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A History of American Agriculture 1776-1990
Farm Machinery and Technology Return To History of Farming
16th-18th
Centuries
18th century - Oxen and horses for power, crude wooden plows, all sowing by hand, cultivating by hoe, hay and grain cutting with sickle, and threshing with flail
1776-99 1790's - Cradle and scythe introduced
1793 - Invention of cotton gin
1794 - Thomas Jefferson's moldboard of least resistance tested
1797 - Charles Newbold patented first cast-iron plow
1800 1819 - Jethro Wood patented iron plow with interchangeable parts
1819-25 - U.S. food canning industry established
1810
1820
1830 1830 - About 250-300 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (5 acres) of wheat with walking plow, brush harrow, hand broadcast of seed, sickle, and flail
1834 - McCormick reaper patented
1834 - John Lane began to manufacture plows faced with steel saw blades
1837 - John Deere and Leonard Andrus began manufacturing steel plows
1837 - Practical threshing machine patented
1840 1840's - The growing use of factory-made agricultural machinery increased farmers' need for cash and encouraged commercial farming
1841 - Practical grain drill patented
1842 - First grain elevator, Buffalo, NY
1844 - Practical mowing machine patented
1847 - Irrigation begun in Utah
1849 - Mixed chemical fertilizers sold commercially
1850 1850 - About 75-90 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels of corn (2-1/2 acres) with walking plow, harrow, and hand planting
1850-70 - Expanded market demand for agricultural products brought adoption of improved technology and resulting increases in farm production
1854 - Self-governing windmill perfected
1856 - 2-horse straddle-row cultivator patented
1860 1862-75 - Change from hand power to horses characterized the first American agricultural revolution
1865-75 - Gang plows and sulky plows came into use
1868 - Steam tractors were tried out
1869 - Spring-tooth harrow or seedbed preparation appeared
1870 1870's - Silos came into use

1870's - Deep-well drilling first widely used
1874 - Glidden barbed wire patented
1874 - Availability of barbed wire allowed fencing of rangeland, ending era of unrestricted, open-range grazing
1880 1880 - William Deering put 3,000 twine binders on the market
1884-90 - Horse-drawn combine used in Pacific coast wheat areas
1890 1890-95 - Cream separators came into wide use
1890-99 - Average annual consumption of commercial fertilizer: 1,845,900 tons
1890's - Agriculture became increasingly mechanized and commercialized
1890 - 35-40 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (2-1/2 acres) of corn with 2-bottom gang plow, disk and peg-tooth harrow, and 2-row planter
1890 - 40-50 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (5 acres) of wheat with gang plow, seeder, harrow, binder, thresher, wagons, and horses
1890 - Most basic potentialities of agricultural machinery that was dependent on horsepower had been discovered
1900 1900-1909 - Average annual consumption of commercial fertilizer: 3,738,300
1900-1910 - George Washington Carver, director of agricultural research at Tuskegee Institute, pioneered in finding new uses for peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soybeans, thus helping to diversify southern agriculture.
1910 1910-15 - Big open-geared gas tractors came into use in areas of extensive farming
1910-19 - Average annual consumption of commercial fertilizer: 6,116,700 tons
1915-20 - Enclosed gears developed for tractor
1918 - Small prairie-type combine with auxiliary engine introduced
1920 1920-29 - Average annual consumption of commercial fertilizer: 6,845,800 tons
1920-40 - Gradual increase in farm production resulted from expanded use of mechanized power
1926 - Cotton-stripper developed for High Plains
1926 - Successful light tractor developed
1930 1930-39 - Average annual consumption of commercial fertilizer: 6,599,913 tons
1930's - All-purpose, rubber-tired tractor with complementary machinery came into wide use
1930 - One farmer supplied 9.8 persons in the United States and abroad
1930 - 15-20 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (2-1/2 acres) of corn with 2-bottom gang plow, 7-foot tandem disk, 4-section harrow, and 2-row planters, cultivators, and pickers
1930 - 15-20 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (5 acres) of wheat with 3-bottom gang plow, tractor, 10-foot tandem disk, harrow, 12-foot combine, and trucks
1940 1940-49 - Average annual consumption of commercial fertilizer: 13,590,466 tons
1940 - One farmer supplied 10.7 persons in the United States and abroad
1941-45 - Frozen foods popularized
1942 - Spindle cottonpicker produced commercially
1945-70 - Change from horses to tractors and the adoption of a group of technological practices characterized the second American agriculture agricultural revolution
1945 - 10-14 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (2 acres) of corn with tractor, 3-bottom plow, 10-foot tandem disk, 4-section harrow, 4-row planters and cultivators, and 2-row picker
1945 - 42 labor-hours required to produce 100 pounds (2/5 acre) of lint cotton with 2 mules, 1-row plow, 1-row cultivator, hand how, and hand pick
1950 1950-59 - Average annual consumption of commercial fertilizer: 22,340,666 tons
1950 - One farmer supplied 15.5 persons in the United States and abroad
1954 - Number of tractors on farms exceeded the number of horses and mules for first times
1955 - 6-12 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (4 acres) of wheat with tractor, 10-foot plow, 12-foot role weeder, harrow, 14-foot drill and self-propelled combine, and trucks
Late 1950's - 1960's - Anhydrous ammonia increasingly used as cheap source of nitrogen, spurring higher yields
1960 1960-69 - Average annual consumption of commercial fertilizer: 32,373,713 tons
1960 - One farmer supplied 25.8 persons in the United States and abroad
1965 - 5 labor-hours required to produce 100 pounds (1/5 acre) of lint cotton with tractor, 2-row stalk cutter, 14-foot disk, 4-row bedder, planter, and cultivator, and 2-row harvester
1965 - 5 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (3 1/3 acres) of wheat with tractor, 12-foot plow, 14-foot drill, 14-foot self-propelled combine, and trucks
1965 - 99% of sugar beets harvested mechanically
1965 - Federal loans and grants for water/sewer systems began
1968 - 96% of cotton harvested mechanically
1970 1970's - No-tillage agriculture popularized
1970 - One farmer supplied 75.8 persons in the United States and abroad
1975 - 2-3 labor-hours required to produce 100 pounds (1/5 acre) of lint cotton with tractor, 2-row stalk cutter, 20-foot disk, 4 -row bedder and planter, 4-row cultivator with herbicide applicator, and 2-row harvester
1975 - 3-3/4 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (3 acres) of wheat with tractor, 30-foot sweep disk, 27-foot drill, 22-foot self-propelled combine, and trucks
1975 - 3-1/3 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (1-1/8 acres) of corn with tractor, 5-bottom plow, 20-foot tandem disk, planter, 20-foot herbicide applicator, 12-foot self-propelled combine, and trucks
1980-90 1980's - More farmers used no-till or low-till methods to curb erosion
1987 - 1-1/2 to 2 labor-hours required to produce 100 pounds (1/5 acre) of lint cotton with tractor, 4-row stalk cutter, 20-foot disk, 6-row bedder and planter, 6-row cultivator with herbicide applicator, and 4-row harvester
1987 - 3 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (3 acres) of wheat with tractor, 35-foot sweep disk, 30-foot drill, 25-foot self-propelled combine, and trucks
1987 - 2-3/4 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (1-1/8 acres) of corn with tractor, 5-bottom plow, 25-foot tandem disk, planter, 25-foot herbicide applicator, 15-foot self-propelled combine, and trucks
1989 - After several slow years, the sale of farm equipment rebounded
1989 - More farmers began to use low-input sustainable agriculture (LISA) techniques to decrease chemical applications
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