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Over the years many significant agricultural changes have occurred in order to supply enough food for the growing human population. In this lesson, we will explore the Green Revolution and investigate the benefits and issues associated with this period.

What Is the Green Revolution?

Throughout history there have been many revolutions that have occurred and changed human lives, such as the American Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.

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In the mid- and late-20th century a revolution occurred that dramatically changed the field of agriculture, and this revolution was known as the Green Revolution.The Green Revolution was a period when the productivity of global agriculture increased drastically as a result of new advances. During this time period, new chemical fertilizers and synthetic herbicides and pesticides were created.

The chemical fertilizers made it possible to supply crops with extra nutrients and, therefore, increase yield. The newly developed synthetic herbicides and pesticides controlled weeds, deterred or kill insects, and prevented diseases, which also resulted in higher productivity.In addition to the chemical advances utilized during this time period, high-yield crops were also developed and introduced. High-yield crops are crops that are specifically designed to produce more overall yield. A method known as multiple cropping was also implemented during the Green Revolution and lead to higher productivity. Multiple cropping is when a field is used to grow two or more crops throughout the year, so that the field constantly has something growing on it. These new farming techniques and advances in agricultural technology were utilized by farmers all over the world, and when combined, intensified the results of the Green Revolution.

Benefits of the Green Revolution

As a result of the Green Revolution and the introduction of chemical fertilizers, synthetic herbicides and pesticides, high-yield crops, and the method of multiple cropping, the agricultural industry was able to produce much larger quantities of food. This increase in productivity made it possible to feed the growing human population.One person who is famous for his involvement in the Green Revolution is the scientist Norman Borlaug. In the 1940s, Norman Borlaug developed a strain of wheat that could resist diseases, was short, which reduced damage by wind, and could produce large seed heads and high yields.

He introduced this variety of wheat in Mexico and within twenty years the production of wheat had tripled. This allowed for the production of more food for people in Mexico and also made it possible for Mexico to export their wheat and sell it in other countries. Norman Borlaug helped introduce this high-yield variety of wheat to other countries in need of increased food production, and he eventually won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work with developing high-yield crops and for helping prevent starvation in many developing countries.In addition to producing larger quantities of food, the Green Revolution was also beneficial because it made it possible to grow more crops on roughly the same amount of land with a similar amount of effort. This reduced production costs and also resulted in cheaper prices for food in the market.The ability to grow more food on the same amount of land was also beneficial to the environment because it meant that less forest or natural land needed to be converted to farmland to produce more food.

This is demonstrated by the fact that from 1961 to 2008, as the human population increased by 100% and the production of food rose by 150%, the amount of forests and natural land converted to farm only increased by 10%. The natural land that is currently not needed for agricultural land is safe for the time being, and can be utilized by animals and plants for their natural habitat.

Issues with the Green Revolution

Although the Green Revolution had several benefits, there were also some issues associated with this period that affected both the environment and society.

The use of chemical fertilizers and synthetic herbicides and pesticides dramatically influenced the environment by increasing pollution and erosion. The new materials added to the soil and plants polluted the soil and water systems around the fields. The pollution of the water exposed people and the environment downstream to the chemicals being used in the farm fields. The pollution of the soil resulted in lower soil quality, which increased the risk of erosion of the topsoil.In addition to pollution, the environment was also influenced by the large irrigation systems that were required to sustain the growth of the plants. The large amount of water required put pressure on the natural water reserves and resulted in water shortages and droughts.

The environment was also negatively affected by the Green Revolution due to the consumption of more energy. From 1900 to 2000, the amount of energy put into agriculture worldwide increased 80 times due to the shift from human and animal labor to the use of large machines. The increase in energy consumption and the dependency on more fossil fuels has resulted in pollution and has caused harm to the environment.

In addition to the environmental impacts of the period, the Green Revolution also had impacts on society. As we now know, as a result of advances in agricultural technology, commercial farms were able to produce more food and sell it at lower prices. On the other hand, many small, low-income farms were not able to afford the new technologies and, therefore, did not reduce their costs or prices.

This made it very difficult for small farms to compete with commercial farms, and eventually many small farms were forced to sell their land. As they did so, a part of history and tradition in the United States was lost.

Lesson Summary

The Green Revolution, which was a period when the productivity of global agriculture increased drastically as a result of new advances, was a very important period in agricultural history. During this time period, the amount of crops produced rose due to the introduction of chemical fertilizers and synthetic herbicides and pesticides. The increase in productivity was also influenced by the development of high-yield crops, which are crops that are specifically designed to produce more overall yield, and the use of multiple cropping, which is when a field is used to grow two or more crops throughout the year so that the field constantly has something growing on it.Overall, the Green Revolution had many benefits, but also several issues associated with it. It was beneficial because it helped produce more food and prevented the starvation of many people.

It also resulted in lower production costs and sale prices of produce. Although it had several benefits, the Green Revolution also had some negative effects on the environment and society. As a result of this period, some small farmers had to sell their land because they could not afford the new technologies, and therefore, could not complete with commercial farms. In addition, the environment was negatively affected through increased pollution and erosion, more pressure on water systems, and higher rates of energy consumption.Although the Green Revolution has been successful in producing more food, it is only a temporary solution. Some scientists are calling for a second Green Revolution, and are referring to it as the Doubly Green Revolution. In this revolution, they want to develop new technologies and agricultural methods that will increase overall production, but will also conserve natural resources and limit the effects on the environment.

By developing new technologies that are more sustainable, it may be possible to provide food for the ever-increasing population without destroying the environment.

Learning Outcomes

You should be able to accomplish the following objectives by completing this video lesson:

  • Define the Green Revolution and point out when it took place
  • Connect the positive effects of the Green Revolution to the resulting issues
  • Explain the term ‘Doubly Green Revolution’ and its perceived necessity
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