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How did technology change US agriculture in the period 1865-1900? How did technology change US agriculture in the period 1865-1900?

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academe23 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Technological change in agriculture during the period from 1865-1900 was not that dramatic, but some of the changes around agriculture were very significant. The development of the railroad was paramount, opening agricultural expansion in the western states and allowing easier access to markets. The railroads carried livestock to abattoirs and slaughterhouses in cities like Chicago and Cincinnati, leading to dramatic increases in the industrial processing of agricultural goods and the growth of urban areas connected to the Great West.

One technological innovation introduced in 1860s was barbed wire, which spoke to the importance of maintaining control of livestock herds and grazing land, something that was always a challenge in the "wild west." Innovations in chemistry in the mid-1800s led to better methods of fertilization, also increasing yields. There was also some progress in breeding techniques, creating hybrids with more hardiness and yield.

These were some of the developments that led to the increasing mechanization and commercialization of agriculture from 1865-1900, a process that only accelerated in the 20th century.

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Technology made a huge impact in agriculture at that time. Although there were advances in farm technology, one of the greatest impacts was the railroads. The railroads allowed farmers to sell their crops to a larger market, but the railroads were more powerful than individual farmers or farm collectives. They often bullied farmers and ddestroyed entire farming communities by freezing them out.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Technology changed US agriculture in many ways during the time period you mention.  Two of the most important changes were A) the fact that technology allowed the Great Plains to be settled and farmed and B) the fact that technology led to the creation of bigger and bigger farms and the beginning of a long decline for small farms.

Technology allowed the Great Plains to be opened to agriculture.  Perhaps the most important advances were John Deere's steel plow (which made it much easier to break the thick and heavy soil of the area) and barbed wire (which could keep livestock out of fields).  The railroads were also very important as they connected farmers to markets.

At the same time, technology favored bigger farms.  Much of the technology was either expensive and/or needed large spaces to work effectively (you can't use a huge combine in a small field).  Because of this, the new technology made large farms more competitive than small farms.  That started the process that brought us to the situation we have now where most farming is done by large agricultural firms rather than by families.

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