If you do not work in the agrochemical and agriculture industries, you may not be familiar with the benefits that a career in this sector offers. Too often, people make the mistake of assuming that any sort of “farming work” involves strenuous labor and offers few opportunities for engaging mental work.
Nothing could be further from the truth. While laborers do play an essential role in these industries, they’re not the only ones contributing. Thanks to new agricultural technologies, theories, and approaches, farms are constantly becoming more efficient.
For that process to continue, it’s important that passionate and hard-working people step up and bring their skills to the table, helping to further develop those technologies, theories, and approaches. In this industry, individuals with a wide range of talents and interests often find that the work offers unexpected rewards.
These rewards include the following:
If you work in the agriculture or agrochemical industries, you may frequently work on projects that involve finding or inventing new ways to boost the effectiveness of a chemical, improve the health of a crop, or more efficiently monitor the health of various plants on a farm. The overall goal has always been to increase crop yield, and coming up with new methods of achieving this goal involves substantial mental work.
For some people, this might not sound appealing, but for those who love to solve problems, it’s invigorating. Because approaches to farming are constantly changing, you never encounter prolonged periods of boredom or stagnation. Agriculture specialists agree that there are always ways to improve current methods. Thus, you’ll always have another interesting problem to solve. Having a mentally stimulating career helps promote a sense of fulfillment in life.
As stimulating as a job may be, it won’t be completely fulfilling if you don’t believe in or care about the type of work you’re doing. A sense of meaning is an essential trait in any rewarding career. You want to know that the work you are doing is making some kind of difference in the world.
Fortunately, that’s easy with a career in the agriculture and agrochemical industries. The more food a farmer can grow, the more food there is to share with the global population.
You’re not just helping to eliminate hunger. You’re helping humankind thrive. Before early humans adopted a more agrarian lifestyle, they were hunter-gatherers, exhausting the food sources in one area before moving on to the next. This type of living, which required constant travel and vigilance, left little time for humans to focus on other endeavors, like science, art, and culture.
With the advent of agriculture, humans could finally supply the tribe with a reliable, steady source of food. That meant they had the chance to develop as a true civilization.
That trend continues to this day. When people are well-fed, they can begin to offer their talents to the rest of the species. In the agriculture industry, you’re helping to make that happen.
Few breakthroughs in farming or agrochemicals occur thanks to the efforts of a solitary individual. Developing new farming technologies and processes is a team effort. This is a very appealing type of work for many people.
First of all, it’s rewarding for many to work in an environment that allows for some degree of socializing. However, at some jobs, that socializing takes the form of casual conversations that are unrelated to the actual goals of the company or organization.
That’s not the case in this line of work. If everyone is passionate about, for example, designing a new method of applying fertilizer that reduces waste while also boosting overall growth, their conversations won’t go off that topic. Instead, they’ll spend much of their time enthusiastically talking about the problem and their ideas for potential solutions.
Collaborating with people who are just as excited as you are about the work is an invigorating experience, especially if it means you get to share a sense of accomplishment when you achieve your goals. When those goals are worthwhile - and in the case of agriculture, they almost always are - the experience is even more fulfilling.
Agriculture itself arose as a solution to the problem of keeping people fed. While modern farming is very different from the kind of farming early humans practiced, it still involves working with other talented, dedicated people to solve that same problem. It’s an exciting line of work to be involved in, one which is just as appealing to a budding scientist as it is to a business major.
A frequent theme of this blog is the role of new technology in agriculture and more specifically how unmanned vehicles and aerial drones will make it easier for farmers to boost their overall crop yield. The new technologies will be good for everyone. Improved farming methods will enable more food production to keep pace with the world’s growing population.
However, the topic of agricultural technology inevitably leads to one underlying question: What kind of impact will these new technologies have on farm labor?
The Impact of Automation
It’s an understandable concern. Across many industries, automation has eliminated a number of jobs over the years, and it will likely will continue to do so. While unmanned agricultural equipment may improve the overall efficiency of farms, it could mean that manual labor is no longer necessary.
While that’s a fair way of considering the issue, it’s not the only way. After all, there is often a misconception about how easy it is for farmers to find workers. In the United States, for example, some farmers have discovered that many citizens actually aren’t willing to take on that kind of physically demanding work. As a result, they have to hire H-2A workers instead.
H-2A workers are not technically citizens of the United States, nor are they immigrants. They come to the United States for seasonal employment and return to their home countries when they are not working. Generally, they are more willing to endure the arduous nature of farming.
Hiring H-2A Workers Can Be Difficult
The problem is that hiring them can be difficult. Checks are checks put in place to ensure that they do not remain in the country for longer than their allotted time, and the process of hiring them through this system can be time-consuming and expensive. Additionally, some farms do not offer enough seasonal work to qualify for the program. As a result, they are stuck looking for workers who are citizens. Often, they come up short.
Add in the fact that policies relating to non-immigrant workers are constantly shifting in most countries, and it can be difficult to find enough workers in this industry.
More automated machinery could provide a solution to this dilemma. Basic tasks that would have required a human could now essentially be performed by a robot. Rather than giving farmers a reason to reduce their workforce, the increased efficiency would allow them to use their workers more effectively. In recent years, precision agriculture has been a hot topic in the industry. Farmers are continuing to develop new methods of addressing the specific needs of a small section of crops. The approach boosts crop yields while limiting the amount of wasted resources, which may include fertilizer and pesticides.
Machines Could Make Farming Less Labor-Intensive
In order to be effective, precision agriculture techniques often require a person to carefully evaluate the condition of a given crop and address any nutritional deficiencies. With machines tending to the mundane tasks, farm workers can now aid in this process. Doing so will actually make farming significantly less labor-intensive. As a result, more people will be willing to take on farming jobs.
Moreover, it’s worth noting that these new machines will need to be manufactured, maintained, and repaired. Such work will still have to be performed by humans. In fact, the odds are good that the implementation of these tools will be positive for every farm’s workforce.
Farmers Continue to Struggle to Find Workers
By helping farmers to grow more food and increase their revenue, machines will enable them to hire additional workers. Again, farmers are struggling to find workers as it is. With more funds at their disposal, they will be far more likely to expand their operations. Think of a farm like a growing company. When a new tool comes along that makes the company substantially more productive, that company doesn’t shrink in size. Instead, it grows and provides more jobs as a result.
That’s not to mention the fact that increased revenue for farms is better for the general economy of a region, since more people will have money to spend. While it is certainly fair to be concerned about how new agricultural technologies will eliminate the need for manual labor, the farming industry is one example in which the opposite would appear to be true. Consider that farmers are having a difficult time finding humans to do these jobs. Rather than become pessimistic about how machines will affect the agricultural workers, it’s better to be optimistic. When farmers are no longer struggling to maintain a full workforce, they can devote more energy to serving their communities.
One of the most important aspects of any culture is the food. Due to air freight, it’s now possible to enjoy food from just about any region.
True, this is convenient. However, in recent years, many professional chefs—as well as their customers—have returned to a more traditional approach to cooking. For a large part of human history, people ate only the food that was available to them locally. That’s how particular regional cuisines developed, after all. People used those ingredients that they had immediate access to instead of those that could be flown in.
In an effort to preserve the culinary traditions of the world, there has been a push to focus more on farm-to-table cooking in which chefs plan their menus based on the food that’s available from local farms.
Farm-to-Table Movement Grows
Partially, this impulse has to do with the main preoccupation of most professional chefs, food critics, and culinary enthusiasts: flavor. While we are fortunate to live in an age where it’s possible to preserve and transport food to virtually any part of the globe in hours, many feel that fresh food grown locally simply tastes better.
However, that’s not the only reason why the farm-to-table movement has grown in popularity. Regional cuisine is an essential reflection of the part of the world from which it originates. A great meal does not merely taste good. It embodies the spirit of the people who first crafted and perfected the recipe. Smart chefs understand this, and that’s why many of them are starting to change the way they plan their menus. Rather than trying to craft delicious meals using whatever ingredients they wish, they are limiting themselves to ingredients from local farms. While this in turn forces chefs to be more creative, it also allows them to serve meals that capture the essence of a region.
Agrochemicals Play An Important Role in Society
This is yet another reason why agrochemicals play an important role in society. They protect crops from disease, pests, and other crops competing for resources. The more effective they are, the more food a farmer can grow. The benefits of this practice from a culinary perspective are obvious, but two in particular are especially worth highlighting.
First of all, a chef cannot create a successful restaurant using fresh, locally sourced ingredients if they are not readily available. The more crops that a farmer can grow, the easier it is for a chef to plan and execute a farm-to-table cooking strategy with a consistent menu.
More importantly, when farmers are preoccupied with keeping their crops healthy, they cannot necessarily focus on other priorities. They devote so much time and energy to simply growing a reasonable amount of food that they do not have the time and energy to concern themselves with the actual quality of the food.
Cultivating Healthy and Flavorful Crops
Agrochemicals change this situation. They make it much easier to protect crops and boost their overall growth. This gives farmers the opportunity to work on cultivating the healthiest and most flavorful crops that they can. Chefs who adopt a farm-to-table approach very often work closely with local farmers to develop farming methods that result in not only abundant, but robust and delicious crops, as well.
If local farmers must concentrate too much on simply keeping their crops alive, then they won’t be able to collaborate with chefs in this respect. By using the right products, they can shift their focus and begin to take the flavor of the food into account.
Spreading and Celebrating Culture
This is yet another example of how the agriculture and agrochemical industries help to spread and celebrate culture. As has been mentioned before on this blog, agriculture allowed early human tribes to develop art, music, religion, and other staples of culture that were far more difficult to develop for hunter-gatherer tribes. Rather than focusing solely on securing a food source in a given region, they could pursue other interests and endeavors. In some respects, the shift to an agrarian style of living allowed for the very idea of culture to come into existence in the first place.
While we may be very far removed from those ancient ancestors in some respects, in other ways we are still very similar. We still rely on farms to provide us with our food and to help us grow, enrich, and share our cultural traditions. Again, the farm-to-table movement is not just about serving flavorful meals. It is about giving people the opportunity to rediscover the classic, locally focused cuisine of their own region. Without agrochemicals to protect the crops that these recipes and meals rely on, we would not have the opportunity to do so.
Agriculture—and, for that matter, agrochemicals—serve as the essential foundation upon which human civilization built itself. Prior to the rise of agrarian societies, most early human ancestors were hunter-gatherers, exhausting the resources in one area and moving on to the next. This nomadic lifestyle left little time for the development of science, art, or the numerous other fundamentals of culture that we so easily take for granted.
When tribes first discovered the principles of agriculture, they were finally able to settle in one location. This gave them the opportunity to focus more attention on other endeavors. Without farms, humans would have never built cities. We would have never established trade networks connecting our various societies and nations. And we certainly would have never developed the innovations necessary for space travel.
Permanent extraterrestrial colonies
Now, we find ourselves at yet another major turning point in the history of human civilization. NASA and other space agencies, including independent organizations such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, have announced plans to land a human on Mars within the coming decades. These initial missions would theoretically serve as the first of many, as humans begin to establish permanent extraterrestrial colonies.
While it may sound like science-fiction, it’s no longer reasonable to dismiss these claims. Humans are almost certainly going to visit Mars in the near future.
Of course, when they get there, they’ll need a reliable food source. That’s why this isn’t just a critical time for people involved in space exploration—it’s also a critical time for people involved in agriculture. In order to sustain a colony on another planet, the agencies organizing these missions will need help from the brightest thinkers in the industry. You can’t stay on Mars if you can’t grow food there.
Creating a ‘Mars Oasis’
Elon Musk’s plan for what he calls a “Mars Oasis” addresses this concern directly. Potential timelines for an eventual manned mission include an early mission that would involve transporting a small greenhouse to Mars, with nutrients and plants aboard. Engineers would devise a method to ensure that the plants do not begin growing until the greenhouse reaches the surface of Mars. Monitoring their growth cycle remotely from our planet, researchers would have the ability to gather information about the prospects and challenges of cultivating food in a Martian colony.
The researchers will need input from agricultural experts to come up with the most effective solutions to this problem. The essential challenge of the issue involves finding a way to alter a portion of the Martian soil so that it mimics the soil we have on Earth. Although films such as The Martian gloss over this barrier by depicting a few smart people arriving at basic solutions, experts agree that actually achieving this goal will be far from simple. However, they also agree that it can and will be done.
Accounting for gravity differences
Converting the barren Mars soil into nutrient, life-sustaining earth is just one part of the problem, though. Mars receives significantly less sunlight than we do. Colonists will either need to rely on plants that have been engineered to thrive with less exposure to the sun, or they’ll have to use artificial lighting sources to compensate for the difference. They might also need to account for gravity differences, which could theoretically keep plants from growing in the Martian atmosphere.
Then there’s the radiation problem.
Earth is protected from the sun’s radiation due to its remarkably thick atmosphere, a quality that’s not shared by any other planet in the solar system. Some experts believe that the atmosphere of Mars won’t be sufficient to protect crops. Any greenhouse that the first Martian colonists use for growing food will have to be strong enough to block the radiation that could otherwise decimate any plant life.
Creating the first farm on Mars
In other words, starting the first farm on Mars is going to be very difficult. However, people who work in the agriculture and agrochemical industries are used to tackling extremely difficult projects. Throughout nearly all of human history, farmers have encountered these types of problems in one form or another. While no one has ever tried to grow food on another planet before, they have had to grow food in an inhospitable climate, in regions where pests or diseases have threatened crops, and in areas where the soil was barely fertile enough to support even meager plant life.
Yet, they’ve always managed to overcome these obstacles. As visionaries continue to strive towards the eventual goal of establishing a permanent human colony on Mars, agriculture experts have an opportunity to make a major contribution to the history of the human species.
It’s a very exciting time to be a farmer.
A common theme in this blog is the idea that people outside the agriculture and agrochemical industries don’t truly appreciate how important these fields are. There are variety of valid reasons this is the case.
First, the media rarely covers the industry in detail. Second, public schools don’t teach students much about agriculture outside of a historical perspective. Finally, popular culture often depicts farming as old-fashioned work. As a result, people who don’t directly participate in these industries either don’t think much about them at all, or they don’t realize the major role agriculture plays in the lives of everyone on the planet.
However, it would behoove people to consider the significance of agriculture. Farms benefit the population of a given area. Quite simply, farms provide a reliable source of food that profoundly affects society in a variety of ways. In fact, agriculture is the reason civilization was able to develop to begin with.
The Significance of the Transition to an Agrarian Society
Prior to the emergence of agrarian societies, human beings were primarily hunter-gatherers. That meant moving to an area, exhausting the supply of food, then moving on somewhere else. This way of living didn’t allow for a structured civilization to evolve. Moving from one place to another made it difficult to focus resources on arts, medicine, science, technology, etc. It also prevented civilizations from passing down the kinds of cultural traditions which allow for a society to form strong bonds.
Thanks to the development of organized farming, that changed. When humans began to grow food, it was easier for them to settle down in one place. This gave them the opportunity to work towards other important endeavors, laying the foundation for the human civilization we enjoy today.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the food supplied by farmers doesn’t merely benefit those who live in the immediate area. In the early days of human societies, that may have been the case. However, now that we have efficient forms of transportation capable of moving large quantities of food, that food has global significance.
A Reliable Food Supply Promotes Political Stability
Many of the conflicts that have taken place throughout human history stem from, among a variety of other relevant factors, competition for resources. In the distant past, this took the form of rival societies fighting with one another for food and shelter.
Unfortunately, in more recent history, not much has changed. Conflicts still stem from an imbalance of resources. When people’s essential needs are taken care of, they are more secure and fulfilled. On the other hand, when nations and populations experience an insufficient or unreliable supply of food, the result can be social, economic, and political instability. It’s simply the principle of self-preservation in action.
This means that the agricultural industry is in the position to help promote world peace. The more food that farms can produce, the more food can be shared with the people of the world. As resources become more widely available to everyone on the planet, there will be less need for conflict.
True, farms can’t entirely rid the world of war - competition for resources plays a major role, but it isn’t the only cause of conflict. However, the agriculture industry can help to significantly decrease the amount of global violence that occurs in the long run.
The Role of Agrochemicals
That’s why it’s also necessary to understand the role agrochemicals play in ensuring political and social stability around the globe. Agrochemicals work to ensure that farmers can maximize their crop yield. They fertilize the soil for robust growth, prevent pests from destroying crops, and eliminate weeds that might otherwise deprive crops of their full nutrition.
The more effective agrochemicals are, and the more widely-used they are, the easier it is for farms to grow more food as well as ensure that the food grown is of high nutritional quality. As has been demonstrated in this blog entry, the more food farmers can grow, the more people they can feed. The more people have food security, the less global conflict there will be.
Again, none of this is to suggest that farms hold the key to world peace. That said, too many people undervalue the role of farms. Remember, they served as the first building blocks of human civilization. Even today, with our advanced technologies and medicines, society would crumble if farms suddenly disappeared. No matter how far a society advances, people still need food.
As has been shown in the past, when sufficient amounts of high-quality food are widely available, people are much more likely to be cooperative, devoting their energies to productive tasks instead of destructive ones. Make no mistake about it, agriculture and agrochemicals have global significance.
Although this blog touches on subjects ranging from politics to ancient history, its primary focus is agrochemicals and their uses in farming. However, that’s a fairly broad topic.
To have a richer understanding of (and appreciation for) agrochemicals and their uses, it helps to learn some specifics. By knowing the difference between various subsets of agrochemicals, you’ll get much more out of what you read here.
What are agrochemicals?
Quite simply, an agrochemical is a chemical-based product used in farming, typically to boost crop yield. These products have been used in a variety of forms for a very long time.
That said, modern innovations have made for much more effective agrochemicals than those of years past. Innovations continue to this day, helping farms supply more food to the global population.
The following are the key types of products that fall into this category:
Animals and insects pose a major risk to crops. If they’re drawn to a food source, they could seriously deplete the supply of that particular plant. Pesticides, as the name suggests protect crops by killing, incapacitating, or warding off these invasive species.
It’s important to note that the benefits of pesticides aren't limited to boosting crop yield, though. Many of the pests that are drawn to farm plants carry illnesses with them.
Before pesticides were in widespread use, people were at risk of contracting these illnesses if they ate plants that had been in contact with disease-causing pests. Thanks to increased pesticide use in farms throughout the globe, this is much less of a threat now.
Insecticides are a tape of pesticide and serve essentially the same purpose. The primary difference between the two is easy to guess. While pesticide is an umbrella category for any chemical substance designed to protect against different types of pests, insecticides target insects specifically. That doesn’t mean they aren’t useful, however.
These products are generally tailored to guard against particular species of insects. This makes them a good resource to have available if there is a certain insect that is especially common in a given area.
Another factor that makes insecticides worthy of attention is the fact that they fall into two separate types. One type of insecticide, called a contact insecticide, simply kills an insect when the insect comes into contact with it. These products are effective, but the effect is short-lasting. Since they don’t remain on a plant permanently, they’re not a long-term danger for insects.
Other forms of insecticides - through complex chemical and biological processes - essentially become a part of the plant. In other words, the plant begins to absorb the insecticide. That means when an insect tries to consume the plant, it also ingests the insecticide.
Even if you don’t work in the agriculture industry, the odds are good you’ve used herbicides. If you’ve ever sprayed weedkiller on your property, you’ve used an herbicide. It may have been a consumer market herbicide, but weedkiller is an herbicide nonetheless.
Herbicides are useful because animals and insects aren’t the only pests that pose a threat to crops. Other species of plants can begin to grow in the same area, competing for nutrients and resources.
Herbicides are designed to kill off invasive or unwanted species of plants while leaving the useful crops unharmed. This gives the crops a greater chance to thrive, as they’ll make greater use of the nutrients in the soil.
Many species of fungus have also been known to cause significant damage to crops. As such, fungicides are commonly used in agriculture, but they are also widely available to the average consumer in a variety of forms. These products effectively prevent fungi from doing harm to any crops to which they're applied.
To be more specific, synthetic fertilizer.
Many fertilizers are actually natural materials. These don’t qualify as agrochemicals because they have not been designed or manufactured to include any special chemical-based formulas.
However, it’s no secret that fertilizers play an important role in agriculture. Without them, it would be far more difficult to grow healthy, robust crops. In fact, the role fertilizers play is so important that many have chosen to improve on natural fertilizers by creating synthetic, agrochemical varieties.
There are several other types of agrochemical growth agents, like hormones, commonly used in farming. With them, it’s even easier for farmers to grow the most food possible.
Once again, that’s good for everyone. Agrochemicals may have been in use for many years. However, it’s important that they continue to improve and that the industry continue to progress towards more effective solutions.
Although the agrochemicals in use now are strong, they don’t completely maximize the potential of a farm to produce crops. The closer the industry gets to reaching that goal, the more food there will be for people throughout the world.
Anyone who works in the agrochemical industry knows that we’re constantly striving to develop new, more effective products. This isn’t merely about making a profit. Worldwide, there is an increasing demand for agrochemicals that maximize farmers’ crop yields. In order to meet the global population’s rising food production needs, everyone within the industry must place a continued emphasis on creating strong, reliable products.
While we’ve been successful, there’s always room to improve, innovate, and explore. No field is stagnant. It’s obvious that there are still undiscovered ways to make agrochemicals even more effective than they already are. However, there’s a boundary that could prevent us from reaching those goals as rapidly as possible: inefficient R&D processes.
Research and development is at the core of the agrochemical industry. It’s the key to improving our current products and developing new ones. In all lines of work that involve substantial R&D, though, it’s important to step back from time to time and determine what could be done to boost the efficiency of these processes. When we address the factors that may be slowing us down, we can do an even better job of developing agrochemicals that protect our crops and help them thrive.
Better Data Management
First, we should explore new means of data management to confirm that we’re using the best tools and methods available. Obviously, data management is important in any field’s R&D efforts, but it’s especially significant when it comes to creating new agrochemicals. Keeping track of data in an organized manner doesn’t just make it easier to identify the chemicals that appear to be the most effective. It also ensures that companies abide by the numerous regulations that are simply an unavoidable and necessary component of the industry.
Better data management is also increasingly important because the R&D process has grown more complex, costly, and time-consuming. According to the industry group European Crop Protection, the cost of bringing an agrochemical product to market has increased by 55% since 2000. In addition, it now takes about 11 years to develop a product, up from 8 years in 1995. On average, creating a new agrochemical product requires a considerable R&D investment of $286 million.
Many R&D teams at agrochemical companies are already implementing the most efficient data management strategies. However, when it plays such an important role in the process, there’s no harm in taking stock of the current strategy and making absolutely sure that there are no ways in which it can be improved.
Along the same lines, it’s worthwhile to explore the potential for making use of new technologies that can help R&D teams automate more of their tasks. R&D work often yields the best results when scientists are able to focus on their actual research, rather than the administrative aspects of organizing and managing that research. Unfortunately, R&D is, by its nature, filled with such tasks that take time and attention away from other processes.
Again, it may be that any given R&D team has already optimized their technology usage, automating all the tasks that they can. But until they can say for certain that this is the case, it’s often smart to investigate new options. While adopting a new technology usually involves a transition stage that could slow processes down in the short run, in the long run, it can provide for a tremendous surge in productivity.
Focus on Most Promising Products
It’s also fair to keep in mind that there is an extremely practical side to the type of work that R&D specialists do. Of course they are the ones who help create new agrochemicals, but they could end up wasting much of their precious time if they focus on developing a product for which there is simply no market. That’s why they also need to be sure that they’re staying up-to-date on new advances in the field, such as precision agriculture, as well as market demands. The end goal of their work is to create a product that will provide for more robust crop yields, but if no one has any interest in using the products they develop, then they’ll never have their intended effect.
Because of this, R&D teams and the people who manage them must stay abreast of the changing landscape that is the agricultural industry. It doesn’t matter if you’ve automated every last task you can and taken every step to ensure your data management processes are efficient—you’re still going nowhere if you’re developing chemicals for which there will be no demand when they hit the market.
Obviously, improving the efficiency of R&D processes is no simple endeavor. Each team has their own set of needs to be addressed. However, no one should fall into the trap of forgetting the importance of this goal. The demand for increased food production will not go away; the global population is counting on intelligent, talented individuals and groups to work rapidly in their efforts to improve agrochemicals. Getting some perspective and considering what can be done to make research and development more productive and efficient is a win-win-win. It benefits agrochemical companies, farmers, and the public.
At first glance, agriculture (and, of course, agrochemicals) and politics may not seem to have a tremendous amount to do with one another. When people think about global affairs and political issues, they tend to focus on subjects like war, the economy, and the justice system, to name a few. However, agriculture has a direct connection to all of these concerns, and this has been true for the entirety of human civilization.
It’s important to understand and appreciate this relationship. Whenever someone discusses the agrochemical industry, whether this person is an entrepreneur, investor, educator, or everyday citizen, he or she shouldn’t do so through a limited perspective. Farming is a major political issue, and by treating it as such, societies and countries can make better decisions about how to use agriculture to further their goals and provide for their citizens.
Keeping the People Happy
At the most basic level, the function of a society is to provide for the survival and, ideally, overall health and contentment of its citizens. In humankind’s early days, communities often formed tribes to achieve these ends. Today, we’re more accustomed to national governments being the organizing force behind a society. While these two incarnations of the same idea may not greatly resemble one another, they still share the common purpose of keeping their members as satisfied as possible with their lifestyles.
It’s fairly obvious that ensuring people remain fed is essential to running a successful society. Without enough food, a population can’t survive. Because of this, farms have played a major role in human civilization for thousands of years. For most of human history, agriculture has been the means by which a group produces its food. While countries have come a long way from the primitive tribes of the distant past, they still need to ensure that their agricultural foundation is robust and healthy.
Farms enable a country to fulfill its main purpose of caring for its citizens. When the people of a country are unhappy with their government’s inability to provide for their basic needs, crime, civil unrest, and economic struggle are all potential consequences. With this in mind, voters should consider a politician’s stance on issues like agricultural and agrochemical use before lending their support to a candidate. While this topic may not be popular on political talk shows or in newspaper editorials, it is, in fact, highly significant.
Improving International Relations
Whether it involves two rival tribes fighting over territory or several nations engaged in lengthy combat, conflict between societies has plagued civilization for all of recorded history. Though wars are fought for a variety of reasons, from conflicting ideological beliefs to territorial disputes, one of the most common reasons two societies engage in combat is simple: the need for key resources.
Many of the earliest wars stemmed from a limited amount of food available in a given region. Seeing no way to share the food evenly between them, tribes fought over this essential resource. Thousands of years later, a lack of resources is still a primary factor in whether countries declare war on one another.
The more effectively farms can grow food, the more food there will be to share. If all societies can provide for their citizens’ basic needs, then they will be free to improve their relations with one another. True, there will always be other factors that result in disagreement—claiming that efficient farms will eliminate war entirely is naïve—but with decreased competition for resources, there will be one fewer reason for nations to resort to armed combat.
The farms of today are immensely more productive than those of the early human tribes. Thanks to innovations like fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, we can protect our crops from illness and substantially boost the amount of food an individual farm can yield.
Moreover, the agricultural industry hasn’t stopped innovating. Developments ranging from precision agriculture (an approach to farming that involves using data, tools, and special techniques to maximize a farm’s efficiency) to unmanned drones that can monitor crops and distribute agrochemicals are all worth paying attention to. Political leaders, especially, should take note. Whether they serve on the board of a small town or negotiate treaties with other nations, elected officials should keep in mind that the more productive farms are, the easier it is to reduce conflict.
Again, not many people immediately link agriculture and politics, and this is something that needs to change. Educators should focus more on this topic in schools, and journalists should approach political coverage from this perspective more often. Society will no doubt benefit as a result.
Right now, we’re entering what many consider to be their favorite time of year: the holidays. During this season, people often take the time to reflect on what they have to be grateful for, such as food on the table and loved ones to share it with. They also might use these months to consider those who are less fortunate, wondering what we can all do as a global society to help those in need.
In other words, it’s perhaps the time of year when the benefits of agrochemicals are most apparent. Though it may not be the type of subject people typically think about all that often, for those in the industry, it’s clear why the holidays might inspire this kind of thinking.
Holiday Traditions Are Important to Society
If you step back from your own personal traditions and take a look at human culture as a whole, it’s obvious that people celebrate holidays in a variety of ways. Religions have their specific rituals. Regional influence also plays a role in determining how a certain group of people may observe this time of year. Even within individual families, there are differences.
Some people place an emphasis on giving gifts to those close to them. Others focus more on charitable outreach. Some take this opportunity to embrace the spiritual element of their lives. Others celebrate in a secular manner.
And yet, it seems that nearly all of us make food a key element of the holidays. It’s not just the indulgence of a meal that we enjoy. It’s the way in which coming together to eat gives us a chance to remember how fortunate we are to have family and friends.
Without agrochemicals, this would not be easy.
Agriculture and Agrochemicals Are Also Vital to Society
Although humankind has made tremendous strides over the course of history, we still rely on agriculture to feed us. Without farms, we would have never made it beyond the hunter-gatherer stage.
However, simply planting crops isn’t enough to supply the world’s population with food. Those crops can’t thrive if pests attack them, disease kills them, or competing plants deprive them of nutrients.
That’s why agrochemicals have played such an important role in all human societies. They protect our crops from these dangers, allowing farmers to grow more food for the people of the world. Because agrochemicals also maximize the crop yield of a given farm, they make agriculture a much more financially stable industry to work in.
This doesn’t merely benefit farmers. The more of a crop they are able to grow, the lower the price of that crop. Without agrochemicals, a food source might be considered too rare to price affordably. Farmers simply wouldn’t be able to grow enough to charge lower prices. Thanks to pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and similar products, this isn’t a problem.
Because of this, people across the world are able to spend the holidays with the ones they love, enjoying a meal and each other’s company.
Solving World Hunger through Technology and Generosity
Of course, we must also recognize that we haven’t yet solved the problem of world hunger. Again, the holidays are a time when we frequently display gratitude for what we do have in life, while looking for ways in which we can help those who are not so fortunate.
As an individual, there’s plenty a person can do, from donating items to their local food banks to volunteering at homeless shelters. These are certainly fantastic ways to contribute to making the world a better, safer place for all people.
However, as a society, we should also remember the role that agriculture has played in alleviating hunger. While there are still populations throughout the world experiencing a lack of food, there are far fewer now than there once were. This is largely thanks to the numerous advances in agriculture technology that have been made over the years.
Even now, we’re seeing how techniques like precision farming and tools like unmanned drones can help farmers grow even more food. Instead of treating these innovations as niche interests, we should see them for what they truly are: powerful methods to combat world hunger.
Agrochemicals have already played a tremendous role in helping to solve this problem, and they will continue to do so. In order to maximize their effectiveness in this regard, we must keep looking to new ways in which we can use them, improve on them, and spread them. Doing so will help to feed the world, and that’s the type of goal we should always keep in mind, not merely during the holidays, but every day of the year.
Although agrochemicals serve many different specific functions, their general purpose remains the same: to maximize the crop yield of a farm and help grow more food for human consumption. As more innovations have been made in the industry, their effectiveness has only grown.
The same can be said for precision agriculture. In October 2016 the USDA released a report taking a close look at what kind of farmers are typically adopting precision agriculture techniques, and how these techniques affect overall profitability.
Although agricultural trends are not easy to predict, it appears that there is much to be gained from implementing this approach. This may be especially true in regard to the use of agrochemicals.
What Is Precision Agriculture
Precision agriculture essentially refers to a variety of tools, methods, and practices designed to use a farm’s resources most efficiently.
To better understand how the approach works, consider this: typically, a farmer will plant a selected crop uniformly throughout a particular field or plot devoted to that crop. This is so common in agriculture that many don’t even question the process.
However, within that particular field, soil conditions may vary. By using advanced equipment, a farmer could, for example, identify an area within the plot where the soil tends to hold more moisture and nutrients. With this knowledge, the farmer can then plant more crops in that specific section.
In the past, the farmer would still plant them uniformly so they don’t compete for resources. Now, farmers can increase their crop’s yield by finding an area where that is less of a concern.
Essentially, the goal of precision agriculture involves gathering as much specific knowledge as possible about the varying conditions within a field, and planting accordingly.
Based on the USDA’s findings, as of now, it appears that larger farms are more likely to adopt precision agriculture technologies and methods. In fact, farms larger than 2,900 acres are twice as likely to adopt precision agriculture when compared to all other farms.
Much of this likely has to do with the types of technologies that are frequently employed in this style of farming. GPS-based maps, for example, are a common tool, as they are of more use on a farm in which there is a lot more land to cover. However, as the effectiveness of precision agriculture continues to be understood, it’s reasonable to assume that farms of all sizes will find it useful.
Already, the USDA has learned that the various precision agriculture technologies the study focused on (GPS mapping, guidance/auto-steer systems, and variable-rate technology) all help to increase the profitability of a farm. If future studies provide even more evidence of precision agriculture’s financial benefits, it’s likely that the approach will become more widespread.
Again, the goal of precision agriculture is to help farmers get more out of their resources. Fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides all fall under that category. As farmers develop and embrace new ways of understanding the specific soil and field conditions across their entire farms, they won’t simply be planting crops and grazing cattle in new patterns, they’ll also redistribute their use of agrochemicals, applying them more where they are needed and less where they aren’t.
This suggests that there will be an increasing interest in tools and products that allow them to apply agrochemicals in a more precise manner. Simply planting more crops in areas where they are less likely to compete for resources is merely one single step in boosting the overall yield of the farm. Unless steps are also taken to ensure that those crops are fully protected from pests, illness, and competing plants, the full potential of precision agriculture’s effectiveness will not be realized.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea for people in the agrochemical industry to start looking into more ways in which such products can be made compatible with this approach. Farmers may want to use more fertilizer in a section of their field where they’ve identified favorable soil conditions. They may wish to use additional pesticides or herbicides in a small spot where they’ve chosen to grow more crops than they might normally have. In their efforts to grow more crops and make more money, they’ll strive to use agrochemicals with the same degree of precision that they’ve brought to their planting techniques.
Achieving these goals may require the design of new tools or techniques. It will be interesting to see how the industry responds, but it seems fair to say that, in the coming years, it will have to.