Throughout history there have been many revolutions that have occurred and changed human lives, such as the American Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. In the mid- and late 20th century, a revolution occurred that dramatically changed the field of agriculture and this revolution was known as the Green Revolution.
Green Revolution is a term refers to the renovation of agricultural practices beginning in Mexico in the 1940s. Because of its success in producing more agricultural products there, Green Revolution technologies spread worldwide in the 1950s and 1960s, significantly increasing the amount of calories produced per acre of agriculture.
Green Revolution was a period when the productivity of global agriculture increased drastically as a result of new advances. During this time period, new chemical fertilizers and synthetic herbicides and pesticides were created. The chemical fertilizers made it possible to supply crops with extra nutrients and, therefore, increase yield. The newly developed synthetic herbicides and pesticides controlled weeds, deterred or kill insects, and prevented diseases, which also resulted in higher productivity.
In addition to the chemical advances utilized during this time period, high-yield crops were also developed and introduced. High-yield crops are crops that are specifically designed to produce more over-all yield. A method known as multiple cropping was also implemented during the Green Revolution and lead to higher productivity. Multiple cropping is when a field is used to grow two or more crops throughout the year, so that the field constantly has something growing in it. These new farming techniques and advances in agricultural technology were utilized by farmers all over the world, and when combined, intensified the results of the Green Revolution.
New varieties of wheat and other grains were instrumental to the green revolution. The Green Revolution spread technologies that already existed, but had not been widely implemented outside industrialized nations. These technologies included modern irrigation projects, pesticides, synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and improved crop varieties developed through the conventional, science-based methods available at the time. The novel technological development of the Green Revolution was the production of novel wheat cultivars. Agronomists bred cultivars of maize, wheat and rice that are generally referred to as HYVs or “high-yielding varieties”. HYVs have higher nitrogen-absorbing potential than other varieties. Since cereals that absorbed extra nitrogen would typically lodge, or fall over before harvest, semi-dwarfing genes were bred into their genomes.
The crops developed during the Green Revolution were high-yield varieties- meaning they were domesticated plants bred specifically to respond to fertilizers and produce an increased amount of grain per acre planted.
The terms often used with these plants that make them successful are harvest index, photosynthate allocation, and insensitivity to day length. The harvest index refers to the above ground weight of the plant. During the Green Revolution, plants that had the largest seeds were selected to create the most production possible. After selectively breeding these plants, they evolved to all have the characteristic of larger seeds. These larger seeds then created more grain yield and a heavier above ground weight.
This larger above ground weight then led to an increased photosynthate allocation. By maximizing the seed or food portion of the plant, it was able to use photosynthesis more efficiently because the energy produced during this process went directly to the food portion of the plant.
Finally, by selectively breeding plants that were not sensitive to day length, researchers like Borlaug were able to double a crop’s production because the plants were not limited to certain areas of the globe based solely on the amount of light available to them.
One person who is famous for his involvement in the Green Revolution is the scientist Norman Borlaug. In the 1940s, Norman Borlaug developed a strain of wheat that could resist diseases, was short, which reduced damage by wind, and could produce large seed heads and high yields. He introduced this variety of wheat in Mexico and within twenty yes the production of wheat had tripled. This allowed for the production of more food for people in Mexico and also made it possible for Mexico to export their wheat and sell it in other countries. Norman Borlaug helped introduce this high-yield variety of wheat to other countries in need of increased food production, and he eventually won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work with developing high-yield crops and for helping prevent starvation in many developing countries.
Benefits of the Green Revolution
As a result of the Green Revolution and the introduction of chemical fertilizers, synthetic herbicides and pesticides, high-yield crops, and the method of multiple cropping, the agricultural industry was able to produce much larger quantities of food. This increase in productivity made it possible to feed the growing human population.
In addition to producing larger quantities of food, the Green Revolution was also beneficial because it made it possible to grow more crops on roughly the same amount of land with a similar amount of effort. This reduced production costs and also reunited in cheaper prices for food in the market.
The ability to grow more food on the same amount of land was also beneficial to the environment because it meant that less forest or natural land needed to be converted to farmland to produce more food. This is demonstrated by the fact that from 1961 to 2008, as the human population increased by 100% and the production of food rose by 150%, the amount of forests and natural land converted to farm only increased by 10%. The natural land that is currently not needed for agriculture land is safe for the time being, and can be utilized by animals and plants for their natural habitat.
Impacts of the Green Revolution
Since fertilizers are largely what made the Green Revolution possible, they forever changed agricultural practices because the high-yield varieties developed during this time cannot grow successfully without the help of fertilizers.
Irrigation also played a large role in the Green Revolution and this forever changed the areas where various crops can be grown. For instance before the Green Revolution, agriculture was severely limited to areas with a significant amount of rainfall, but by using irrigation, water can be stored and sent to drier areas, putting more land into agricultural production-thus increasing nationwide crop yields.
In addition, the development of high-yields varieties meant that only a few species of say, rice started being grown. In India for example there were about 30,000 rice varieties prior to the Green Revolution, today there are around ten- all the most productive types. By having this increased crop homogeneity though the types were more prone to disease and pests because there were not enough varieties to fight them off. In order to protect these few varieties then, pesticide use grew as well.
Finally, the use of Green Revolution technologies exponentially increased the amount of food production worldwide.