I love making lists and writing about lists of accomplishments and great deeds. I can hardly wait during college football season for the “Top 25.”
I don’t know how I missed this list more than a year ago in The Atlanticdetailing the top 50 breakthroughs since the wheel.
Very correctly, I think, the top three on the list are the printing press, electricity and penicillin. Agriculture is also prominent on this list:
No. 6—Some say paper was an agricultural crop. It certainly is today. It’s what made the printing press—and mass communication—work.
No. 11—Nitrogen fixation and therefore, modern fertilizer. As the population has grown, we use more nitrogen to grow food. Today, there is literally not enough of it occurring naturally to feed all of us.
No. 22—The Green Revolution combined a variety of techniques allowing fewer people to grow more food. There is no question it saved more than a billion people from starvation.
No.30—The moldboard plow. This allowed hard soil to not only be penetrated, but turned over. This means we can grow food in places where it was not possible before.
No.32—The cotton gin made the mass production of cotton possible. The cotton gin survived the Civil War. Fortunately, slavery did not.
No. 38—Scientific plant breeding. Positive traits from one plant transferred to another. Modern agriculture would not be possible without it.
No. 50 – The combine harvester. Far fewer people could now harvest more food. The result was that more people could leave the farm to pursue other jobs.
Well, that’s seven out of the 50. There’s not any of the other 43 that anyone would look at and want to give up.
Why then do so many expect agriculture to abandon these advances that stand between the human race and starvation?