What is the 2nd agricultural revolution and its effects?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The second agricultural revolution is generally said to have occurred along with the Industrial Revolution.  It came about in part because of the Industrial Revolution and it helped allow the Industrial Revolution to happen. 

The second agricultural revolution was based on a greater use of technology.  In this revolution, farmers started to use machinery in many more aspects of agriculture.  For example, they started to use machines to plant their seeds more consistently and effectively.  They began to use machines to harvest their crops and to do things like separating grain from chaff.  Another type of machinery that was important for this revolution was the train.  Trains helped transport large amounts of farm produce from farms to cities, thus allowing farmers to profitably grow more crops.  Finally, there were new farming techniques such as a greater use of fertilizers to help increase yields.

The main effect of this revolution was to increase the number of people who could be supported by any particular farmer.  With increased yields, a farmer could grow enough to feed more people.  This meant that it was possible for more people to move to the cities to work in the factories that were springing up as the Industrial Revolution took hold. 

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ssarfraz | Student, Professional | (Level 2) Honors

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Second Agriculture Revolution - At A Glance

  • Started in 1815 and ended in 1880
  • Comprised of many innovations in technology
  • Helped to improve food production to feed more than just the farmer and a village
  • Railroads cut time for transporting goods so that food doesn't rot before it reaches the consumer
  • New fertilizer and artificial feed is introduced
  • Planting in rows is becoming common because it is easier to manage and harvest

Second Agriculture Revolution (1815-1880)

The second agricultural revolution shifted the foundation of agriculture from the sun to a new reliance on fossil fuel.

In other words, the second agricultural revolution liberated farmers from the old biological restraints.  The second agricultural revolution was composed of a series of innovations, improvements, and techniques in Great Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, and other neighboring countries. 

New technologies such as the seed drill enabled farmers to avoid wasting seeds and to easily plant in rows, making it simpler to distinguish weeds from crops. Advances in breeding livestock enabled farmers to develop new breeds that were either strong milk producers or good for beef. By the 1830s, farmers were using new fertilizers on crops and feeding artificial feeds to livestock. Increased agricultural output made it possible to feed much larger urban populations, enabling the growth of a secondary (industrial) economy.

The Agricultural Revolution was a period of technological improvement and increased crop productivity that occurred during the 18th and early 19th centuries in Europe.

The Enclosure Acts, passed in Great Britain, allowed wealthy lords to purchase public fields and push out small-scale farmers, causing a migration of men looking for wage labor in cities. These workers would provide the labor for new industries during the Industrial Revolution.

Major events Of Agricultural Revolution

  • The perfection of the horse-drawn seed press, which would make farming less labor intensive and more productive.
  • The large-scale growth of new crops, such as potato and maize, by 1750.
  • The passing of the Enclosure Laws, limiting the common land available to small farmers in 1760.

The nature and importance of the second agricultural revolution

The second agricultural revolution, which began about a century ago, has had such negative effects on our planet that its negative effects are already clear. 

Scientists sometimes claim that, while carbon provides the quantity for life, nitrogen supplies its quality.  Without nitrogen, there’d be no life. Nature makes amino acids, proteins, and nucleic acids from nitrogen; nitrogen is critical to the genetic information that structures life.

 In 1909 Fritz Haber discovered synthetic nitrogen and Carl Bosch commercialized Haber’s idea.  This spawned the second agricultural revolution and, so, may have been the most important invention of the twentieth century.

The process works by putting nitrogen and hydrogen gases under intense heat and pressure in the presence of a catalyst.  The heat and pressure come from electricity and the hydrogen is supplied by fossil fuels (such as natural gas or oil or coal).

Hence, the second agricultural revolution shifted the foundation of agriculture from the sun to a new reliance on fossil fuel. In other words, the second agricultural revolution liberated farmers from the old biological restraints.

Farms could now be managed like factories that transform chemical fertilizer into outputs of monoculture crops like corn.  This enabled farmers to bring mechanical efficiency and the factory’s economies of scale to agriculture. If “the discovery of agriculture represented the first fall of man from the state of nature, then the discovery of synthetic fertility is surely a second precipitous fall” (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, p. 45.).

Effects of the Second Agricultural Revolution

The British Agricultural Revolution is considered to be a major turning point in history. The inventions that were invented during this period of time allowed farmers to produce more crops, which caused an increase in population. Not only did it create a population explosion, but it also helped start the Industrial Revolution.

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