The American colonies were primarily driven by agriculture. Early agriculture can be separated into two main categories -- plantation farming with slaves and small free farmers.

Plantations were a feature of the South and concentrated on two crops, tobacco and cotton. Tobacco was the first big cash crop in the American colonies, but the price was uncertain and tobacco is notorious for wearing out soil. Cotton became the mainstay of southern plantation agriculture after the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney.

After the Civil War liberated the slaves, the plantation system was replaced with Sharecroppers, who did not own their land and paid "rent" in the form of a share of the harvest.

For cities to grow, farmers must produce a food surplus beyond what the farmer needs to sustain himself and his family. The industrial and transportation revolutions of the early 19th century enabled western farmers, using new machinery like the McCormick reaper, to reach Eastern markets through railroads and canals.

Farmers have often felt themselves victimized by banks, railroads, other large interests. Various organizations have grown up over the years, including the Granger movement after the Civil War, to advocate for the farmers.

Congress wanted to see land in the new west settled and turned into farms, so it passed a series of Homestead Acts beginning in 1860. The first Homestead Act offered to sell land to farmers at 25 cents an acre, but was vetoed by President Buchanan. In 1862, as the Civil War raged, Congress passed another Homestead Act which was signed by Abraham Lincoln. It offered the land for free for those who would cultivate it for a certain period of time. The act was revised several times by later Congresses.

Improvements in the science of agriculture opened the door to farmers who would apply the new techniques to their own farms, but many resisted and preferred to remain with their traditional methods. Writing in Century Magazine in 1916, Carl Vrooman, assistant secretary of agriculture under Wilson, wrote:

During the last three years, for thefirst time in its history, the Departmentof Agriculture has had at its head an econ-omist. Under the direction of SecretaryHouston it has achieved a new point ofview and a new conception of its mission.For half a century the department hasused its utmost endeavors to show thefarmer how to fight the chinch-bug andthe army-worm, the cattle tick and theHessian fly and other insect pests, but hadnot even so much as attempted to showhim how to protect himself from theyearly toll levied upon the fruits of histoil by such human pests as the usurer,commercial pirates posing as legitimatemiddlemen, and the other business para-sites of the agricultural world.

Farmers did not share in the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties. The peak of agriculture prosperity came during World War I, when wartime demands for food raised prices strongly. In the years following the war, American farmers were plagued with overproduction as European countries resumed their normal agriculture output, and prices were depressed throughout the decade.Bad times turned worse for farmers along with other Americans during The Great Depression. In an effort to reverse the decline, the Agricultural Adjustment Act was passed by Congress on May 10, 1933. Its objective was to control overproduction and raise prices.At the same time, another trend was causing concern. Desperate Americans were turning back to the land and attempting to convert failed farmland to productive agriculture. The Secretary of Agriculture, Henry A. Wallace, would warn that, "A tragic number of city families are reoccupying abandoned farms, farms on which born farmers, skilled, patient, and accustomed to doing with very little, were unable to make a go of it. In consequence of this backflow, there are now 32 million people on the farms of the United States, the greatest number ever record in our history. Some of those who have returned to farming will find their place there, but most of them, I fear, will not."Walter Lippmann, writing in 1934, observed that the simplistic view that aid to farmers would soften them and damage their self-reliance was disconnected from reality. "If the virtues and values of individualism and self-reliance are to be preserved, we must not put upon the individual person burdens that are greater than he can by self-reliance carry. This is the surest way to kill individualism: by making it intolerable.

Origins of agriculture

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Origins of agriculture, the active production of useful plants or animals in ecosystems that have been created by people. Agriculture has often been conceptualized narrowly, in terms of specific combinations of activities and organisms—wet-rice production in Asia, wheat farming in Europe, cattle ranching in the Americas, and the like—but a more holistic perspective holds that humans are environmental engineers who disrupt terrestrial habitats in specific ways. Anthropogenic disruptions such as clearing vegetation or tilling the soil cause a variety of localized changes common effects include an increase in the amount of light reaching ground level and a reduction in the competition among organisms. As a result, an area may produce more of the plants or animals that people desire for food, technology, medicine, and other uses.

Over time, some plants and animals have become domesticated, or dependent on these and other human interventions for their long-term propagation or survival. Domestication is a biological process in which, under human selection, organisms develop characteristics that increase their utility, as when plants provide larger seeds, fruit, or tubers than their wild progenitors. Known as cultigens, domesticated plants come from a wide range of families (groups of closely related genera that share a common ancestor see genus). The grass (Poaceae), bean (Fabaceae), and nightshade or potato (Solanaceae) families have produced a disproportionately large number of cultigens because they have characteristics that are particularly amenable to domestication.

Domesticated animals tend to have developed from species that are social in the wild and that, like plants, could be bred to increase the traits that are advantageous for people. Most domesticated animals are more docile than their wild counterparts, and they often produce more meat, wool, or milk as well. They have been used for traction, transport, pest control, assistance, and companionship and as a form of wealth. Species with abundant domesticated varieties, or breeds, include the dog (Canis lupus familiaris), cat (Felis catus), cattle (Bos species), sheep (Ovis species), goat (Capra species), swine (Sus species), horse (Equus caballus), chicken (Gallus gallus), and duck and goose (family Anatidae).

Because it is a cultural phenomenon, agriculture has varied considerably across time and space. Domesticated plants and animals have been (and continue to be) raised at scales ranging from the household to massive commercial operations. This article recognizes the wide range of activities that encompass food production and emphasizes the cultural factors leading to the creation of domesticated organisms. It discusses some of the research techniques used to discern the origins of agriculture as well as the general trajectory of agricultural development in the ancient societies of Southwest Asia, the Americas, East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Europe. For specific techniques of habitat alteration and plant propagation, see horticulture. For techniques of animal propagation, see livestock farming poultry farming.

The American Farm

HISTORY will premiere the docu-series “The American Farm” from BoBCat, the multi-platform production company founded by Thom Beers, Jeff Conroy and Sarah Bernard, on Thursday, April 4 at 10pm ET. The eight-part series is an honest tale of risk, reward, hard work, and innovation, centered on the lives of five family farms across America – the Boyd, Griggs, Meyers, Robertson and Sunderland farms.

America’s farmers are heroes who gamble every last dollar on their own two hands, who wage war every day against an unrelenting assault from Mother Nature and who toil on dangerous machines for backbreaking 20+ hour shifts. Shot on location across the country, “The American Farm” is an authentic portrait of the fight to go from seed to stalk, and from farm to fork. The HISTORY series presents an up-close look at one full year of family farming, told through an unprecedented year on the ground, capturing breathtaking visuals, private moments and personal interviews.

The life of the farmer is the great, untold story of America, and the five families featured in “The American Farm” are unflinchingly human from sun-up to sundown. Their compelling, genuine stories represent the ultimate quest for the American Dream, bringing viewers to the front line of the battle farming families wage to bring dirt to life and put food on our plates. From the three young Robertson brothers in Contoocook, New Hampshire, determined to keep their family dairy farm alive, to John Boyd of Baskerville, Virginia, who, when he’s not herding unwieldy cattle or harvesting soybeans, serves as President of the National Black Farmers Association – this is a story steeped in legacy, tradition, and hard work.

Crop Rotation

Library of Congress / public domain

Growing the same crop repeatedly on the same land eventually depletes the soil of different nutrients. Farmers avoided a decrease in soil fertility by practicing crop rotation. Different plant crops were planted in a regular sequence so that the leaching of the soil by a crop of one kind of nutrient was followed by a plant crop that returned that nutrient to the soil. Crop rotation was practiced in ancient Roman, African, and Asian cultures. During the Middle Ages in Europe, farmers practiced a three-year crop rotation by rotating rye or winter wheat in year one, followed by spring oats or barley in the second year, and followed by a third year of no crops.

In the 18th century, British agriculturalist Charles Townshend boosted the European agricultural revolution by popularizing a four-year crop rotation method with rotations of wheat, barley, turnips, and clover. In the United States, George Washington Carver brought his science of crop rotation to the farmers and saved the farming resources of the South.

History of Agriculture

Agriculture, also known as farming, is the production of food, fiber, animal feed, and other goods by means of growing and harvesting plants and animals. Agriculture is practiced throughout the world. Many agricultural products are used every day, from the clothes we put on in the morning to the sheets we sleep under at night. When you think of agriculture, think of the five F's: food, fabric, forestry, farming, and flowers.

The history of agriculture begins in the Fertile Crescent. This area of Western Asia comprises the regions of Mesopotamia and Levant while being confined by the Syrian Desert to the south and the Anatolian Plateau to the north. In the early 1900s, University of Chicago archaeologist James Henry Breasted coined the term "Fertile Crescent" to describe this location's role as the birthplace of agriculture. It has often been called the "Cradle of Civilization" as well, since both the wheel and writing first appeared there. Modern Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories all include some land within the Fertile Crescent.

Humans invented agriculture between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago, during the Neolithic era, or the New Stone Age. There were eight Neolithic crops: emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, peas, lentils, bitter vetch, hulled barley, chickpeas, and flax. The Neolithic era ended with the development of metal tools.

Evidence suggests that irrigation first appeared in Egypt and Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium B.C. Floods caused by the yearly inundation of the Nile would have had disastrous effects for ancient farmers, washing away dikes and swamping fields. Conversely, when the waters were low, the land dried up, killing crops. The oldest method of irrigation made use of man-made underground streams, called qanats, and is still being used in parts of the Middle East. Various groups of people began digging and repairing older, more primitive canal networks to help regulate the flow of rivers, such as the Nile River in Egypt. The canal networks eventually developed into sophisticated irrigation systems.

During the Bronze Age and the eras that followed, civilizations all over the world gradually invented or acquired advanced metalworking techniques, creating ever-stronger farming implements. Humans continued domesticating animals and plants to serve as food sources or sources of other useful products. During the Middle Ages, European farmers began using complex irrigation systems such as dams, reservoirs, and water-raising machines. They also developed a three-field system of crop rotation and the moldboard plow. These inventions greatly increased the efficiency of agriculture.

Between the 17th and 19th centuries, Britain experienced a dramatic increase in agricultural productivity known as the British Agricultural Revolution. This "revolution" consisted of a variety of improvements to agricultural methods which more or less took place simultaneously. Farmers developed new methods of crop rotation, began cultivating land that had been marshy or forested, and planted new crops such as the turnip.

The technology of agriculture has continued to evolve over the years. Plows and other farming implements improved, and the mechanical combine harvester—a machine that harvests grain—was invented in the 1830s. In the early 1900s, the horse-drawn plow was a catalyst for introducing more machinery on the farm. The first tractors were steam-powered engines designed to haul agricultural equipment and were too expensive for most farmers. The gasoline-powered tractor was invented in 1892.

The last century has seen a host of changes in the way farming is carried out and in the way farm produce shows up on our tables. In 1938, a trucking executive complained during a round of golf about how the summer heat was spoiling much of the food shipped by his company. His companion, Joseph Numero, jokingly suggested refrigerating the trailers. The idea stuck, and Numero went on to start a refrigerated transport company with the help of inventor Frederick Jones.

Meanwhile, the development of hybrid seed, and particularly hybrid corn, revolutionized agriculture. Hybrids improve the results of planting, and often produce plants and fruits that are hardier and more uniform. Hybrid seeds contributed to the increased agricultural output of the second half of the 20th century.

Despite these great improvements, other changes arrived with controversy. During the past 10 years, a huge controversy has raged over the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers on farms as well as genetically modified organisms. Growing awareness of how chemicals impact human health and the environment has led to calls for increased government regulation of the agricultural industry.

The history of agriculture has played a huge role in human civilization. A majority of the human population once worked in agriculture and even today few, if any, humans could survive without it.

The Farming Tools:

The Chinese people used some of the most efficient farming tools which made their farming so successful. Iron plows became improved in their designs and efficiency. This took place at around the third century BC. The casting techniques improved and also the availability of iron doubled in the markets. The new design of plowshares was also known as Kuan.

The other countries like Greece and Romans were quite backward when compared to China. They were still stuck with primitive tools whereas China had progressed so much. The iron plows brought a lot of facilities to the Chinese. Seeds could be sown much easily with them in the furrows.

Another important tool used by the ancient Chinese in agriculture was the waterwheels. Grains were Ground with the help of waterpower. In the 2nd century BC, China was much more dependent on water power for the purpose of milling its grains than any other western countries of the world.

Industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history

The fate of industrially farmed animals is one of the most pressing ethical questions of our time. Tens of billions of sentient beings, each with complex sensations and emotions, live and die on a production line

‘The march of human progress is strewn with dead animals.’ Photograph: John Eveson/Rex

‘The march of human progress is strewn with dead animals.’ Photograph: John Eveson/Rex

Last modified on Fri 17 Aug 2018 14.37 BST

A nimals are the main victims of history, and the treatment of domesticated animals in industrial farms is perhaps the worst crime in history. The march of human progress is strewn with dead animals. Even tens of thousands of years ago, our stone age ancestors were already responsible for a series of ecological disasters. When the first humans reached Australia about 45,000 years ago, they quickly drove to extinction 90% of its large animals. This was the first significant impact that Homo sapiens had on the planet’s ecosystem. It was not the last.

About 15,000 years ago, humans colonised America, wiping out in the process about 75% of its large mammals. Numerous other species disappeared from Africa, from Eurasia and from the myriad islands around their coasts. The archaeological record of country after country tells the same sad story. The tragedy opens with a scene showing a rich and varied population of large animals, without any trace of Homo sapiens. In scene two, humans appear, evidenced by a fossilised bone, a spear point, or perhaps a campfire. Scene three quickly follows, in which men and women occupy centre-stage and most large animals, along with many smaller ones, have gone. Altogether, sapiens drove to extinction about 50% of all the large terrestrial mammals of the planet before they planted the first wheat field, shaped the first metal tool, wrote the first text or struck the first coin.

The next major landmark in human-animal relations was the agricultural revolution: the process by which we turned from nomadic hunter-gatherers into farmers living in permanent settlements. It involved the appearance of a completely new life-form on Earth: domesticated animals. Initially, this development might seem to have been of minor importance, as humans only managed to domesticate fewer than 20 species of mammals and birds, compared with the countless thousands of species that remained “wild”. Yet, with the passing of the centuries, this novel life-form became the norm. Today, more than 90% of all large animals are domesticated (“large” denotes animals that weigh at least a few kilograms). Consider the chicken, for example. Ten thousand years ago, it was a rare bird that was confined to small niches of South Asia. Today, billions of chickens live on almost every continent and island, bar Antarctica. The domesticated chicken is probably the most widespread bird in the annals of planet Earth. If you measure success in terms of numbers, chickens, cows and pigs are the most successful animals ever.

Alas, domesticated species paid for their unparalleled collective success with unprecedented individual suffering. The animal kingdom has known many types of pain and misery for millions of years. Yet the agricultural revolution created completely new kinds of suffering, ones that only worsened with the passing of the generations.

At first sight, domesticated animals may seem much better off than their wild cousins and ancestors. Wild buffaloes spend their days searching for food, water and shelter, and are constantly threatened by lions, parasites, floods and droughts. Domesticated cattle, by contrast, enjoy care and protection from humans. People provide cows and calves with food, water and shelter, they treat their diseases, and protect them from predators and natural disasters. True, most cows and calves sooner or later find themselves in the slaughterhouse. Yet does that make their fate any worse than that of wild buffaloes? Is it better to be devoured by a lion than slaughtered by a man? Are crocodile teeth kinder than steel blades?

What makes the existence of domesticated farm animals particularly cruel is not just the way in which they die but above all how they live. Two competing factors have shaped the living conditions of farm animals: on the one hand, humans want meat, milk, eggs, leather, animal muscle-power and amusement on the other, humans have to ensure the long-term survival and reproduction of farm animals. Theoretically, this should protect animals from extreme cruelty. If a farmer milks his cow without providing her with food and water, milk production will dwindle, and the cow herself will quickly die. Unfortunately, humans can cause tremendous suffering to farm animals in other ways, even while ensuring their survival and reproduction. The root of the problem is that domesticated animals have inherited from their wild ancestors many physical, emotional and social needs that are redundant in farms. Farmers routinely ignore these needs without paying any economic price. They lock animals in tiny cages, mutilate their horns and tails, separate mothers from offspring, and selectively breed monstrosities. The animals suffer greatly, yet they live on and multiply.

Broiler chickens, which are reared specifically for their meat, often suffer lameness due to overcrowding. Photograph: PA

Doesn’t that contradict the most basic principles of Darwinian evolution? The theory of evolution maintains that all instincts and drives have evolved in the interest of survival and reproduction. If so, doesn’t the continuous reproduction of farm animals prove that all their real needs are met? How can a cow have a “need” that is not really essential for survival and reproduction?

It is certainly true that all instincts and drives evolved in order to meet the evolutionary pressures of survival and reproduction. When these pressures disappear, however, the instincts and drives they had shaped do not evaporate instantly. Even if they are no longer instrumental for survival and reproduction, they continue to mould the subjective experiences of the animal. The physical, emotional and social needs of present-day cows, dogs and humans don’t reflect their current conditions but rather the evolutionary pressures their ancestors encountered tens of thousands of years ago. Why do modern people love sweets so much? Not because in the early 21st century we must gorge on ice cream and chocolate in order to survive. Rather, it is because if our stone age ancestors came across sweet, ripened fruits, the most sensible thing to do was to eat as many of them as they could as quickly as possible. Why do young men drive recklessly, get involved in violent rows, and hack confidential internet sites? Because they are obeying ancient genetic decrees. Seventy thousand years ago, a young hunter who risked his life chasing a mammoth outshone all his competitors and won the hand of the local beauty – and we are now stuck with his macho genes.

Exactly the same evolutionary logic shapes the life of cows and calves in our industrial farms. Ancient wild cattle were social animals. In order to survive and reproduce, they needed to communicate, cooperate and compete effectively. Like all social mammals, wild cattle learned the necessary social skills through play. Puppies, kittens, calves and children all love to play because evolution implanted this urge in them. In the wild, they needed to play. If they didn’t, they would not learn the social skills vital for survival and reproduction. If a kitten or calf was born with some rare mutation that made them indifferent to play, they were unlikely to survive or reproduce, just as they would not exist in the first place if their ancestors hadn’t acquired those skills. Similarly, evolution implanted in puppies, kittens, calves and children an overwhelming desire to bond with their mothers. A chance mutation weakening the mother-infant bond was a death sentence.

What happens when farmers now take a young calf, separate her from her mother, put her in a tiny cage, vaccinate her against various diseases, provide her with food and water, and then, when she is old enough, artificially inseminate her with bull sperm? From an objective perspective, this calf no longer needs either maternal bonding or playmates in order to survive and reproduce. All her needs are being taken care of by her human masters. But from a subjective perspective, the calf still feels a strong urge to bond with her mother and to play with other calves. If these urges are not fulfilled, the calf suffers greatly.

Causes Of The Neolithic Revolution

There was no single factor that led humans to begin farming roughly 12,000 years ago. The causes of the Neolithic Revolution may have varied from region to region.

The Earth entered a warming trend around 14,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age. Some scientists theorize that climate changes drove the Agricultural Revolution.

In the Fertile Crescent, bounded on the west by the Mediterranean Sea and on the east by the Persian Gulf, wild wheat and barley began to grow as it got warmer. Pre-Neolithic people called Natufians started building permanent houses in the region.

Other scientists suggest that intellectual advances in the human brain may have caused people to settle down. Religious artifacts and artistic imagery—progenitors of human civilization—have been uncovered at the earliest Neolithic settlements.

The Neolithic Era began when some groups of humans gave up the nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle completely to begin farming. It may have taken humans hundreds or even thousands of years to transition fully from a lifestyle of subsisting on wild plants to keeping small gardens and later tending large crop fields.

These tractors show 150 years of farming history

Agriculture is a significant part of American history, and nothing is more symbolic of farming than a tractor in front of a red barn. The National Museum of American History has 14 full-size tractors and numerous scale models in its collection, not to mention photographs and other related objects.

The John Deere Model D was introduced in 1923 and was the first tractor that the company marketed under its own name. With numerous companies manufacturing tractors, and many making wild claims, farmers became increasingly aware of the importance of quality from brands they could trust.

Each tractor in the collection illustrates a different aspect of how farming changed over time. These are six highlights from over 150 years of tractor and farming history.

1. Steam in the fields

Advertisement for the Frick farm engine, 1878. The museum's Frick Eclipse is currently on display at the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem, PA.

For millennia farming was accomplished with human and animal power. Some of the earliest engines began appearing in fields in the mid-1800s. Wood, coal, and even straw fueled a fire to heat water that generated steam to power the engine. Some farmers bought these portable steam engines to run equipment like circular saws for construction or threshing machines for separating and cleaning grain. Steam engines made farmwork less reliant on human brawn or animal power.

Steam-powered harvesting, early 1900s. A large group uses threshing machines belted to steam-powered traction engines to process mountains of wheat. Animals were still being used to haul the wagons. Note the small tenders of coal being towed by the traction engines. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Early versions of steam-powered engines were not self-propelled and still needed to be towed into the fields by teams of draft animals like horses and mules. In addition, the high cost of the portable engines meant that only a few could afford them.

2. Tractors are born

The word "tractor" was first coined by the Hart Parr company. The museum's Hart Parr #3 is the oldest surviving internal combustion engine tractor. It is currently on display at the Illinois and Indiana Antique Tractor & Gas Engine Club.

3. Cheap and versatile

Deere and Co. and Ford were two of the manufacturers who made cheap and versatile tractors. Deere and Co., founded as a plow and implement maker, got into tractor sales by buying the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co. in 1918. The Fordson was the first tractor sold by Ford in the U.S. It quickly became popular: Ford sold 36,000 tractors in 1921. By 1923, 75% of tractors purchased in the U.S. were Fordsons, but the company did not continue to innovate. In 1928, with slumping sales, Ford abandoned U.S. tractor production.

Mary Hawley Bardole driving a Ford tractor in the mid-1940s. After sitting out for over a decade, Ford got back in the tractor business with a partnership with engineer and innovator Henry Ferguson. Courtesy of Roy Bardole.

4. Experimental tractors

In the 1950s Allis-Chalmers began research of fuel cell tractors. Unlike standard batteries, fuel cells do not store energy but convert chemical energy to electric energy. This tractor functioned, but was not economically practical. In 1961 International Harvester created HT-340, a concept tractor for the jet age. A lightweight 90-pound turbine produced an astounding 85 horsepower, but it was very noisy and consumed vast quantities of fuel. While the turbine was not successful as a practical power source, the hydrostatic transmission saw real use. It is currently on display at the Illinois and Indiana Antique Tractor & Gas Engine Club.

5. High design

6. Political pressure

Gerald McCathern drove his tractor 1,800 miles from his farm in Hereford, Texas, to Washington, D.C., to participate in the 1979 American Agriculture Movement Tractorcade protest. American Agriculture Movement members raised money and donated Gerald McCathern’s International Harvester 1486 tractor (around 1986) to the museum. Here he is seated in the tractor in front of the museum. Courtesy of Smithsonian Archives. Tractors roll along the National Mall as part of the Tractorcade protest. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Archives.

Pre-20th Century

600 BC — Perhaps the earliest example of a “ver t ical farm” is the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon, built by King Nebuchadnezzar II more than 2,500 years ago. According to some scholars, the gardens consisted of a series of vaulted terraces, stacked one on top of the other, and planted with many different types of trees and flowers. Reaching a height of 20 meters, the gardens were likely irrigated by an early engineering innovation known as a chain pump, which would have used a system of buckets and pulleys to bring water from the Euphrates River at the foot of the gardens to a pool at the top.

1150 AD — Nearly a thousand years ago, Aztec people used a form of hydroponic farming known as “chinampas” to grow crops in marshy areas near lakes. Since the swampy soil in these areas was not suitable for agriculture, the Aztecs instead constructed rafts out of reeds, stalks, and roots covered the rafts with mud and soil from the lake bottom and then drifted them out into the lake. Due to the structural support provided by the rafts, crops could grow upwards while their roots grew downwards through the rafts and into the water. Often, many of these individual rafts were attached together to form expansive floating “fields.”

1627 — The first published theory of hydroponic gardening and farming methods appears in the book Sylva Sylvarum, by the English scientist and statesman Sir Francis Bacon. In this book, Bacon establishes and explores the possibility of growing terrestrial plants without soil.

1699 — English scientist John Woodward refines the idea of hydroponic gardening with a series of water culture experiments conducted with spearmint. Woodward finds that the plants grow better in water with impurities than they do in distilled water, leading him to conclude that the plants derive important nutrients from soil and other additives mixed into water solutions.


based on UNI 11233-2009 European standard,

The International Organisation of Biological Control (IOBC) describes Integrated Farming according to the UNI 11233-2009 European standard as a farming system where high quality organic food, feed, fibre and renewable energy are produced by using resources such as soil, water, air and nature as well as regulating factors to farm sustainably and with as little polluting inputs as possible. [1]

Particular emphasis is placed on an integrated organic management approach looking at the whole Bio farm as cross-linked unit, on the fundamental role and function of agro-ecosystems, on nutrient cycles which are balanced and adapted to the demand of the crops, and on health and welfare of all livestock on the farm. Preserving and enhancing soil fertility, maintaining and improving a diverse environment and the adherence to ethical and social criteria are indispensable basic elements. Crop protection takes into account all biological, technical and chemical methods which then are balanced carefully and with the objective to protect the environment, to maintain profitability of the business and fulfil social requirements. [2]

EISA European Initiative for Sustainable Development in Agriculture e. V. have an Integrated Farming Framework [3] which provides additional explanations on key aspects of Integrated Farming. These include: Organisation & Planning, Human & Social Capital, Energy Efficiency, Water Use & Protection, Climate Change & Air Quality, Soil Management, Crop Nutrition, Crop Health & Protection, Animal Husbandry, Health & Welfare, Landscape & Nature Conservation and Waste Management Pollution Control.

LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) [4] in the UK promotes a comparable model and defines Integrated Farm Management (IFM) as whole farm business approach that delivers more sustainable farming. [5] LEAF's Integrated Farm Management consists of nine interrelated sections: Organisation & Planning, Soil Management & Fertility, Crop Health & Protection, Pollution Control & By-Product Management, Animal Husbandry, Energy Efficiency, Water Management, and Landscape & Nature Conservation.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO promotes Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as the preferred approach to crop protection and regards it as a pillar of both sustainable intensification of crop production and pesticide risk reduction. [6] IPM thus is one indispensable element of Integrated Crop Management which in turn is one essential part of the holistic Integrated Farming approach towards sustainable agriculture.

FARRE (Forum des Agriculteurs Responsables Respectueux de l'Environnement) [7] defines a set of common principles and practices to help farmers achieve these goals:

  • Producing sufficient high quality food, fibre and industrial raw materials
  • Meeting the demands of society
  • Maintaining a viable farming business
  • Caring for the environment
  • Sustaining natural resources
  • Organisation and management
  • Monitoring and auditing
  • Crop protection
  • Animal husbandry
  • Soil and water management
  • Crop nutrition
  • Energy management
  • Waste management and pollution prevention
  • Wildlife and landscape management
  • Crop rotation and variety choice

KELLER, 1986 (quoted in Lütke Entrup et al., 1998 1) highlights that Integrated Crop Management is not to be understood as compromise between different agricultural production systems. It rather must be understood as production system with a targeted, dynamic and continuous use and development of experiences which were made in the so-called conventional farming. In addition to natural scientific findings, impulses from organic farming are also taken up.

Integrated Pest Management can be seen as starting point for a holistic approach to agricultural production. Following the excessive use of crop protection chemicals, first steps in IPM were taken in fruit production at the end of the 1950s. The concept was then further developed globally in all major crops. On the basis of results of the system-oriented IPM approach, models for Integrated Crop Management were developed. Initially, animal husbandry was not seen as part of such integrated approaches (Lütke Entrup et al., 1998 1).

In the years to follow, various national and regional initiatives and projects were formed. These include LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) in the UK, FNL (Fördergemeinschaft Nachhaltige Landwirtschaft e.V.) [8] in Germany, FARRE (Forum des Agriculteurs Responsables Respectueux de l'Environnement) [7] in France, FILL (Fördergemeinschaft Integrierte Landbewirtschaftung Luxemburg) or OiB (Odling i Balans) [9] in Sweden. However, there are few if any figures on the uptake of Integrated Farming in the major crops throughout Europe for example, leading to a recommendation by the European Economic and Social Committee in February 2014, that the EU should carry out an in-depth analysis of integrated production in Europe in order to obtain insights into the current situation and potential developments. [10] There is evidence, however, that between 60 and 80% of pome, stone and soft fruits were grown, controlled and marketed according to "Integrated Production Guidelines" in 1999 already in Germany for example. [11]

LEAF is a leading organisation delivering more sustainable food and farming and was established in 1991. LEAF's mission is to inspire and enable sustainable farming that is prosperous, enriches the environment and engages local communities. Integrated Farm Management underpins all their activities. LEAF promotes the uptake and knowledge sharing of Integrated Farm Management by the LEAF Network, a series of LEAF Demonstration Farms and Innovation Centres. The LEAF Marque System was established in 2003 and is an environmental assurance system recognising more sustainably farmed products. It is run by LEAF and the principles of Integrated Farm Management (IFM) underpin the requirements of LEAF Marque certification, as set out in the LEAF Marque Standard. LEAF Marque is a global system and adopts a whole farm approach, certifying the entire farm business and its products. In 2019, LEAF Marque businesses were in 29 countries, and 39% of UK fruit and vegetables grown by LEAF Marque certified businesses.

Animal husbandry and Integrated Crop Management (ICM) often are just two branches of one agricultural enterprise. In modern agriculture, animal husbandry and crop production must be understood as interlinked sectors which cannot be looked at in isolation, as the context of agricultural systems leads to tight interdependencies. Uncoupling animal husbandry from arable production (too high stocking rates) is therefore not considered in accordance with the principles and objectives of Integrated Farming (Lütke Entrup et al., 1998 1). Accordingly, holistic concepts for Integrated Farming or Integrated Farm Management such as the EISA Integrated Farming Framework, [3] and the concept of sustainable agriculture are increasingly developed, promoted and implemented at the global level.

Related to the 'sustainable intensification' of agriculture, [12] an objective which in part is discussed controversially, efficiency of resource use becomes increasingly important today. Environmental impacts of agricultural production depend on the efficiency achieved when using natural resources and all other means of production. The input per kg of output, the output per kg of input, and the output achieved per hectare of land—a limited resource in the light of world population growth—are decisive figures for evaluating the efficiency and the environmental impact of agricultural systems. [13] Efficiency parameters therefore offer important evidence how efficiency and environmental impacts of agriculture can be judged and where improvements can or must be made.

Against this background, documentation as well certification schemes and farm audits such as LEAF Marque [14] in the UK and 33 other countries throughout the world become more and more important tools to evaluate—and further improve—agricultural practices. Even though being by far more product- or sector-oriented, SAI Platform principles and practices [15] and GlobalGap [16] for example pursue similar approaches.

Integrated Farming is based on attention to detail, continuous improvement and managing all resources available. [17]

Being bound to sustainable development, the underlying three dimensions economic development, social development and environmental protection are thoroughly considered in the practical implementation of Integrated Farming. However, the need for profitability is a decisive prerequisite: To be sustainable, the system must be profitable, as profits generate the possibility to support all activities outlined in the (EISA Integrated Farming) IF Framework. [17]

As a management and planning approach, Integrated Farming includes regular benchmarking of targets set against results achieved. The concept of the EISA Integrated Farming Framework for example has a clear focus on farmers' awareness of their own performance. By regularly benchmarking their performance, farmers become aware of achievements as well as deficiencies, and by paying attention to detail they can continuously work on improving the whole farming enterprise and their economic performance at the same time: According to findings in UK, reducing fertiliser and chemical inputs to amounts according to the demand of the crops allowed for cost savings in the range of £2,500 – £10,000 per year and per farm. [18]

Following first developments in the 1950s, various approaches to Integrated Pest Management, Integrated Crop Management, Integrated Production and Integrated Farming were developed worldwide (in Germany, Switzerland, US, Australia, and India, for example). [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] As the implementation of the general concept of Integrated Farming and its individual components always should be handled according to the given site and situation instead of following strict rules and recipes, the concept is virtually applicable—and being used to various degrees—all over the world.

It should be mentioned, however, that there are also critical voices from environmental organisations for example. That is in part due to the fact that there are European Organic Regulations such as (EC) No 834/2007 [24] or the new draft from 2014 [25] but no comparable regulations for Integrated Farming. Whereas organic farming and the Bio-Siegel [de] in Germany for example are legally protected, EU Commission has not yet considered to start working on a comparable framework or blueprint for Integrated Farming. When products are marketed as Controlled Integrated Produce, according control mechanisms and quality-labels are not based on national or European directives but are established and handled by private organisations and quality schemes such as LEAF Marque. [14]