Jenny Maloney

Changing Times: The New Face of Modern Agriculture

In the early 1900’s, my great-grandparents farmed eighty acres in northern Colorado, a large farm at that time. Theirs was a diversified operation including potatoes, sugar beets, dry beans, corn, cattle and sheep.

Over thirty percent of the entire population was engaged in farming, and the major horsepower that tilled, planted and harvested the land was just that – horses. With farming so prevalent, most people had a first hand or very good understanding of where the food came from and how it was grown. As time passed, advances in technology appeared in agriculture; the tractor was introduced quickly followed by new tillage and harvesting equipment, irrigation and air seeding technology, all leading to higher yields and improved quality of the food and fiber that was grown. We also saw the advent of the “green revolution” led by Dr. Norman Borlaug with new seed technologies, ultimately saving an estimated one billion people from starvation.

My great-grandfather followed by my grandfather didn’t know it by the term we use today but they were engaged in sustainable farming – using integrated solutions that help them protect their crops, realize economical returns and preserve the quality of their land for the long-term.

As we fast forward nearly one-hundred years, so much has changed. Today, less than two percent of the population are on farms, and fewer and fewer people really understand how our food and fiber are actually grown. Having a farming family, I was lucky enough to grow up in such an environment, raising a small herd of sheep and growing a commercial garden where my siblings and I sold our produce at a local farmers market.

Jenny Maloney
Jenny Maloney
Jenny Maloney,
Food Chain Sustainability Manager
Bayer Crop Science

After college, I was fortunate to work at the USDA, in John Deere and now Bayer, giving me first-hand exposure to some of the most amazing technological advancements ever made in agriculture. Consider these examples:

  • Advances in herbicides and tillage equipment allow growers to till less frequently, thus improving soil health and nutrition.
  • A combination of aerial imagery, GPS technology and nutrient and crop protection application technology now enable the precise application only when and where the crop needs it minimizing the environmental footprint and farmer cost.
  • With a hand-held device, a grower can now know soil temperatures, moisture levels, crop progress, and weather conditions and thus make precise and informed decisions on real time basis. 
  • Crop protection products now are more precisely applied, targeted for specific insect, disease and weed pest, have a more favorable environmental profiles, and can be easily used in applications like chemigation thus reducing field passes and energy use in the field.

Today, the face of modern farming looks very different than it did one-hundred years ago—and it is far more productive enabling us to feed the ever-growing, more-affluent global population. If my grandparents were around today, they would be astonished at the technology advances in agriculture that have given us improved soil health, water quality, water utilization, energy usage and higher crop yields and quality.

Want to learn more about the evolutionary change in agriculture from past to present and future developments? Visit the websites of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), the Western Growers Association and the Global Harvest Initiative.

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Sandra Easton
December 02, 2016 - 02:56 PM

Very nice capsule and for those of us who are fortunate enough to govern and thereby enable the grower in a rurban community these are exciting times. Farming will always involve hard work and greater risk than most people have the stomach for. Value added priorities, increase in on farm production help complete the value cycle.
Local Ag related Research, Innovation, and Education supplied by Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, Niagara College, Brock University, Niagara Region Economic Development.

Sandra Easton. Mayor, Town of Lincoln, Ontario, Canada. " A Centre of Excellence for Agriculture".

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Jack Buzzard
November 16, 2016 - 03:07 PM

Nice article! The changes that have been made in harvesting with horses and men to today's methods are impressive.

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