Learn about the many significant agricultural inventions and developments in the U.S. through the decades.
As we celebrate Independence Day and reflect on our country’s history, we’re also considering how the many agricultural inventions and innovations in the U.S. have shaped our great nation. Read on to learn more about where we’re been – and where we’re going – in the U.S. agriculture industry.
1794: Eli Whitney patents the cotton gin, a machine that revolutionized the production of cotton by greatly speeding up the processes of removing seeds from cotton fiber. Whitney’s cotton gin also enabled cotton to become a successful cash crop in the southern U.S.
1831: Cyrus H. McCormick invents the first commercially successful reaper, a horse-drawn machine to harvest wheat. He patented the invention in 1834.
1862-75: Change from hand power to horses characterizes the first American agricultural revolution. During this time, in 1863, the Hawkeye Riding Cultivator, the first implement designed to ride instead of walk behind, is developed, and in 1875, Gilpin Moore develops the Gilpin Sulky Plow. It takes the farmer off his feet, puts him on a seat and becomes one of Deere & Company’s most successful 19th-century products.
1892: John Froelich invents the first successful gasoline-powered engine that could be driven backwards and forwards – what we call a tractor today. Froelich and his blacksmith, Will Mann, created a vertical, one-cylinder engine mounted on the running gear of a steam traction engine, and the invention became known as the “Froelich Tractor.” Froelich’s machine inspired a long line of stationary gasoline engines, and eventually, John Deere’s famous two-cylinder tractor.
1900-10: George Washington Carver finds new uses for peanuts, sweet potatoes and soybeans and creates new products, helping to diversify southern agriculture. In fact, many credit Carver with saving the agricultural economy of the rural South. He was also a champion of crop rotation and agricultural education.
1945-70: Change from horses to tractors and increasing technological practices characterizes the second American agricultural revolution, and productivity per acre begins a sharp rise. During this time, the number of tractors on farms exceeds the number of horses and mules from the first time (1954), and 96 percent of cotton was harvested mechanically (1968).
1980: John Deere produces a four-row cotton picker, which is the first in the industry. It is estimated the unit will increase operators’ productivity by 85-95 percent.
1982: Monsanto Company scientists became the first in the world to genetically modify a plant cell. The team used Agrobacterium to introduce a new gene into the petunia plant and announced their achievement the following year.
1994: Farmers are able to use satellite technology to see their farms from overhead, allowing for better tracking and planning.
1997: The first weed- and insect-resistant biotech crops, soybeans and cotton, are available commercially.
2000s: Software and mobile devices help farmers improve their harvests. Like many people in the U.S., farmers started carrying mobile devices in the 2000s, allowing them to stay connected to colleagues while in the field. This also meant they had access to data needed while on-the-go and had the ability to place orders for seed or fertilizer at any time or in any place.
2015: Data revolutionizes farming potential and gives farmers the information needed to make more informed decisions while using resources more sustainably. For example, digital platforms bringing together data collection, agronomic modeling, and local weather monitoring are available, giving farmers a better understanding of their fields.
Wherever agriculture goes next, AgAmerica Lending will be right there by your side with the right lending options to secure the financial future of your operation. Contact us to learn more about our spectrum of lending solutions.