New crop technology:
New crops and techniques are, in reality, modifications of the old. Soybeans, sugar beets, and grain sorghums, for example, all regarded as “new” crops, are new only in the sense that they are now grown in wider areas and have different uses from those of earlier times. Such techniques as terracing, dry farming, and irrigation are nearly as old as the practice of agriculture itself, but their widespread application is still increasing productivity in many parts of the world.
This is an outstanding example of an ages-old crop that, because of the development of new processes to make its oil and meal more useful, is widely produced today. In the East, where the soybean originated long ago, more than half the crop is used directly for food, and less than a third is pressed for oil. Its high protein and fat content make it a staple in the diet, replacing or supplementing meat for millions of people.Though first reported grown in America in 1804, the soybean remained a rare garden plant for nearly 100 years. Around the beginning of the 20th century, when three new varieties were introduced from Japan, U.S. farmers began growing it for hay, pasture, and green manure. In the early 1930s a soybean oil processing method that eliminated a disagreeable odour from the finished product was developed. World War II brought an increased demand for edible oil. The food industry began using soybean oil for margarine, shortening, salad oil, mayonnaise, and other food products and continues to be its chief user. .Development of the solvent process of extracting soybean oil has greatly increased the yield. A 60-pound bushel of soybeans processed by this method yields 10 1/2 pounds of oil and 45 pounds of meal. Soybean meal and cake are used chiefly for livestock feed in the United States. The high protein content of the meal has made it an attractive source of industrial protein, and, with proper processing, it is an excellent source of protein for humans. In 2014 the United States and Brazil were the world’s largest soybean producers.Development of new soybean varieties suited for different parts of the world is possible by means of hybridization and genetic modification. Sorghum Just as the soybean was used for many centuries in Asia before its introduction into the Western world, so sorghum was a major crop in Africa. Sorghum is fifth in importance among the world’s cereals, coming after wheat, rice, corn, and barley. It is called by a variety of names including Guinea corn in West Africa, kafir corn in South Africa, durra in Sudan and South Sudan, and mtama in East Africa. In India it is known as jowar, cholam, and great millet, and it is called gaoliang in China. In the United States it is often called milo, while the sweet-stemmed varieties are referred to as sweet sorghum or sorgo.Sorghum probably was domesticated in Ethiopia about 3,000 years ago. From there it spread to West and East Africa and then southward. Traders from Africa to the East carried sorghum as provisions on their dhows. It is likely that sorghum thus reached India, where cultivation began between 1,500 and 1,000 years ago. Other traders carried sorghum to China and the other countries of East Asia. The amber sorghums, or sorgos, useful for forage and syrup, may have moved by sea while the grain sorghums probably moved overland. The movement to the Mediterranean and Southwest Asia also began through traders.
Sorghum probably was domesticated in Ethiopia about 3,000 years ago. From there it spread to West and East Africa and then southward. Traders from Africa to the East carried sorghum as provisions on their dhows. It is likely that sorghum thus reached India, where cultivation began between 1,500 and 1,000 years ago. Other traders carried sorghum to China and the other countries of East Asia. The amber sorghums, or sorgos, useful for forage and syrup, may have moved by sea while the grain sorghums probably moved overland. The movement to the Mediterranean and Southwest Asia also began through traders.
Large amounts of sorghum grain are eaten every year by people of many countries. If the world population continues to grow as projected, food is likely to be sorghum’s most important use. Most of the sorghum is ground into flour, often at home. Some is consumed as a whole-kernel food. Some of the grain is used for brewing beer, particularly in Africa.
The sugar beet as a crop is much newer than either soybeans or sorghum. Although beets had been a source of sweets among ancient Egyptians, Indians, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans, it was not until 1747 that a German apothecary, Andreas Marggraf, obtained sugar crystals from the beet. Some 50 years later Franz Karl Achard, son of a French refugee in Prussia and student of Marggraf, improved the Silesian stock beet—probably a mangel-wurzel—as a source of sugar. He erected the first pilot beet-sugar factory at Cunern, Silesia (now in Poland), in 1802. Thus began the new use for sugar of a crop traditionally used as animal feed.
As the development of the sugar beet shows, new techniques may bring particular crops into prominence. This discussion, however, is confined to three that, in some forms, are old yet today are transforming agriculture in many parts of the world.
Today, terracing is of major importance in Japan, Mexico, and parts of the United States, while many other countries, including Israel, Australia, South Africa, Colombia, and Brazil, are increasing productivity through the inauguration of this and other soil-conserving practices.
Sufficient water at the proper time makes possible the full use of technology in farming—including the proper application of fertilizers, suitable crop rotations, and the use of more productive varieties of crops. Expanding irrigation is an absolute necessity to extend crop acreage in significant amounts; it may be the most productive of possible improvements on present cropland. First, there is the possibility of making wider use of irrigation in districts that already have a high rate of output.
During the late 20th century, more than 20 percent of the country’s cultivated area was under irrigation. Both large dams, with canals to distribute the water, and small tube, or driven, wells, made by driving a pipe into water or water-bearing sand, controlled by individual farmers, have been used.
The problem of educating farmers to make effective use of irrigation water is found in many areas. An even greater educational effort is required for dry farming; that is, crop production without irrigation where annual precipitation is less than 20 inches (50 cm).
Dry farming as a system of agriculture was developed in the Great Plains of the United States early in the 20th century. It depended on the efficient storage of the limited moisture in the soil and the selection of crops and growing methods that made best use of this moisture. The system included deep fall plowing, subsurface packing of the soil, thorough cultivation both before and after seeding, light seeding, and alternating-summer fallow, with the land tilled during the season of fallow as well as in crop years. In certain latitudes stubble was left in the fields after harvest to trap snow. Though none of the steps were novel, their systematic combination was new.
The Direction of Change:-
while no truly new crop has been developed in modern times, new uses and new methods of cultivation of known plants may be regarded as new crops.New techniques, too, are the elaboration and systematization of practices from the past.