machines
The development of machines began in the 1890's when the first steam tractor and combine were made in California (Meij 3). There was a need to make more efficient use of the labor; therefore, machines were developed ("Agripedia" 2). By 1914, the combine started to spread outside of California to the rest of the United States (Meij 4). Then in 1928 it spread to Great Britain and then to the Netherlands after World War II (Meij 4). The development of these machines was affected by long run price variation (Meij 4). When prices of grains were high, there were demands for ploughs, seed drills, cultivators, reapers, winnowing machines and others (Meij 5). After 1912, there was a shift from steam to gasoline power, resulting in tractors forcing out the steam engines (Meij 6). These tractors were so heavy that they damaged the soil (Meij 6). This shift from horses to tractors was to eliminate human labor, increase productivity, and influence the development of a wider range of machines to be used with the tractor ("Agripedia" 4). In addition, the tractor allowed new machinery to be used on smaller farms, smaller parcels, and cut down the labor hours (Meij 15). Furthermore, the tractor started a new period in mechanization (Meij 30). Overall, mechanization saved labor, increased food production, and eliminated famines (Meij 31).
Circumstances for Mechanization in Europe
The two reasons Europe needed mechanization were to increase production and to decrease the labor condition (Meij 37). The mechanization started the substitution of horses with tractors because horses caused destructive effects on tilth and soil structure (Meij 40). The usage of tractors in Europe did not start until after World War II when there was a shortage of manpower and a need for larger production in agriculture (Meij 40). The main attributes of this mechanization were land and labor saving (Meij 43). The land saving came from the land set free by the tractor for the production of cash crops or other saleable products (Meij 43). Also, the machines helped increase the productivity of each labor and thus less labor workers were needed (Meij 43). The land owners saved money by not having to pay as many labor workers (Meij 43).
After all the tools and machines were created, people realized that the intention of farming was to produce food at the lowest price to the customer and therefore at the highest level of productivity per acre, per man, and per unit of equipment (Meij 52). To meet this high productivity level on smaller farms the equipment had to be made smaller (Meij 52). Western Germany developed a great range of small tractors for this purpose (Meij 53). In addition, small farms depended on second hand machinery as a source of equipment (Meij 54). There were also machines that could be joint-owned or hired from contractors (Meij 56). These modifications had to be created for small farms in Europe. These time consuming modifications caused difficulties with rapid mechanization among Europe's small farms.
Circumstances for Mechanization in the United States
As a result of mechanization, the American farmer became on of the world's most productive agriculturists (Meij 65). In addition, mechanization provided to the pleasure and welfare of farm families and to activiness of the labor supply (Meij 65). Mechanization in the United States began during World War I, when there was a shortage of food (Meij 73). This called forth tractors, motor trucks, combines, corn pickers, hay loaders, and tillage equipment (Meij 73). World War II led to improvement and increased use these machines, as well as, the creation of new machines (Meij 73). These new machines included pickup hay balers and field forage choppers (Meij 73). Furthermore, electricity permitted more farms to have motor driven or mechanical milking machines, manure scoops, barn cleaners, blowers, feed grinders, power feed scoops, water mechanisms, etc. (Meij 75). After World War II, the size of the tractor was decreased for small farms (Meij 78). Then from 1940 to 1956, the number of tractors tripled (Meij 77). Currently, the number of farm tractors is equal to the number of farms (Meij 79).
There were many other machines revolutionized besides tractors. After World War I, grain combines were used only in Pacific Coast (Meij 80). After 1930, it became the most important harvesting machine in all small grain areas (Meij 81). In addition, automatic twine bailers revolutionized in the past fifteen years (Meij 82). Lastly, milking machines began around 1900 (Meij 82). However, mechanization created dairy production to focus on larger specialized farms (Meij 82).
Now learning that mechanization depends on the size of the land and conditions of the land. It is easier to understand the differences of the mechanization between the United States and Europe.
"Agripedia." Internet Online. 24 march 1998. Available:
Meij, Dr. J. L. Mechanization in Agriculture. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1960.