How to use technology to improve agriculture ?

If we look around and ponder for a few minutes about how many things that we use are man-made, we cannot help being wonder-struck. From the moment we get up in the, morning to the time we go to bed at night, there are innumerable little things that we use which are man-made. A glass for drinking water, an alarm clock, television, electric fan, telephone, table lamp, pen paper, table… we can go on listing man-made items that we use every day. All these articles of use have made out lives comfortable. With the help of existing materials and tools, more useful and complex gadgets van be made.

But think of the knowledge and skill that have gone into making of exists today came only after thousands of years of observation, accumulation of knowledge and the application of this knowledge obtained by observation and testing of facts about nature ‘s laws and the physical world around us. Scientific knowledge generates skill. This skill is used and developed to formulate various practical and mechanical details. Application of scientific knowledge to practical tasks is technology. Let us examine the growth and advancement of science and technology down the ages. We shall also examine the interdependence of science and technology and see how a major technology gives rise to a number of related or ancillary technologies.

We have seen in an earlier articles that technology was already developed in the Paleolithic period. Animal skins were used as clothing. In Neolithic period wickerwork and, subsequently, textiles came into use. Hunting and fishing were the chief means of obtaining food. Later on, man cultivated crops and domesticated animals. It is clear that as man’s knowledge of nature and its laws increased, i.e., as science developed, so did man’s ability to craft new things for his use, For example, man first learnt how to make fore and then he used fore to cook, to bake pottery, to extract and purify metals using fore.

Similarly, he noticed that round things roll which gave him the idea of a wheel and this led to hand-drawn carts, animal-drawn carts, cars, trains, etc. Although these developments seem simple enough today, they have two things in common which are true for all technological developments. First, each new technology changes our lifestyles and enables us to do our tasks more easily. Secondly, each technology increases the rate of development in an area. To understand how this happens, let us look at the development of agricultural technology.

Agriculture: Development and Consequence

Man used to live the life of nomad, hunting and collecting food from various plants that grew in the wild. In the New Stone Age, man discovered that he could grow his own crops. In the beginning he used primitive tools and grew basic crops like wheat and some fruit trees. However, he recognized the potential of agriculture as a constant supplier of food. He, therefore, settled down in small groups and slowly started improving his methods of cultivation. This promoted a series of technological developments and improved his way of living.

Development in ploughing and harvesting Agricultural practice requires great physical labor. In this regard, man thought of using powerful but docile animals. For this he drafted ox, buffalo, horse, camel, etc. For threshing of grains too, these animals were used. The use of animals on farm set free many men to do other works. The use of animals for other purposes like pulling carts, etc., also increased. As technology improved further, man was able to use tractors for ploughing. This lessened physical labor and increased the efficiency of the work. Similarly early, am used to harvest crops by hand and then he started using simple tools like the sickle. Now harvesting machines (harvesters) are available which do the job much faster.

Development in irrigation rainfall was the main source of water for irrigating primitive man’s fields. He learnt to store this water in ditches and reservoirs that he made. He also learnt to divert water to his fields from ponds and rivers. This gave him the idea of canals. To irrigate the land, man developed several tools like water pulley and water-wheel. He used animals to operated water pulleys. With the improvement of technology man learnt to use tube wells and pumping sets. Development of these technologies for agriculture had other used, too. For example, primitive canals showed the way to modern network of canals which can irrigate vast areas of land and can make agriculture possible even in arid zones. The Indira Gandhi Canal has made agriculture possible in many districts of Rajasthan. In some countries these waterways are also used for plying boats and ships to carry goods. Similarly, the development of reservoirs and dams led to the development of hydroelectric power stations. A system of dams and canals can also be used for flood control.

Development in food storage: Agricultural produce had to be stored so that man could be assured of daily supply. Therefore, methods for storage had to be developed. Man developed big storage units in houses. In order to protect the grains from pests an thought of different devices such as the use of neem and babul eaves. In an excavation at Inamgaon near Pune in Maharashtra, it was found that such storage techniques were being employed 3000 years ago in India.

Over the years grain storage methods have been vastly improved. Now we have large silos and cold storage units where food grains, fruits and vegetables can be stored for a considerable period of time without any degradation or decomposition. The experience with storage of grains also led to other developments. Man learnt to process food items like pickles, jams, etc., which could be eaten at a later time. He also learnt that certain food items like fruits and vegetables get spoiled very easily. He observed that by keeping these in a cool place, he could increase their storage life. These ideas led to such developments as iceboxes and refrigerators.

From the above account it is clear that development of agriculture was accompanied by a rapid growth in this area. It enabled man to increase the land under cultivation, increase food production, and make agricultural practices more efficient. It also changed the life-style of man from nomads to early settlers, who toiled hard on the land, and then to men using efficient methods to grow crops for others who were engaged in other occupations. This created a climate for the development of ancillary technologies.

Technology helps in converting a non-resource into a resource. Technology helped in domestication and use of animals for man’s needs. In the wild these animals were of no use to man. But man used agricultural technology to produce fodder for them. Now man could same these animals, feed them and use them for drawing carts, ploughing and grinding, hauling logs, etc. Thus domesticated animals became a resource. Take the case of clay. Man had no use for it till advancement in technology allowed him to make pottery, bricks, etc. Here also, technology allowed man to convert a non-resource to a resource.