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The Agricultural Revolution: Impacts on the Environment

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  • 0:05 The Impact of the Revolution
  • 0:58 Agricultural Revolution
  • 1:41 Inventions of the…
  • 3:58 Impacts on the Environment
  • 5:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

The Agricultural Revolution was a time of agricultural development that saw many inventions and advancements in farming techniques. Learn about the Agricultural Revolution and how this period impacted society and the environment.

The Impact of the Revolution

Today you can walk into your local grocery store and fill your shopping cart with a variety of fresh produce. Then, with no more effort than it takes to push your cart, you can head to the cereal aisle to pick out your favorite boxes of breakfast cereal before ending your shopping trip in the bread aisle, where you grab a couple of loaves of bread for your lunchtime sandwiches.

What you probably don't realize is that these conveniences that you experience today, could not be a reality if it were not for the Agricultural Revolution that took place hundreds of years ago. In this lesson, we will take a look at how advancements in farming techniques and equipment that happened during the Agricultural Revolution changed our lives, and how they have impacted our environment.

Agricultural Revolution

The Agricultural Revolution got its start in Great Britain in the early 18th century and spread throughout Europe and America by the 19th century. This was a period of significant agricultural development marked by new farming techniques and inventions that led to a massive increase in food production. The Agricultural Revolution brought about experimentation with new crops and new methods of crop rotation. These new farming techniques gave soil time to replenish nutrients leading to stronger crops and better agricultural output. Advancements in irrigation and drainage further increased productivity.

Inventions of the Agricultural Revolution

It was also during this time that inventions were created that greatly increased efficiency. The Agricultural Revolution saw the invention of the plow, which is a device that contains blades that effectively break up the soil. Plows created cuts within the soil for the sowing of seeds. Before the invention of the plow, and another device called a seed drill, seeds were sown by hand, which was inefficient and led to many seeds failing to grow. A seed drill is a machine that plants seeds in uniform rows and then covers them.

Jethro Tull was an 18th-century agriculturist who invented the seed drill. You may be familiar with the band by the name of Jethro Tull that was popular during the 1960s and 70s. This band got its name from a booking agent staff member who was also a history enthusiast; he suggested the name and the name stuck.

Now, the Agricultural Revolution also saw the invention of the reaper, which was a machine for cutting and harvesting grain. An American inventor named Cyrus McCormick is credited with mass production of the reaper, which saved many back-breaking hours of labor in the fields. These inventions, and others, made farming easier, less time consuming and made large-scale agricultural production possible. These agricultural changes created a ripple effect that spread throughout society, with one of the more notable results being a rapid increase in population.

The Agricultural Revolution was also instrumental in the early development of cities. Because fewer workers were needed on the farms, and there was sufficient agricultural production to support life away from the farm, people were now able to move off of the farms and into cities. Along with these changes came an increased demand for non-food items, such as clothing, and non-essential items designed to improve the comforts of life. New technologies were invented to meet the growing demand for non-food products, which led to the first industrial factories.

Impacts on the Environment

The Agricultural Revolution was a major turning point in history and brought about sweeping changes on society. This revolution also put demands on the environment in ways that could not be seen at the time.

One way the Agricultural Revolution impacted the environment was by transforming previously undisturbed land into farmland, which destroyed habitats for wildlife and decreased biodiversity. Biodiversity is the variety of life forms found within an ecosystem. Forests provide some of the greatest areas of biodiversity and if forests were cleared to make room for farms, this biodiversity was lost, weakening the natural balance of the ecosystem. Also, because trees remove carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere, the destruction of trees to make room for farmland released carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

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