Agricultural Science and Technology

Tensions and Contradictions

Authored by: Leland Glenna , Elizabeth P. Ransom

Routledge International Handbook of Rural Studies

Print publication date:  May  2016
Online publication date:  May  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138804371
eBook ISBN: 9781315753041
Adobe ISBN: 9781317619864


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Agricultural science and farm-based technologies have been important forces behind the dramatic rise in agricultural production in the industrial world during the 20th century, as well as in large portions of the developing world (Stanton, 1998). In the United States, mechanisation, improved seeds and breeds, chemical inputs, and other scientifically inspired production technologies and techniques are often credited with productivity gains (Dimitri, Effland & Concklin, 2005). After the Second World War, the Marshall Plan exported many of these technologies and techniques to Europe, along with aspects of the political economy of agricultural science and technology. The Green Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s diffused new crop and animal husbandry technologies and techniques to developing nations. Between 1950 and 1990, irrigated cropland around the world expanded from 94 million hectares to 271 million hectares, grain production expanded from 618 million metric tons to 1,938 million metric tons, numbers of tractors in use expanded from 6 million to 26 million, commercial fertiliser use expanded from just under 5 million metric tons to nearly 27 million metric tons, and livestock production also saw dramatic increases (Stanton, 1998). More recently, agricultural research and development has turned towards even more sophisticated high-technology approaches, including computer- and satellite-monitored precision agriculture and genetically engineered (GE) crops and livestock. However, the shift to expensive, high-tech solutions raises questions concerning the affordability and appropriateness for smallholder agricultural producers who make up the vast majority of producers in the world.

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